The Scientific Basis of National Progress/I
During the last one hundred years this nation has advanced with unexampled speed. More wealth has been accumulated by Englishmen since the commencement of the present century, than in all preceding time since the period of Julius Cæsar; one of the causes of this has been the discovery of new truths of science, and their subservience to useful purposes by means of invention. The great manufacturing success of this country has been largely due to those applications of science, which have enabled us to utilise our abundant stores of coal and iron-ore, in steam engines, machinery, and a multitude of mechanical, physical, and chemical processes; also to the discovery of electro-magnetism and its application in the electric-telegraph, etc. And had it not been for these and other adaptations of scientific knowledge, we should have competed in vain with the cheaper labour and longer days of toil of continental nations. Other great causes, such as our insular position, suitable climate, freedom,geographical position, etc., etc. have, however, also contributed to the result. Commerce also in its turn has done vast things for mankind.
The purely scientific knowledge we possess was discovered almost entirely by means of original research, and to only a small extent by persons engaged in industrial occupations. Probably not two per cent. of all the important discoveries in pure science were made in manufactories; the scientific experiments which are made in such establishments are usually of the nature of invention, not of discovery, and are not often published, because it is a usual object with men of business to retain as much as possible of the pecuniary benefit of their labours to themselves. Whilst it is the object of a business man to monopolise special knowledge; that of the scientific man is to diffuse it, in order that all mankind may be benefited and helped to improve.
Discoveries in science are, however, occasionally made by practical men engaged in technical employments. The hydro-electric machine originated in this way, a man at Newcastle was attending to a steam boiler, and found that he received electric shocks when he touched the boiler. This circumstance was investigated by his employer, Mr. Armstrong, a scientific man, and led him to construct the hydro-electric machine. The accumulation of electricity in submarine telegraph cables was first observed at the Gutta-Percha Company's worksLondon. It was noticed on testing a cable by means of a voltaic battery (the cable being submerged in water) that discharges of electricity flowed from the cable after the battery was removed; this circumstance was investigated by Faraday, and led to improvements in submarine telegraphy. In each of these instances the same general method as that used by scientific discoverers was however employed, viz., new experiments were made (though not intentionally) by putting matter and its forces under new conditions, and new results were observed.
Nearly all great modern scientific discoveries have been made by teachers of science and others, who spend a large portion of their lives in experimental investigation, searching for new truths, and not by persons who have hit upon them by accident. The greatest discoveries in physics and chemistry in modern times, were made chiefly by such men as Newton, Cavendish, Scheele, Priestley, Oersted, Volta, Davy and Faraday: all great workers in science.
It is either by observing matter and its forces under new conditions or from a new aspect, that nearly all discoveries are made; thus Priestley placed some oxide of mercury in an inverted glass vessel, and heated it by means of the Sun's rays and a lens, and discovered Oxygen. This substance was nearly discovered by Eck de Sulsbach three hundred years before; he heated six pounds of an amalgamof silver and mercury, and converted the latter metal into a red oxide like cinnabar, and he remarked, "a spirit is united with the metal, and what proves it is this, that this artificial cinnabar submitted to distillation, disengages that spirit." The "spirit" was evidently oxygen.
Some discoveries are made by observing the phenomena of bodies placed under special conditions by those operations of nature over which we have little or no control. All our knowledge of Astronomy, and much of that of geology and physiology, was acquired in this way.
Nearly all modern discoveries of importance in physics or chemistry require long and difficult investigations to be made in order to completely establish their truth. When Crookes discovered Thallium, he saw the first sign of its existence in a momentary flash of green light in a spectroscope, but he had to expend upon the subject several years of most difficult labour, and a considerable sum of money, in order to prove the correctness of his suspicion that he had discovered a new metal. M. Lecocq de Boisbaudran discovered the metal Gallium and Bunsen discovered Rubidium and Caesium in a similar manner.
