Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/November 1876/Astronomy in America
|←The So-Called Conflict of Science and Religion||Popular Science Monthly Volume 10 November 1876 (1876)
Astronomy in America
By Richard Anthony Proctor
|Is the Development Hypothesis Sufficient?→|
DURING my visits to America in 1873-'74 and 1875-'76, I was led from time to time to notice with interest the progress and promise of astronomical science in America. My own special purpose in visiting America on these occasions partly brought these matters to my attention. The circumstance that in a country so much more thinly peopled than Great Britain it should be possible not only to obtain audiences for lectures on such a subject as astronomy, but to obtain more and better and larger audiences, by far than could be obtained during a lecture-season in England for any single scientific subject whatever, appeared to me in itself sufficiently remarkable. At a first view this might have been referred simply to the fact that the Americans are a lecture-loving people, preferring the quick and ready method of learning the more striking facts of a subject from a verbal exposition to close study and application. But I soon perceived that something more than the mere desire for superficial knowledge was in question. The number of persons making close inquiry into the subject was nearly always greater (even in proportion to the much greater audiences) than in England. That still more select section of every audience, the actual workers and observers, I also found to be correspondingly large; while again and again I met with what in England is certainly very unfrequent—cases, namely, in which persons, not engaged professionally in the study or teaching of astronomy, had privately worked so zealously and so ingeniously in astronomical research as to have effected original discoveries of considerable interest.
I do not propose, however, to enter here into an account of these experiences of my own. To do so would indeed be a welcome task to me, as enabling me in some degree to express not only my sense of the interest taken by Americans in science, but also my recognition of the unvarying kindness with which I was personally received. At Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Louisville, and Minneapolis, and, in fact, at all the cities and towns which I visited, I received a generous and kindly welcome from the community, accompanied by acts of personal kindness from individuals, which I shall always hold in grateful remembrance. But this would not be the place to attempt the task—in any case no easy one—of expressing my sense of American kindness and hospitality. My present purpose is to indicate simply the remarkable progress made by Americans in astronomical science during the last half-century.
Fifty years ago there were few telescopes and no observatories in America. It was not greatly to be wondered at that the nation should not up to that time have given any great degree of attention to scientific matters. The proportion of the population having leisure for scientific and especially for astronomical research was but small, and the Government had matters of more vital importance than to attend to the erection of observatories. For several years the attention of Congress had been called to the necessity of a national observatory, but when President Adams, in 1825, made a special appeal to this effect, his proposal met with ridicule and disfavor.
The first action toward the initiation of astronomical research in America bears date March, 1810, when it was proposed in Congress (by Mr. William Lambert, of Virginia) that a first meridian should be established for the United States (the meridian of the Capitol at Washington being selected), in order to obviate the "confusion already existing in consequence of the assumption of different places within the United States as first meridians, on the published maps and charts" in the country. The proposition was at once acted upon. In July, 1812, we find Mr. Monroe, then Secretary of State, indicating; its astronomical bearing. "In admitting," said he, "the propriety of establishing a first meridian within the United States, it follows that it ought to be done with the greatest mathematical precision. It is known that the best mode yet discovered for establishing the meridian of a place is by observations of the heavenly bodies; and that, to produce the greatest accuracy in the result, such observations should be often repeated, at suitable opportunities through a series of years, by means of the best instruments. For this purpose an observatory would be of essential utility. It is only in such an institution, to be founded by the public, that all the necessary implements are likely to be collected together, that systematic observations can be made for any great length of time, and that the public can be made secure of the results of the labors of scientific men. In favor of such an institution it is sufficient to remark that every nation which has established a first meridian has also established an observatory." Mr. Lambert brought in a bill proposing the erection of such an observatory in 1813; but nothing more was done until 1815, when the memorial on which the bill of 1831 had been based was referred to a select committee. No steps were then taken, however, to carry a bill. In November, 1818, a third memorial from Mr. Lambert was presented, and referred to a select committee; but the resolution asked for was not finally passed until March 3, 1821, when Mr. Lambert was appointed by the President "to make astronomical observations by lunar occultations of fixed stars, solar eclipses, or any approved method adapted to ascertain the longitude of the Capitol from Greenwich." In December, 1823, Mr. Lambert, in a report of his labors, gave for the longitude of the Capitol 76° 55' 30". 54, closing his report with a strong appeal for the erection of an observatory.
