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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/402

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

new as well as true in 1811; and if De la Roche had not been removed by an early death, his would have not improbably been the greatest name of the century in the history of our subject; an honor, however, which was in fact reserved for another.

The idea of the identity of light and radiant heat had by this time made such progress that the attempt to polarize the latter was made in 1818 by Berard. "We have just seen in Herschel's case how the most sound experiment may lead to a wrong conclusion, if it controverts the popular view. We now have the converse of this in the fact that the zeal of those who are really in the right way may lead to unsound and inconclusive experiment; for Berard experimentally established, as it was supposed, the fact that obscure radiant heat can be polarized. So it can, but not with such means as Berard possessed, and it was not till a dozen years more that Forbes actually proved it. At this time, however fairly we seem embarked on the paths of study which are followed to-day, and while the movement of the main body of workers is in the right direction, it is yet instructive to observe how eminent men are still spending great and conscientious labor, their object in which is to advance the cause, while the effect of it is to undo the little which has been rightly done, and to mislead those who have begun to go right.

As an instance both of this and of the superiority of modern apparatus, we may remark—after having noticed that the ability of obscure heat to pass through glass, if completely established, would be a strong argument in favor of its kinship to light, and that De la Roche and others had indicated that it would do so (in which we now know they were right)—that at this stage, or about 1816, Sir David Brewster, the eminent physicist, made a series of experiments which showed that it would not so pass. Ten years later, in view of the importance of the theoretical conclusion, Baden Powell repeated his observations with great care, and confirmed them, announcing that the earlier experimenters were wrong, and that Brewster was right. Here all these years of conscientious work resulted in establishing, so far as it could be established, a wholly wrong conclusion in place of a right one already gained. It may be added that, with our present apparatus, the passage of obscure radiant heat through glass could be made convincingly evident in an experiment which need not last a single second.

We are now arrived at a time when the modern era begins; and in looking back over one hundred and fifty years, from the point of view of the experimenter himself, with his own statement of the truth as he saw it, we find that the comparison of the progress of science to that of an army, which moves, perhaps with the loss of occasional men, but on the whole victoriously and in one