Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/121

This page has been validated.

according to Mr. Church, she transmitted to her sons Nils and John. She used to relate that an old man had prophesied to her father that two boys would be born in the family who would become famous. John manifested an aptitude for constructive work at an early age. As a child he amused himself with drawing, boring, and cutting. A little older, he watched the engines at the mines, copied their models in his drawings, and studied their motions. He traced the first suggestion of his future career to the day when, in his seventh year, he dug a mine a foot deep and made a ladder for the use of imaginary miners. When nine years old he had learned the use of drawing instruments and the art of preparing constructive plans.

In the industrial disturbances occasioned by the war with Russia Ericsson's father lost all his property and was thrown out of business. In 1811 he obtained a responsible position in connection with the construction of the Gotha Canal, in which he gradually rose. John in the meantime was improving in the exercise of his rare talents. In the deep forests, to which his father had removed, drawing tools were hard to get. He had a pen and pencil. He made compasses of wood, with needles for the points; contrived a drawing pen out of a pair of tweezers; and made brushes of the hairs of his mother's sable cloak. With these home-made instruments he executed the drawings for a pumping engine to be operated by a windmill.

The best use was made for the Ericsson boys of the limited educational advantages which the region afforded. A governess was furnished them in the years 1811 and 1812. A draughtsman, connected with the work on the canal, taught them how to finish their drawings in a style which rivaled that of engraving. They were given access to the draughtsman's office of the canal company. John exhibited his first drawing to the scale when eight years old, and he learned to sketch maps. One of the superintending constructors of the canal was engaged to teach the boys algebra and architectural drawing. Another tutor “plagued them with lessons in Latin grammar,” from whom also John learned “chemistry and many other things," he says, “of great use to me; for instance, how to make and mix colors for my drawings out of materials bought at the druggists for a few cents.” The curate at Fredsberg on the Lefsäng was engaged to teach them French. The most distinguished mechanical draughtsman in the country gave them further perfection in his art; and other instructors, drawn also from the professional men engaged on the canal, taught them algebra, field drawing, geometry, and English. While John was naturally disposed to think and act for himself, these lessons tended to promote and encourage his intellectual self-reliance. When a friend spoke to him

VOL. XLIV. — 10