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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/756

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Sir Frederick also furnishes an extensive extract, giving the views of the first Napoleon on the subject of reform in weights and measures. Many of the stock arguments are repeated, and if they had not been thrashed over long ago it would be perfectly easy to take them up one by one and show their absurdity. An entire lack of any really accurate knowledge of the subject and an absence of any sort of conception of the simplest metrological principles are shown in a single quotation: "A toise, a foot, an inch, a line, a point, are fixed portions of extension, which the imagination conceives independent of their relations to one another; if, then, we ask for the third of an inch, the mind goes into instant operation. The length called an inch is divided into three parts. By the new system, on the contrary, the mind has not to divide an inch into thirds, but a metre into a hundred and eleven parts." It is difficult to properly characterize such utter nonsense; but, fortunately, the French people, who are to-day the leaders in the world's metrology, were not obliged to take their science, as they were most other things, from the first consul. A group of the most distinguished Frenchmen of any period had perfected this system, even in the very midst of the bloody revolution which closed the last century, and when their final report was made in an address to the legislative chambers by the celebrated La Place, the event was described by Adams as a "spectacle at once so rare and so sublime. . . that not to pause for a moment, were it even from occupations not essentially connected with it; to enjoy the contemplation of a scene so honorable to the character and capacities of our species, would argue a want of sensibility to appreciate its worth. This scene formed an epoch in the history of man. It was an example and an admonition to the legislators of every nation and of all after times."

Mr. Spencer also quotes from an auditor who had to go over £20,000 of accounts, and who was "very thankful that it was not in francs." At first blush it seems entirely natural and creditable to him as an Englishman to rejoice that his twenty thousand is in pounds sterling rather than francs; but, after all, his remark is only a reflection of that not uncommon English sentiment that the imperial monetary system is more perfect than any other in all the wide world. This sentiment is doubtless the outgrowth of national pride and intellectual inactivity; it is not entertained by the majority of the more thoughtful and scholarly Englishmen, and, furthermore, it is in every respect false. It is unnecessary to consume time in quoting the opinion of England's most distinguished scholars, to show that this is not simply an example of American boasting, but I will venture to illustrate by one or two additional extracts from De Morgan. In his arithmetical appendix on Decimal Money he says: "Of all the simplifications of