Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/55

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SIR JOHN LESLIE. 425


finest and most complete set of apparatus in the kingdom. Augustus boasted that he found Rome built of brick, and left it a city of palaces and temples constructed of marble. Without any exaggeration, something analogous may be predicated, of Sir John Leslie in regard to the apparatus of this class. He found it a collection of antiquated and obsolete rubbish ; he left it the most complete and perfect of its kind in this kingdom ; and if it had pleased God to spare him a few years longer, it would, beyond all doubt, have been rendered the first in Europe or the world. The renovation which he effected was, indeed, most ra- dically complete. The whole of the old trash was thrown aside, and its place supplied by new instruments, constructed on the most improved principles by the most celebrated artists, both in this country and on the continent ; while its absolute amount was increased tenfold, and adapted, in the happiest manner, to the present advanced state of science. His perseverance and enthusiasm in this respect were indeed boundless ; and as his predecessors were not experimental- ists, in the same sense in which he was, and had made little or no effort to ac- commodate the apparatus to the progress of science, or even to repair the wear and tear of time, he had the whole to create, in the. same way as if the class had only been founded when he was first promoted to the chair. By his own con- tinued and admirably-directed efforts, aided by the liberality of the patrons, who generously made him several grants in furtherance of the object which he had so much at heart; and also by very considerable pecuniary sacrifices upon his own part, for which he has never as yet got the credit that is so justly due to him ; he at length succeeded in furnishing the apparatus-room in the manner in which it may now be seen by any one who chooses to visit it, and thus con- ferred upon the university a benefit for which it ought to be for ever grateful to his memory. This may sound strange in the ears of those who have been ac- customed to hear it said, as it has often been, most falsely, that Sir John Leslie was a bad experimenter. The truth is, that of all his great and varied gifts, none was more remarkable than the delicacy and success with which he perform- ed the most difficult experiments, excepting perhaps his intuitive sagacity in in- stantly detecting the cause of an accidental failure ; and it is a known fact, that, after he had discovered and communicated to the world his celebrated process of artificial congelation, particularly as applied to the freezing of mercury, some of the first men of science in London failed of performing it, till the discoverer himself, happening to be on the spot personally, showed them wherein consisted the fault of their manipulation, and at once performed the experiment which had previously baffled all their efforts. It is equally well known to those who were acquainted with him, that the most elegant in form as well as the most delicate in operation of the beautiful instruments invented by himself, were con- structed by his own hand, and that this, to him most agreeable employment, constituted the recreation of his leisure hours. The apparatus-room, indeed, contains many specimens of his workmanship in this line, and they are of such a description as would not do any discredit to the most practised and skilful artist. To his immediate successor his acquisitions and his labours will, therefore, be of incalculable importance ; but the merit which really belongs to him can only be duly estimated by those who know what he found, when he became professor of natural philosophy, and can compare it with the treasures which he has left behind him." 4

4 Some further particulars respecting his various talents and acquirements may be gathered from the following notice, which appeared in the Edinburgh Courant, and seems to be the production of one qualified in more ways than one to speak upon the subject: "Sir John Leslie has been for many years known in this country, and over all Europe, as one of the mast eminent characters of the age. As a mathematician and philosopher ; as a profound and accomplished scholar; as a proficient in general literature, and in history and many other

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