The recognition of the polybasicity of acids, which followed from the researches of Thomas Graham and Liebig, had caused Williamson to suggest that dibasic acids could be referred to a double water type, the acid radical replacing an atom of hydrogen in each water molecule; while his discovery of tribasic formic ether, CH(OC 2 H 5) 3, in 1854 suggested a triple water type.
The solution of arsenious oxide in water reacts acid towards litmus and contains tribasic arsenious acid, although on evaporation of the solution the trioxide is obtained and not the free acid.
Although nominally tribasic the commonest metallic salts are dibasic. Organic ethers, however, are known in which one, two and three of the hydrogen atoms are substituted (Michaelis and Becker, Ber., 1897, 30, p. 1003).
That orthoboric acid is a tribasic acid is shown by the formation of ethyl orthoborate on esterification, the vapour density of which corresponds to the molecular formula B(0C2H5)3; the molecular formula of the acid must consequently be B(OH) 3 or H 3 B0 3.
Orthophosphoric acid, H3P04, a tribasic acid, is obtained by boiling a solution of the pentoxide in water; by oxidizing, red phosphorus with nitric acid, or yellow phosphorus under the surface of water by bromine or iodine; and also by decomposing a mineral phosphate with sulphuric acid.