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POPULAR RETROSPECT OF THE PROGRESS OF PHILOSOPHY AND

SCIENCE.

F

NORMERLY it was esteemed extremely unphilosophical, and the very summit of ill breeding in scholarship, to vulgarise science by rendering it intelligible or useful. Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, kept their grandest speculations masked in symbols of mystery, for the sole use of favourite disciples; and in modern times, natural philosophers, chemists, and physicians, have, in this, often followed in the steps of their ancient masters. In the earlier ages, indeed, -by many so ignorantly praised,-philosophy was a most useless and idle study; inapplicable to any earthly purpose, except, perhaps, to exercise the heads of a few devoted visionaries, who were looked upon by the rest of the world either as tinged with lunacy, or as having unhallowed intercourse with evil spirits. Nor was this wonderful, while philosophy was confined to the cloister and the study, and walked not abroad among the men of the world, except when veiled in darkness and mysteries.

Among other mighty achievements, the PRESS has dispelled much of this artificial darkness, broken down the impertinent barriers of the schools, and torn the veil of mystery from the face of learned ignorance, and solemn stupidity. Science and philoso. phy, the pursuit of which was formerly little better than an apology for ignorance and idleness, have now become useful and popular, and begin to be domesticated in every family circle, from the peasant's cottage to the palace of the prince. Within a few years, a complete revolution has thus been effected in almost every branch of human inquiry and contrivance. The principles of husbandry, gardening, and mining, are hence becoming every day better known, and the practical results are quite wonderful. Besides, our halls, our theatres, and our streets, are most splendidly illuminated with gas; our edifices are protected from the stroke of the thunderbolt; our weightiest machinery, and even our ships are put in motion by the steam of water: our miners are shielded from the formerly destructive explosions of subterranean vapours; in short, we cannot name a department of human convenience which has not lately received the most essential improvement from philosophy. And all-we boldly say, all this has been done by making UTILITY the main object of scientific pursuit, and by rejecting and scorning away all learned jargon, and the theories of dreaming speculation,

To promulgate in the most intelligible' brief, and popular form, whatever shall appear to us useful or worthy to be known, and to expose whatever may wear the aspect of unfounded pretension, or mystical nonsense, will be the aim of the sketches which we now offer, and shall occasionally continue. Our wish is to exhibit a comprehensive, bird's-eye view of all that is now doing by philosophers and men of science; to give an idea of the most recent improvements, as well as changes of retrogression, to our mere literary readers, and those who have not leisure to peruse the voluminous scientific Journals and Transactions daily publishing. We shall thus also give philosophers themselves an opportunity of seeing their labours fairly estimated by the high standard of utility, by keeping which constantly before us, we hope we shall be able to steer clear of all party-spirit and partiality.

GEOLOGY.

We shall begin with the almost new and romantic science of Geology, the object of it is to investigate the structure of the globe, and the rocks, &c, which compose its exterior; for of the interior little can be known, except that the nearer the centre the more dense and weighty are the materials composing it, which cannot, therefore, as has been supposed, be either air or water. Geology is, at present, perhaps the most fashionable of the sciences; and the number of able men now devoted to the study must soon bring it to great advancement. The most useful departments of this science are those which relate to mining for metals, coal, rock salt, and alum; to the comparative ability to withstand the weather; and, analogous to this, the crumbling of rocks, and the nature of the soil which they produce. On these subjects we have discoveries and facts published almost daily, but cannot here find room for an intelligible abstract. The more general principles of the science are employed in investigating the age of rocks, sand, gravel, and peat; and in determining whether these were formed by fire, by the sea, by lakes, by rivers, or by the changes of the weather. It has been an inquiry of some interest in the science, to find a test by which to distinguish sea shells from fresh water shells; as in rocks where shells are found, such a test would at once determine their derivation. Mr. Sowerby has lately attempted something of this kind; but he

Cocoanut oil, for producing gas for family use, proposed by Messrs. Taylor and Martineau. It is without smell, yields a very bright flame, and is economical.

+ A Mr. Lester says, the safety lamp is a dragon that lures the miner to destruction, by giving him confidence to work in the midst of fire damp; but affording so scanty a light, that he is often tempted to open the skreen, and the surrounding gas explodes, and kills him. There is, we doubt not, some truth in this, Mr. Lester has discovered a mode of drawing off the fire damp.

confesses himself that he has not arrived at much certainty. The bones of an animal found imbedded in rocks, near Maestricht and Vicenza, which had hitherto puzzled Cuvier and other eminent naturalists, have been determined by Sömmering to belong to a species of lizard, which, from its great size, he calls the giant lizard. It is now unknown, but he conjectures that it is the Dragon of antiquity, so universally, though (if he is right) falsely reputed fabulous. This enormous lizard is twenty-three feet in length. A plate of the bones may be seen, Ann. Phil. ii. 183, N. S. We need not, after this, despair of finding in some rock or gravel-pit, the skeletons of centaurs, griffins, harpies, or even that of the renowned Pegasus.

