Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Sometimes from one organic substance two new compounds are 
generated,—one organic, the other inorganic,—as in vinous fer¬ 
mentation, during which carbonic acid and alcohol are formed from 
sugar. Decomposition does not commence in the bodies of auimals 
and plants immediately after their death. This Gmelin explains, 
by supposing that the conditions necessary for the exertion of elec¬ 
tive affinity are not then present, just as several inorganic sub¬ 
stances require a certain temperature for their decomposition.* 
The conditions more or less necessary for the spontaneous de¬ 
composition of organic matter, are moisture, the access of atmo¬ 
spheric air, and a certain temperature. The first is absolutely 
necessary: organic substances when perfectly dry, do not undergo 
decomposition at the ordinary temperature of the atmosphere. 
Air is also often necessary, but not always: moist animal tissues 
suffer decomposition even when atmospheric air is excluded, (for 
example, by immersion in fluid mercury,) although the presence 
of air facilitates putrefaction in the highest degree, even more than 
oxygen alone. A certain temperature is always necessary. 
The gaseous products of the decomposition of animal matter, 
and of the human body in particular, are carbonic acid,,some¬ 
times nitrogen, hydrogen, sulphuretted hydrogen, phosphuretted 
hydrogen, and ammonia. Acetic acid is also formed, and some¬ 
times nitric acid. The solid matter that remains, consists of the 
carbonaceous substances, which decompose more slowly, and of 
the fixed mineral ingredients, earths, oxides, and salts, which with 
the carbonaceous substances form the soil (humus.)t Several parts 
of the bodies of man and animals immersed in water, or buried in 
certain situations, even without the access of water, undergo a 
peculiar change in their being converted into a substance, named 
adipocire. Berzelius is of opinion, that the fibrin, albumen, and 
colouring matter of the blood, as well as the adipose matter, may 
be converted into this substance; while Gay Lussac and Chevreul 
state that the fat, which can be extracted from fresh animal tex¬ 
tures by chemical processes, equals in quantity the adipocire gene¬ 
rated by putrefaction in water, and they infer, therefore, that the 
fat merely is converted into adipocire, while the other tissues are 
State in zuhich mineral components exist in organic- bodies. 
—The proportions in which the oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and 
nitrogen are combined, seem to constitute the chief differences in 
the composition of organic substances. The organic compounds 
of these elements especially, are ternary and quaternary, not 
binary. In what state the less abundant mineral ingredients exist 
in organic bodies,—whether they likewise enter into the forma¬ 
tion of ternary or quaternary compounds, or are merely mingled 
with them in the binary form,—is an important question which 
* Gmelin, Chemie, vol. iii. p. 9. 
f See Weber, loc. cit. vol. i. p. 70.


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