Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/51

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41
ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF ENGINEERING.

would enable the inhabitants of Europe to converse with the Great Mogul little thought that in less than a century a conversation between persons at points so far distant would be possible. Still less did those, who saw in the following year messages sent from one room to another by Lesage in the presence of Frederick of Prussia, realize that they had before them the germ of one of the most extraordinary inventions among the many that will render this century famous. I should weary you were I to follow the slow steps by which the electric telegraph of to-day was brought to its present state of efficiency; but yet within how short a period of time has all the wonderful progress been achieved! How incredulous the world a few years ago would have been if then told of the marvels which in so short a space of time were to be accomplished by its agency! It is not long ago—1823—that Mr. (now Sir Francis) Ronald, one of the early pioneers in this field of science, published a description of an electric telegraph. He communicated his views to Lord Melville, and that nobleman was obliging enough to reply that the subject should be inquired into; but before the nature of Sir Francis Ronald's suggestions could be known, except to a few, that gentleman received a reply from Mr. Barrow that "telegraphs of any kind were then wholly unnecessary, and that no other than the one then in use would be adopted;" the one then in use being the old semaphore, which, crowning the tops of hills between London and Portsmouth, seemed perfection to the Admiralty of that day. The telegraphic system of the world comprises almost a complete girdle round the earth; and it is probable that the missing link will be supplied by a cable between San Francisco, in California, and Yokohama, in Japan. How resolute and courageous those who engaged in submarine telegraphy have been will appear from the fact that, though we have now 50,000 miles of cable in use, to get at this result nearly 70,000 miles were constructed and laid.

Of railways the progress has been enormous; but I do not know that in a scientific point of view a railway is so marvelous in its character as the electric telegraph. The results, however, of the construction and use of railways are more extensive and wide spread, and their utility and convenience brought home to a larger portion of mankind. The British Association is peripatetic, and without railways its meetings, if held at all, would, 1 fear, be greatly reduced in numbers. Moreover, you have all an interest in them; you all demand to be carried safely, and you insist on being carried fast. I shall not enter on a history of the struggles which preceded the opening of the first railway. They were brought to a successful-issue by the determination of a few able and far-seeing men. The names of Thomas Gray and Joseph Sandars, of William James and Edward Pease, should always be remembered in connection with the early history of railways, for it was they who first made the nation familiar with the idea. There is no fear that the name of Stephenson will be forgotten, whose prac-