Two years later, President Adams urged on Congress the establishment of a national observatory as part of a wider scheme for the advancement of knowledge. His remarks on the astronomical portion of his scheme serve well to show the position of astronomy in America half a century ago. "Connected with the establishment of a university," he says, "or separate from it, might be undertaken the erection of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer to be in constant attendance on the phenomena of the heavens, and for the periodical publication of his observations. It is with no feeling of pride as an American that the remark may be made that, on the comparatively small territorial surface of Europe, there are existing more than one hundred and thirty of these lighthouses of the skies, while throughout the whole American Hemisphere there is not one. If we reflect for a moment upon the discoveries which in the last four centuries have been made in the physical constitution of the universe by means of these buildings, and of observers stationed in them, shall we doubt of their usefulness to every nation? And while scarcely a year passes over our heads without bringing some new astronomical discovery to light, which we must fain receive at second-hand from Europe, are we not cutting ourselves off from the means of returning light for light, while we have neither observatory nor observer upon our half of the globe" (!) "and the earth revolves in perpetual darkness to our unsearching eyes?"
In March, 1826, a bill "to establish an observatory in the District of Columbia" was brought before Congress and read the first and second time, but the House journals show no further trace of it. This bill was due to the recommendations of Mr. Adams, who did not relax in his efforts to secure the erection of a national observatory, though delays and disappointments occurred which might well have exhausted his energy, seeing that the dates of his renewed and for a while useless appeals were 1836, 1838, 1840, and 1842.
Passing over many circumstances in the history of these transactions, not as being without interest, but because space will not permit of their being presented here, we may proceed to the time when the actual erection of the buildings was commenced. This was in 1843, or no less than thirty-three years after the plan for an observatory was first proposed, so that fully one-half of the period which has elapsed since Lambert, of Virginia, first called his countrymen's attention to the necessity of establishing a national observatory was lost in discussions and delays. At the close of September, 1844, the new building was ready for occupancy, and the instruments were adjusted.
From 1844 to 1861 the Washington Observatory was under the superintendence of Lieutenant Maury. In September, 1846, the first volume of "Observations" was issued. Its value has been thus described by an impartial and competent judge: "Besides a fair amount of observations with the two transit instruments in the meridian and the prime vertical, and those with the mural circle, it contained various important investigations of the errors and corrections peculiar to the instruments. Prof. Coffin's masterly discussion of the adjustments of the mural circle, and his expansion of Bessel's Refraction Tables, Walker's investigation of the latitude of the observatory, and his comparison of the standard thermometers; all of great value."
In the second volume reference was made to the discovery of Neptune, and the success of Mr. Walker, one of the assistants, in detecting, among Lalande's observations, two of Neptune, on May 8 and 10, 1795, when the planet was observed and recorded as a fixed star. "Astronomers were thus furnished with an observation of Neptune made fifty-two years before, which afforded the means of a most accurate determination of the orbit, and enabled the superintendent of the American Nautical Almanac to publish an ephemeris of the new planet two years in advance of all other parts of the Almanac. The observatory was first brought into prominence by these researches." In October, 1849, Lieutenant (now Rear-Admiral) Davis wrote as follows to the Hon. Secretary of the Navy on this subject: "The theory of Neptune belongs, by right of precedence, to American science. In connection with its neighbor, Uranus, it constitutes an open field of astronomical research, into which the astronomers and mathematicians of the United States have been the first to enter, and to occupy distinguished places." Deprecating heartily though I do, all reference to priority or nationality in such matters as opposed to the true scientific spirit, I cannot but note how Prof. Newcomb, by his admirable researches into the theory of Uranus and Neptune, has fulfilled the hopes thus expressed nearly a quarter of a century before his labors were brought to a successful termination.
The work of the observatory, thus happily inaugurated, was prosecuted steadily till 1861, when Commander Maury left Washington to join the cause of the Confederate States. During the greater part of the war the observatory was under the charge of Captain Gilliss, who died on February 9, 1865. "It has been noted as a strange coincidence of circumstances," says Prof. Nourse, in the memoir of the observatory from which we have been quoting, "that the last morning of his life witnessed an announcement of results deduced at this observatory which had fulfilled his long-deferred hope of determining the solar parallax by simultaneous observations in Chili and in the United States. This announcement would have been peculiarly gratifying to him because these results were from the joint activity of the two observatories, founded through his exertions, 5,000 miles apart."
