This was all the more unexpected since sunlight decomposed it so easily. As soon as the mixture was exposed to bright sunlight, there was a violent explosion. Together they produced the alkali metals in quantity by reacting fused alkalis with red-hot iron. This law helped in a more complete understanding of a similar law announced by John Dalton , called the law of multiple proportions, which governed the combining weights of an element that formed more than one compound with another element. Apart from their early contribution to photochemistry, Gay-Lussac and Thenard made a fundamental contribution to the realization that so-called oxymuriatic acid contained no oxygen and was an element. The principle of both methods was the precipitation of silver chloride. They also studied the effect of light on reactions between hydrogen and chlorine , though it was Davy who demonstrated that the latter gas was an element.
Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac biography, Childhood and youth, Experiments
Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac : biography
His family was a financially sound one and he received a comfortable upbringing. He was appointed demonstrator to A. Berthollet, who had recently set up a laboratory in his country house at Arcueil, just outside of Paris, became the focus of a small but very influential private scientific society. Gay-Lussac is also credited as the inventor of the portable barometer and the air thermometer.
Childhood and youth
Davy, on the other hand, could see no reason to suppose it contained oxygen, as they surmised, and ultimately they had to accept his view of its elementary character. In , Gay-Lussac accompanied Alexander von Humboldt on a year-long tour of Europe, during which he met many of the famous scientists of his day, including Alessandro Volta. In , the rivalry that had been generated between Gay-Lussac and Davy over the discovery of elements once again surfaced in a quest to determine the nature of what would become known as iodine. About this time Gay-Lussac's work, although he by no means entirely abandoned physical questions, became of a more chemical character; and in three instances it brought him into direct rivalry with Sir Humphry Davy. The experiments which I have described, and which have been made with great care, prove incontestably that oxygen, hydrogen, azotic nitrogen , nitrous acid, ammoniacal, muriatic acid, sulfurous acid, carbonic acid, gases, expand equally by equal increments of heat
He made innumerable discoveries in the science, and even the restored royalty made him a Peer of France, although he worked politically with the anti-clericals. He carefully examined the new compound, establishing its composition and showing that it combined with alkalies to form salts cyanides. In order to take readings at even greater heights, Gay-Lussac made another ascent, this time alone, and was able to achieve an elevation of seven thousand meters, a record for that time. Together they identified a class of substances later called carbohydrates including sugar and starch that contained hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of 2: John Dalton had already done experiments of the same nature, a fact that Gay-Lussac was likely ignorant of, but Dalton's experiments were rather far from accurate. Gay-Lussac had a slight rivalry between himself and the creation scientist Sir Humphry Davy.