Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/393

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LITERARY NOTICES.

LITERARY NOTICES.

Faraday as a Discoverer: By John Tyndall. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1868.

Michael Faraday: By Dr. J. H. Gladstone, F.R.S. London: 1872.

Notice sur Michel Faraday, sa Vie et ses Travaux: A. de la Rive. Geneva: 1867.

The name of Faraday has been a familiar one to all of us for many years. As students, it was in our class-books, occurring on page after page, with others nearly as familiar; and it is almost ludicrous to remember the notion we had, as boys, of the men whose works were before us. Their names were the only realities to us; their real existence was a vague concession to authority; the possibility of knowing any thing of their true life and character was too remote to be considered.

Their work was before us, and the hand that did it unknown. Liebig was a myth, Regnault a shadow, the double-headed Dulong et Petit a visionary Cerberus who barked at error. Afterward we began to know more of them as lecturers, or by their portraits, and, to some of us, Herschel, Faraday, Tyndall, are as real as our friends. And how delightful it was, this making friends of our shadowy acquaintances; how grateful we were to Arago for his long series of éloges of great men! The curious steel portrait of Laplace prefixed to the French editions of his "Système du Monde" told us much of him, but how much more we knew from Arago's anecdote of this towering genius, who could and did pronounce an opinion on the probable duration of the solar system; how one day he, sitting in his study, was timidly approached by Madame de Laplace, with the request that he might "intrust" to her "the key of the sugar." He, a "peer of France; Grand-officer of the Legion of Honor; one of the forty of the French Academy; of the Academy of Sciences; member of the Bureau of Longitude of France; of the Royal Societies of London and Gottingen; of the Academies of Science of Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, the Low Countries, Italy," etc., he with the "key of the sugar!"

So, we first began to know Faraday as a man, through a steel engraving of him published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; and the promise in his youthful, tender face we may read fulfilled in the books before us. Prof. Tyndall's book contains two engravings of Faraday, with the fire of his young face subdued to a peaceful light; and, if this volume should pass to a second edition, it would add to its value as an exponent of Faraday's inner life, to include in it a copy of one of his early portraits. Its title is "Faraday as a Discoverer," but in spite of its title we cannot but know of the sweetness and light of his character; as if, indeed, it were impossible to conceive of his place as a philosopher, without knowing somewhat of the man.

His "Life and Letters," by Dr. Bence Jones, gives best a conception of his development as a man and as a scientist, for it is shown by his own hand. And yet these tributes of his three friends must be read to understand him; and, in reading these, you cannot fail to be struck with one thing, which is in itself a key to his character.

Dr. Gladstone proposes to treat of his "life and noble character" so as to be appreciated by those who "cannot follow his scientific researches," and yet one gathers from this life his scientific methods and a knowledge of his principal results: De la Rive and Tyndall mean to speak chiefly of his work, and yet they must turn aside to tell of his loveliness of disposition. The truth is that, in his life, science was not a thing apart; he lived in it; his house and his laboratory joined, and his thoughts knew no difference as to place.

In reading these books you are not struck with the wonderful facts of his life; that he should be born a smith's son, and die a member of seventy-three scientific bodies; it requires an effort to remember this, for from the first you feel, with De la Rive, that he had that condition which exists but rarely, "c'est le génie."  e.s.h.

 

Quarterly German Magazine. (Berlin, 1872, Carl Habel.) This appears to be intended for English readers, but a slight acquaintance with German will be found of great use for whoever wishes to find out what the writers are driving at. Not hav-