From 1865 to 1867 the observatory was under the superintendence of Rear-Admiral C. H. Davis, and from 1867 to the present time it has been under that of Rear-Admiral B. F. Sands. Without further considering the work accomplished at the observatory itself, which has partaken of the general character of official astronomical research, we may consider here some of the special astronomical occasions at which the observers trained at Washington have assisted.
The total eclipse of August 7, 1869, was closely observed by parties from the observatory. Prof. Asaph Hall and Mr. J. A. Rogers proceeded to Alaska; Profs. Newcomb, Harkness, and Eastman, to Iowa; and Mr. F. W. Bardwell, to Tennessee. The observations made on this occasion were of great value and interest. The solar prominences had had their real nature determined during the eclipse of August, 1868; and the American observers were not content to repeat the observations then made, but extended the method of spectroscopic analysis to the corona. They also obtained photographs of the colored prominences. The work accomplished by the Washington observers, together with the observations made by Dr. Curtis, Mr. J. Homer Lane, of Washington City, Ind., and Mr. W. S. Gilman, Jr., of New York, and General Myer, U. S. A., form a quarto volume of 217 pages, with twelve illustrations. Of this valuable and interesting volume, 3,500 copies were printed by joint resolution of Congress.
The superintendent of the Washington Observatory was not content with this. "Believing that the experience of its officers in their observations of the eclipse of 1869 should be availed of for the further elucidation of the subjects involved in such phenomena, he addressed the Navy Department upon the subject of their employment in Europe in observing the eclipse of December, 1870; the department promptly detailed the professors who had been the observers of the previous year;" and it was doubtless through the energy thus displayed by Rear-Admiral Sands that other skillful American astronomers were enabled to cross the Atlantic for the purpose of observing that important eclipse. Unfavorable weather prevented observations of this eclipse at some of the best stations, but the American observers succeeded in establishing the accuracy of the observations made in 1869, and to them must be attributed in large part the definite demonstration of the fact, which though now admitted was then much disputed, that the corona is a solar phenomenon, and not due to the illumination of our own atmosphere only.
The part taken by the Washington Observatory in preparing for and coöperating in the observation of the transit of Venus, on December 8, 1874, is too recent to need full description in this place. I may be permitted, however, to dwell with special commendation on the manner in which American astronomers devoted themselves at that time to a task which they might fairly have thought the business of their European brethren. A transit of Venus is to occur in 1882 which will be specially American, being visible wholly or in part from every portion of the United States; and, if America had reserved her energies for that occasion, no complaint could reasonably have been made. It was indeed the prevalent idea in Europe that that would be the course she would adopt. But, with singular generosity and scientific zeal, she not only devoted to the work of observing the earlier transit a sum largely exceeding the amount granted by any other government (and nearly twice as large as Great Britain paid), but undertook some of the most difficult portions of the work, which otherwise would have been left unprovided for. I cannot but recall with a feeling of something like personal satisfaction (though conscious that such a feeling ought to find no place in the mind of the true student of science), the gratification with which I welcomed the announcement, early in 1873, that America had undertaken to occupy positions, the importance of which I had long pointed out, but which, but a fortnight before that announcement reached Europe, had been confidently described as astronomically inferior and geographically unsuitable. The pleasure I then felt was only surpassed by that which I experienced subsequently, when news received from the various observing stations showed that at those just mentioned were achieved some of the most important successes of the occasion.
Another noble contribution made to science at Washington has been the erection of the splendid refractor 26 inches in aperture, which is now the chief equatorial of the observatory. America is fortunate in possessing in Alvan Clark the greatest living master of the art of constructing large object-glasses of good definition. He had already constructed a telescope 18 inches in aperture for the observatory at Chicago, but by the contract negotiated with him in August, 1870, by Prof. Newcomb, he was called on to achieve a far more difficult task in the construction of a telescope of 26 inches clear aperture. He has successfully accomplished this task, and the telescope has already obtained good results under Newcomb's skillful management. The most important of these is an extensive series of observations of the satellites of Uranus and Neptune, made with a view of determining the elements of their orbits and the masses of the planets round which they circle. The observation of the two Uranian satellites, Ariel and Umbriel, discovered by Lassell, and of the Neptunian satellite also discovered by him, must be regarded, on account of the extreme difficulty of observing these bodies, as a very valuable contribution to astronomy. It is pleasant to notice that Newcomb has been able most thoroughly to confirm the accuracy of Lassell's work in Malta, the mean motions of Ariel and Umbriel deduced from the Malta observations being so accurate that, says Newcomb, "they will probably suffice for the identification of those objects during several centuries." Although no systematic search has been made for new satellites of Uranus, yet enough has been done to show, "with considerable certainty," that at least the outer satellites supposed to have been seen by Sir W. Herschel "can have had no real existence " (as satellites, that is to say).
