Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/61

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priests of science, command our utmost admiration; but it is not to them that we can look for our current progress in practical science, much less can we look for it to the "rule-of-thumb" practitioner, who is guided by what comes nearer to instinct than to reason. It is to the man of science, who also gives attention to practical questions, and to the practitioner, who devotes part of his time to the prosecution of strictly scientific investigations, that we owe the rapid progress of the present day, both merging more and more into one class, that of pioneers in the domain of Nature. It is such men that Archimedes must have desired when he refused to teach his disciples the art of constructing his powerful ballistic engines, exhorting them to give their attention to the principles involved in their construction, and that Telford, the founder of the Institution of Civil Engineers, must have had in his mind's eye when he defined civil engineering as "the art of directing the great sources of power in nature."

These considerations may serve to show that although we see the men of both abstract and applied science group themselves in minor bodies for the better prosecution of special objects, the points of contact between the different branches of knowledge are ever multiplying, all tending to form part of a mighty tree—the tree of modern science—under whose ample shadow its cultivators will find it both profitable and pleasant to meet, at least once a year; and, considering that this tree is not the growth of one country only, but spreads both its roots and branches far and wide, it appears desirable that at these yearly gatherings other nations should be more fully represented than has hitherto been the case. The subjects discussed at our meetings are, without exception, of general interest; but many of them bear an international character, such as the systematic collection of magnetic, astronomical, meteorological, and geodetical observations, the formation of a universal code for signaling at sea, and for distinguishing lighthouses, and especially the settlement of scientific nomenclatures and units of measurement, regarding all of which an international accord is a matter of the utmost practical importance.

As regards the measures of length and weight it is to be regretted that this country still stands aloof from the movement initiated in France toward the close of the last century; but, considering that in scientific work metrical measure is now almost universally adopted, and that its use has been already legalized in this country, I venture to hope that its universal adoption for commercial purposes will soon follow as a matter of course. The practical advantages of such a measure to the trade of this country would, I am convinced, be very great, for English goods, such as machinery or metal rolled to current sections, are now almost excluded from the Continental market, owing to the unit measure employed in their production. The principal impediment to the adoption of the metre consists in the strange anomaly that although it is legal to use that measure in commerce, and although