Discoveries in science, are usually made, not by trying to obtain some valuable commercial or technical result, but by making new, reliable, and systematic investigations. By investigating the chemical action of electricity upon saline bodies,Sir Humphrey Davy isolated sodium and magnesium, which has led to the establishment at Patricroft near Manchester, of the manufactures of those metals. By the abstract researches of Hofmann and others upon Coal-tar, many new compounds were discovered, and the extremely profitable manufacture of the splendid coal-tar dyes was originated.
Scientific discovery is the most valuable in its ultimate practical results when it is pursued from a love of truth as the ruling motive, and any attempt to make it more directly and quickly remunerative by trying to direct it to immediately practical objects, decreases the importance of its results, diminishes the spirit of inquiry, and sooner or later reduces it to the character of invention. The greatest practical realities of this age had their origin in a search after important truths entirely irrespective of what utilities they might lead to.
I do not intend by these remarks to imply that any new trades or improvements in manufactures have been or can be effected without the labours of inventors and practical men, but that there should be a more judicious division of labour: one man to discover new truths, another to put them into the form of practical inventions, and the business man to work them; because it is proved by experience, that in nearly all cases these different kinds of labour require men of widely different habits of mind, andthat the faculties of discovery, invention, and practical working are very rarely united in one man.
Scientific investigations however, made in a manufactory, for the purpose of ascertaining the various sources of loss of materials, the circumstances which affect the amount or quality of the product; or made with the object of substituting cheaper or more suitable materials, or for varying their proportions, or for many other kindred objects, have in many cases resulted in great benefit to the manufacturer, and have formed the basis of successful patents. Some of the large brewers, chemical manufacturers, candle companies, and many others, constantly employ scientific men in this way to examine their materials, processes and products, and keep them acquainted with the progress of discovery and invention in relation to their own particular trades.
No art or manufacture is so perfect as to be exempt from the influence of discovery and invention, and no man can produce so perfect an article but that, by the aid of science, a better may be produced. Science and trade are mutually dependent, without the assistance of science, trade would be unable to supply our daily increasing wants, and without the pecuniary support of trade, science would languish and decay.
"As long as arts and manufactures are left to be directed and improved by simple experience, their progress is extremely slow, but directly scientific knowledge is successfully applied to them, theybound forward with astonishing speed." Look at the art of taking portraits; for hundreds of years it remained entirely in the hands of oil and water-colour painters with but little progress in rapidity of production, but directly science was applied to it in the form of photography, its advance in this respect became amazing. Fifty years ago photography was almost unknown, but immediately Messrs. Daguerre and Talbot, in 1844, made known their processes, the new art began to advance, and so rapid has been its progress, that at the present time many thousand persons are employed in its exercise, and millions of portraits have been taken with an accuracy and at a cost quite beyond the reach of the old method.
Many persons hardly know the difference between science and art; a still greater number cannot readily distinguish between a concrete science and a pure one; and nearly all persons confound discovery with invention. A science may be conveniently defined as a collection of facts and general principles which are to be learned; an art as a collection of rules which are to be followed:—Art therefore is applied science; and every art also has a basis in science, whether that basis has been discovered or not. Scientific principles underlie not only manufacturing processes, but also sculpture, music, poetry and painting.
Discoveries differ also from inventions: a scientific discovery is a newly found truth in science, which in the great majority of cases is not in the form ofapplied knowledge. An invention is usually a combination and application to some desired purpose, of scientific truths which have been previously discovered. When Oersted first observed a magnetic needle move by means of a current of electricity, he made a scientific discovery; but when Wheatstone and Cooke applied Oersted's discovery in their telegraph from Paddington to Slough, they made an invention. The success of the electro-plating process was dependent upon knowledge previously discovered. Mr. Wright, a surgeon in Birmingham, was led to the invention of the use of cyanide of potassium in electro-plating and gilding, by reading in Scheele's "Chemical Essay" (p.p. 405 and 406), that "if after these calces" (i.e., the cyanides of gold and silver) "have been precipitated, a sufficient quantity of precipitating liquor be added, in order to redissolve them, the solution remains clear in the open air, and in this state the ærial acid" (i.e., carbonic acid of the air) "does not reprecipitate the metallic calx."
