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tinguished from the apparent end in all cases, all the ultimate products are isotopes of lead with atomic weight between 210 and 206. The product of radium-C, in the branch claiming only 0:03 per cent. of the whole ultimate product of radium, with atomic weight 210, may be left out of account as being negligible, and also the product of the actinium branch for which the atomic weight is still uncertain; but the main products, namely, that of uranium with atomic weight 206, and both the thorium products in the two branches, with atomic weight 208, are different in different directions from that of common lead with atomic weight 207.2.
The conclusion that the ultimate product of thorium, as well as of uranium, was lead, was quite new and opposed to the opinion of those who had made a special study of the Pb/U and Pb/Th ratios of radioactive minerals of various geological periods. I found, however, that the atomic weight of the lead separated from Ceylon thorite was 207.7, and Hönigschmid confirmed this with a specimen of my material and obtained the figure 207.77. Just recently, from a specimen of lead separated from a Norwegian thorite by Fajans and his co-workers, he has found the value 207.90 (Zeitsch. Elektrochem., 1918, 24, 163). Whereas the same investigator, and also T. W. Richards and others, have found values for the atomic weight of lead separated from uranium minerals all lower than that of common lead, and in two cases from carefully selected minerals between 2060 and 2001. I found my thorite lead was denser than common lead in the same proportion as its atomic weight was greater, and the densities of the various specimens of uranium lead have been found by Richards to be less than that of common lead, the atomic volume for all varieties being constant. The spectra of these various isotopes have been repeatedly
ATOMIC WEIGHT OF IONIUM
examined, but hitherto no differences whatever have been established.1
The atomic weight of a mixture of ionium and thorium was found by Hönigschmid to be 231.51 as compared with 232.12 for thorium, the spectra being identical and impurities absent in both specimens. The calculated value for the atomic weight of ionium is 230, and the evidence, so far as it yet goes, is in accord with the view that, in the mixture examined, about 30 per cent. was ionium and 70 per cent. thorium. By a simple comparison of the emanating power of the mixture with that of the pure thorium preparation under similar conditions, the proportion of ionium to thorium could be readily determined directly, since ionium does not give an emanation, and this unknown eliminated, but this has still to be done.
THE DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF ISOTOPES AND
HETEROTOPES. When isotopes, such as those just considered, possess different atomic weights, it is to be expected, although this has not yet been practically accomplished, that a separation by physical means, such as prolonged fractional diffusion, ought to be possible. Chlorine and other elements, the atomic weights of which depart largely from an integral value, seem to deserve a further physical analysis by this method. Sir J. J. Thomson's positive-ray method of gas analysis ought to be able to detect such isotopes of different atomic weight without separation, and at
1 Harkins and Aronberg (Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 1917, 3, 710), for ordinary lead and uranio-lead of atomic weight 206.34, examining the strongest line, 4058, in the sixth order of spectrum obtained by a 10-inch grating, observed a constant difference of 0.0043 Å., but are themselves disposed to await further results before drawing any conclusions. This has now been confirmed (cf. T. R. Merton, Nature, 2nd October 1919).
one time it seemed that neon had been so resolved, but this has not yet been confirmed. It would be interesting also if the rotation of the salts of some optically active acid with different varieties of lead, separated from uranium and from thorium minerals, were examined. A difference is to be expected, although it is likely to be small, and possibly may be too minute to be detectable. Recent experiments at Harvard have shown that the refractive index of a crystal of lead nitrate is independent of the atomic weight of the contained lead, but the solubility, as is to be expected, is different, the molar solubility of different varieties being the same.
Isotopes need not, however, have different atomic weights. One of the clearest cases is in the two endproducts of thorium, but, if the scheme is correct as regards the branching point of the actinium series, ionium and uranium-Y, actinium-A and radium-C', actinium-C and radium-E, actinium-B and radium-D, and the actinium and uranium isotopes of lead, are other cases.
These result by branchings of the series, and, since in the respective branches the amount of energy evolved in the successive changes is different, the internal energy of the various pairs must be different, although for them atomic weight as well as spectroscopic and chemical character are all identical. I recently suggested in the case of the two end-products of thorium that possibly only one of these survives in geological time, namely, that produced in the smaller quantity, and that the other continues to break up in changes as yet undetected (Royal Institution Lecture, 18th May 1917; Nature, 1917, 99, 414 and 433). This would account for the relative poverty of thorium minerals in lead, which was the original basis for the conclusion that lead
1 Mr Aston tells me this work is still being actively prosecuted at the Cavendish Laboratory.
THE COMPLEXITY OF ELEMENT
was not the ultimate product of thorium. The point still remains experimentally untested. Isobaric isotopes of the character in question can only at present be distinguished if they are unstable and break up further, but they must be taken into account in any theoretical conception we form of the ultimate structure of matter. The accomplishment of artificial transmutation would reveal them if they existed, and the discovery of any new property, like radioactivity, concerned with the nucleus of the atom rather than its external shell, might also be the means of revealing differences of this character.
On the other hand, the production of isobaric heterotopes is the ordinary consequence of B-ray changes, single or successive. Such heterotopes, possessing different chemical and spectroscopic character but the same atomic weight, have been recently termed isobares by A. W. Stewart (Phil. Mag., 1918, [vi.], 36, 326), who, following Fleck's work on the chemical resemblance, not amounting to non-separability, between quadrivalent uranium and thorium, has drawn a parallel between them and elements existing in more than one state of valency, as, for example, ferrous and ferric iron.
The extent to which the study of radioactive change has enlarged the conception of the chemical element may be summarised by the statement that now we have to take into account in our analysis of matter, not only the heterobaric heterotopes before recognised, but also heterobaric and isobaric isotopes and isobaric heterotopes or isobares.
THE NUCLEAR ATOM.
I have attempted to present the most important facts of radioactive change without introducing any theory or hypothesis at all as to the structure of the
atom. I think it important to keep the two matters distinct. Our knowledge of electricity, which in its modern phase may be considered to start from the relatively recent discovery of the electron, is still far too imperfect to enable any complete theory of atomic structure to be formulated. My task would be incomplete, however, if I did not refer briefly to the nuclear atom of Sir Ernest Rutherford, which may be regarded as the logical descendant of the earlier electronic atom of Sir J. J. Thomson. The weakness of the latter was that it took account essentially only of the negative electrons, and its attempt to ascribe the whole mass of the atom to these nearly massless particles involved the supposition that a single atom may contain hundreds of thousands of electrons. The actual number is now known to be rather less, as an average, than half the numerical value of the atomic weight. Although unsatisfactory in accounting for the mass of the atom on an electronic basis, it was much more in line with present views in accounting for chemical character and the arrangement of elements in the periodic table. The root idea that the successive elements in the table are distinguished by the increment of one electron in the outermost electronic ring, followed, as period succeeds period, by the completion of this ring and the formation of a new external one, so that members of the same chemical family have similar external ring systems, is still the most probable view yet advanced. In conjunction with the conception of the nucleus and the gradual unravelling of the various series of characteristic X-radiations, both experimentally and by mathematical analysis, it bids fair soon to give a definite concrete picture of the structure of all the different elements (compare L. Vegard, Phil. Mag., 1918, [vi.], 35, 293).