Page:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher.djvu/125
HIS OPINION WORTHLESS. 109
poBed, namely, that the Government should take the opinion of the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers upon the question, whether a contract could be made for construct- ing the Difference Engine, and if so, for what sum.
But tlie very plan proposed by Lord Eosse and refused by Lord Derby, for the construction of the English Difference Engine, was adopted some few years after by another ad- ministration for the Swedish Difference Engine. Messrs. Donkin, the eminent Engineers, made an estimate^ and a contract was in consequence executed to construct for Govern- ment a facHsimile of the Swedisk Difference Engine, which is now in use in the department of the Registrar-General, at Somerset House. There were far greater mechanical diffi- culties in the production of that machine than in the one the drawings of which I had offered to the Govemment<.
From my own experience of the cost of executing such works, I have no doubt, although it was highly creditable to the skill of the able firm who constructed it, but that it must have been commercially unprofitable. Under such circum- stances, surely it was harsh on the part of the Government to refuse Messrs. Donkin permission to exhibit it as a specimen of English workmanship at the Exhibition of 1862.
But the machine upon which everybody could calculate, had little chance of fair play from the man on whom nobody could calculate.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had read my letter to Lord Derby, he would have found the opinion of the Com- mittee of the Royal Society expressed in these words :—
" They consider the former [the abstract mathematical " principle]* as not only sufficiently clear in itself, but as '^ already admitted and acted on by the Council in their " former proceedings.