Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/February 1888/Sketch of Sir Joseph Whitworth
race-relatives of the Cagots living outside of the Pyrenees, who are variously called, according to the place, Cahets, Caqueux, Caquins, Cacoas, Col- librets, etc., and are spread to Lower Poitou, in Brittany and Marne, and far down into Spain.
The race of the Cagots was for hundreds of years superstitiously avoided by the other inhabitants of the country, despised, persecuted, repelled, treated as if abandoned and outcast, and restricted in all legal and social rights. Dark superstition and the prejudice of ear- lier times attributed to them a constant leprosy ; they were supposed to have a peculiar repulsive exhalation, to be destitute of earlaps, to be color-blind, to see in the night like cats and owls, and were accused of pretended, likewise disgraceful offenses. They were treat- ed as feeble beings, afflicted with contagious disease and moral impuri- ties, who should not be touched, and with whom as little business in- tercourse should be had as possible. Down to the seventeenth century they were thus treated. If they lived in the towns, they were confined to a particular quarter in which the other citizens rarely came; if they came out of their quarter, they were obliged to wear a piece of red cloth on some conspicuous part of their dress, so that others might recognize them and keep away from them. On the plains they dwelt for the most part in miserable huts, which were separated from the town by a wood or by running Avater. In the church they were sepa- rated from the rest of the congregation by a wooden partition, and had to go in and out by a separate door. Holy water, the commun- ion, and the other blessings of religion were forbidden them, and they could take part in the processions x)nly under particular conditions; and the corpses of their dead were buried, without bells and music, in a sepa- rate burial-ground, or in a separate corner of the common cemetery.
The same kind of contempt and ill-treatment was measured out to the relatives of this race in other Pyrenean provinces, where they were formerly numerous, but have now nearly died out in consequence of persecutions. The Agotes, as they were there called, were formerly very numerous in the Basque provinces, and they can still occasionally be found sprinkled among the people. They were there equally de- spised and regarded as an unclean race, excluded from association with the rest of the people, compelled to seek abodes in caves, secluded hamlets, and miserable huts ; they could fill no office ; could not sit at table with other persons, or drink out of the same cup for fear that they would communicate some poison or impurity to the dish ; and were not allowed to go into the church to receive their portion of the mass, but had to wait at the door till the priest brought it out to them. Marriage with them was as disgraceful as if it were with Moors, gyp- sies, or other non-Christians ; and they were supposed to communicate disease and horrible ills to whoever touched them. The Cahets in Guienne were the objects of similar reproach and adverse regulations.
The reason of the superstitious prejudice and hatred against this
properties of these products, as is done by many eminent physicians. Bacteria may frequently be the bearers and transporters of disease, as flies are accused of communicating the virus of splenic fever to healthy individuals.
The germ theory, which declares micro-organisms to be the cause and originators of infectious diseases, although it seems to be at present recognized by many physicians, perhaps by the majority of them, is as yet far from being thoroughly established. The action and influence of bacteria have evidently often been exaggerated. Pneumonia was ascribed to them, until it was found that in some pneumonitic cases bacteria are present, whereas in many others none could be found. In hydrophobia a particular micro-organism, although most eagerly sought for, has not yet been discovered. The possibility, however, of transferring this disease from one to another animal by inoculation indicates that the virus may consist of some kind of decomposed proteid, acting as a chemical ferment upon certain constituents of blood, or nervous substance. We may, by the existence of such ferments as diastase, pepsin, or as the virus of serpents and insects in healthy individuals, conclude that other not organized ferments exist in and are the cause of morbid conditions; and although most of the fermentative processes, on which epidemical diseases depend, seem to be induced and to increase by the agency and propagation of bacteria, there is no reason for making them accountable for other troubles to the extent that has hitherto been done. There are organized and unorganized ferments existing, both of which are known to produce decomposition of organic matter. We hope and expect that the future will decide what effects in animal and human diseases belong to each of them.
UNDER the name of Cagots there live in the Pyrenees and the old Aquitanian regions on both sides of them—in the Spanish Upper and the French Lower Navarre, in Béarn, Gascony, Guienne, and Lower Poitou—a peculiar race who have been much talked about and have attracted the attention of the peoples about them from very ancient times. Formerly the Cagots (whose name linguists derive from canis Gothicus, Gothic dog) were confounded with Cretins. The association was a mistaken one for the Cagots, with their large, muscular forms, shapely skull, prominent nose, strongly-marked features, blue eyes, and smooth, blonde hair, are decidedly different from that weak-minded, deformed, and goitrous class; and their physical appearance, in fact, goes to sustain the etymology of their name that we have mentioned, and to indicate a possible derivation from the Aryan Goths. The type of which we speak also corresponds fully with the
people and their origin has not been discovered, although the subject has been an object of investigation and much discussion during the last four hundred years. The conjecture already referred to, which has long prevailed in France, that the Cagots and other despised castes in the Basque lands were descendants of the Visigoths, who were con- quered by Clovis, and fled to the mountains, has been shown to be base- less and untenable. Many of the most esteemed and distinguished fami- lies of Gascony, Aquitaine, and Beam were descended from the Visi- goths; and those brave heroes were not afflicted with any of the person- al defects, or anything like them, which were attributed to the Cagots.
