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9. Is the dialect of the Kohistanis of Kabulistan a peculiar one, or related to the Lawghans, or that of the inhabitants of Kaferstan?
10. The Kirdhkis mentioned by Mr. Elphinstone as forming part of the population of Eastern Kabulistan, speak an Indian dialect; is this dialect nearly related to Punjab? and are the Kirdhkis to be regarded as emigrants from India in comparatively modern times, or remains of the ancient Hindu population? As far down as to the times of Mahmud of Ghazna it may be shown, that the inhabitants of Kabulistan were Indians, and most probably direct descendants of the Gurves, Ascadars and Gandars spoken of by the ancients.
ART. V. On the detection of Arsenical Poisons by MARSH's process— its inapplicability to the Sulphurets of Arsenic-and the mode of obviating the fallacy occasioned by Antimonial Compounds. By W. B. O'SHAUGHNESSY, M. D. Acting Joint-Secretary to the Asiatic Society.
In December, 1836, I exhibited to a large party at Government House the very beautiful process invented by Mr. MARSH of Woolwich, for the detection of minute quantities of arsenical poisons. The method consists in placing the suspected substance in very dilute sulphuric acid, and introducing a slip of pure zinc. The hydrogen is evolved in combination with the metallic arsenic, and on examination presents most distinct and remarkable phenomena. If ignited, the flame is of a leaden blue color, and diffuses a powerful odour of garlic, and a dense white smoke. If the flame be reduced to the size of a pea, and applied to the interior of a thin glass tube, a crust of metallic arsenic is formed on the tube, surrounded by a white ring of arsenious acid. To this, by a little dexterous management, the several tests for arsenic may be applied, namely the ammoniacal-nitrates of silver and copper, and the sulphuretted hydrogen gas.
A few months after the meeting referred to, I had occasion to apply the process to the examination of the contents of the stomach of the Munshi of the Coroner's Office, who had been poisoned by arsenic contained in a ball of sweetmeat. The results were quite conclusive, and were, moreover, checked by the performance of the common process on a portion of the large quantity of arsenic adherent to the mucous membrane of the stomach.
Up to the time of this occurrence, and indeed for some months later, I participated in MARSH's opinion, that this admirable process was applicable to all the arsenical poisons-to those not dissolved by water
as well as those soluble in that liquid; but on the occasion of a second death by one of these poisons, which came under investigation before the Police in 1838, I had proof that this opinion was erroneous.
The deceased was a young female, to whom a large quantity of crystallized yellow orpiment (sulphuret of arsenic) had been administered in curry, and in consequence of which she died after a few hours' illness. On examination of the body a quantity of yellow powder was readily separated from the contents of the stomach, and the mucous membrane of that organ was observed to be sprinkled all over with shining goldlike crystals.
On applying MARSH's process to a portion of the yellow matter, no indications whatever of arsenic were obtained.
A quantity of the powder was then dissolved in liquid ammonia, and MARSH's process applied, still with negative results.
I then tried the effect of converting the sulphuret into arsenious acid, which was done by boiling the yellow matter with a few drops of nitric acid. On diluting the solution with water, it was found that a single drop tested by MARSH's method gave a most distinct metallic crust, which was readily proved to be arsenic by the application of the silver, copper, and sulphuretted hydrogen gas.
These facts are of much practical importance, especially in this country, where orpiment is commonly used as a poison. They shew that in all cases where arsenic may have been employed, we must, in the event of MARSH's process proving negative, apply a modification of the experiment I have related, so as to bring the sulphuret of arsenic into the state of an oxide. For this purpose the insoluble parts of the contents of the stomach should be boiled in a capsule of glass or porcelain, with small quantities of nitric acid, until red fumes are no longer given off. The mass should then be diluted with water, neutralized with carbonate of potash or soda, and, lastly, examined by MARSH's method.
