Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/51

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39
THE PRACTICAL MAN AS AN OBSTRUCTIVE.

you can inform him of something connected with his business that he did not know. It may be said that employers and the heads of manufactories are, as a rule, in these days, educated gentlemen, and that therefore it is wrong to impute to them the narrow-mindedness of the practical man. I agree that in numerous instances this would he wrong; but the fact is that, in many cases—I think I may say in most cases—the head of the establishment, the moneyed man, the man who, by his commercial ability (that most necessary element in all establishments), keeps the concern going by finding lucrative orders, is not intimately acquainted with the practice of the business carried on by his firm; he relies upon some manager or foreman, who, too commonly, is not the real, but the so-called practical man. It is such men as those who simply practise that which they have seen, without knowing why they practise it. To them the title of practical man has most improperly been attributed, and it is on the advice of such men that the true heads of the firm too commonly regulate their conduct as to the management of their business, and as to the necessary changes to be made in the way of improvement.

As I have said, the practical man derides those who bring forward new inventions, and calls them schemers. No doubt, whatever they do scheme-and well it is for the country that there are men who do so-it also may be true that the majority of schemes prove abortive; but it must be recollected that the whole progress of art and manufacture has depended and will depend upon successful discoveries which, in their inception, were and will be schemes just as much as were those discoveries that have been and will be unfruitful; but the successful discoveries, because they are successful, are taken out of the category of schemes when years of untiring application on the part of the inventors have, so to speak, thrust them down the throat of the unwilling practical man. Take the instance of Mr. Bessemer, who was beset for years by difficulties of detail in his great scheme of improvement in the manufacture of steel. As long as he was so beset the practical men chorused, "He is a schemer; he is one of the schemers; it is a scheme." Supposing that these practical difficulties had beaten Mr. Bessemer, and that they had not been overcome to this day? The practical man would have derided him still as a schemer, although the theory and groundwork of his invention would have been as true under these circumstances as it now is. Fortunately for the world, and happily for him, he was able to overcome these most vexatious hindrances and make his invention that which it is. No one now dares apply the term "schemer" to Mr. Bessemer, or "scheme" to his invention, but it is as true now that he is a "schemer" and his invention a "scheme" as it would have been had he failed up to the present to conquer the minor difficulties. It is a species of profanation to suggest, but I must suggest it, for it is true, that Watt, Stephenson, Faraday, and almost every other name among the honored dead to whose