MINERALOGY.

The circumstance most worthy of notice in this science, at present, is the ambitious attempt of M. Mohs, of Freyberg, the successor of the celebrated Werner, to establish a jargon of new names, extremely uncouth and lengthy; a combination of Greek, Latin, and Teutonic. We are sorry to see Professor Jameson and Mr. Brande lending their aid to the propagation of these barbarisms.

Almost every scientific journal announces the discovery of new minerals; but we are usually very sceptical as to the genuineness of these novelties so frequently thrust on our notice; for we cannot often perceive a greater anxiety to make out a discovery to be new, than to identify the examined min eral with species already known.

BOTANY.

The study of Botany, lately so fashionable, is rather on the decline, owing, we have no doubt, to the great minuteness, and the absolute barrenness of the Linnæan system. This system, which was for many years quite unrivalled, seems to be rapidly falling into the back ground, and the more abstruse and equally useless system of Jussieu is coming into favour, and has already attained a prominent place in the elementary works. Mr. Brown and Dr. Hooker, are our most eminent botanists, and non passabus æquis, Sir J. E. Smith; but utility is the very last object which these gentlemen seem inclined to pursue. The forming of divisions and sub-divisions, and the idle practice of making names, and drawing up useless and minute descriptions of flowers, leaves, &c. form the sole pursuit of all eminent botanists. Sometimes, indeed, they find a spare corner in a page, for a note on the utility of a plant, or on the peculiarities of its growth and physiology, but this is very

rare.

Physiological, or rather useful botany, is rapidly advancing under the care of the Horticultural Society, and by the talents of Mr. Knight, who deserves the richest credit for his experiments on the food of plants, and on the ripening and propagation of fruits. Mr. Drummond also has made the interesting discovery that the green mosses,

known by the common name of crow silk, so frequently seen on moist walls, decayed trees, bare patches of ground, and stagnant water, are not, as supposed by Linnæus, Hedwig, and others, a particular sort of moss, called by them confervæ, but are merely the young plants of the pine moss, and others of a similar kind. This is intelligible enough, and is amply proved by his ingenious experiments; but what are we now to make of the numerous species of conferva minutely described and figured in

our books?

ZOOLOGY.

We have to record, under this department, the same decline of the system of Linnæus as we have just mentioned respecting botany. Lamare, a French naturalist, discovered that insects, and several others of the less perfect animals, differ from quadrupeds, birds, and fishes in being destitute of a spine or back bone; and Cuvier, another French savant, of great industry and talent, took up the hint, and made it the basis of a new arrangement, we think, to supersede the precise and uninteresting system of Linnæus. And, if we must have a learned array of barbarously compounded names for animals, that of Cuvier is rather more natural than the "tooth and nail" work of the Swede, which makes the whale a quadruped, and ranks the bat next to man in the order of things, because of the way in which it suckles the young bats.

Under the head of Geology we have seen Sommering's wonderful discovery of the ancient dragon. The discovery of the unicorn of our royal arms, which is said to have been recently made in Thibet, by Major Latter, and in Southern Africa by Mr. Campbell, will tend much to weaken our faith in the dogmatism of naturalists, and to put more credit in history, though it should be contemptuously called fabulous. The newly discovered animal is described by Major Latter, exactly as we have so often seen it figured,—with the body of a fine formed horse, and a single horn in his forehead. We shall examine the evidence of this discovery more scrupulously, as soon as it comes before us more in detail. M. Latrielle, a French naturalist of some eminence, has, in imitation, as we suppose, of Humboldt's geography of plants, given a very brief sketch of the geographical distribution of insects. This is a subject of great curiosity, but there are few facts yet ascertained respecting it, from the want of general observations by collectors, those personages being usually much more anxious to add a specimen to their box, than to record any thing concerning its habits or its history. M. Latrielle, however, thinks he can prove that warm and cold countries have scarcely any insects in common, and also that under same parallels in countries which are distant, the species are entirely differ ent. This conclusion does not at all correspond with what Humboldt found to hold in the vegetable kingdom, namely, that nearly the same species flourish in the most dis

tant countries, when the climate and temperature are the same.

