Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/566

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WHILE the characterization by Mr. Thomas Laurie of W. Mattieu Williams as having been "the first who swept aside the veil that had been hung up between scientific workers and the toiling millions" can hardly be verified, it is an indisputable fact that he was eminently successful in presenting scientific truths in a form acceptable to the common people and adapted to awaken their interest; and his presentations rarely failed to suggest further thought on the subject to which they related.

Mr. Williams was born in London, February 6, 1820, and died in London, of cerebral apoplexy, November 28, 1892. He was taught in boyhood, at three schools of the kind that then flourished, a little arithmetic, grammar, geography, and Latin, but no science. His experiences even thus early set his mind in the train which led him to the adoption of those views on education which he advocated and on which he acted later in life. When fourteen years old he was apprenticed to Mr. Thomas, mathematical and optical instrument maker at Lambeth, where he gained a practical skill and scientific knowledge which he was able to turn to good purpose in the several courses of scientific lectures which formed part of the work of his mature life. Although he had to work from seven o'clock in the morning till eight o'clock at night, he continued to attend the night classes of the London Mechanics' Institution, Southampton Buildings, now the Birkbeck Institution; and during the whole term of his apprenticeship he attended the biweekly lectures which were given by eminent men of the time in their several specialties, and the classes in mathematics, chemistry, natural philosophy, French, German, and phrenology, and took part in the exercises and discussions of the literary societies. The programmes of those societies during the period of his attendance upon them afford as among the subjects of papers contributed by him the Relative Character of the French and English; Constantinople and the Turks; Dreaming, Phrenologically Considered; the Expediency of Railways becoming National Property; the National Characteristics of the French; Direct and Indirect Taxation; the Propriety of Discussing Political Questions at Mechanics' Institutions; and topics related to psychology and phrenology. On coming of age he obtained possession by inheritance of a small sum of money, by the aid of which he studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and made a pedestrian tour of two years in Europe. He spent much of the time in Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and Turkey; and, becoming acquainted with the Turk in the last country, found him a better man than he was generally regarded as being, and a person of