2nd November 1936. The Acid Test.

Today in 1936 the English physical chemist Thomas Martin Lowry died, known for his theory showing the relationship between acids and bases.(1)


When acids and bases are equal we have Neutralization, a balance we seek, whether it is the farmer with acid soil, or when we have over-indulged, or to relieve pain of a bee sting.

Thus farmers reach for the lime (calcium oxide); we reach for the antacid of Magnesium Carbonate or Sodium Bicarbonate (bi-carb), and for the sting.

This latter Carbonate (NaHCO3), found in baking sodas, is in all living things and helps our bodies to maintain a pH value between a critical 7.3 and 7.5. It is a compound essential to life and has many uses in everyday life, in baking powders for leavening, in cleansing and eradicating smells.

Baking Powder

Old variety of Baking Powder which comprises sodium bicarbonate and a mild acid.

Where Neutralization is affected, we get problems, apart from indigestion and sour soil, we get ‘acid rain’, a term first coined by Robert Angus Smith in 1852.

However ‘rain’ can be misleading, as the effects can be caused by dry particulates from sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, ammonia and nitrogen oxides which are naturally produced by volcanoes or organic decay, but predominantly by fossil fuels and animal waste.

As in all things the ‘via media’, middle of the road, straining neither one way or the other will ensure equilibrium in both body and mind, as in chemical equations.

(1) Lowry was born on 26th October 1874.

Ref: sciencebuddies/acids-and-bases.

Ref: earthmagazine.org/acid-rain.

Ref: oconto.uwex.edu/baking-powder.

Ref: bbc.co.uk/bitesize/acids and bases.

Ref: dl.clackamas.edu/hydronium.


When acids are dissolved in water Hydronium ions are formed H3O+ and the acidity or basicity  of a solution is related to the relative concentration of H3O+) and of Hydroxyl (Hydroxide) (OH-). If concentration of H3O+ is more than concentration of OH-  the solution is acid.

If OH- is more than concentration of H3O+ the solution is basic.

If concentrations are equal the solution is neutral.

An Alkali results when a base accepts hydroxyl ions (OH), when dissolved in water thus pushing the balance, as the base soaks up Hydrogen ions resulting in more hydroxyl ions than Hydrogen.

Acids donate Hydrogen when dissolved in water so the  balance between H and OH shifts as having more Hydrogen towards a more acid liquid. The strength of an acid depends on its ability to lose protons.

More Hydrogen more acid: more Hydroxyl (Hydroxide) more alkaline the solution.

Most acids have Oxygen and all acids  have an Hydrogen atom: hydrochloric acid (H Cl); nitric acid (HNO3); sulphuric acid (H2SO4); carbonic acid (H2CO3); phosphoric acid (H3PO4).







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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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