Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/568

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petent and suitable teacher for such an institution presented itself and might have occasioned considerable difficulty, had it not been solved by Mr. Williams offering to undertake the headmastership. It was therefore called the Williams Secular School, and was opened in the Trades' Hall, December 4, 1848. It increased rapidly, and was soon removed to the larger premises which had been occupied by Dr. R. Knox's anatomical school, where it continued "doing invaluable model-work" until Mr. Williams was called, in 1854, to take charge of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

This institution was projected by a few leading men in Birmingham, and was incorporated by an act of Parliament of July, 1854. Mr. Williams was invited by the Council, on the recommendation of Mr. Lionel Playfair, now Lord Playfair, to become master of the science classes. He gave an introductory lecture, August 17th, which at once aroused interest, and was commended by the press as the work of "a man of no ordinary ability." In this lecture, Mr. C. J. Woodward says, in his account of the institute, "Mr. Williams pleaded for the application of science to industry, and pointed out the important future to the workman who became a scientific man. The classes first opened at the institute were in physics, chemistry, and physiology; but the curriculum soon extended, and an important novel feature in popular education was introduced by Mr. Williams in what were so well known in the town as the 'Institute Penny Lectures.' The first of the series was delivered in the early part of 1856, and attracted large audiences. The first bench was occupied by factory boys immediately the doors opened, and, as intended, many who had their interest in science aroused for the first time were led to undertake the more serious and systematic courses provided at the institute. The idea of penny lectures led, subsequently, to the establishment of penny classes and penny readings, and did much in the direction of popular education."

Mr. Williams was an active citizen in Birmingham, and forward in every scheme for improvement and enlightenment. He was earnest in promoting the purchase of Asten Hall; wrote articles in the Journal urging a more liberal policy on the part of the Town Council, especially in measures for the improvement of the public health; was a leader in discussions concerning education, and advocated the introduction of object lessons and practical illustrations in teaching. He began his career as an author in Birmingham; contributed frequently to the Birmingham Journal; published a pamphlet on The Intellectual Destiny of the Workingman, in which he advocated manual occupations; contributed to the Chemical Society a paper describing An Apparatus for Collecting Gases over Water or Mercury; and, having made