METEOROLOGY.

If we were to estimate the advancement of a science by the number of its observers, we should say that meteorology is making progress towards perfection. Except, how ever, the nomenclature of the clouds by Mr. Howard, and the experiments of Dr. Wells on dew, we recollect nothing which merits the name of a great or important discovery in the science. Mr. Farey has lately proposed a method of studying the nature of the phenomena of falling stars, which, we doubt not, might help to fill up a column of a meteorological table, could he persuade any body to pursue it; for we do doubt whether Dr. Foster himself—Mr. Farey is out of the question-or any other meteorologist, would sit for two hours every night, with his eye fixed on a central star, ready the instant he should see a falling star to call out "mark" to his assistant. It would, we conceive, be more productive in the way of discovery, to sweep the sky for comets.

ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM.

We class these together, because the only thing new of any importance respecting either, is the very interesting discovery of their connexion, by M. Oersted, of Copenhagen, whose experiments have been repeated by Sir H. Davy, and several other British philosophers of distinction. The subject may be considered as still in its infancy, but we sanguinely anticipate that it will terminate in some great practical result. We are very much in the dark respecting the agents by which electric, galvanic, and magnetic effects are produced. Of one thing we are very certain that these agents are not fluids as they are often foolishly denominated; or if, forsooth, they must be called so, we must call upon those who thus use the term for a new definition. At the hazard of being thought credulous, we would infer from M. Oersted's discovery, that there may be something real in animal magnetism, for believing in which we have not spared to ridicule the credulity of the Germans. The efficacy of electricity itself, in curing dis ease, has lately fallen into disrepute, though the facts of its power are strongly established on the evidence of some of the most distinguished names in the profession. Two very singular cases occurred recently. One is given on the authority of Professor Olmsted, of a man who had a paralytic affection of the face and eye, and being slightly struck during a thunder storm, was, in consequence, completely cured. A similar cure was effected at Perth, on a man who had been troubled for many years with a tremulous affection of his whole body, which was completely removed by a shock he received during a thunder storm. These facts are worthy of record, and should induce the profession to give electricity, and even magnetism, a more accurate and fair trial than perhaps has yet been done.

OPTICS.

The polarization of light, as it is called, has for several years engaged almost the undivided attention of opticians; and Dr. Brewster has been so industrious in experimenting and collecting facts, that he has formed an entire system of mineralogy on the basis of polarization alone. We wait with some anxiety for its publication. Mr. J. W. Herschel has distinguished himself in a similar line of inquiry. The doctrine of Sir I. Newton, respecting the production of colours by the thickness or thinness of laminæ or plates, has been frequently impugned, and, we think, with success. If the experiments, however, of Mr. Charlton (Ann. Phil. ii. 182, N. S.) be correct, colours may, in some cases, such as enamelling, be produced by mechanical division and communication.

ASTRONOMY.

perfect sciences, in which we can scarcely We may consider this as one of the more hope for much that is new. Not that there is nothing remaining to be discovered, but because it has been so long systematically cultivated and taught, that the mind of the strings from his deference to great names, astronomer is kept very much in leading and his implicit confidence in mathematical results. A little scepticism respecting received opinions in science, is often, however, of much utility in leading to discoveries, or in confirming by new and collateral proof what is already known; and though it is rather a dangerous instrument in unskilful hands, it is peculiarly adapted to men of

talent.

been wielding this weapon against the NewSir R. Phillips, we perceive has tonian system, and has brought some plauagainst the supposed infallible doctrine of sible, though not very novel objections gravitation, attraction, centrifugal and centripetal force, inertia, and the celestial va

edifice. Sir Richard, however, like many euum on which Newton founded his sublime other objectors can pull down more dexterously than he can re-build; his proposed sysextravagant.-Col. Beaufoy, we perceive, tem of motion being in many parts very has inferred from some observations on the immersion of the satellites of Jupiter that the moon has no atmosphere, or, at least, it is not like that of the earth. This is not a new conjecture.

MECHANICS.

