Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/692

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

announcement was hailed with one general shout of acclamation. . . . There were some, however, who, being conversant with the actual condition of the art of steam-engineering as applied to navigation, . . . were enabled to estimate, calmly and dispassionately, the difficulties and drawbacks, as well as the advantages of the undertaking. . . . These persons entertained doubts, which clouded the brightness of their hopes, and warned the commercial world against the indulgence of too sanguine anticipations of the immediate and unqualified realization of the project. But the voice of remonstrance was drowned amid the loud shouts of public enthusiasm, excited by the promise of an immediate practical realization of a scheme so grand.

"The keel of the Great Western was laid, an assurance was given that the seasons would not twice run through their changes before she would be followed by a splendid line of vessels which should consign the 'packet-ships' to the care of the historian, as 'things that were.'

"The Great Western progressed and was launched, and the enterprise has now had a fair trial during ten years, a sufficiently long time, it is presumed, to test it. The packet-ships, however, have not been swept from the ocean; on the contrary, they have been improved in efficiency, increased in magnitude, and multiplied in number. Capital, instead of being drawn from them, allured by the prospective advantages of the steam liners, has only collected around them in augmented amount, obeying, as it always does, that irresistible attraction which profitable results invariably exercise in commerce. On the other hand, the steam project which was to prove their doom has made its flash, and disappeared, leaving the Great Western . . . alone in her glory . . . to establish at once the abstract practicability of the scheme in a mechanical sense, and the utter inadequacy of its organization in a commercial sense."

This was the opinion of Dr. Lardner in 1846, nearly twenty years after the publication of the edition of his lectures quoted by Dr Burns, and more than ten years after ocean steam-navigation had become an established mechanical fact. The views entertained by Dr. Lardner at that time were very similar to those entertained by scientists to-day in regard to the problem of aërial navigation, mechanically practicable, but in the present conditions of inventions pertaining to it, so far as its commercial value is concerned, an impracticability; moreover. Dr. Lardner, in the lecture from which I quote, uses almost the same arguments quoted by Dr. Burns, from Professor Renwick's foot-note, viz., the large amount of fuel necessary for long ocean voyages, and the great expense attending its use, as compared with the cost of sailing vessels.

Dr. Lardner, however, lived to see ocean navigation by steam a success, commercially as well as mechanically, and to qualify many of the ideas and arguments advanced in his earlier lectures.

Very respectfully,

A. W. Erwin.
Sioux City, Iowa, February 3, 1879.
 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

MORE ROOM FOR THE SCIENCES.

IT can not be kept too clearly in mind that the broad issue of modern educational reform is whether sciences or languages shall predominate as objects and instruments of culture. Shall physical nature, life, man, society, and the actual phenomena of experience, become the leading objects of study; or shall the acquisition of forms of speech, the accumulation of verbal symbols, and the discipline of grammar-grinding continue to hold their traditional ascendancy? No question now arises as to taking both of these modes of mental culture along together, for it is conceded on all hands that neither can be dispensed with, but the contest is as to which shall lead in a rivalry of widely different systems. The issue is, by which method shall the education of the future be characterized?

The languages are in possession, and of course have great advantages in the conflict from this fact. For the notion has grown up that a liberal knowledge of language is education, while nothing else is properly entitled to the name. Lingual studies, moreover, have the vast advantage that they are taken as the standards and measures of acquisition. Memorizing words, learning rules, construing and translating, make proficiency easily determinable; and when