To shew the delicacy of this process, I may state, that I have applied it to the one-tenth part of a grain of orpiment mixed with four ounces of solid and fluid animal matter. By boiling with nitric acid, diluting with water and neutralizing, ten ounces of a liquid mixture were obtained, from half a fluid ounce of which the metal was reduced, although the quantity could not have been quite the 200th part of a grain.
I have next to notice the only serious fallacy to which this most ingenious method is liable, and which was first pointed out by Mr. Thomson in the Philosophical Magazine for May, 1837. It consists in the indications given by the soluble antimonial compounds, several of which are employed in medicine, one especially as an emetic in the treatment of cases of suspected poisoning.
By repeating MARSH's process on a mixture containing tartarized antimony, it will be seen that the gas evolved burns with nearly the same color, and deposits a similar crust on the glass tube.
On examining closely the distinguishing characters of this crust, it is very possible for an experienced eye to distinguish it from one produced by arsenic. The eye however must be experienced indeed, and that to a degree which very few observers can be supposed to lay claim to. Again, the sulphuretted hydrogen produces with crusts of arsenic and antimony yellow stains so faintly differing in tint as to lend even a practised experimentalist but little assistance in his research. The sulphate of copper, again, gives only such indications as are too faint to be relied on individually, though of some value as corroborating evidence.
Nevertheless the silver test can be readily applied so as to give unquestionable evidence of the nature of the crust of metal and of oxide obtained by MARSH's process. This may be accomplished by a method which differs slightly from one pointed out by Mr. Thomson in the paper alluded to. The tube on cooling should be moistened with a solution of nitrate of silver in distilled water, and then held over the mouth of a bottle containing strong ammonia, so that the vapor may traverse the tube. If the crust be arsenical, it instantaneously assumes a vivid canary color, owing to the formation of the arsenite of silver. No approach to such an effect is produced by the antimonial compounds, so that this test affords a simple, but most conclusive check on MARSH'S invaluable method
It is right to repeat a precaution as to the zinc employed. That found in the bazar often contains traces of arsenic, and should always be tested itself by MARSH'S process before being employed in pursuit of any legal investigation. Secondly, the zinc by which arsenic has been once detected should never be used again, as the surface often unites with and retains as much of that metal as may falsify a further experiment.
ART. VI.-Proceedings of the Asiatic Society.
Wednesday Evening, the 6th February, 1839.
The Honorable Sir E. RYAN, President, in the chair.
The Proceedings of the last Meeting were read and confirmed.
Messrs A. PORTEOUS and J. COWIE, proposed at the last Meeting, were ballotted for, and duly elected Members of the Society.
Mr. WM. JAMESON proposed by the President, seconded by Mr. H. T. PRINSEP. The Honorable Sir H. SETON proposed by the President, seconded by the LORD BISHOP of Calcutta.
The Rev. JOHN HENRY PRATT, of Caius College, Cambridge, M. A proposed by the President, seconded by the LORD BISHOP of Calcutta.
Mr. EDW. THOMAS proposed by Capt. FORBES, seconded by Dr. O'SHAUGHNESSY. Mr. J. W. LAIDLY proposed by Mr. W. STORM, seconded by Dr. O'SHAUGH
Mr. A. C. DUNLOP proposed by Mr. HARE, seconded by Dr. GoODEVE.
Read a letter from C. G. MANSELL, Esq. stating that in consequence of his proceeding to England for a sort time he was obliged to withdraw from the Society, which he hoped to rejoin on his return to India.
Read the following letter from Government sanctioning the purchase of 100 copies of the Latin and Anamitan part of the Cochin-Chinese Dictionary, prepared by the Right Rev. the BISHOP of Isauropolis, for 1000 rupees, in addition to the payments already made for the first part of the work in question.
To W. B. O'SHAUGHNESSY, ESQ. M. D. Officiating Secretary Asiatic Society. Genl. Dept.
