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On Paramagnetic And Diamagmetic Forces

( Originally Published 1905 )



THE notion of an attractive force, which draws bodies toward the centre of the earth, was entertained by Anaxagoras and his pupils, by Democritus, Pythagoras, and Epicurus; and the conjectures of these ancients were renewed by Galileo, Huyghens, and others, who stated that bodies attract each other as a magnet attracts iron. Kepler applied the notion to bodies beyond the surface of the earth, and affirmed the extension of this force to the most distant stars. Thus it would appear that in the attraction of iron by a magnet originated the conception of the force of gravitation. Nevertheless, if we look closely at the matter, it will be seen that the magnetic force possesses characters strikingly distinct from those of the force which holds the universe together. The theory of gravitation is, that every particle of matter at-tracts every other particle; in magnetism also we have attraction, but we have always, at the same time, repulsion, the final effect being due to the difference of these two forces. A body may be intensely acted on by a magnet, and still no motion of translation will follow, if the repulsion be equal to the attraction. Previous to magnetization, a dipping needle, when its centre of gravity is supported, stands accurately level; but, after magnetization, one end of it, in our latitude, is pulled toward the north pole of the earth. The needle, however, being suspended from the arm of a fine balance, its' weight is found unaltered by its magnetization. In like manner, when the needle is permitted to float upon a liquid, and thus to follow the attraction of the north magnetic pole of the earth, there is no motion of the mass toward that pole. The reason is known to be, that although the marked end of the needle is attracted by the north pole, the unmarked end is repelled by an equal force, the two equal and opposite forces neutralizing each other.

When the pole of an ordinary magnet is brought to act upon the swimming needle, the latter is attracted-the reason being that the attracted end of the needle being nearer to the pole of the magnet than the repelled end, the force of attraction is the more powerful of the two. In the case of the earth, its pole is so distant that the length of the needle is practically zero. In like manner, when a piece of iron is presented to a magnet, the nearer parts are attracted, while the more distant parts are repelled; and because the attracted portions are nearer to the magnet than the repelled ones, we have a balance in favor of attraction. Here then is the special characteristic of the magnetic force, which distinguishes it from that of gravitation. The latter is a simple unpolar force, while the former is duplex or polar. Were gravitation like magnetism, a stone would no more fall to the ground than a piece of iron toward the north magnetic pole: and thus, however rich in consequences the supposition of Kepler and others may have been, it is clear that a force like that of magnetism would not be able to transact the business of the universe.

The object of this discourse is to inquire whether the force of diamagnetism, which manifests itself as a repulsion of certain bodies by the poles of a magnet, is to be ranged as a polar force, beside that of magnetism; or as an unpolar force, beside that of gravitation. When a cylinder of soft iron is placed within a wire helix, and surrounded by an electric current, the antithesis of its two ends, or, in other words, its polar excitation, is at once manifested by its action upon a magnetic needle; and it may be asked why a cylinder of bismuth may not be substituted for the cylinder of iron, and its state similarly examined. The reason is, that the excitement of the bismuth is so feeble that it would be quite masked by that of the helix in which it is enclosed; and the problem that now meets us is, so to excite a diamagnetic body that the pure action of the body upon a magnetic needle may be observed, unmixed with the action of the body used to excite the diamagnetic.

How this has been effected may be illustrated in the following manner: When through an upright helix of covered copper wire a voltaic current is sent, the top of the helix attracts, while its bottom repels, the same pole of a magnetic needle; its central point, on the contrary, is neutral, and exhibits neither attraction nor repulsion. Such a helix is caused to stand between the two poles N' s' of an astatic system.' The two magnets s N' and s' N are united by a rigid cross piece at their centres, and are suspended from the point a, so that both magnets swing in the same horizontal plane. It is so arranged that the poles N' s' are opposite to the central or neutral point of the helix, so that when a current is sent through the latter, the magnets, as before explained, are unaffected. Here then we have an excited helix which itself has no action upon the magnets, and we are thus enabled to ex-amine the action of a body placed within the helix and excited by it, undisturbed. by the influence of the latter. The helix being 12 inches high, a cylinder of soft iron 6 inches long, suspended from a string and passing over a pulley, can be raised or lowered within the helix. When it is so far sunk that its lower end rests upon the table, the upper end finds itself between the poles N' S' of the astatic system. The iron cylinder is thus converted into a strong magnet, attracting one of the poles, and repelling the other, and consequently deflecting the entire astatic system. When the cylinder is raised so that the upper end is at the level of the top of the helix, its lower end comes between the poles N' s'; and a deflection opposed in direction to the former one is the immediate consequence. To render these deflections more easily visible, a mirror m is attached to the system of magnets; a beam of light thrown upon the mirror being reflected and projected as a bright disk against the wall. The distance of this image from the mirror being considerable, and its angular motion double that of the latter, a very slight motion of the magnet is sufficient to produce a displacement of the image through several yards.

This then is the principle of the beautiful apparatus' by which the investigation was conducted. It is manifest that if a second helix be placed between the poles s N with a cylinder within it, the action upon the astatic magnet may be exalted. This was the arrangement made use of in the actual inquiry. Thus to intensify the feeble action, which it is here our object to seek, we have in the first place neutralized the action of the earth upon the magnets, by placing them astatically. Secondly, by making use of two cylinders, and permitting them to act simultaneously on the four poles of the magnets, we have rendered the deflecting force four times what it would be, if only a single pole were used. Finally, the whole apparatus was enclosed in a suitable case which protected the magnets from air-currents, and the deflections were read off through a glass plate in the case, by means of a telescope and scale placed at a considerable distance from the instrument.