Before passing to the brief consideration of the work accomplished in some of the other American observatories, we must fully admit the justice of the remarks made by Prof. Nourse in closing his memoir relating to it. "The position now accorded to it," he says, "by the free tributes of scientific men in the Old World as well as at home, is not without honor to our country; and this notwithstanding the comparatively recent founding of the institution, and the as yet limited appropriations sustaining it. It may, therefore, justly claim a yet more generous support; and the pledge may be safely made that, if thus supported and efficiently directed, it will make returns yet more gratifying to national pride, and (which is a matter infinitely more important) advancing the highest aims of scientific research. What shall be its future records of success must remain with the support extended by the government and the fidelity of those who are intrusted with its administration."
The actual commencement of astronomical observation in America belongs to a much earlier period than that at which the Washington Observatory was erected. The first telescope used for astronomical purposes in America was set up at Tale College forty-six years ago. The first observatory, however, properly so called, was erected at Williams College, Massachusetts, in 1836. The next was the Hudson Observatory, established in connection with the Western Reserve College, Ohio, under the charge of Prof. Loomis (now of Yale), whose works on astronomy are deservedly held in high esteem in this country as well as in America. The next in order of time came the Observatory of the High School at Philadelphia, which achieved distinction under the able management of Messrs. Walker and Kendall. The West Point Observatory was next established, and placed under the care of Prof. Bartlett. All these preceded the Washington Observatory.
Soon after the Washington Observatory had been erected, an observatory was built at Cincinnati. Its history illustrates well the way of carrying out such work in America, when the Government does not take the work in hand. The idea of erecting an important observatory in Cincinnati was first entertained by Prof. Mitchel, then Professor of Mathematics at Cincinnati College. He proposed to attempt the task without any aid from the General or State Government, by the voluntary contribution of all classes of citizens. To ascertain whether any interest could be excited in the public mind in favor of astronomy, he delivered, in the spring of 1842, a series of lectures in the hall of the Cincinnati College. With truly American ingenuity he devised a mechanical contrivance, by help of which telescopic views in the heavens were presented with a brilliancy comparable with that "displayed by powerful telescopes." These lectures were attended by large audiences, and I may add, in passing, that the interest which they excited is to this day well remembered in Cincinnati—no small proof of Prof. Mitchel's power as a lecturer. The last lecture of the course was delivered in one of the great churches of the city (a thorough American and sensible proceeding), and at the close Prof. Mitchel submitted to the audience, consisting of more than two thousand persons, his plan for erecting a first-class observatory, and furnishing it with instruments of the highest order. He promised to devote five years of faithful effort to accomplish this task. The following course was then suggested: "The entire amount required to erect the buildings and purchase the instruments should be divided into shares of twenty-five dollars; every shareholder to be entitled to the privileges of the observatory under the management of a board of control, to be elected by the shareholders. Before any subscription should become binding, the names of three hundred subscribers should be first obtained. These three hundred should meet, organize and elect a board, who should thenceforward manage the affairs of the association." In three weeks the three hundred subscribers had been obtained, without calling any public meeting, and merely by quiet visits in which the nature of the scheme was described and explained. Then officers were elected, a directory formed, and Mitchel was sent "to visit Europe, procure instruments, examine observatories, and obtain the requisite knowledge to erect and conduct the institution, which it was now hoped would be one day reared."
