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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/662

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

weight of the award of one of the Royal Society's medals into the scale against Tyndall. It seemed to some of his friends, myself among the number, that this was unfair; and a lively battle, eventually decided in our favor, took place in the Council of the Society. I refer to these old troubles, merely for the purpose of finally removing the impression, if any such remains, that Tyndall had anything, directly or indirectly, to do with what took place. On the contrary, the two persons who were chiefly responsible, thought it desirable that he should be absolutely ignorant of what was going on; and I can answer for it that he remained so until long after, when, rummaging among my papers, I found some documents which I labeled "Ashes of an old fire," and sent to him.

Tyndall was a highly esteemed and popular member of the Royal Society and always loyal toward it; but the sensitiveness to which I have alluded led him, very early in his career, to do what, so far as I know, nobody had done before, nor has done since. In 1853, the Society awarded one of the two royal medals to him, the other recipient being Charles Darwin. Unluckily, one of the members of the Council, a person of high scientific position, who had wished to dispose of the medal otherwise, took his defeat badly; and, being a voluble talker, exhaled his griefs with copious impropriety to all and sundry. As soon as the report of this reached Tyndall's ears, he wrote a polite note to the senior secretary declining the honor. Frankly, I think my friend made a mistake. The Council was in no way responsible for the ill-judged and, indeed, indecent proceedings of one of its members; and perhaps it is better to leave an enemy alone than to strike at him with the risk of hurting one's friends. But, having thus sacrificed at the altar of strict justice, I must add that, for a young man starting in the world, to whom such recognition was of great importance, I think it was a good sort of mistake, not likely to do harm by creating too many imitators.

As time went on, as the work became harder, and the distractions of life more engrossing, a few of us, who had long been intimate, found we were drifting apart; and, to counteract that tendency, we agreed to dine together once a month. I think, originally, there was some vague notion of associating representatives of each branch of science; at any rate, the nine who eventually came together—Mr. Busk, Dr. Frankland, Dr. Hirst, Sir Joseph Hooker, Sir John Lubbock, Mr. Spencer, Mr. Spottiswoode, Tyndall and myself—could have managed, among us, to contribute most of the articles to a scientific encyclopaedia. At starting, our minds were terribly exercised over the name and constitution of our society. As opinions on this grave matter were no less numerous than the members—indeed, more so—we finally ac-