A pair of bismuth cylinders was first examined. Sending a current through the helices, and observing that the magnets swung perfectly free, it was first arranged that the bismuth cylinders within the helices had their central or neutral points opposite to the poles of the magnets. All being at rest, the number on the scale marked by the cross wire of the telescope was 572. The cylinders were then moved, one up, the other down, so that two of their ends were brought to bear simultaneously upon the magnetic poles: the magnet moved promptly, and after some oscillations' came to rest at the number 612; thus moving from a smaller to a larger number. The other two ends of the bars were next brought to bear upon the magnet: a prompt deflection was the consequence, and the final position of equilibrium was 526: the movement being from a larger to a smaller number. We thus observe a manifest polar action of the bismuth cylinders upon the magnet;, one pair of ends deflecting it in one direction, and the other pair deflecting it in the opposite direction.

Substituting for the cylinders of bismuth thin cylinders of iron, of magnetic slate, of sulphate of iron, carbonate of iron, protochloride of iron, red ferrocyanide of potassium, and other magnetic bodies, it was found that when the position of the magnetic cylinders was the same as that of the cylinders of bismuth, the deflection produced by the former was always opposed in direction to that produced' by the latter; and hence the disposition of the force in the diamagnetic body must have been precisely antithetical to its disposition in the magnetic ones.

But it will be urged, and indeed has been urged, against this inference, that the deflection produced by the bismuth cylinders may be due to induced currents excited in the metal by its motion within the helices. In reply to this objection, it may be stated, in the first place, that the deflection is permanent, and cannot therefore be due to induced currents, which are only of momentary duration. It has also been urged that such experiments ought to be made with other metals, and with better conductors than bismuth; for if due to currents of induction, the better the conductor the more exalted will be the effect. This requirement was complied with.

Cylinders of antimony were substituted for those of bismuth. This metal is a better conductor of electricity, but less strongly diamagnetic than bismuth. If therefore the action referred to be due to induced currents, we ought to have it greater in the case of antimony than with bismuth; but if it springs from a true diamagnetic polarity, the action of the bismuth ought to exceed that of the antimony. Experiment proves this to be the case. Hence. the deflection produced by these metals is due to their diamagnetic, and not to their conductive capacity. Copper cylinders were next examined: here we have a metal which conducts electricity fifty times better than bismuth, but its diamagnetic power is nearly null; if the effects be due to induced currents we ought to have them here in an enormously exaggerated degree, but no sensible deflection was produced by the two cylinders of copper.

It has also been proposed by the opponents of diamagnetic polarity to coat fragments of bismuth with some insulating substance, so as to render the formation of induced currents impossible, and to test the question with cylinders of these fragments. This requirement was also fulfilled. It is only necessary to reduce the bismuth to pow-der and expose it for a short time to the air to cause the particles to become so far oxidized as to render them perfectly insulating. The insulating power of the powder was exhibited experimentally; nevertheless, this powder, en-closed in glass tubes, exhibited an action scarcely less powerful than that of the massive bismuth cylinders.

But the most rigid proof, a proof admitted to be conclusive by those who have denied the antithesis of magnetism and diamagnetism, remains to be stated. Prisms of the same heavy glass as that with which the diamagnetic force was discovered were substituted for the metallic cylinders, and their action upon the magnet was proved to be precisely the same in kind as that of the cylinders of bismuth. The inquiry was also extended to other insulators: to phosphorus, sulphur, nitre, calcareous spar, statuary marble, with the same invariable result: each of these substances was proved to be polar, the disposition of the force being the same as that of bismuth and the reverse of that of iron. When a bar of iron is set erect, its lower end is known to be a north pole, and its upper end a south pole, in virtue of the earth's induction. A marble statue, on the contrary, has its feet a south pole, and its head a north pole, and there is no doubt that the same remark applies to its living archetype; each man walking over the earth's surface is a true diamagnet, with its poles the reverse of those of a mass of magnetic matter of the same shape and position.

An experiment of practical value, as affording a ready estimate of the different, conductive powers of two metals for electricity, was exhibited in the lecture, for the purpose of proving experimentally some of the statements made in reference to this subject. A cube of bismuth was suspended by a twisted string between the two poles of an electro-magnet. The cube was attached by a short copper wire to a little square pyramid, the base of which was horizontal, and its sides formed of four small triangular pieces of looking-glass. A beam of light was suffered to fall upon this reflector, and as the reflector followed the motion of the cube the images cast from its sides followed each other in succession, each describing a circle about thirty feet in diameter. As the velocity of rotation augmented, these images blended into a continuous ring of light. At a particular instant the electromagnet was excited, currents were evolved in the rotating cube, and the strength of these currents, which increases with the conductivity of the cube for electricity, was practically estimated by the time required to bring the cube and its associated mirrors to a state of rest. With bismuth this time amounted to a score of seconds or more: a cube of copper, on the contrary, was struck almost instantly motionless when the circuit was established.



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