Immediately a discovery is effected it is made public, and is afterwards incorporated in the ordinary text books of science, ready for the use of inventors; and in this way such books have become filled with valuable knowledge acquired by researches in past times. All this knowledge (which has cost millions of pounds and a vast amount of intellect and labour) has been given by its discoverers freely to the nation. Some idea of the number of scientificresearches which have been made since the year 1800, may be obtained from the fact, that a mere list of their titles, with the names of the authors, occupies eight large quarto volumes, of about one thousand pages each, compiled and published at a cost of about ten thousand pounds, by the British Government and the Royal Society.
In discovery we search for new phenomena, their causes and relations; in invention we seek to produce new effects, or to produce known effects in an improved manner. The objects of the scientific discoverer are, new truth and greater accuracy; whereas those of the inventor, are increased usefulness and economy of results. The ancients classed inventors with the gods, because they considered them great benefactors to the human race. Discoverers may properly be viewed as priests and prophets of truth, because they both reveal new knowledge to mankind, and predict with certainty coming events.
A man cannot usually invent an improvement unless he possesses scientific knowledge, and, for that knowledge he must in nearly all cases resort to a scientific book or teacher. The great practical value of new scientific knowledge is proved by the fact, that when scientific discoveries are published, there are numerous inventors and practical men, who immediately endeavour to apply them to useful purposes. Since the first application of coal-tar to the production of dyes, every discovery in thatbranch of chemistry has been closely watched for a similar purpose.
A complete account of the growth and development of scientific discoveries and inventions would form an extensive history, and would include numerous instances of experiments attended by results which, sooner or later, affected all mankind. Take that of phosphorus, for example. The first evidence of the existence of that substance was obtained by the Saracens in the eighth century. Achild Bechil distilled a powdered mixture of charcoal, clay, lime, and dried extract of urine, and obtained a substance which shone in the dark "like a good moon;" that substance was phosphorus. The discovery contained in the results of that little dirty and stinking experiment was the germ or seed of all the subsequent developments and applications of phosphorus. About the year 1669 Bechil's experiment was further developed by Brandt, a merchant of Hamburg, and the publication of the wonderful properties of the substance produced a great sensation in his fellow-citizens. "There was then cried nothing but triumph and victory among the chymists. Those good people erected already in their thoughts so many hospitals and poor-houses that no beggar should more molest any man in the streets, made great legacies, and pious causes, and what not else." "Besides, the other alchymists did encourage him yet more, and desisted not to make him believe how this was the same fiery ghost ofMoses that in the beginning moved upon the water, yea, his splendid shining face: the fiery pillar in the desert, that secret fire of the altar wherewith Moses burned the golden calf before he strewed it upon the fire and made it potable."
The experiment of Brandt was repeated by Kunckel before the courts of Saxony and Brandenburg, although it was not a very delicate or agreeable exhibition, "because the anctuous and daubing oyliness was not yet accurately separated from it, and without doubt it was very stinking." Brandt's process was further developed by Boyle, and published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, in the year 1692-3; and phosphorus was afterwards obtained in larger quantity and in a purer state by Hanckwitz, a chemist in Southampton Street, Strand, and sold by him at three pounds sterling per ounce. Its price at present is less than three shillings per pound.
Margraaf, Fourcroy, Vauquelin, and Dr. Slare also extended our knowledge of the substance; Gahn, in 1769, made the important discovery of phosphorus in bones, and Scheele immediately devised the process now in use by our manufacturers for extracting it from that substance. The commencement of the use of phosphorus for the purpose of getting a light occurred about the year 1803, but it was not until the year 1833 that the invention of phosphorus matches became commercially successful. The use of such matches is now universal, and it hasbeen estimated that the daily consumption of them in Great Britain alone amounts to two hundred and fifty millions, or more than eight matches per day for each individual in the kingdom.
