Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/229

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217
A HALF-CENTURY OF SCIENCE.

not until 1838 that the Sirius and Great Western first steamed across the Atlantic. The steamer, in fact, is an excellent epitome of the progress of the half-century; the paddle has been superseded by the screw; the compound has replaced the simple engine; wood has given place to iron, and iron in its turn to steel. The saving in dead weight, by this improvement alone, is from ten to sixteen per cent. The speed has been increased from nine knots to fifteen, or even more. Lastly, the steam-pressure has been increased from less than five pounds to seventy pounds per square inch, while the consumption of coal has been brought down from five or six pounds per horse-power to less than two. It is a remarkable fact that not only is our British shipping rapidly on the increase, but it is increasing relatively to that of the rest of the world. In 1860 our tonnage was 5,700,000 against 7,200,000; while it may now be placed as 8,500,000 against 8,200,000; so that considerably more than half the whole shipping of the world belongs to this country.

If I say little with reference to economic science and statistics, it is because time, not materials, is wanting.

I scarcely think that, in the present state of the question, I can be accused of wandering into politics if I observe that the establishment of the doctrine of free trade as a scientific truth falls within the period under review.

In education some progress has been made toward a more rational system. When I was at a public school, neither science, modern languages, nor arithmetic formed any part of the school system. This is now happily changed. Much, however, still remains to be done. Too little time is still devoted to French and German, and it is much to be regretted that even in some of our best schools they are taught as dead languages. Lastly, with few exceptions, only one or two hours on an average are devoted to science. We have, I am sure, none of us any desire to exclude or discourage literature. What we ask is that, say, six hours a week each should be devoted to mathematics, modern languages, and science, an arrangement which would still leave twenty hours for Latin and Greek. I admit the difficulties which schoolmasters have to contend with; nevertheless, when we consider what science has done and is doing for us, we can not but consider that our present system of education is, in the words of the Duke of Devonshire's commission, little less than a national misfortune.

In agriculture the changes which have occurred in the period since 1831 have been immense. The last half-century has witnessed the introduction of the modern system of subsoil drainage founded on the experiments of Smith, of Deanston. The thrashing and drilling machines were the most advanced forms of machinery in use in 1831. Since then there have been introduced the steam-plow; the mowing machine; the reaping-machine, which not only cuts the corn but binds it into sheaves; while the steam-engine thrashes out the grain and