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HE more my Uncle Toby
drank of this sweet fountain of science, the greater was the heat and impatience of his thirst.” These words, uttered by the sentimental humorist more than a century ago, have, in the comparatively brief
interval, received a legion of exemplifications. No province of human knowledge is more cumulative, or more closely follows the example of time, than do Science and its Applications ; for, as remarked by one of its most celebrated Professors, “Science is nothing more than the refinement of common sense, making use of facts already known to acquire new facts.” To present to the Reader some of the more important results of such acquisitions is the object of the present volume, ranging in
its narratives from the Compass to the Cable, and keeping in view the old poet's mandate :
“Up into the watch-tower get,
And see all things despoiled of fallacies;”
-a labour of more gravity than implied by the stern personification of the past, upon the preceding page, who seems to say, “Look, my abridgement comes."
The Series commences with the Mariner's Compass, and ends with the Electric Telegraph, one of the most subtle applications of magnetic power; for, although the ancients, in their attempt to leap from obvious facts to the highest point of generality, inferred from the magnet attracting iron that the magnetic pole of the earth would draw the nails out of a ship's bottom which came near it, they never anticipated "girdling the universe with a sentence in forty minutes.”
The staple of these WONDERFUL INVENTIONS is the great discoveries in Electricity, Chemistry, and Mechanical Science. In the Telescope and Microscope, the application of the phenomena of Light allures us to brighter worlds, and transcends that genius which
“ Exhausted worlds, and then imagined new."
In the histories of Gunpowder and Gun-cotton, and Gaslighting, we have triumphs of chemical science in mitigating the suffering of war, and exemplifying that concentration which produces high convenience.
The noble craft and mystery of Printing, likened to the lever of Archimedes, with which he could move the world, has culminated in the most intellectual application of Steam-a success of the last fifty years, and the consummation of an art which man may have borrowed from nature.
Among the Curiosities of the volume may be named the ingenious means by which men have taken note of time, and embellished the recording power with fancy and curious device; as in Clocks and Watches.
Nearly half the volume is devoted to the progress that has been made in the adaptation of Steam to Printing and Mining, Navigation, Textile Manufactures, Locomotion by land, and working Iron-from the time when the captive nobleman meditated on that mighty power which was so strangely to influence the material world with its illimitable applications
It will thus be seen that the paramount Inventions given in this volume, as tales that are told, are taken, in great measure, from our own time; and the older Inventions—as in the case of Printing-have been perfected by the genius of our own age.
The materials of the present volume have been drawn from the most accredited sources ; and especial care has been taken to award to each inventor his share in the invention. This has been no light labour, in which the Author has been aided by the experience of Forty Years, in publishing, year by year, a record of Facts in Science and Art.
With this introductory glance at the object of the Work, and the means by which it has been worked out, the Author commends the result to the kindly consideration of the Reader.
(“The Atlantic Telegraph Cables.”—The Author has specially to acknowledge his indebtedness to the “Diary of the Cable,” in the Times, and to the Engravings in the Illustrated London News, obtained at very considerable cost for that journal.)
1. RAILWAY LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE.
2. NASMYTH's STEAM-HAMMER.
One of our great Smiths--one whose name signifies that he is “Nae Smith,” has produced the tool, the Steam-hammer, which has more than any other gone to revolutionize the art of working in iron. The Steam-hammer as a recent invention has been so often described ; its powers of either cracking a nut, or of forging the sheet anchor of the largest ship, has been so often the theme of admiring criticism, that we need not now enumerate its wonders. By means of this machine, a pile can be driven into the ground in four minutes, that previously required for the operation twelve hours. The saving of time thus effected is as I to 1,800; and it is impos. sible to express more pointedly the power of this extraordinary tool. We speak now, however, of the versatility of such men as Mr. Nasmyth. He produced a steam-engine somewhat pyramidal in form, which is greatly used in screw ships ; he invented a planing machine, known as Nasmyth's steam-arm; he made a circular cutter for toothed wheels ; and he struck out many other useful and ingenious machines. But, over and above this, he belongs to a family of painters, and is himself no mean hand as a painter. He is an antiquary, and has published some curious speculations on the cuneiform inscriptions of Nineveh. He is an astronomer, too, and has made some striking astronomical observations. He has made a famous painting of the moon with its craters and mountains ; but his most remarkable work has been a survey of the surface of the sun. With a fine tele. scope of his own making he made out that the bright surface of the sun consists of separate, insulated, individual objects or things, all nearly of one definite size and shape, something like a willow leaf. Sir John Herschel describes this as a most wonderful discovery,” and adds,—“ These wonderful objects have been seen by others as well as by Mr. Nasmyth, so that there is no room to doubt of their reality.”— Times.