Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/417

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SKETCH OF MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY

an investigation should result in favor of this view in preference to that; and never to attempt by premature speculation to anticipate the results of investigations, but always to trust to the investigations themselves." The book met a large demand at home and abroad, more than twenty twenty editions having been sold in England alone; and it was translated into the French, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, and Spanish languages. Following this came the assembling of the Meteorological Congress at Brussels, in 1853, of the chief nations interested in commerce, at which a uniform system of observations on land and at sea was resolved upon. Among the incidents of the conference was a letter in 1857 from Humboldt, "at the age of ninety years," relating to its results, and offering "to my illustrious friend and associate .... the tribute of my respectful admiration .... It belongs to me, more than to any traveler of the age, to congratulate my illustrious friend upon the course which he has so gloriously opened."

Lieutenant Maury, after returning from the Brussels Conference, pressed the scheme of co-operation in meteorological observations on land. In addresses delivered at agricultural societies in 1855 he urged farmers to make daily observations of weather conditions and the state and yield of the crops, to be sent to him, as sailors were sending their observations at sea; and he advised them to seek from Congress measures for the establishment of a central office where these reports could be digested and the results sent monthly, weekly, or even daily, to all parts of the country, so that farmers could be "warned of the approach of storms, severe frosts, etc., that might prove injurious to the crops". He defined this proposition in an address before the United States Agricultural Society in January, 1856, as a concerted plan, the idea of which was to spread the network of instruments and observers in this country and over other parts of the world also, to which he was assured the co-operation of men of science abroad would be given. About three years afterward, in an address at Decatur, Ala., as if foreseeing that his services might become forgotten, he said: "Take notice, now, that this plan of crop and weather reports is my thunder; and if you see some one in Washington running away with it, then recollect, if you please, where the lightning came from." The whole record of Maury's meteorological work, and his part in advocating this plan, were reviewed by Senator Harlan, in a committee report to the United States Senate, made in 1857. His scheme also embraced a system of meteorological observations on the Great Lakes. Records had already been kept for many years by the army, to which, Maury acknowledged, "alone we are indebted for almost all we know concerning the climatology of the country"; but he explained that their value was retrospective; while the observations he proposed were to