Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/575

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559
EDITOR'S TABLE.

to think, to generalize from a single phenomenon, nor to denounce the methods of building magazines at present adopted. A careful re-reading of the article in question, in the light of Mr. Fay's letter, fails to reveal any such denunciation, or illegitimate generalization.

In reference to the proper construction of powder-magazines, your correspondent clearly condemns the method adopted at Brighton, as shown in the three magazines personally examined, and which I was informed, by the agent in charge of one whose walls were injured in the explosion, was the plan of all. In this, of course, my source of information may have been at fault. But there is not one word in my article which can be tortured into a condemnation of this form of construction, though I did say that "a recent occurrence dangerously near Chicago has shown that it is by no means sufficient" as a matter of protection, and the town of Lake took a similar view. What I did characterize as very strange is the omission of any protection against lightning, and I may add that one of this same group of magazines was destroyed by lightning before, I think in 1879, though I have not the date at hand.

Then Mr. Fay says that "the simplest knowledge of the properties of dynamite would have prevented Professor Griffin from attributing the non-explosion of other magazines in the vicinity to the fact of their being beyond the limits where displacement would not appear." The words italicized are quoted in a garbled form, which gives them a very different meaning. Originally, they stood as parts of two sentences. This is an easy way of avoiding an explanation of the phenomena. My article suggests an explanation, does not give it as the only explanation; but there were the phenomena, and to deny my explanation, without any suggestion of another, is a good illustration of the method of destructive criticism now so popular: why does not Mr. Fay give his own explanation? Facts are sometimes stubborn things; and the circle of magazines and other buildings uninjured while those nearer the wrecked magazine were destroyed and those farther off were wrecked, is a fact.

I am very glad to be informed of my ignorance of the fact that other substances have taken the place of infusorial earth in the manufacture of dynamite; it would have been more gratifying had Mr. Fay told us what those substances arc—or is it now a "trade secret"? But I am at a loss to understand what he can mean by his statement that "it would practically be impossible to find offered for sale by any manufacturer or dealer any dynamite, in the compounding of which earth or any other inert matter had been used." Does dynamite, as now made, contain some substance that reacts chemically upon the nitro-glycerine? If so, the public would undoubtedly be glad to know it, as the danger in the storage of the substance is probably increased thereby.

Mr. Fay's method of quoting parts of sentences and making them appear as used in reference to different points from those to which they were applied does not seem to me quite fair.

Yours truly,
La Roy F. Griffin.
Lake Forest, Illinois, June 8, 1887.
 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

SCIENTIFIC ORTHODOXY.

ONE of the accusations brought by the Duke of Argyll against Professor Huxley in the discussion that lately took place between these two representatives of very different lines of thought was—to put it plainly—that the professor was himself half in rebellion against a kind of scientific orthodoxy that has been established in these later days, and was only waiting until the movement against it now going on among the younger men of science bad gathered a little more strength, in order to declare himself. The professor warmly, and with good reason, repelled the implied charge of insincerity, and asked what were the signs or proofs on any such scientific tyranny as his Grace referred to. He had himself a pretty wide acquaintance with scientific men, young and old, and if they were under any constraint that prevented them from uttering their opinions and conclusions with the utmost freedom, he was not aware of it. There was really no foundation, we may safely aver, for the duke's taunt as regards men in the higher walks of science. These pursue their researches with no object save that of the advancement of scientific knowledge. They give their facts to