"There is nothing on the Earth so small that it may not produce great things." The most abstract and apparently trivial experiments in original research have in some cases led to inventions and results of national and even world-wide importance. The contractions of a frog's leg in the experiments of Galvani, and the movements of a magnetic needle in those of Oersted, have already led to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds in laying telegraph wires all over the earth, and to an immense extension of international intercourse. But the original experiment of Oersted was not discovered without labour, it was only arrived at after many years of research.
The saying that "all great things have had small beginnings," is true, not only of electric telegraphs, but also of the great trade of electro-plating, and of the magneto-electric machine which is now largely used instead of the voltaic battery. After Volta had made his small and apparently unimportant experiments on the electricity produced by metals and liquids, various persons tried the effect of that electricity upon metallic solutions. Brugnatelli, in 1805, found that two silver medals became gilded in a solution of gold by passing the electricity through them. Mr. Henry Bessemer, in 1834, coated variouslead ornaments with copper by using a solution of copper in a similar manner. And in 1836 Mr. De la Rue found that copies might be taken in copper of engraved copper-plates by the electro-depositing process. Faraday discovered magneto-electricity in the year 1831, by rotating a disc of copper between the poles of a magnet, and he has stated that the first successful result he obtained was so small that he could hardly detect it. This simple experiment was the origin of the magneto-electric machine, and many of these machines are now used for producing the electric light, and for depositing nickel, copper, silver, and gold, instead of by the voltaic battery. These, and other engines, thermic, magnetic, electric, &c, will probably, ere long, be constructed on as large a scale, and as many in number, as the present steam engine.
The discovery in olden times of the attractive properties of a fragment of iron ore, was the basis of the invention of the mariner's compass, which greatly improved navigation, and led to nearly all the chief maritime discoveries which have since been made. The sciences of magnetism and geometry form the basis of the art of navigation, and have thus made our great foreign commerce possible. The discovery of magnetism enabled sailing vessels to venture freely out of sight of land, and to traverse the wide ocean with even greater safety than to sail near the shore. By its means Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered America. By itsmeans also, Vasco de Gama sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and discovered a new route to India; and in the year 1500, another Portuguese Captain, Cabral, was driven across the Atlantic, discovered Brazil, and was enabled by the aid of the magnet, to send back a ship to Lisbon with news of the discovery. By its assistance also Magellan discovered Patagonia and the South Pacific Ocean; and by the completion of that voyage the Earth was first circumnavigated and proved to be a globe.
The geographical discoveries of the Portuguese, made by means of the magnet, produced great national results; they profoundly changed the balance of power and wealth among European nations, by changing the direction of navigation and of the great streams of commerce between Europe and the East. They gave a mortal blow to Italy and the cities of the Mediterranean, by transferring Eastern commerce to Spain and Portugal: and Egypt ceased to be the greatest route of commerce from Europe to India.
A singular contract relating to geographical research was made in the fifteenth century, between King Alphonso, of Portugal, and Ferdinand Gomez, of Lisbon, by which the latter engaged to navigate a ship and explore the coast of Africa, and to discover not less than three hundred miles of coast every year, the measurement to be made from Sierra Leone.
Scientific discovery has in all ages been a most powerful agent of civilization and human progress. The discovery of the black liquid which a solution of nutgalls produces when mixed with green vitriol, led to the invention of writing ink; and a knowledge of the properties of ink and paper prepared the way for the invention of printing, by means of which truth and learning have spread all over the earth.
The apparently insignificant property possessed by amber, of attracting feathers immediately after it has been rubbed, was known twenty-four hundred years ago, and afterwards led to the discovery of electricity. In later times, Dr. Franklin, by means of a kite, charged a bottle with lightning, examined it, and proved lightning and electricity to be identical. This knowledge, joined to the further discovery, that electricity would pass freely through metals, led to the modern invention of the lightning conductor, by means of which all our great buildings, ships, lighthouses, arsenals, and powder magazines are protected from lightning.
