SPERMACETI (from Lat. sperma, seed, and celus, a whale), a wax found in the head cavities and blubber of the sperm-whale (Physeter macrocephalus), where it is dissolved in the sperm oil while the creature is living; it also occurs in other Cetacea (see WHALE OILS). At a temperature of about 6 C. the solid matter separates in a crystalline condition, and when purified by pressure and treatment with weak solution of caustic alkali it forms brilliant white crystalline scales or plates, hard, but unctuous to the touch, and destitute of taste or smell. It is quite insoluble in water, very slightly affected by boiling alcohol, but easily dissolved in ether, chloroform, and carbon bisulphide. Spermaceti consists principally of cetin or cetyl palmitate, Ci 5 H3iCO2Ci6H 3 3. The substance is used in making candles of standard photometric value, in the dressing of fabrics, and in medicine and surgery, especially in cerates, bougies, ointments, and in cosmetic preparations.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)