Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/218

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206
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

plicity. In this connection the names of Reiss, Graham Bell, Edison, and Hughes, are those chiefly deserving to be recorded.

While electricity has thus furnished us with the means of flashing our thoughts by record or by voice from place to place, its use is now gradually extending for the achievement of such quantitative effects as the production of light, the transmission of mechanical power, and the precipitation of metals. The principle involved in the magneto-electric and dynamo-electric machines, by which these effects are accomplished, may be traced to Faraday's discovery in 1831 of the induced current, but their realization to the labors of Holmes, Siemens, Pacinotti, Gramme, and others. In the electric light, gas-lighting has found a formidable competitor, which appears destined to take its place in public illumination, and in lighting large halls, works, etc., for which purposes it combines brilliancy and freedom from obnoxious products of combustion, with comparative cheapness. The electric light seems also to threaten, when subdivided in the manner recently devised by Edison, Swan, and others, to make inroads into our dwelling-houses.

By the electric transmission of power we may hope some day to utilize at a distance such natural sources of energy as the Falls of Niagara, and to work our cranes, lifts, and machinery of every description by means of sources of power arranged at convenient centers. To these applications the brothers Siemens have more recently added the propulsion of trains by currents passing through the rails, the fusion in considerable quantities of highly refractory substances, and the use of electric centers of light in horticulture as proposed by Werner and William Siemens. By an essential improvement by Faure of the Planté secondary battery, the problem of storing electrical energy appears to have received a practical solution, the real importance of which is clearly proved by Sir W. Thomson's recent investigation of the subject. It would be difficult to assign the limits to which this development of electrical energy may not be rendered serviceable for the purposes of man.

As regards mathematics, I have felt that it would be impossible for me, even with the kindest help, to write anything myself. Mr. Spottiswoode, however, has been so good as to supply me with the following memorandum:

In a complete survey of the progress of science during the half-century which has intervened between our first and our present meeting, the part played by mathematics would form no insignificant feature. To those, indeed, who are outside its enchanted circle it is difficult to realize the intense intellectual energy which actuates its devotees, or the wide expanse over which that energy ranges. Some measure, however, of its progress may perhaps be formed by considering, in one or two cases, from what simple principles some of the great recent developments have taken their origin.