A Mr. Herapath has come ambitiously forward with some baseless mathematical dreams, by which he pretends to give a more satisfactory, that is, a more mechanical account of attraction, gravitation, heat, &c. than has been hitherto published. His problems, we doubt not, are executed with accuracy, and the results, being mathematical, may bring irresistible conviction to his mind; but we are accustomed, in all cases of pretended proof, to begin with an examination of the premises; and the premises of Mr. Herapath we find to be wild, visionary, and, withal, very clumsy. His leading

principle is "Let it be granted, that matter is composed of inert, massy, perfectly hard, indestructible atoms, incapable of receiving any change," and admitting " of no breaking, splitting, shattering, or any impression whatever." This extraordinary demand on our credulity is followed by numerous others of the same stamp, which he says he has put in the form of postulates, "to avoid being being obliged to establish them by direct demonstration." In the world-making days of Thales and Anaximander, all this might, perhaps, have sounded very grand and imposing, but Mr. Herapath must be very sanguine, if he hopes to make such antique dreams as these be now listened to with any patience. We know nothing, so far as our own experience goes, of gas in general, nor aloms of matter in general, which are not oxygen, iron, flint, lime, soda, or something similar; and we have been too often bewildered by metaphysicians to trust to their nonsensical definitions of matter in general, which is not, as they suggest, to be found in any particular body, but in all the substances around us. Mr. Herapath is for making us retrograde with himself to the times of old, when "the sublime speculations" of Epicurus, &c. who derived all things from one kind of matter, were the only science recognised. We think the Royal Society shewed their good sense in rejecting these baseless problems, and we would advise Mr. Herapath, if he should again feel inclined to exercise himself in system-building, to lay first a sure foundation, without which even mathematics are false and vain.

It is refreshing to the mind to turn from Herapath's useless reveries to the practical inventions which are now so numerous. Among these, we may mention the great improvements making in the construction of chain bridges, in which Captain Brown, the inventor of the chain cable, has been so successful. One great advantage of such bridges is their cheapness; and another, that they can be constructed over a width of water where bridges of masonry could not be attempted.

CHEMISTRY.

Since the discovery of iodine, there has been nothing deserving of much notice in this science. Our experimenters are, indeed, sufficiently numerous, and many of them have formerly obtained high distinctions for discovery; but their labours seem to be much more trifling than they were a few years ago. The rage for minute and unimportant distinctions, and for new terms to designate these, has widely infected those who are desirous of fame; the contagion having most probably passed to them from our natural historians. We have, in this spirit, analyses of the excrement of a serpent, by Mr. Edmund Davy, and of the urine of a Ceylon frog, by Dr. J. Davy; and we have the French chemists analysing opium, and henbane, and belladonna, and hemlock, and discovering new substances, which were, for the most part, formerly known under different aspects, and different

names. A metaphysical system-a little more intelligible than Mr. Herapath's, but obscured by symbols, has long been forming by Dalton, Berzelius, Thomson, and others; but though it is supported by the greatest names, we think its utility very questionable, even if it were demonstrated to be accurately true. The new discovery of the connection between electricity and magnetism has induced some chemists to apply the magnet to analysis; and we anxiously wait the result. Will it have any effect in altering the present view of the decomposition of water, which was the original basis of our established system?

METAPHYSICS AND ETHICS.

These studies are now become exceedingly unfashionable, and it would consequently be contrary to all we know of human nature to expect much progress to be made in them. The publication, however, of the lectures of the late Dr. Brown, has surprised us most unexpectedly with not only great originality, but, what is of much greater moment, with more clearness of thinking, and more utility of application, than we had ever contemplated. Dr. Brown has fearlessly pulled down former systems, but he has no less dexterously rebuilt a simple and (wonderful to say) an intelligible and practical system of metaphysics. He has shown most clearly, that the dreams of Dr. Reid, though advocated by the superficial eloquence of Dr. Stewart, are baseless and vain; and, of course, that Mr. Stewart's elements, however extravagantly praised by the friendly critics of the north, contain nothing which was not borrowed from Dr. Reid, though Dr. Reid had absolutely nothing worth borrowing; his chief work being full of gross mistakes and misconceptions. Yet what is more common than to hear Mr. Stewart called the greatest metaphysician and moralist of the age? The theory of Mr. Alison, concerning beauty and sublimity, has also fallen before the sweeping pen of Dr. Brown, though he has not deigned to hint even at the existence of this "profound and original thinker," as he has been ost ludicrously called by his friend Mr. Jeffrey. Our readers may recollect, that Dr. Brown first obtained distinction, by his masterly remarks on the Zoonomia of Darwin, and in this maturer work we can still easily trace his obligations to that original but fanciful theory.

We have before us the second part of the Dissertation on the History of Metaphysics, by Mr. Stewart, published in the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica. It is, like the other part, rather tedious and prosing, and loaded with notes, the sweepings of his common-place book, which he found it was beyond his ingenuity to interweave with his text. He has cautiously abstained from giving any sketch of the improvements introduced by Dr. Reid,-for these, as well as his own labours, would have dwindled into insignificance, after the complete exposure of his pretensions by Dr. Brown. has reluctantly admitted, however, that Dr.

