Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/281

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267
EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

THE LESSON OF WIGGINS.

DO not let us put Wiggins away until we have learned all he has to teach us. He may not know much of meteorology or astronomy; he may be ignorant of the very elements of those sciences and of all science; but, it does not follow that he is not a great teacher in his way. The fact is, that the value of Wiggins consists precisely in his ignorance and general lack of sense; seeing that it is owing to these qualities, combined with a large dose of the most shameless assurance, that he is able to preach to us so eloquently regarding the condition of mind of a considerable portion of the community. There is no doubt that the Northern "Professor" has been taken seriously by thousands of honest people. The interest felt in his predictions was measured and reflected by the publicity given to them in. the newspaper press. They penetrated into every town, and hamlet in the country; and it was no doubt a true remark that somebody made the other day, that for one person who knew the name of the real astronomer, Proctor, ten knew that of the sham astronomer, Wiggins. If simple notoriety was the man's object, he has gained it to an extent which must have exceeded his fondest expectations. The only drawback to his fame is, that it is not so great by any means among his Canadian countrymen as it is with us. Like so many other prophets, his greatest honor has been achieved abroad.

A most remarkable fact in connection with the case is, that the credit of Mr, Wiggins should have survived the most signal and crushing falsification of his former efforts in the prophetic line. It will be within the recollection of some of our readers that he was to have brought on a storm and tidal wave of altogether unparalleled violence and extent some time in the month of March, 1884. He formally notified President Arthur of the impending calamity, which was chiefly to affect the North Atlantic coast of this continent; though there was also to be a tidal wave of unprecedented destructiveness in the Bay of Bengal. The men of real science were prompt in their repudiation of his predictions; they showed that his proposed storm was scheduled to take a course that no storm had ever taken before, and that, in the nature of things, no storm could take; but the fishermen of Maine and Massachusetts thought more of Wiggins than they did of the real representatives of science, and the consequence was that the fishing industry that year suffered not a little. All that came of these dire vaticinations was an ordinary equinoctial gale and a high tide (provided for in the almanac), that did a little harm here and there, but nothing of any account. The tidal wave ordered for the Bay of Bengal refused to put in even the most perfunctory appearance.

Yet, in spite of this, and of the most glaring demonstrations, at the time, of his ignorance, "Professor" Wiggins, who, as we understand, holds some minor clerkship in the Treasury Department at Ottawa, is able to come forward again this year, smiling and confident, with a brand-new set of predictions of the most sensational and preposterous kind. And people hear him—multitudes, at least—gladly. They like to think that the recognized authorities in science have not got things entirely their own way, and that their cautious and exact methods are not the only ones available for arriving at results. They