When Mitchel returned, four months later, a great change had occurred in the commercial affairs of America. "Everything was depressed to the lowest point," and it was with great difficulty that a sum of $3,000 was collected and remitted to meet the first payment for the telescope of twelve inches aperture ordered of Merz. The best place for the observatory was a hill-top rising 400 feet above the level of the city. On offering to purchase this from Mr. Longworth, to whom it belonged, Prof. Mitchel was directed to select and inclose four acres, which Mr. Longworth presented to the association. On November 9, 1843, the corner-stone of the pier which was to sustain the great refracting telescope was laid by John Quincy Adams, who undertook the long (and then difficult) journey from Washington to give this proof of his interest in the cause of astronomy. When, in May, 1844, the great telescope was paid for, the funds of the association were exhausted, and the estimated cost of the building amounted to more than $7,000. In this difficulty a simple but again perfectly American plan was followed. Mechanics and others were invited to subscribe for stock in the Astronomical Society, paying their subscriptions with work. In six weeks not less than one hundred hands were at work on the hill-top and in the city. The stone of which the building was erected was quarried from the grounds of the society. The lime was burned on the hill, and every means was adopted to reduce unnecessary expenditure. Payment for stock was received in every possible article of trade; due-bills were taken, and these were converted into others which would serve in the payment of bills. In this way the building was reared, and finally covered in, without incurring any debt. But the conditions of the bond by which the lot of ground was held required the completion of the observatory in June, 1845. It was seen to be impossible to carry forward the building fast enough to secure its completion by the required time without incurring some debt. "My own private resources," proceeds Mitchel, "were used in the hope that a short time after the finishing of the observatory would be sufficient to furnish the funds to meet all engagements. The work was pushed rapidly forward. In February, 1845, the great telescope safely reached the city; and in March the building was ready for its reception." Unfortunately, just at this time, when his private means were exhausted, Prof. Mitchel's professorship was brought, in a very summary manner, to a temporary close, in consequence of the college edifice being burned to the ground. To recruit his means without abandoning the cause of astronomy, he gave courses of lectures in the chief cities of the United States, meeting with well-deserved success.
The observatory thus erected achieved useful though not very striking results. An observatory which was erected a year or two later took so quickly the leading position, so far as the actual study of the heavenly bodies was concerned, that the progress of the Cincinnati astronomers, as indeed of most of the astronomers of the United States, received less attention than otherwise might have been the case. I refer to the observatory at Harvard (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Here one of the first equatorials ever made by Merz was erected; and by means of it W. C. Bond, and his son, George P. Bond, made highly interesting additions to astronomical knowledge. The seventh satellite of Saturn (eighth and last in order of discovery) was detected, the dark ring rediscovered and found to be transparent; important drawings of nebulas were made, and many other observations were effected, under the administration of the Bonds. Later, under Prof. Winlock, the Harvard Observatory has been distinguished by the excellence of the mechanical arrangements adopted there, and by M. Trouvelot's admirable drawings of solar spots and prominences of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, and of various details of lunar scenery.
In passing, I may note that at Harvard, as indeed elsewhere in America, others than professed astronomers have achieved very useful astronomical work. As Prof. Mayer, of the Stevens Institute, Hoboken, has turned his marvelous ingenuity in devising new methods of physical research to astronomical inquiries, so Prof. Cooke, of Harvard, whose special subject is chemistry, made a most important astronomical discovery, which has since been ascribed to Janssen, who, later (though independently and by another method), effected it. Prof. Cooke made a series of observations on those bands in the solar spectrum which are due to our own atmosphere, with the object of ascertaining whether they are due to the constant constituents of the air, Or to the aqueous vapor which is present in the air in variable quantity. Combining hygrometric with spectroscopic observations, he found that when the air is moist these bands are more clearly seen than when the air is dry, and by systematic observations so definitely ascertained this relation as to prove beyond all manner of doubt that the bands are due to aqueous vapor. Unfortunately, though his results were published in America, they were not published in such a way as to attract notice in Europe, and accordingly European astronomers remained ignorant of the most important fact discovered by Cooke until they had rediscovered it for themselves.
The observatory at Ann Arbor, Michigan, was erected in 1854, chiefly through the exertions of Chancellor Tappan, of the Michigan University. Dr. Brünnow, our present Astronomer Royal for Ireland, was for a long time director of this observatory. It is at present under the able control of Prof. Watson, who has added nearly a score of planetoids to the known members of the solar family.
The observatory of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, illustrates in a remarkable way the energy and zeal with which college observatories are managed in America. It would be difficult to name any observatory in this country where observations of greater interest, as respects the physics of astronomy, have been made than those effected by Prof. Young with the nine-inch telescope constructed by Alvan Clark for the Dartmouth College; or than the supplementary observations made by Young with a powerful telescope conveyed to an elevated pass in the Rocky Mountains. Among his results may be specially mentioned—first, the observations of the most remarkable solar outburst yet witnessed, an outburst during which the glowing hydrogen of the prominences was driven to a height of at least 200,000 miles from the surface of the sun; and, secondly, the identification of more than 250 lines in the spectrum of the solar sierra.
