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A general view of Preceding Discoveries relating to air.

FOR the better understanding of the experiments and observations on different kinds of air contained in this treatise, it will be useful to those who are not acquainted with the history of this branch of natural philosophy, to be informed of those facts which had been discovered by others, before I turned my thoughts to the subject; which suggested, and by the help of which I was enabled to pursue my inquiries. Let it be observed, however, that I do not prosess to recite in this place all that had been discovered concerning air, but only those discoveries the knowledge of which is necessary, in order to understand what I have done myself; so that any person who is only acquainted with the general principles of natural philosophy, may be able to

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read this treatise, and, with proper attention, to understand every part of it.

That the air which constitutes the atmosphere in which we live has weight, and that it is elastic, or consists of a compressible and dilatable fluid, were some of the earliest discoveries that were made after the dawning of philosophy in this western part of the world.

That elastic fluids, differing essentially from the air of the atmosphere, but agreeing with it in the properties of weight, elasticity, and transparency, might be generated from solid substances, was discovered by Mr. Boyle, though two remarkable kinds of factitious air, at least the effects of them, had been known long before to all miners. One of these is heavier than common air. It lies at the bottom of pits, extinguishes candles, and kills animals that breathe it, on which account it had obtained the name of the choke damp. The other is lighter than common air, taking its place near the roofs of subterraneous places, and because it is liable to take fire, and explode, like gunpowder, it had been called the fire damp. The word damp signifies vapour or exhalation in the German and Saxon language.


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