Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/735

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719
THE TRANSIT OF VENUS.

or interest; and generation after generation of school-masters and book-compilers have been tortured to supply the means of torture. If the same amount of ingenuity had been expended upon English, our young writers might have been saved many a throe of composition, and our language many an ugly blemish. No one can tell how much the language might have been improved, and its superior modes and characteristics rendered habitual to the mass of our countrymen.

What I proposed to examine was whether classical studies should cease to be the staple of a liberal education, should in public institutions for general instruction form the basis of all scholarly acquirements. We seem to have reached the conclusion that Latin and Greek in that capacity should be replaced by English. There is no reason why such a change should involve the entire cessation of Latin and Greek studies. It would simply make Latin and Greek as other foreign languages are. It would make them optional, as Hebrew, Sanscrit, German, French. It would prevent the distorted view that we take of their importance, from their anomalous place in our education. It would enable us to survey them in their true light, as two—perhaps an important two, but still only two—of the great family of languages. Our conclusion is not that the study of Latin and Greek should be discontinued, but that, whatever acquisitions be intended for the schoolboy, the foundation of them all should be, not a knowledge of Latin and Greek, but a competent knowledge of his own language.

 
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THE TRANSIT OF VENUS.
By HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH, Esq.

SOME of the world's greatest benefactors have worked with young minds, and one of the most remarkable discoveries of astronomical science was made by a company of English students in the best days of youth. We refer to the transit of Venus across the disk of the sun.

Our readers have doubtless noticed that Congress[1] has already made provision for the scientific observation of the transit in 1874. The subject will soon engage the attention of astronomers, for the phenomenon furnishes us with the most important elements of astronomical knowledge. By the visible movement of the planet across the sun's centre, we are enabled to determine the sun's horizontal parallax, or the difference between the real and apparent position of the sun,[2] and thereby to correctly calculate the distance of the earth and

  1. Congress has appropriated $150,000 to aid the observations, and has placed the United States Navy at the disposal of Messrs. Pierce, Henry, and Sands, to be employed for the purpose.
  2. The parallax of the sun, moon, or any planet, is the distance between its true and apparent place in the heavens, the true place of any celestial object being that in which it would appear if seen from the centre of the earth.