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The Breath of Life

John Burroughs

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Arrange the atoms of silica in one way and you have a quartz pebble, in another way and you have a precious stone. The chemical constituents of alcohol and ether are the same; the difference in their qualities and properties arises from the way the elements are compounded—the way they take hold of hands, so to speak, in that marriage ceremony which constitutes a chemical compound. Compounds identical in composition and in molecular formulæ may yet differ widely in physical properties; the elements are probably grouped in different[Pg 57] ways, the atoms of carbon or of hydrogen probably carry different amounts of potential energy, so that the order in which they stand related to one another accounts for the different properties of the same chemical compounds. Different groupings of the same atoms of any of the elements result in a like difference of physical properties.

The physicists tell us that what we call the qualities of things, and their s. . . Read More

Community Reviews

It almost seems unfair to review this collection of essays, because they haven't aged well. Burroughs is one of my favorite nature essayists, and these are fairly well written, but, well.

I first discovered Burroughs through the Riverside Literature Series, when I was an early teen. In...more