Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/376

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362
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

before the time Congress meets in December, in the great money-centers this movement will have become general on account of this proposed legislation.

Mr. Bartine.—Do you know whether, after the passage of the former act, contracts were made payable in gold?

Mr. Warner.—Yes, sir; a good many were. . . .

 

SCIENTIFIC DREAMS OF THE PAST.
By ALBERT DE ROCHAS.

MANY of the inventions which are the glory of our time were foreseen by certain dreamers, in whose imaginations they received a kind of virtual existence. The electric telegraph is foreshadowed by Strada in some twenty verses of his Prolusiones academicæ, which were published in Rome in 1617. To him it was a fancy, a simple wish:

"O! utinam haec ratio scribendi prodeat usu
Cantior et citior properaret epistola!"

The manner in which he understood the instrument was reproduced by all the students of the time, notably by a Jesuit of Lorraine, Père Leurechon, in his Hilaria mathematica, published in 1624. I quote a passage, in which it is mentioned, from the French translation published two years later at Pont à Mousson, under the title of Récréations mathématiques, by an author who signed himself Van Etten:

"There are some who have intimated that absent persons might be able to converse by means of a magnet or some similar stone. For example, Claude being in Paris and John in Rome, if each had a needle rubbed on some stone the property of which was such that as one of the needles moved in Paris the other would move in Rome, it might be that Claude and John would both have a common alphabet, and that if they had agreed to speak from a distance every day at six o'clock in the evening, arranging that the needle should make three turns and a half as a signal that it was Claude and no other that wished to speak to John. Then Claude, wishing to tell him that the king is in Paris (le roy est à Paris), will move his needle and stop it at L, then at E, and then at R, O, Y, and so on with the others. At the same time, John's needle, acting in correspondence with Claude's, will move and stop at the same letters so that it will be easy for it to write and make understood what the other means." "The invention is very nice," Père Leurechon remarks, "but I do not believe there is a magnet in the world that has such virtues."