Popular Science Monthly/Volume 1/September 1872/Literary Notices
Michael Faraday. By I. H. Gladstone, Ph. D., F. R. S. New York: Macmillan & Co.
Whatever is truly great has an interest that is inexhaustible. Again and again we return to the mountain, the cataract, the cathedral, the picture, the poem, with an ever-deepening appreciation of their influence over us. And so it is even in a more eminent degree with the grand in human character, for a human life of noble impulse and heroic achievement has also its perennial interest. We read the story as told by the skilful and sympathetic biographer, and then come back to it again fascinated by the majesty and the mystery of a powerful personality. Michael Faraday was a man of this heroic type, great among his countrymen, illustrious in humanity. Prof. Tyndall has given us a vivid portraiture of him as a man of science and a discoverer; Dr. Bence Jones, in two elaborate volumes, has displayed to us his inner life as illustrated in his private correspondence; and now Dr. Gladstone, in the neat little volume before us, has again told the wonderful story in a fresh and fascinating way. Drawing freely upon the works of Professors Tyndall and Jones, adding new information from various sources, among which are his own reminiscences, he has make a book that needed to be made and which is a model of its kind—clear, simple, discriminating, and appreciative. It first gives us the "Story of his Life," next the "Study of his Character," then the "Fruits of his Experience," again, his "Method of Working," and finally the "Value of his Discoveries."
We have no space here to give a sketch of Faraday's life—his humble birth and the little education he got in early boyhood at a common day-school—his first occupation as an errand-boy—his apprenticeship to a book-binder—his thirst for knowledge and how he commenced his scientific education by reading the books that were given him to bind—his passion for experimenting—his application to Sir Humphrey Davy for a chance to devote himself to science—his entrance to the Royal Institution, which was to be the theatre of his career—his rapid ascent to an eminent place among savants and philosophers his rejection of wealth and titles, and his brilliant career as a discoverer, which was crowned by honors showered upon him by the learned societies of all nations—for the account of these things the reader is referred to the pages of Dr. Gladstone's book. But we cannot forbear quoting a few passages illustrative of Dr. Faraday's character. The author says:
As a source of success there stands out also his enthusiasm. A new fact seemed to charge him with an energy that gleamed from his eyes and quivered through his limbs, and, as by induction, charged for the time those in his presence with the same vigor of interest. Plücker, of Bonn, was showing him one day, in the laboratory at Albermarle Street, his experiments on the action of a magnet on the electric discharge in vacuum-tubes. Faraday danced round them; and, as he saw the moving arches of light, he cried, "Oh! to live always in it!" Mr. James Heywood once met him in the thick of a tremendous storm at Eastbourne,
rubbing his hands with delight because he had been fortunate enough to see the lightning strike the church-tower.
This perseverance in a noble strife was another of the grand elements in his success. His tenacity of purpose showed itself equally in little and in great things. Arranging some apparatus one day with a philosophical-instrument maker, he let fall on the floor a small piece of glass: he made several ineffectual attempts to pick it up. "Never mind," said his companion, "it is not worth the trouble." "Well, but, Murray, I don't like to be beaten by any thing that I have once tried to do."
This faithful discharge of duty, this almost intuitive insight into natural phenomena, and this persevering enthusiasm in the pursuit of truth, might alone have secured a great position in the scientific world, but they alone could never have won for him that large inheritance of respect and love. His contemporaries might have gazed upon him with an interest and admiration akin to that with which he watched a thunder-storm; but who feels his affections drawn out toward a mere intellectual Jupiter? We must look deeper into his character to understand this. There is a law well recognized in the science of light and heat, that a body can absorb only the same sort of rays which it is capable of emitting. Just so it is in the moral world. The respect and love of his generation were given to Faraday because his own nature was full of love and respect for others.
Each of these qualities—his respect for and love to others, or, more generally, his reverence and kindliness—deserves careful examination.
Throughout his life, Michael Faraday appeared as though standing in a reverential attitude toward Nature, Man, and God—toward Nature, for he regarded the universe as a vast congeries of facts which would not bend to human theories. Speaking of his own early life, he says: "I was a very lively, imaginative person, and could believe in the 'Arabian Nights' as easily as in the 'Encyclopædia;' but facts were important to me, and saved me. I could trust a fact, and always cross-examined an assertion." He was, indeed, a true disciple of that philosophy which says: "Man, who is the servant and interpreter of Nature, can act and understand no further than he has, either in operation or contemplation, observed of the method and order of Nature." And, verily, Nature admitted her servant into her secret chambers, and showed him marvels to interpret to his fellow-men more wonderful and beautiful than the phantasmagoria of Eastern romance.
His reverence toward Man showed itself in the respect he uniformly paid to others and to himself. Thoroughly genuine and simple-hearted himself, he was wont to credit his fellow-men with high motives and good reasons. This was rather uncomfortable when one was conscious of no such merit, and I, at least, have felt ashamed, in his presence, of the poor, commonplace grounds of my words and actions. To be in his company was, in fact, a moral tonic. As he had learned the difficult art of honoring all men, he was not likely to run after those whom the world counted great. "We must get Garibaldi to come some Friday evening," said a member of the Institution, during the visit of the Italian hero to London. "Well, if Garibaldi thinks he can learn any thing from us, we shall be happy to see him," was Faraday's reply. This nobility of regard not only preserved him from envying the success of other explorers in the same field, but led him heartily to rejoice with them in their discoveries.
