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BRITISH ENCYCLOPEDIA.

NICERON.

ICERON (John FRANCIS,) in biography, a French monk, and ingenious mathematician, in the seventeenth century, was born at Paris, in the year 1613. He early displayed a love of learning, and by the progress which he made in his elementary studies afforded fair promise of future excellence. At the age of nineteen he entered into the order of Minims, and before he had gone through his course of philosophy, discovered that his predominant inclination was to the study of mathematical sciences, to which, after he had completed his theological course, he devoted all the time that was not necessarily occupied by the duties of his profession. The science of optics was what principally engaged his attention; and he left behind him, in different houses belonging to his order, particularly that at Paris, some excellent performances, which afforded satisfactory evidence of his profound skill in this branch of the mathematics. He was twice sent on business to Rome, and was appointed regent of the philosophical classes. Afterwards he was nominated to accompany father Francis de la Noue, vicar-general of the order, in his visitation of all the convents of Minims in France. The similarity of their taste proved the means of introducing him to the acquaintance of Des Cartes, who entertained a great regard for him, and made him a present of his “Principles of Philosophy.” Their intimacy, however, which commenced in 1644, proved but of short duration, since our young monk

fell sick at Aix, in Provence, and died there in the autumn of 1646, when he was only thirty-three years of age. This event was lamented as a considerable loss to the republic of letters. He was the author of the following works, which are held in high estimation. “The Interpretation of Cyphers, or, a Rule for the perfect understanding and certain explanation of all kinds of simple Cyphers, taken from the 1talian of the Sieur Anthony Maria Cospi, secretary to the Grand Duke of Tuscany; enlarged, and particularly accommodated to the French and Spanish Languages,” 1641, octavo; “Curious Perspective, or artificial Magic, produced by the wonderful Effects of Optics, Catoptrics, and Dioptrics,” &c. 1638, folio: which was only introductory to his “Thaumaturgus Opticus, sive, admirandae Optices, Catoptrices, et Dioptrices, pars prima, de is quae spectant ad visiomem directam,” 1646, folio. On this work he was employed six years, and was prevented by his death from proceeding to the completion of the intended second and third parts, relating to the effects of reflection from plane, cylindrical, and conical mirrors, and the refraction of crystals. This task his friend fathar Mersenne undertook, not only by correcting what Niceron's papers in Latin and French would furnish towards it, but by supplying what might be necessary to perfect it. But the other occupations of this learned mathematician, during the two remaining years of his own life, prevented him from finishing the work, which, upon his death, was committed for that purpose to M. de Roberval, professor royal of mathematics at Paris. ter” of father Niceron's is inserted in the third volume of Liceto's “De quaesitis per Epistolas.” NICHE, in architecture, a concave recess in a wall having a semicircular or elliptical head, intended to contain a statue or bust. NICKEL. A white metal, which, when obtained pure, is both ductile and malleable. It may be forged into very thin plates, their thickness not being greater than 0.01 of an inch. Its colour intermediate between that of silver and tin, and is not altered by the air. It is nearly as hard as iron. Its specific gravity is 8.279, and when forged 8.666. The species of nickel ores are, its alloy with arsenic, and a little sulphur and its oxide. The first is the most abundant, and the one from which nickel is usually extracted. It is known to mineralogists by the name of kupfer-nickel, or copper-nickel, from its colour and appearance. It occurs generally massive and disseminated; its colour is copper-red of various shades; its lustre is weakly shining, and metallic; it is perfectly opaque; its fracture is uneven; it is hard, has no malleability, but is not easily broken ; its specific gravity is from 6.6 to 7.5. Urged by the flame of the blow-pipe, it gives vapours with a strong arsenical odour, and melts with difficulty. It dissolves in acids, giving a green solution. Bergman found it to be composed of nickel, iron, cobalt, arsenic, and sulphur. Vauquelin regards it as essentially an alloy of nickel and arsenic, the iron, cobalt, and sulphur, being accidental. The other species, the oxide of nickel, occurs generally as an incrustation, sometimes also disseminated, of a friable texture and earthy appearance; of an apple green colour, without lustre. It is not altered by the heat of the blow-pipe ; but when mixed with borax gives to it a yellowish red colour. Its solution in acids is of a green colour. It occurs generally with kupfer-nickel, or with certain cobalt ores. It is also contained in small quantities in a fossil of the siliceous genus, chrysoprase, to which it communicates an apple-green colour. Nickel is extracted from the kupfernickel, but it is extremely difficult to free it entirely from the metals with which it is associated. The process given by Che