Another conjecture, which was partly held to by the Cagots them- selves, made them descendants of the Albigenses, whom Pope Innocent III outlawed and banished in the beginning of the thirteenth cent- ury. It is an historical fact that these poor persecuted heretics or opponents of the papacy were then regarded as the scum of mankind ; but then they received in these districts of the present France more sym- pathy and adhesion than the popes themselves. Moreover, the Cagots were in existence as a despised race more than two hundred years before the crusade against the Albigenses. Pierre de Marca thought that the Cagots were descendants of those Moors from Spain who remained in Gascony and Aquitaine after their leader had been van- quished by Charles Martel on the slopes of the Pyrenees. But this view is contradicted by the decided northern type which is still recog- nizable in the bodily appearance of the Cagots, and by the historical fact that those Moors were eventually converted to Christianity, and became blended with the other French nationalities.
Caxar Amant ascribed a Jewish origin to the Cagots, and endeav- ored to sustain his opinion by a garbled quotation of a Biblical verse. Another writer made them descendants of the Jews who came to Southern Europe after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Abbe Venuti supposed that they were descendants of Crusaders who returned from the Holy Land after the first Crusade, afflicted with disease. Count Gebalin saw in them the descendants of the aborigines of the Pyrenean lands, who were reduced to a condition of outlawry like that of the lowest castes and tribes in modern India. Another view, by which they were regarded as the descendants of those Spaniards who were in the conspiracy against Charlemagne and participated in the battle of Roncesvalles, has been disproved by a comparison of dates and places.
The later explanations of the origin of the Cagots are more plausi- ble, though not quite historically convincing. A French investigator, M. Francisque Michel, has written a valuable book on the " History of the Accursed Races of France and Spain," in which he has sought with great consistency, as M. Louis Lande has also done in the " Re- vue des Deux Mondes," to prove that leprosy was the cause of the terrible and ignoble treatment which the Cagots have had to endure. There is not in France or Spain any particular sect or district which has made itself conspicuous by the indefinite fear of these out- casts. But if we consider the popular belief, which persisted to a very recent period, that they had been or still were afflicted with leprosy, all will be made clear. Etymological research has shown that the name Cagot is associated with this disease in several of the French dialects. Evidently, if the fact or the opinion that the Cagots had been afflict- ed with leprosy was the provocative to the treatment which they had to endure in the dark ages, most of the prejudices against them would correspond with those which were formerly entertained against lepers. A later French writer, M, de Rochas, who has made a thorough study of the history and condition of the Cagots, in order to explore the sub- ject to the bottom, made several journeys in the northern and south- ern outlying provinces of the Pyrenees during the last Carlist war, and visited some of the Cagots still scattered here and there amono- the population. He found everywhere that the descendants of the Cagots were quite like the rest of the population in bodily and mental characteristics, that they in no way suggested a strange origin, nor were they distinguished by any unusual or abnormal mark, lie found, also, that while marriages of the Cagots with the rest of the population were rare, the two classes associated together on the same footing, their grown people and children attended the same churches, and that they both exhibited about the same degree of mental capacity. Every trace of leprosy, goiter, and cretinism has disappeared from among the Cagots of to-day. Some of them, it is true, are afflicted with scrofula, which, however, is not of hereditary or pestilential origin, but is trace- able to poverty, insufficient food, poor, filthy houses, and physical neg- lect. In a Spanish commune, among whose inhabitants were many descendants of the once outcast race, M. de Rochas found those per- sons vigorous, healthy, sagacious, and apt; they were tilling small plots of ground, raising swine and hens, and pursuing about the same occupations as their neighbors. They were still patiently subject to a few of the old hostile usages of exclusion—for instance, to the pro- hibition of marriage outside of their own circle—but only because it was au old custom, for which they or their neighbors could not give a sufficient account. The members of the Cagot village were not physi- cally or morally distinguishable from the rest of their countrymen; and it was plainly to be seen that the old prejudices against the Cagots had died out.
The French government and laws before the Revolution did very little for the protection of the Cagots, Better conditions have grown up since then. As soon as science began to busy itself with the inves- tigation of the phenomena of Cagotism and to expose the baselessness of the prejudices against those people, the prejudices began to weaken; and they seem now to have quite disappeared.—Translated for thePopular Science Monthly from Das Ausland.