"Coming events cast their shadows before them:" the discovery of the instant transmission of electricity along wires by Stephen Gray and Wheeler, about the year 1729, fore-shadowed the invention of the electric telegraph. About the year 1819, Oersted, a Danish philosopher, after fifteen years of study and experiment, to ascertain the relation of electricity to magnetism, discovered that if a freely suspended magnetic needle was supported parallel and near toa wire, and an electric current then passed through the wire, the needle moved and placed itself at right angles to the current. This discovery, coupled with the previous one of the electric conductivity of metals, formed the indispensable basis of all our electric telegraphs.
Original research is very productive of new industries and inventions. The discoveries made by Volta, Faraday, and many other investigators, have led to the process of electro-plating, the use of electric lights for lighthouses, and for ocean steamships, and the great system of telegraphs. Those of Davy, Wedgwood, and others, respecting the action of light upon salts of silver, have resulted in the modern processes of photography, which are now in use almost everywhere. The discovery of zinc, by Paracelsus, has been followed by the use of that metal in galvanic batteries, and the great use of "galvanized" iron for telegraph wires, for roofing, and many other purposes. The discovery of nickel, by Cronstedt, has led to the great modern use of that metal in electro-plating, and to that of German silver in the construction of electro-plated and other articles. The discovery of chlorine, by Scheele, formed the basis of nearly all our modern processes of bleaching cotton and other fabrics. The discovery of gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine has led to the use of those substances in blasting rocks and in warfare. The discovery of oxygen, by Priestley, has enabled us to understand and improve in a great number ofways the numerous manufacturing, agricultural, and other processes in which that substance operates. Priestley made many experiments also on the absorption of gases by water, and proposed the resulting liquids as beverages; and those apparently trifling experiments have since expanded into the large manufactures of aërated waters. The discoveries of gutta-percha and india-rubber were indispensible to the great applications of those substances in telegraph cables, and in a multitude of useful articles. The discovery of chloroform and anæsthetics has led to their use for the purpose of alleviating human suffering. The discovery, by Sir Isaac Newton, of the decomposition of light by means of a prism, has led in recent times to the invention of the spectroscope; to the use of that instrument in the Bessemer steel process; to the discovery of a number of new metals, thallium, rubidium, cæsium, indium, and several others, and to the most wonderful discovery of the composition of the Sun and distant heavenly bodies.
Even the invention of the steam-engine was partly a consequence of previous researches made by scientific discoverers. Watt, himself, stated in his pamphlet, entitled "A plain Story," that he could not have perfected his engine had not Dr. Black and others previously discovered what amount of heat was rendered latent by the conversion of water into steam. "Each mechanical advance in the steam-engine has been preceded by and the result of the  Had not the steam-engine been developed, it is clear that railways, steamships, machinery, and all the other numerous uses to which that instrument is now applied, would have been almost unknown. The introduction of the steam-engine enabled abandoned Cornish mines to be relieved of water, and to be worked to much greater depths. The discoveries of nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, oil of vitriol, and washing soda, by the alchemists and early chemists in their researches, led to the erection of the numerous great manufactories of those substances which now exist in England and in other civilized countries. There is probably not an art, manufacture, or process, which is not largely due to scientific discovery, and if we trace them back to their source we nearly always find them originate in scientific research.discovery of some physical law or property of steam." "The first step in the invention of the steam-engine was the experimental research and the discoveries of the properties of steam by Hooke, Boyle, and Papin."
So far has scientific discovery, and its practical applications to human benefit by invention, now progressed, that every one considers this to be, par excellence, the scientific age. And as discovery and invention continue to progress with accelerated speed, we are encouraged to hope, not only that scientific principles will ultimately be universally recognised as the regulators of all technical industry, but also as a fundamental basis of morality.
