Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1848. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION OF BECQUEREL’S FIRST REPORT OF THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPHS OF SOLAR SPECTRA. Becquerel took the photos in 1842 and they were first reported here in this volume. Included is Becquerel’s methodology in preparing silver plates so as to obtain an image of the solar spectrum. He had creatively allowed a ray to impinge on a plate of silver covered in subchloride of silver. The image was not fixed, and could only be viewed in darkness.
A contemporary account catches the ‘magic’ of this work: Becquerel impressed “on a silver plate an image of the solar spectrum, or in other words, the oblong coloured band of the seven prismatic colours, produced by decomposing a ray of light. This brilliant image (a miniature, and so to speak, artificial rainbow) Becquerel imprinted in a durable manner on a silver plate previously exposed to the action of the chloride. This fact sufficiently proves that the photogenic reproduction of colours is at least within the bounds of possibility” (Eliz Cook’s Journal, 3-4, 95).
ALSO FIRST EDITION OF PASTEUR’S REVOLUTIONARY ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DISCOVERY OF MOLECULAR ASSYMETRY. “Pasteur’s discovery counts among the most important advances in chemistry and constitutes the foundation of stereochemistry” (“Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Awards: Choosing Pasteur’s Award-Winning Publication” in Bull. Hist. Chem., 38, 2013).
Pasteur’s announcement appeared in this Comptes, but because he wrote two more detailed papers later, there has always been an academic argument as to which paper is of the greatest import and should serve as the official citation. In 2013, the American Chemical Society wanted to award the Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award, an award given to a particularly seminal work. After performing a full assessment of each paper, this reported in “Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Awards: Choosing Pasteur’s Award-Winning Publication” in Bull. Hist. Chem., Vol. 38, 1, 2013, it was decided that the focused Comptes paper was the most important because it was the initial announcement of an entirely new and revolutionary observation with crucial implications for molecular structure.
“Soon after graduating from the École Normale Supérieure, Pasteur became puzzled by the discovery of the German chemist Eilhardt Mitscherlich, who had shown that tartrates and paratartrates behaved differently toward polarized light: tartrates rotated the plane of polarized light, whereas paratartrates did not. This was unusual because the compounds displayed identical chemical properties.
“Pasteur noted that the tartrate crystals exhibited asymmetric forms that corresponded to their optical asymmetry. He made the surprising observation that crystalline paratartrate consisted of a mixture of crystals in a right-handed configuration. However, when these crystals were separated manually, he found that they exhibited right and left asymmetry. In other words, a balanced mixture of both right and left crystals was optically inactive. Thus, Pasteur discovered the existence of molecular asymmetry, the foundation of stereochemistry, as it was revealed by optical activity.
“Over the course of the next 10 years, Pasteur further investigated the ability of organic substances to rotate the plane of polarized light. He also studied the relationship that existed between crystal structure and molecular configuration. His studies convinced him that asymmetry was one of the fundamental characteristics of living matter” (Louis Pasteur Biography, Science Control). Item #473
CONDITION & DETAILS: Complete volume. Ex-libris bearing only a deaccessioned stamp on the back of the title page and slight ghosting at the spine where a spine level has been removed. 4to (11 x 8 inches; 275 x 200mm). , 728, . Bound in clean full blue cloth, gilt-lettered at the spine. Solidly and tightly bound. Small stain at the head of the last twenty pages, very occasional toning, otherwise clean and bright throughout.