Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/26

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16
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I.

THE STEAM-ENGINE AS A SIMPLE MACHINE.

[" A machine, receiving at distant times and from many hands new combinations and improvements, and becoming at last of signal benefit to mankind, may be compared to a rivulet, swelled in its course by tributary streams until it rolls along a majestic river, enriching in its progress provinces and kingdoms. In retracing the current, too, from where it mingles with the ocean, the pretensions of even ample subsidiary streams are merged in our admiration of the master-flood. But, as we continue to ascend, those waters which, nearer the sea, would have been disregarded as unimportant, begin to rival in magnitude, and divide our attention with, the parent stream; until, at length, on our approaching the fountains of the river, it appears trickling from the rock, or oozing from among the flowers of the valley. So, also, in developing the rise of a machine, a coarse instrument or a toy may be recognized as the germ of that production of mechanical genius whose power and usefulness have stimulated our curiosity to mark its changes and to trace its origin. The same feelings of reverential gratitude which attached holiness to the spots whence mighty rivers sprung, also clothed with divinity, and raised altars in honor of the saw, the plough, the potter's wheel, and the loom."—Stuart.]

[...." And, last of all, with inimitable power, and 'with whirlwind-sound,' comes the potent agency of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised in the short compass of fifty years! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many hands as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found in triumphant operation on the seas; and, under the influence of its strong propulsion, the gallant ship

' Against the wind, against the tide,

Still steadies with an upright keel.'

It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is on highways, and exerts itself along the courses of land-conveyance; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans: ' Leave off your manual labor; give over your bodily toil; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil, with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness! ' What further improvement may still be made in the use of this astonishing power it is impossible to know, and it were vain to conjecture. What we do know is, that it has most essentially altered the face of affairs, and that no visible limit yet appears beyond which its progress is seen to be impossible."—Daniel Webster.]

SECTION I. The Period of Speculation. Hero to Worcester, b. c. 200 to a. d. 1700.—1. The history of the steam-engine is a subject that interests greatly every intelligent mind.

As Religion has always been, and still is, the great moral agent in

the same author, and is about to be published, finely illustrated, in the "International Series."