Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/556

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been substantially as above recorded, and the results have been of such a curious character as to be well worth a visit from those interested in the influence of the sea in modifying and eroding the coast.



A BOOK of absorbing public interest is announced shortly to appear in England and this country—a history of the telephone of Johann Philipp Reis, with a biographical sketch of its inventor, by Professor Sylvanus P. Thompson.

The telephone outranks all previous discoveries in its direct enlargement of human power. The telescope and microscope are its nearest compeers. The telegraph, beside it, is a clumsy mechanism. The telephone, which makes a whispering-gallery of the round earth, may well exert an influence on civilization, comparable with that of the railroad and steamship. Already the business centers expand, and the values of city lands change, under the magic of an invention which places every man at every other man's ear. But this promise or prophecy of the telephone is not all that affects the interest of the American people. There is a menace in connection with its present history which justly awakens public concern. Rapacious hands have clutched the throat of the telephone, to extort oppressive tribute for every word which it utters.

Professor Thompson's book, which treats exhaustively the early history of the telephone, is therefore not only of scientific but of social interest and importance. It establishes beyond honest doubt or question, by historical evidence, by the reproduction of original documents and illustrations, and by the public records of scientific bodies, that Philipp Reis discovered the electric transmission of speech in 1860-'61; that he elaborately described and exhibited his telephone in 1861; that he invented transmitting and receiving instruments, which not only talked then and talk now, but which include the essential principles of the transmitters and receivers now in use; and that he manufactured, placed on the market, and sold his instruments in 1863, for the purpose of illustrating the electric transmission of speech and song. That an invention so important, made in the heart of Germany, should not have been instantly perfected and utilized would surprise us in this country, if history did not abundantly teach that inventions complete in themselves often lie sterile until the favorable season and soil are found for their commercial adoption and development.