Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/34

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and Gessler all the time, and finally held out to me a quarto volume filled with figures, with the request to promote his election to the Academy. I stared at him as a cow will stare at a new stable-door, and then burst into loud laughter, which almost dumfounded the young candidate. The idea that I should be able to do anything for the promotion of his candidature seemed as ridiculous as he looked upon it as a matter of course. But, when I told him that I deemed my assistance utterly superfluous, and that I had heard all my friends of the Brongniart party talk about his election as a foregone conclusion, he almost embraced me for joy, and said that his visit to me was the most agreeable he had paid for a long time. He urged me to visit him, to see his wife and his little son, and so on. Thus he left me, flushed with excitement, and, when I told a friend at the Jardin des Plantes that the whole affair seemed utterly incomprehensible to me, he said: "You are a novice in such things. Do you know what a candidate for the Academy is? The unhappiest man in the world. He has to hire a carriage for a month; he rides out early in the morning to pay visits, and comes home late in the evening, fearfully tired. He has no time for eating and sleeping; for of nights he dreams of fresh essays, and finally sinks half dead into his easy-chair. He visits everybody, even the cousin of the dress-maker who sews for the aunt of the wife of an academician; and you are surprised that Leverrier should come to see you? After a while, when I am a candidate, I shall also pay you a visit, although I see you every day at the Jardin des Plantes. Otherwise you might take offense."

Leverrier had, at that time, a very pleasant home. His wife was a handsome, amiable woman, his son was a fat, rosy-cheeked boy, and his daily visitor was Arago, who knew how to interest the smallest as well as the largest circles by his lively and witty conversation. He was a republican, like Arago, to whom he was indebted for everything, and whom he afterward treated in a manner which was justly and harshly criticised. For he became a rabid reactionist, and he whom everybody had taken for a frank, noble character was soon looked upon as the most rancorous man in Paris. People admired the astronomical calculator and the indefatigable student; but they hated and even despised the colleague and the superior. I am inclined to think that all the members of the Academy together were not so cordially execrated during their lifetime as Leverrier alone. I was averse to renew my intimacy with the man who had become repugnant to me.

I do not propose to analyze here the scientific merits of the men whom France has recently lost. If Becquerel and Regnault were known only in professional circles, the name of Leverrier is familiar to all who have heard of the planet Neptune, which he so ingeniously discovered; and Claude Bernard is not unknown to cultivated people, as his fertile pen has popularized physiological knowledge and investigations. Only one of the four, Becquerel, was popular as a lecturer; Claude Bernard