Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/717

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SKETCH OF ORMSBY MACKNIGHT MITCHEL.

view. 'Stars which Struve had marked as oblong were divided and measure; others marked double were found to be triple.' He proposed a new method for observing, and new machinery for recording north polar distances or declinations. Professor Peirce reported favorably on this method at the meeting of the American Association in 1851, and Professor Bache, as Superintendent of the Coast Survey, indorsed their approval in his report for that year, presenting also a full account of work done by the new method in observations made by the enthusiastic astronomer and his patient wife, who assisted him through all. It was claimed that the results rivaled the best work done at Pulkova. Mitchel was the first 'to prepare a circuit interrupter with an eight-day clock, and to use it to graduate the running fillet of paper'; and to invent and use the revolving-disk chronograph for recording the dates of star-signals. Professors Bache and Walker had declined to adopt the first of these improvements in astronomical appliances, through an apprehension of injury to the astronomical clock. Mitchel's work proved the apprehension to be groundless. His revolving disk is an invaluable invention.

"To the perfection of such methods and instruments, together with the routine work of observation, he gave all the energies not of necessity employed in outside labors devolving on him for his support. Unhappily these, at an early date, became almost absorbing. For the Astronomical Society, having secured their observatory and their director, had failed to secure a basis for its support."

Of his lectures, "Nature" remarks that he stirred up an enthusiasm by them "which quickened the movements resulting in the establishment of some of the first observatories of this day in the United States."

General Mitchel always acted with the incentive of genius rather than talent, if such a distinction exists. Hence his proposals were often regarded as impracticable. Their practicability depended upon his energy, resource, and magnetism. Without these, they would have been mere visionary schemes.

His simplicity and purity of character, his earnest patriotism and military foresight, are all minutely recorded in his correspondence. It is expected that the record will some day pass—one of its many chapters—into the voluminous history of the rebellion.