THE RAINBOW OF ADAMANT (1897) – Written by Charles Kelsey Gaines, this short story is an excellent example of how slowly word of scientific discoveries was spread in the 19th Century compared to our lightning-fast communications of today. The Rainbow of Adamant was written during the period when most of the world was still going by assumptions and theories about helium.
That element had been officially detected in 1868 and subsequently confirmed but its exact properties were unknown for decades. In 1895 a trio of scientists – Per Teodor Cleve, Nils Abraham Langlet and Sir William Ramsay – found helium emanating from “cleveite” (now known as a variety of uraninite) and documented its properties.
As word of the trio’s work was slowly disseminating among the rest of the scientific community and the general public, the April 1897 issue of The Pocket Magazine published Charles Kelsey Gaines’ short story The Rainbow of Adamant. That tale, reviewed below, presented a much more fanciful and exciting version of helium’s properties. Continue reading