Healthy Houses: A Hand-Book of the History, Defects, and Remedies of Drainage, Ventilation, and Warming. With upward of Three Hundred Illustrations. By William Eassie, C. E.
This is an excellent little manual on sanitary science, intended, as the author observes, to be a record of facts—of acquired experiences and published inventions in relation to house-construction. It is both scientific and practical, the science being universal, and the practice English. But, from an hygienic point of view, the subject of house-construction is much the same in given latitudes. Human life and its conditions being everywhere similar wherever the largest number are "to be fed, housed, educated, amused, enriched, and all in the smallest possible space," which is Mr. Eassie's ideal of a dwelling, the same questions must constantly arise, the same dangers are to be avoided, and the same advantages secured. The author has compressed an enormous amount of valuable information on the subject of sanitary construction within very narrow limits, and his book is written in an unusually compressed and pithy style. He gives descriptions of the best contrivances in use for attaining salubrity in all parts of the dwelling, and furnishes the reader with exact estimates of their cost. His book, indeed, is a condensed report upon the present state of art and science in England as applied to the utilities of household arrangement and construction. The following passage, describing a faulty English residence, illustrates the author's appreciation of the practical detail of his subject:
A residence in which unhealthiness reaches about its maximum may be said to be one which is built on a damp site, with higher ground behind, pouring down its waters against walls without areas—walls innocent of a damp-proof course to arrest the rising wet—and walls, likely enough, also exposed, by insufficient thickness, to driving rains. It may be in the neighborhood of low-lying fields, undug, unditched, undrained, or with the tiles long since choked up. The rooms throughout are low, with a haphazard ventilation, insufficiently furnished with windows, and with perhaps too many doors. The main staircase is without a lantern-vent, or the wall there is pierced by a window not sufficiently high to empty the gasometer overhead. As for the back-stairs, the basement-smells climb them en route for the dormitories. The chimney-flues are also badly constructed, and a smoky atmosphere is all but constant. Overcrowding lends its quota of evils—as press-beds in every available corner testify. The drain-pipes are injudiciously laid inside instead of outside the basement, with leaky joints, owing to indifferent luting, and with pipes broken where they pass through the walls, owing to continuous settlement. A foul soakage of the soil around the unpuddled pipes speedily follows. The lead-work is also defective, dishonestly executed with thinnest material, badly junctioned to the drains; or, if once properly performed, the maintenance of that state of things is neglected from ignorance or parsimony. The water-pipes, too, are all built in the brick-work, or buried deep in plaster, a burst pipe soon causing the walls to resemble a huge sheet of wet blotting-paper. As for the sinks, they are far too numerous, and made to perform improper services. The scullery-traps have long ago lost their gratings, and are filled up with grease or other refuse. Up-stairs the waste-pipe of the lavatory and of the bath are connected direct with the sewer. There is, moreover, only one cistern for the multitudinous necessities of a family. The closets, supplied from this same cistern, stand directly in the passage, and have only one door; the apparatus is faulty, and the hidden soil-pipe is somewhere imperfect. Ventilation of the drains there was originally none, and none is contemplated; the accumulated gases, therefore, take the water-trap by storm, and invade the atmosphere of the house. Even the flushing of the too flatly laid house-drains is unattended to, or left to the periodical downfall of rain through the rainwater pipes, which only serves to stir up the nuisances, not carry them resistlessly away.
The Lens: A Quarterly Journal of Microscopy and the Allied Natural Sciences. Edited by S. A. Briggs, Chicago.
This elegant periodical, a credit alike to science and to Chicago, has now reached its third number, which comes filled with interesting and valuable articles. It is published by the State Microscopical Society of Illinois—a significant fact, as indicating an extending taste for nice and critical observation. The use of the microscope combines elegant and refined recreation with serious and solid scientific work, and we are glad to see these evidences of its increasing appreciation. For a long time the microscope was but a plaything, and the share it was to take in the development of knowledge was little suspected. Even so late as 1839, according to Mr. Lewes, Magendie denied that it could be of any use in physiology. But, since then, it may almost be said that it has given us a new physiology, while it has become perfectly indispensable in intelligent medical practice, and is in constant requisition in nearly every department of science. It is important, therefore, that we should have a periodical especially devoted to the interests of the instrument, its results, and the numerous subjects which are dependent upon its application. The Lens promises to supply this need. Its papers are varied and able, and the illustrations excellent. We cordially wish it the success it deserves.