'SIR,-I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated the 22d ultimo, and in reply to state, that his Honor in Council has heretofore refused to incur the expense of 2000 rupees towards executing the revised Latin Anamitan Dictionary, nevertheless rather than the 100 copies subscribed for by Government should be mutilated, and imperfect, his Honor the President in Council consents to add 1000 rupees to the payments already made by Government, under the condition of obtaining 100 complete sets of the work, besides the separate vocabularies.
Transactions of the Society of Arts, &c. vol. 51, part 2nd-by the Society.
Rapport sur les Poissons Fossiles decouverts en Angleterre par L. Agassiz, Neuchatel, 1835-by the Author.
Actes de la Societe Helvetique des Sciences Naturelles-by the Society.
Map of the Eastern Frontier of British India, with the adjacent countries extending to Yunan in China, by Capt, R. B. PEMBERTON-by the Government of India.
The following books were received from the booksellers:
Georgii Wilhelmi Freytagii Lexicon Arabico-Latinum, Tome 4th.
King and Queen of White Ants, presented by W. STORM, ESQ.
The Secretary read the following correspondence which took place with Government regarding Major Hay's collection of Natural History Specimens.
Copy of the letter addressed to Government, pursuant to the recommendation of the Committee of Papers.
To H. T. PRINSEP, ESQ.
Secretary to the Government of India, General Department.
'I am directed by the Asiatic Society to request that you will submit to his Honor the President the accompanying copies, 1st, of a letter from Major Hay, relative to his Museum of objects of Natural History; 2d, of a report by a Special Committee of the Asiatic Society appointed to examine that collection.
In submitting these documents to the notice of his Honor in Council, the Asiatic Society direct me to add a statement of their views on the several subjects referred to by Major Hay and the Sub-Committee.
In the opinion of the Asiatic Society, the collection imported by Major Hay is of the highest value, in a scientific point of view. It not only affords to the naturalists of In lia standard specimens for reference in pursuit of their numerous researches, but it possesses the still greater value of being available for the introduction of the systematic study of Natural History among the Natives of Bengal, a study impracticable without the aid of such a collection, and indispensable as a preliminary measure to the full investigation of the Zoology and Natural History of our Indian possessions.
'The duplicates contained in Major Hay's collection would, moreover, serve the twofold end of completing the Museum of the Court of Directors in London, and of procuring for India exchanges of valuable objects neither comprised in Major Hay's collection, nor indigenous in this country.
The Society while thus fully aware of the valuable opportunity now afforded for the promotion of the study of Natural History in India, are not insensible to the difficulties which oppose themselves to the procural of Major Hay's Museum. The estimate of its pecuniary value, submitted by the proprietor, far exceeds the resources of the Society, or any subscriptions which might be collected among individuals anxious to promote the object in view.
It seems possible still that were the Government to extend its patronage and pecuniary aid to the Museum, that the current efforts of the Society and of individual subscribers might lead to the accomplishment of some arrangement which would secure the acquisition of this Museum for Bengal.
In the event of such measures being adopted, the Society will gladly apply their establishment to the custody of the Museum, and they pledge themselves at all times to facilitate the application thereof to the furtherance of the chief end of its acquisition, namely, the instruction of the Natives of Bengal in the several subjects, such collections are capable of illustrating. For this purpose the Museum might be held available for the illustration of lectures in Natural History, delivered at any Government Institution in Calcutta, such precautions being taken as would secure it from injury or loss. 'I am directed finally to refer to your letter of the 26th July, 1838, in which you state "that the Governor General of India in Council will be ready to receive from the Society recommendations for the purchase or other procurement of objects of more than common interest, of which the Society may receive information, and for the obtainment of which it may want the necessary funds."
'The Society most respectfully represent the present occasion as one eminently deserving of the patronage of the Government, in the spirit of the views expressed in the preceding extract.' I have, &c. W. B. O'SHAUGHNESSY.
7th Jan. 1838.'