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nevix is the most simple. The metal obtained from kupfer-nickel, by roasting and fusion with three times its own weight of black flux, is dissolved in nitric acid, the . solution being boiled, so that the arsenic present receiving oxygen from the acid may be converted into arsenic acid; a solution of nitrate of lead is then dropped in, and the liquor evaporated by a very gentle heat, but not quite to dryness. Alcohol poured into this solution precipitates every salt but the nitrate of nickel, which has been formed by the double decomposition of the arseniate of nickel and the nitrate of lead. The alcohol of the solution of nitrate of nickel being evaporated, the metallic salt is re-dissolved in water, and decomposed by potash. The oxide, well washed and dried, is reduced in an Hessian crucible lined with lamp-black. By the experiments that have been made on nickel in its pure state, it appears to be proved that it is possessed of magnetic power, and that therefore iron is not the only metal to which it belongs. The magnetic properties of nickel had often been observed; but as, in the usual processes by which it is obtained, it is always alloyed with iron, it was concluded, with probability, that the magnetism it exhibited was owing to the presence of that metal. Since methods, however, have since been discovered of obtaining nickel in a purer state, the error of this conclusion has been discovered. The effect of the magnet on it is very little inferior to that which it exerts on iron; and the metal itself becomes magnetic by friction with a magnet, or even by beating with a hammer. Magnetic needles have even been constructed of it in France, and have been preferred to those of steel, as resisting better the action of the air. The nickel preserves its magnetic property when alloyed with copper, though it is somewhat diminished ; by a small portion of arsenic it is completely destroyed. Nickel is extremely fusible; its fusing point being higher than that of iron. This metal is oxyded by exposure to the atmospheric air at a high temperature, though with difficulty. Its oxide is more easily obtained by exposure to heat with nitre ; it is of an apple-green colour; and is obtained likewise of this colour by precipitation from some of its saline conbinations. It appears to be the oxide at the minimum of oxydement; at least, ac-, cording to the experiments of Thenard, i. another oxide can be formed more high

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ly oxyded. It may be obtained by exposing the green oxide to a red heat, or by heating it with oxymuriatic acid. It appears, therefore, to be too highly oxydiz. ed to be capable of directly combining with any of the acids. According to Rich. ter, oxide of nickle is reduced by heat alone; and the only difficulty experienced is the intensity of the heat required to fuse the metal. w Nickel is oxydized and dissolved by a number of acids; its solutions being generally of a green colour, and crystallizable. The salts of nickel are decomposed by the alkalies, and the oxide, more or less free from the acid, is thrown down. If the alkalies are added in excess, they redissolve it: and with ammonia, in particular, soluble triple salts are formed. Pot. ash and soda dissolve even a small quantity of its pure oxide; ammonia dissolves it in a much larger quantity. Nickel combines with sulphur by fusion. The compound has a yellow colour with some brilliancy. It is brittle and hard, and burns when strongly heated in contact with the air. Nickel is also dissolved by the alkaline sulphurets. With phosphorus, nickel unites, either by projecting the phosphorus on the nickel at a high temperature, or by heating together phosphoric acid and nickel with a little charcoal. The nickel increases in weight one-fifth. The compound is of a white colour with metallic lustre, and appears composed of a congeries of prisms. Nickel forms alloys with a number of the metals; but our knowledge of these combinations is very imperfect. NICOTIANA, in botany, tobacco, a genus of the Pentandria Monogynia class and order. Natural order of Luridae. Solaneae, Jussieu. Essential character: corolla funnel form, with a plaited border; stamina inclined; capsule two-valved, twocelled. There are seven species, of which N. rustica, English tobacco, seldom rises more than three feet in height, having smooth alternate leaves upon short footstalks; flowers in small loose bunches on the top of the stalks, of a yellow colour, appearing in July, which are succeeded by roundish capsules, ripening in the autumn. Sir Walter Raleigh, on his return from America, is said to have first introduced the smoking of tobacco into England. In the house in which he lived, at Islington, are his arms, with a tobacco plant on the top of the shield. It is remarkable, that tobacco has prevailed over the original name, petum, in all the Fu