Dr. H. Charlton Bastian's long-expected work, "The Beginnings of Life," is now completed, and will be speedily published in two volumes. Dr. Bastian is the leading "representative of the doctrine" popularly known as spontaneous generation, and this work will contain the results of his extensive experimental investigations concerning it. His treatise, however, goes much further than this, and is, in fact, a broad discussion of philosophical biology—a cyclopædia of facts, theories, processes, and conclusions respecting the origin of the simpler forms of life. He works the subject from the a priori and rational point of view, as well as from that of positive and rigorous experiment. He claims to have established directly, by observations that may be verified, that matter passes from the non-living to the living state, and he aims furthermore to show that this fact is consonant with the whole scheme of Nature's working. His preliminary chapters on the correlation of the vital and physical forces, on the nature and theories of life, on organized and organizable matter, on the relations of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, and on cell-phenomena and cell-doctrines, form the clearest and most readable exposition of these subjects that we have yet seen, and they have a value quite independent of the special inquiry to which they are an introduction.
Geological Survey of Ohio. Report of Progress in 1870, by J. S. Newberry, Chief Geologist, including Reports by the Assistant Geologists, Chemists, and Local Assistants. (Columbus: Nevin & Myers, State Printers, 1871, pp. 568.)
The labors of Prof. Newberry and his colleagues during the year 1870 have resulted in the accumulation of a great many details relating chiefly to the structure of that portion of the great Appalachian coal-field which extends over a considerable part of Ohio. Without the aid of a good map it is somewhat difficult to follow the descriptions given in this report, the numerous local references and details having a tendency to bewilder the reader. This, however, is unavoidable under the circumstances; and those who desire to obtain a full and clear conception of the geological structure of Ohio will have to wait the completion of the map and final report promised by Dr. Newberry, the present volume not pretending to be more than its title implies. Nevertheless, it contains a very large and varied amount of information, which will, no doubt, be duly appreciated by those for whom it has been prepared. Especially noteworthy are the numerous illustrative sections of Carboniferous strata, and analyses of coals, iron-stones, fire-clays, and soils, as also two ably-written sketches, "On the Present State of the Manufacture of Iron in Great Britain," and "On the State of the Steel Industry," both of which will repay perusal by those who are interested in these matters.
Scattered through the purely geological portion of the report are many points of interest, which arrest attention as one glances over the pages. Thus we are told that "at Zaleski, in mining the Nelsonville coal, a fine bowlder of gray quartzite was found half embedded in the coal, and the other half in the overlying shale. The quartzite is very hard, and the bowlder was rounded and worn by friction before it came to the coal." It measured 17 in. by 12 in., and had adhering to it in places bits of coal and black slate which showed a slick ensided surface. The stone appeared to have settled into the coal when the latter was in a soft state. Prof. Newberry speculates with diffidence on the possibility of the bowlder having been "brought down by river-ice from some higher and colder part of the old continent, which was skirted by the coal-producing lowlands." In connection with this, it is somewhat interesting to find that a local deposit of quartz conglomerate occurs here and there underneath and skirting the coal-strata, and is believed by Dr. Newberry to represent an old beach of the period. From some such gravel and shingle deposit the bowlder may have been transported, but whether by means of ice, water-plant, or land-plant, who shall tell?
Another exceedingly interesting and readable portion of the Report is the "Agricultural Survey," by Mr. J. H. Klippart, in which the writer discusses, among other subjects (such as prairies, forests, etc.), the origin of the soils in certain districts of the State. Those geologists who believe in the former existence, during the Glacial epoch, of mild interglacial periods, will find much here to support their opinion. We are told that the succession of the drift-materials, beginning with the oldest, is as follows:
|f.||Peat, calcareous tufa, shell-marl.|
The oldest deposit is believed to be the product of land-ice, and the presence of the Erie clays betokens that, after the disappearance of the great glaciers, wide sheets of fresh water overspread some districts of the State. The forest-bed (consisting of roots, trunks, branches, and leaves of such trees as sycamore, beech, hickory, and red cedar) shows that by-and-by the fresh-water basins were in some places filled up, and the new soil covered with an abundant forest-growth. After this came a period of depression, when great deposits of gravel and sand gathered over the surface of the drowned land, and large bowlders and erratics were floated by ice from the north.
These and other matters of interest and importance will, no doubt, be fully treated of in the final report, which is to consist of four volumes, the first two being devoted to the geology and paleontology of the State, the third to its economic geology, and the fourth to its agriculture, botany, and zoology. A large collection of fossils has been made, many species being new to science. It is to be hoped that the good people of Ohio will not grudge the money that will be required for the adequate representation and description of these remains, but that, when published, the final report will be found in every way as complete as those admirable works which have been issued by other States of the Union. Prof. Newberry seems to have little doubt that it will be so, for he thinks that the value and significance of fossils are coming to be generally appreciated. "There are, however," he says, "yet some intelligent men, even editors and members of Legislatures, who cherish the notion that there is nothing which has any value in this world but that thing which has 1 dollar in it, and that so plainly visible as to be seen by them. Such men, to quote the language of one of them, 'don't care a row of pins for your clams and salamanders, but want something practical.'" This "practical" man must surely have been related to that colonial official who is said to have objected strongly to the expense of "engraved portraits of extinct bugs and beetles," as he irreverently styled certain Silurian fossils. But the day of such wiseacres has gone past, and it may be confidently expected that Dr. Newberry and his colleagues will have no difficulty in getting the necessary funds voted for the completion of their important survey.—Nature.