Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/50

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co-manufacturers, the aim and object of such a man being to insure that he should never make a mistake by embarking his capital or his time in that which has not been proved by men of large hearts and large intelligence. It is such a practical man as this who delays all improvement. For years he delayed the development in England of the utilization of the waste gases of blast-furnaces, and he has done it so successfully that, as I have already had occasion to remark, this utilization is by no means universal in this kingdom. It was such men as these who kept back surface condensation for twenty years. It is such a man as this who, when semaphores were invented, would have said, "Don't suggest such a mode to me of transmitting messages; I am a practical man, sir, and I believe that the way to transmit a message is to write it on paper, deliver it to a messenger, and put him on horseback." In the next generation his successor would be a believer in semaphores, and when the electrical telegraphist came to him and said, "Do you know that I can transmit movement by invisible electrical power through a wire, however long, and it seems to me that if one were to make a code out of this movement I could speak to you at Portsmouth at one end of the wire while I was in London at the other," what would have been the answer of the practical man? "Sir, I don't believe in transmitting messages by an invisible agency; I am a practical man, and I believe in semaphores, which I can see working." In like manner when the Siemens' regenerative gas-furnace was introduced, what said the practical man? "Turn your coals into gas and burn the gas, and then talk of regeneration! I don't know what you mean by regeneration, except in a spiritual sense. I am a practical man, and if I want heat out of coals I put coals on to a fire and burn them;" and for fifteen years the practical man has been the bar to this most enormous improvement in metallurgical operations. The practical man is beginning slowly to yield with respect to these furnaces, because he finds, as I have already said, that men of greater intelligence have now in sufficiently large numbers adopted the invention to make a formidable competition with persons who stolidly refuse to be improved. The same practical man for years stood in the way of the development of Bessemer steel. Now he has been compelled to become a convert.

I will not weary you by citing more instances; but one knows, and one's experience teaches one that this is the conduct of the so-called practical man; and his conduct arises not only from the cause which I have given (his ignorance of the principles of his profession), but from another one which I have had occasion to allude to when speaking upon a different subject, and that is, you offend his pride when you come to him and say, "Adopt such a plan; it is an improvement on the process you carry on." His instinct revolts at the notion that you, a stranger, very likely his junior, and very probably, if the improvement be an original and radical one, a person not even connected with the trade to which that improvement relates, should dare to assert that