ropean languages, with very little variation, and even in Tartary and Japan. Tobacco is derived from the island Tobago. Petum is the Brasilian name. NICTITATING membrane, in comparative anatomy, a thin membrane, chiefly found in the bird and fish kinds, which covers the eyes of these animals, sheltering them from the dust, or from too much light; yet is so thin and pellucid, that they can see pretty well through it. NIDUS, among naturalists, signifies a nest, or proper repository for the eggs of birds, insects, &c. wherein the young of these animals are hatched and nursed. NIEUWENTYT, (BERNARD), in biography, a celebrated Dutch philosopher and mathematician, in the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth century, was the son of a minister of Westgraafdyk, in North Holland, where he was born in the year 1654. He afforded early indications of a good genius, and a love of learning, which his fathertook care to encourage,by giving him the advantages of an excellent education. He was desirous of becoming acquainted with all the branches of knowledge; but he had the prudence and sagacity to proceed gradually in his acquirements, and to make himself master of one science, before he directed his attention to another. It was his father’s wish, that he should be educated to his own profession; but when he found that his son was disinclined to such a destination, he very properly suffered him to follow the bent of his own genius. The first science to which young Nieuwentyt particularly directed his study was logic, in order to fix his imagination, to form his judgment, and to acquire a habit of right reasoning; and in this science he grounded himself upon the principles of Des Cartes, with whose philosophy he was greatly delighted. In the next place, he engaged in the study of the mathematics, with the various departments of which he became intimately converSant. He then entered upon the study of medicine, and the branches of knowledge more immediately connected with that science: and he afterwards went through a course of reading on jurisprudence. In the study of all these sciences he succeeded so well, as deservedly to acquire the character of a good philosopher, a good mathematician, and an able, just magistrate. From his writings it also appears, that he did not permit his various subjects of inquiry to divert his thoughts from a due attention to the great and fundamental principles of natural and revealed religion. He was naturally of a grave and serious disposition; but at the same time a very affable and agreeable companion. So engaging were his manners, that they conciliated the esteem of all his acquaintance; by which means he frequently drew over to his opinion, those who differed widely from him in sentiment. With such a character, he acquired great credit and influence in the council of the town of Puremerende, where he resided; and also in the states of that province, who respected him the more, because he never engaged in any cabals or factions, but recommended himself only by an open, manly, and upright behaviour. Had he aspired after some of the higher offices of government, there is no doubt but that his merits would have secured to him the suffrages of his countrymen; yet he preferred to such honours the cultivation of the sciences, contenting himself with being counsellor and burgomaster, without courting, or accepting any other posts, which might interfere with his studies. He died in 1718, at the age of 63, having been twice married. He was the author of various works, among which are, “Considerationes circa Analyseos ad quantitates Infinite parvas applicatae Principia, &c.” 1694, octavo ; in which he proposed some difficulties on the subject of the analysis of infinitessimals. “Analysis Infinitorum, seu Curvilineorum proprietates, ex Polygonorum deductae,” 1696, quarto; which is a sequel to the former, with attempts to remove those difficulties. “Considerationes Secundae circa Calculi Differentialis Principiae, et Responsio ad Virum nobilissimum G. G. Leibnitium, &c.” 1696, quarto; occasioned by an attack of Leibnitz on the author’s “Analysis,” in the Leipsic Journal for 1695. “A Treatise on the new Use of the Tables of Sines and Tangents,” 1714, “The proper Use of the Contemplation of the Universe, for the Conviction of Atheists and Unbelievers,” 1715, quarto; of which a French translation was published at Paris, in 1725, quarto, entitled “L’Existence de Dieu demontrée par les Merveilles de la Nature :” and also an English one at London, in 1716, in three volumes, octavo, under the title of “The Religious Philosopher, or, the right use of contemplating the Works of the Creator.” A memoir, inserted in a Dutch journal, entitled “Bibliotheque de l'Europe,” for the year 1716, in defence of the preceding work against a criticism of M. Bernard, in the “Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres.” “A Letter to M.

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Bothnia de Burmania, on his Article concerning Meteors,” inserted in the “Nouvelles litter. du 22 Avril, 1719 :” and about a month before his death, he put the finishing hand to an excellent refutation of Spinoza, which was published in Dutch at Amsterdam, in 1720, quarto. NIGELLA, in botany, fennel flower, a genus of the Polyandria Pentagynia class and order. Natural order of Multisilique. Ranunculaceae, Jussieu. Essential character: calyx none; petals five; nectary five, two-lipped, within the corolla; capsule as many, connected. There are five species; these are annual herbaceous plants, with pinnate or bipinnate leaves, and linear leaflets; flowers terminating, in some species surrounded with a fiveleaved calyx like multifid involucre. NIGHT, that part of the natural day during which the sun is underneath the horizon; or that space wherein it is dusky. Night was originally divided by the Hebrews, and other eastern nations, into three parts, or watchings. The Romans, and afterwards the Jews from them, divided the night into four parts, or watches, the first of which began at sun-set, and lasted till nine at night, according to our way of reckoning; the second lasted till midnight; the third till three in the morning; and the fourth ended at sun-rise.— The ancient Gauls and Germans divided their time not by days but by nights; and the people of Iceland and the Arabs do the same at this day. The like is also observed of our Saxon ancestors. NIGHTINGALE. See MoTACILLA. NIGRINE, in mineralogy, a species of the Menachine genus. Colour, dark brownish-black, passing to velvet-black; it occurs in larger and smaller angular grains; specific gravity 4.5. It is not attracted by the magnet; it is infusible per se, but with borax it melts with a transparent hyacinth red globule; it yields its menachine to acid of sugar. This species is found in Transylvania, consisting of yellow sand, intermixed with fragments of granite, gneiss, and mica-slate, and from which gold is obtained by washing. It comes to us commonly intermixed with grains of precious garnet, cyanite, and common sand. Its name is derived from its black colour; it is distinguished from menachanite by its stronger lustre, superior hardness, the colour of the streak, as well as by its not being in the smallest degree affected by the magnet, which also distinguishes is from iron-sand. Its constituent parts are,

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