Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from K-O

Mayow, John

combustion air similar water

(1641–79) English physician: early experimenter on combustion.

Mayow studied law and medicine at Oxford, practised medicine in Bath, and experimented in Oxford where he perhaps worked . In a book published in 1674 he gives a theory of combustion similar to Hooke’s but supported by new experiments. He burned candles in air in a closed space over water, and found that the reduced volume of gas which remained would not support combustion; he got similar results using a mouse in place of a burning candle to consume part of the air. He concluded that air consists of a least two parts; one (‘the nitro-aerial spirit’) supports combustion or respiration, which are in this way related processes; the other part of air is inert. Ignited gunpowder continued to burn under water, so its ‘nitre’ contained the nitro-aerial spirit; it is surprising he did not try heating nitre (KNO3 ) alone and so discover oxygen, and this may be because he visualized his ‘spirit’ as a philosophical principle rather than as a gaseous substance. In experiments with an air-pump (probably Boyle’s) he found that venous blood under the pump effervesced only gently, but arterial blood bubbled freely if fresh. He had sensible, if primitive, views on chemical affinity. In many ways Mayow was ingenious both as an experimenter and in ideas, but it can be said also that few of the ideas were new and his theory of combustion was hopelessly confused in comparison with clear-mindedness a century later.

McAllister, Anna Shannon (1888–) - Catholic Women’s History [next] [back] Mayflower: The Pilgrim's Adventure

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or