Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 64.djvu/187

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
183
REAR-ADMIRAL G. W. MELVILLE, U.S.N.
REAR-ADMIRAL G. W. MELVILLE, U.S.N., AND APPLIED SCIENCE IN CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW FLEET.
By the late Professor R. H. THURSTON.

AS remarked by the editor of The Nation, the retirement of Rear-Admiral George W. Melville merits more attention than it has received. The final withdrawal of the engineer in chief of the United States Navy is an event of importance, not only as affecting the efficiency of the naval service, the value of its fleet and the usefulness of its personnel, but also, in hardly less degree, as liable to influence the progress of applied science in that essential branch of the public service. The retiring officer has held his position, despite all political changes, for the extraordinary period of sixteen years. His fourth term expired on August 8 and, although his retiring age was attained in January, he was, under a provision of the law allowing the President that option, retained and permitted to serve out his term.

It has been during the term of service of Admiral Melville that the 'new navy' has been created and all the modern scientific methods and all the resources of the applied sciences have been availed of in its construction and operation. In this work of application of modern learning, conspiring with recent invention, Melville has been responsible for the most extensive and vitally essential innovations, those of the department of machinery of propulsion. That his administration has been attended with the highest success is sufficiently evidenced by his long retention in his office and by the unanimous agreement of our own and foreign naval experts in a high rating of our fleet. The comments of the past summer upon the occasion of the visit of the Kearsarge to European waters, the earlier verdict on the performance of our fleet during the Spanish-American war and particularly on the Oregon and her work, are illustrations of the opinions of foreign as well as of our own experts. For the whole mass of machinery with which these ships are laden, and for their performance under steam, the Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering of the Navy Department is ultimately responsible. Melville has carried this responsibility for sixteen years and retires with honor and appreciation by all who have officially dealt with him or who have been professionally familiar with his work. The transformation which he has witnessed and in which he has taken so large a part is only comparable to that of the original introduction of steam into the navy, and the only comparable career is that of Engineer-in-Chief Isherwood, who was similarly responsible