And as the most interesting and characteristic observations yet made upon solar prominences are due to Prof. Young, of Dartmouth Observatory, so the most accurate and detailed drawings yet made of sun-spots are those by Prof. S. Langley, of the Alleghany Observatory, near Pittsburg.
At Chicago, a very fine telescope, eighteen inches in aperture, by Alvan Clark, has been erected; but, owing to pecuniary difficulties consequent on the great fire (followed by the commercial depression which has recently affected the United States), that observatory has suffered considerably from the want of a properly remunerated director. The Astronomical Society of Chicago has done its best to set matters straight, but differences have arisen which have marred their efforts. In the mean time, Mr. S. W. Burnham, of Chicago, has shown admirable zeal and skill in the systematic observation of double stars, having discovered and measured more than 450 of these objects (all of a delicate and difficult nature).
But, indeed, it would be hopeless to attempt, in the short space available to me here, to give any sufficient account of the labors of American astronomers, whether attached to Government or State observatories, or working independently. Of the latter, and in my opinion not the least important class, I need cite only Drs. Rutherfurd and H. Draper, the former of whom, besides making other extremely important contributions to astronomy and physics, has produced celestial photographs admittedly better than any obtained on this side of the Atlantic; while the latter at an earlier period achieved results in celestial photography which were far superior to any obtained at that time, or for many subsequent years. The advice and assistance rendered by Dr. H. Draper to the astronomers to whom were intrusted the preparations for the recent transit, were most deservedly commemorated in a medal which the American Government honored itself by awarding to him.
The most striking feature in the contributions made by Americans to astronomy appears to me to be the skill shown in noting the essential points to be aimed at, and the fertility and readiness of resource exhibited as the work proceeds. In England, students of astronomy are too much in the habit of following conventional rules, and wasting time over unnecessary preliminaries. An American astronomer notes that some particular observation is wanted, and directs his efforts to making that observation, not considering it necessary in the first place to go over ground already repeatedly traversed by others.
I have been sometimes asked whether officialism is as rampant in America as in England in matters scientific. American scientific officials have assured me that it is, or rather (for they have not worded the matter precisely in that way) they hold that official science is properly (as they consider) paramount in their country. I was gravely assured in Washington, for instance, that the course which I had pursued in England, with reference to the suggested official schemes for observing the transit of Venus in 1874, would never have been tolerated in America, despite the fact that the course actually followed by American official science was precisely that which I had advised. It was the principle, so an eminent American official scientist assured me, which was in question, and no American would have been suffered to oppose as I did the course advised by the chief official astronomer. What would have happened to such an unfortunate was not clearly indicated; and I must confess that all I heard outside official scientific circles in America suggested to me that any mistake made by official science would be commented upon even more freely in America than in England, and quite as safely. In fact, I had reason to believe that the warmth of my own welcome in America was in no small degree due to the fact that, having first proved the justice of my views, I had not been afraid to maintain them publicly against the powers that were until the proper course was adopted.
One other point remains to be noticed, the influence, namely, of religious scruples upon scientific progress and research in America. Here I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed. I expected to find America a long way in advance of England. But with some noteworthy exceptions, especially in the West, America seems to me to be behind England in this respect. It is only here and there, in England—in the Bœotian corners, so to speak, of this country—that the community opposes itself to advanced scientific ideas to the same extent as in some of the leading cities of the United States. This is partly due to two opposite influences: the Puritan element of the American population on the one hand, and the Roman Catholic element on the other. Progress, however, is being steadily made in this as in other matters. Indeed, it has been rather because America began later to bestir itself in the encouragement of free search after truth that she is at present behind England in this respect. Judging from experience in other matters, she will move rapidly now her progress has begun, and will soon occupy the position to be expected from the natural freedom and independence of the American mind. It need hardly be said that in America, as in Europe, such contest as arises from time to time between religion and science has its origin entirely from the side of religion. There as here religion (so called) attacks and denounces discoveries inconsistent with the views which the orthodox had been accustomed to advocate; and there as here, when there as no longer any choice, the orthodox quietly accept these discoveries as established facts, expressing a naive astonishment that they should ever have been thought in the least degree inconsistent with received opinions.—Advance-sheets of Popular Science Review.
- The same remark applies to the lectures which he subsequently delivered in New York, New Orleans, Boston, Brooklyn, and other large cities. It is almost impossible to over-estimate the service thus rendered by Prof. Mitchel to astronomy in the United States.