How Did We Find Out About the Atmosphere? by Isaac Asimov

By Isaac Asimov

Strains the historical past of the clinical discovery of "atmosphere" and its homes.

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He was under house arrest from  until  and not allowed to publish anything, and he was not acquitted until —two years after his death. The experience made him reluctant to publish his other papers. These were assembled later by his son Franz Mercurius van Helmont (–) and published posthumously in  as Ortus medicinae (Origins of medicine). Van Helmont bridged two intellectual worlds. On one hand he inherited from his medieval predecessors the Greek concept of the elements. He was an alchemist, who claimed to have seen the philosopher’s stone, the substance alchemists believed would transmute base metals such as lead into gold.

He graduated in , and in  obtained a fellowship at Trinity College, which he held until his marriage in  to Evelyn Balfour. An attack of rheumatic fever in  compelled him to spend the winter in Egypt and Greece. He resumed his scientific work as soon as he recovered. Then, in  his father died, and Strutt acceded to the title, becoming the third baron Rayleigh (Lord Rayleigh). He went to live in the family home, Terling Place at Witham, Essex, and had to devote some of his time to managing the ,-acre (,ha) estate that he had inherited.

His mother died when he was five, and Antoine inherited a large fortune from her estate. From  to  he studied chemistry, botany, and mathematics at the Collège Mazarin, one of the colleges of the University of Paris, and in  he began studying law, also at the University of Paris, graduating in law in . His interest in science had not decreased, and he continued to attend science lectures during the time he was studying law. He took part in a geological survey of Alsace-Lorraine in  and in a survey of the whole of France in .

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