|The Story Book of Science|
|by Jean Henri Fabre|
|The wonders of plant and animal life told with rare literary charm by Uncle Paul in conversations with three children. Besides such stories as the ants' subterranean city, the spider's suspension bridge, and the caterpillars' processing, he unlocks the mystery behind thunder and lightning, clouds and rain, the year and its seasons, and volcanoes and earthquakes. Ages 9-12 |
OPPER and tin are called metals," continued Uncle Paul.
"They are heavy, shining substances, which bear the blows of
the hammer without breaking. They flatten, but do not break.
There are still other substances which possess the
considerable weight of copper and tin, as well as their
brilliancy and resistance to blows. All these substances are
"Then lead, which is so heavy, is a metal too?" asked
"Iron also, silver and gold?" queried his brother.
"Yes, these substances and still others are metals. All have
a peculiar brilliancy called metallic luster, but the color
varies. Copper is red; gold, yellow; silver, iron, lead,
tin, white, with a very slightly different shade one from
"The candlesticks Mother Ambroisine is drying in the sun,"
said Emile, "are a magnificent yellow and so shiny they
dazzle. Are they gold?"
"No, my dear child; your uncle does not possess such riches.
They are brass. To vary the colors and other properties of
the metals, instead of always using them separately, they
often mix two or three together, or even more. They melt
them together, and the whole constitutes a sort of new
 different from those which enter into its
composition. Thus, in melting together copper and a kind of
white metal called zinc, the same as the garden watering
pots are made of, they obtain brass, which has not the red
of copper, nor the white of zinc, but the yellow of gold.
The material of the candlesticks is, then, made of copper
and zinc together; in a word, it is brass, and not gold, in
spite of its luster and yellow color. Gold is yellow and
glitters; but all that is yellow and glitters is not gold.
At the last village fair they sold magnificent rings whose
brilliancy deceived you. In gold, they would have cost a
fine sum. The merchant sold them for a sou. They were
"How can they tell gold from brass, since the color and
luster are almost the same?" asked Jules.
"By the weight, chiefly. Gold is much heavier than brass; it
is indeed the heaviest metal in frequent use. After it comes
lead, then silver, copper, iron, tin, and finally zinc, the
lightest of all."
"You told us that to melt copper," put in Emile, "they
needed a fire so intense, that the heat of a red-hot stove
would be nothing in comparison. All metals do not resist
like that, for I remember very well in what a sorry way the
first leaden soldiers you gave me came to their end. Last
winter, I had lined them up on the luke-warm stove. Just
when I was not watching, the troop tottered, sank down, and
ran in little streams of melted lead. I had only time to
save half a dozen grenadiers, and their feet were missing."
"And when Mother Ambroisine thoughtlessly put
 the lamp on
the stove," added Jules, "oh! it was soon done for: a
finger's breadth of tin had disappeared."
"Tin and lead melt very easily," explained Uncle Paul. "The
heat of our hearth is enough to make them run. Zinc also
melts without much trouble; but silver, then copper, then
gold, and finally iron, need fires of an intensity unknown
in our houses. Iron, above all, has excessive resistance,
very valuable to us.
"Shovels, tongs, grates, stoves, are iron. These various
objects, always in contact with the fire, do not melt,
however; do not even soften. To soften iron, so as to shape
it easily on the anvil by blows from the hammer, the smith
needs all the heat of his forge. In vain would he blow and
put on coal; he would never succeed in melting it. Iron,
however, can be melted, but you must use the most intense
heat that human skill can produce."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics