Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/46

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The work translated was Biot's "Traité de Physique," and the budding scientist sagely questions

If the Oken-Schelling Philosophy could have shown anything of that fine scientific correlation of optical phenomena which Biot presented with so much clearness.

What were the requirements for a lectureship in physics at Leipzig in the year of grace 1824, the writer can not say, but in that year, aged 23, Fechner began lecturing on that subject, his published work up to that time consisting of two essays by Dr. Mises, a cram-book of physiology and a text-book of logic for school use. But whatever Fechners qualifications when he took the lectureship, he speedily became a skillful experimentalist and investigator. It was a time when the scattered observations in electricity and magnetism were beginning to be bound up into connected theory. In 1824 Oersted discovered the attraction of the galvanic current for the magnet; it was in this decade that Faraday was making his classical researches on the action of induced electric currents and that Ohm announced the famous law of electric force which bears his name. Into this broad and rapid scientific movement Fechner threw himself with all his tireless zeal, and excluding his translations of French chemical and physical works, published in the period between 1828 and 1848 no less than 21 investigations on electricity and magnetism, devoted mostly to testing the laws and theories of the electric current, especially the fundamental facts underlying the great law of Ohm. The generous equipment of ingenious apparatus, which we are wont to find in German laboratories, was wanting in Fechner's day, so that he had in these investigations to patch out his equipment at his own expense and often with home-made devices, but "despite these drawbacks," says his biographer, Kurd Lassowitz, himself a physicist, he succeeded," through skillful and careful arrangements of his measurements, together with his tireless industry, in obtaining results of surprising accuracy, and Wundt testifies that, even to-day, Fechner's measurements of the galvanic battery may be safely commended to any one looking for a model of logical method in the domain of natural science.

But beside the electrical investigations, his activity in other kinds of work was unceasing; a bulky Haus Lexikon in 8 volumes, of which he wrote fully a third, a pharmaceutical journal, of which he was at once editor and chief contributor, so-called translations of which he was as much author as translator, text-books in physics and chemistry—his literary and scientific output in this period alone would have insured him no small amount of space in any future Haus or Konversations-Lexikon of his fatherland.

But the load was too heavy for him to carry, and the straw, or rather bale, which finally broke him down was the bulky Hauslexikon. In