The Right Chemistry: Lab-made diamonds testify to chemists’ ingenuity – by Joe Schwarcz (Montreal Gazette – October 29, 2021)

“O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.” Isaac Newton supposedly spoke those words upon seeing his dog Diamond upset a candle and set fire to a manuscript he had been working on for 20 years. While the story of the mischievous dog is likely apocryphal, the fire was real.

Newton was very interested in alchemy and had prepared an extensive manuscript on the subject. It was that work that mostly went up in flames, although parts survived. In 2020, three leaves of the scorched document sold at auction for over half a million dollars!

If Newton did have a dog, he may very well have named it Diamond, however, because the world’s first truly great scientist was interested in diamonds. As Alexander Pope wrote in his famous couplet, “Nature, and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night, God said, Let Newton be and All was Light.”

Cleverly stated, since much of Newton’s work focused on light and how it traveled from one medium to another. His classic experiment showing that white light passing through a prism can be separated into the colours of the rainbow introduced the concept of refraction, the phenomenon of light being deflected as it passes from one medium into another.

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