He

Reid was very imperfectly acquainted with the metaphysics of his own age. We may appear to some to have done injustice to Mr. Stewart. We retort the accusation on his friends, who have lauded him as a profound philosopher, to which character he has evidently no claim. We cheerfully accord to him, however, the merit of being a pleasing writer.

EDUCATION.

The new system of education introduced by Bell and Lancaster, is said to be rapidly extending in almost every part of the civilized world. We have to record one most marked exception to this, its complete failure in Scotland. This very striking fact has, we have reason to believe, been industriously concealed from the English public by the friends of the system; but we pledge ourselves for its truth. The opulent and public spirited merchants of Glasgow erected four very large schools in those parts of the city and suburbs where they seemed most to be wanted; and at first they were crowded; but so little satisfaction did they give, though conducted by most able teachers from parent schools in London, that in one or two years they were totally deserted, and have now been converted to other purposes. One is let for a Methodist chapel, and one, we believe, still lingers on, but under a change

of system. In Ayr, Aberdeen, and Leith, there are three still languidly kept up; but those in Edinburgh,* Paisley, &c. both public and private, have been, if we mistake not, wholly abandoned. What has been the cause of this? Simply, it appears to us, that the original Scots system, followed in the parochial schools, is more efficient, because it requires more time from the pupil. We may lay it down, indeed, as incontrovertible, that what is soon learned, is generally as soon forgotten; and systems of education which pretend to accomplish pupils in half the usual time, are, and must be gross impositions, and contrary to the known principles of human nature. The system of Bell, or of Lancaster, however, is admirable for teaching the alphabet, the accidence, and the first four rules of arithmetic; but there we conceive its utility stops, and must be supplied by one less mechanical. We would, therefore, advocate most strenuously the support of these schools; and it indicates a growing spirit of civilization that they are so rapidly increasing where schools were formerly unknown; but we anxiously look forward to the period when the population of Europe will be suffi ciently advanced in information and improvement to see-as the populace in Scotland have seen-that this applauded system can carry pupils but a little way beyond mere elementary knowledge. R.

Entelligence.

It is with unmixed pleasure that we once more behold Miss EDGEWORTH before the public in the shape in which she is so preeminently excellent. Perhaps there is not a single writer of the present day who has been the means of bestowing at once so much instruction and delight, as this lady. To our juvenile friends her early lessons are well known, and many older eyes have perused them with almost equal pleasure. To those excellent little volumes Miss Edgeworth has lately added a continuation, called Rosamond, a sequel to Early Lessons, which exhibits our old friend more advanced towards womanhood, but possessing the same engaging frankness of disposition and purity of heart. It is superfluous to say that these volumes inculcate the best morality; it is sufficient perhaps to add that they fully equal any of the writer's former productions, Some of our readers may probably have seen the newly-invented ornamental incrustations in glass, called Crystallo Ceramie. By this process, ornaments of any description, arms, cyphers, portraits, and landscapes of any variety of colour may be introduced into the glass, so as to be come perfectly imperishable. An account of this curious invention may be found in a small quarto volume, lately published, called A Memoir on the Origin, Progress, and

Improvement of Glass Manufactures; including an Account of the Patent Crystallo Ceramie, or Glass Incrustations. This discovery is not only useful in producing very beautiful ornamental works, but miniatures may likewise be enamelled on it, and the colours will thus be retained by being embodied in the crystal, so as, in fact, to become imperishable as the crystal itself.The Memoir contains a curious historical account of the process of glass-making, both among the ancients and in modern times. Some coloured plates are given, which, however, scarcely convey an idea of the beauty of the ornaments themselves.

Died. At Broxbourn, the Rev. W. Jones, curate and vicar for the last forty years. About twelve years ago, being very ill, he had his coffin made, but not dying so soon as he expected, he had shelves fixed in it, and converting it into a book-case, placed it in his study. Two days before he died, he desired a young man to take out the books and shelves and get the coffin ready, as he should soon want it, which was accordingly done; he further desired that the church bell might not toll, and that he might be buried as soon as possible after he was dead. This singular man was buried in the plain boards, without plate, name, date, or nails.

In the High-street of Edinburgh the system of tuition by monitors is partially adopted; but this has always been more or less practised in Scotland, as well as the system of emulation by taking places.

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