THE value of Sir Joseph Whitworth's work, and the extent to which it has entered into common life, are exemplified whenever a screw-tap is fitted to a bolt. A biographical sketch of him, published on the occasion of his death, designated his name as the greatest of our time in mechanical engineering, and characterized him as a person of remarkable individuality and one whose efforts have left a permanent impress upon the workshops of the whole civilized world.
Joseph Whitworth was born at Stockport, England, on the 21st of December, 1803, and died at Monte Carlo, January 22, 1887. He was taught by his father, who was a schoolmaster, and at a school at Idle, near Leeds, till he was fourteen years old, when he was placed with his uncle, a cotton-spinner in Derbyshire. The operations of manufacturing were not to his taste, but he soon made himself at home with the machinery of the establishment, and in time became its practical managing engineer. After six years of this work he desired to find a wider field for the development of his mechanical abilities, and, although the value of his services was appreciated by his uncle, he ran away to Manchester, where he spent four years in acquiring a practical knowledge of the manufacture of cotton-machinery. Applications of steam-power were still new and crude, and tools adapted to use in connection with the new force were imperfect or wanting. In order to qualify himself to supply the need thus indicated, he went to London and sought employment in the best shops — Maudsley's, Holtzapfel's, and Clement's. Maudsley, recognizing his skill, took him into his own private room, and placed him next to his best workman. He worked in off-hours at his own devices, and in this way completed the true plane, an instrument which conferred the power of making surfaces for all kinds of sliding tools, by which the resistance arising from friction was reduced to its smallest figure, and of which he published a description in 1840. He showed his device and its operation to his fellow-workman, Hampson, who had been accustomed to ridicule his experiments, but now testified his appreciation of the work by saying, "You've done it." At Clement's he worked upon Babbage's calculating machine, which he always maintained would have operated perfectly if it had been gone on with; and here also he learned to make a true screw.
In 1833 Mr. Whitworth engaged in manufacturing on his own account at Manchester, establishing himself in one room and putting out the sign, "Joseph Whitworth, tool-maker." It was in the infancy of extensive manufacturing, and there were no fixed standards of adjustment, no guarantees for accuracy of work, or attempt at symmetry or uniformity in any respect, but each maker was a rule to himself. SKETCH OF SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH 551
Whitworth foresaw that if industrial enterprise would prosper it must be systematized, and workmen must install harmony in their designs, and must aim at minute exactness in their forms and measurements. His attention was particularly directed to the inconveniences which were produced by the variations in the pitch and thread of the screws used in the construction of machinery—variations so considerable, if we may quote the words of an English sketch of his work, "that every maker had screws of his own special sizes, and that the failure of a single one might cripple a machine in a distant country until the original maker could be communicated with and could send out another of the same proportions. Mr. Whitworth not only saw the immense advantages which w^ould arise from rendering the pitch and thread of screws uniform, but also the difficulty which might be experienced in inducing any maker to adopt the proportions used by any other. With rare sagacity, he obtained specimens of all the screws used by leading manufacturers, and then designed one which was the average of them all, and a copy of none. By this expedient he evaded opposition, and worked a revolution in the construction of machinery. The new screw was universally adopted; and, in the present day, every screw of the same diameter has a thread of the same pitch and of the same number of turns to the inch, and all screws of the same size, from whatever maker obtained, are interchangeable."
Mr. Whitworth next took up appliances for accurate measurements, and constructed an instrument capable of measuring the millionth part of an inch, and which, worked by touch, "was so delicate as instantly to communicate the expansion of a steel bar three feet in length when this was warmed by momentary contact with a finger-nail." With these and his other inventions, "Whitworth's standard gauges, his taps and dies, his uniform system of screw-threads, his great refinements in the manufacture of lathes, planing-machines, drills, etc., all became available at the moment when they had become indispensable, ... if the imperative demands for mechanical appliances in every direction were to be worthily met."
In 1853 Mr. Whitworth was appointed a commissioner to the great exhibition in Xew York, and in that capacity wrote a report on American manufacturing industries which attracted much attention at the time, and still has interest. In the next year he was requested by the British Government to design and produce machinery for the manufacture of rifles for the army. He found it with the rifles as it was with nearly all mechanical appliances before he touched them to improve them—no two of them were alike. He imposed as a condition of his accepting the commission that he should be permitted to determine what form and dimensions of guns and bullets would produce the best results. Besides consenting to this condition, the Government erected a shooting-gal- lery five hundred yards long on Mr. Whitworth's grounds at Rusholme, where he was able to devote himself to most careful and thorough