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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/505

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SKETCH OF R. A. PROCTOR.

cal reading, Mr. Proctor is reported as standing high in the university among the "wranglers." We have wranglers in this country, and keep a whole Congress of them for public exhibition, as gladiators were exhibited at the Roman shows. But in the English universities this term is applied to a limited group of first-class students or honor-men who go in on the final scramble for the highest places in a numerical gradation. He who beats all the rest is called "senior wrangler." This is the highest position of university honor, and the struggle to reach it is so long and severe that it is said to "use up" the successful candidate, so that the "senior wrangler" is rarely heard of in afterlife. Then come second, third, and fourth wrangler, and so on, and even tenth wrangler is regarded as a highly-honorable rank, as in fact it is to be a wrangler at all. Fortunately for astronomy and American lecturing, Proctor did not win the headship in the wrangle of his year, but he is quoted as being close on the heels of the leaders.

Mr. Proctor's first literary effort, a nine-page article on "Double Stars," appeared in the Cornhill Magazine for December, 1863, ten years ago. His next attempt was an "Essay on the Rings of Saturn," which was declined, as not sufficiently popular for the readers of the Cornhill Magazine. This led to the writing of his first book, "Saturn and its System," a work chiefly remarkable for the fullness of the relations presented by a single planet, which are discussed in almost every conceivable aspect. The construction of maps to illustrate Saturn led Mr. Proctor to form his "Gnomonic Star Atlas," planned on an altogether original system. The sphere is supposed to be inclosed in a dodecahedron, on whose twelve pentagonal faces the stars are projected. A third work, called "The Handbook of the Stars," was also ready for the press in 1866. In this year an event occurred which rendered literary and scientific labor, hitherto pursued as an amusement, a necessity of existence. The bank in which he had all his fortune broke and left him worse than bankrupt, for he was liable for many thousand pounds, and from this liability he has but very recently obtained release. The three years following were marked with struggles, difficulties, and severe domestic bereavements, which interrupted literary work. In 1867 "Constellation-Seasons" (now out of print), and "Sun Views of the Earth," were produced, as well as charts of the planetary orbits, projections of Mars, and other maps. In 1868 appeared "Half-Hours with the Telescope," and in 1869 "Half-Hours with the Stars." But the chief occupation of Mr. Proctor's time for the three years consisted in essay-writing for the magazines, and in the preparation of works which publishers rejected at the time, but which have since met with a success altogether unusual in scientific literature.

In 1868 Mr. Proctor commenced writing popular science essays for the London Daily News, and has continued to do so until the present time. In 1870 appeared "Other Worlds than Ours," which had a