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By Michael Allaby

Surroundings: a systematic background of Air, climate, and weather describes how scientists, starting in historic Greece, have slowly unraveled the chemical composition of air and the actual legislation that control its habit. It tells of the software makers who invented the gear that allowed them to degree the nation of the air, the balloonists who first explored the higher surroundings, and of the expansion in knowing of climate phenomena and their explanations.

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Sample text

The chemistry Karl Scheele studied explained that combustible substances contained phlogiston, which combustion released (see sidebar). That is how he came to describe chlorine (the name given to it by Sir Humphrey Davy, –) as dephlogisticated. Scheele discovered fire air some time prior to , and he used several methods to produce it. By the time he published the fact in , however, credit for the discovery had already been given to the English chemist Joseph Priestley (–).

Then he heated another sample of the calx, this time without charcoal. This time charcoal burned brightly and vigorously in the elastic air and a mouse was able to breathe. Lavoisier concluded that the principle that combines with metals and increases their weight when they are calcined is some ingredient present in common air that supports respiration and combustion, and that fi xed air is a combination of this portion of common air with some ingredient of charcoal. Lavoisier’s experiments also revealed that phlogisticated air could be dephlogisticated if the retort contained water and was shaken vigorously.

As the table shows,  percent of air consists of nitrogen, with oxygen accounting for almost  percent. Joseph Priestley and Antoine What Is Air? Lavoisier identified oxygen, and in  a young Scottish chemist discovered nitrogen, although he did not name it. Daniel Rutherford (–) was the son of John Rutherford (–), a professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and he became the uncle of the novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott (–). Daniel was born in Edinburgh on November , .

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