"It is true that some processes of manufacture have not been consequences of abstract scientific discovery—that they originally resulted from alterations made in the rudest appliances, and that they have been directed and improved by the results of simple experience. For ages past we derived the benefit of scientific principles without a knowledge of their existence. We trod in the beaten paths of experience ignorant of the truth that we were acting in unison with fixed and certain laws. Numerous arts and processes were in extensive operation long before the principles involved in them were at all understood. The arts of enamelling and of iron smelting were known hundreds of years before we were acquainted with the principles of chemistry. In some rare instances also the recorded results of daily experience in practical matters, tabulated and studied, have ultimately led to the discovery of scientific laws; but all this is merely the making use of our ordinary experience for the advancement of knowledge, instead of making special experiments for the purpose."
Many of our processes and manufactures, those of glass and copper for example, are of such great antiquity, it is impossible to ascertain with certainty the special circumstances under which they originated; but after we have fully considered the ways in whichvarious modern trades and manufactures have first arisen, we shall come to the conclusion that all manufactures and improvements in manufacturing processes, must have been first produced by the same general means, viz., new observations, although the special circumstances connected with the origin of each were different.
Let us consider German-silver and its manufacture. That substance is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel; it owes its peculiar whiteness or "silver-like" appearance to the latter metal, and cannot be made without it; it is certain, therefore, that by whatever means that metal or the alloy was discovered, the discovery was the origin of the German-silver manufacture, and was essential to all manufactures, processes, or appliances in which German-silver, nickel, or any of its compounds are used. Nickel was discovered by Cronstedt during the year 1751, and its compounds were chiefly investigated by English and foreign chemists. Cronstedt found it as a peculiar metal in the mineral called kupfernickel, whilst chemically examining the properties of that substance. The general method by which he discovered it was careful experiment, observation, and study of the properties of matter.
It is stated that the Chinese and other nations made alloys of nickel long before nickel itself was known to be a distinct metal; they had found, by experiment, that when ores of copper and zinc were mixed with a particular kind of mineral and smelted,a white alloy was obtained; but this also proves the general statement already made, that the German-silver manufacture was originated by means of new observations. It was by a more skilful, but similar mode of procedure that Cronstedt isolated the metal itself, and thus laid a definite basis of improvements in the manufacture of its alloys.
No art is probably more antique, or remained longer exempt from the influence of science, than that of match making and obtaining a light. Many adult persons can remember the primitive and old-fashioned tinder-box, which had passed, with its flint and steel, from one generation to another without any material improvement. Phosphorus, it is true, was definitely discovered at least as early as the year 1669, but it was not applied to match making till about 1833. Since then the progress of invention has been so rapid that there are now numerous manufactories which produce many millions per day of phosphorus matches; for instance, those of M. Pollak, at Vienna, and of M. Fürth, in Bohemia, consume together more than 20 tons of phosphorus annually, and give employment to about 6,000 persons, and as one pound of phosphorus suffices for about one million German matches (or 600,000 English ones), those two makers alone produce the astonishing number of 44,800 millions of matches yearly.
Judging by means of the experience already acquired, we cannot reasonably expect thatdiscoveries fraught with such momentous consequences as those of magnetism or of galvanism and electro-magnetism, will be made very often. The progress of scientific discovery is gradual; we have at present but mere glimpses of the new world of truth which is being revealed to us by means of research; we are only at the very commencement of a knowledge of the inherent properties of matter and its forces, and consequently the methods we employ to utilize them are extremely imperfect. Matter has a general property of subdividing and transmuting forces; if we apply one force to a substance or machine, it produces many effects, not only those we want, but those also we do not want; when we heat a piece of iron, the heat produces a number of changes, mechanical, electric, magnetic, and chemical, and it is partly by means of what is termed the "internal resistance" of bodies that these effects are produced, and we know but little of that property. The explosive action in a gas engine produces not only the mechanical force we desire, but also a quantity of heat we do not want, and at a cost of a portion of the gas. In a similar manner, in the steam-engine the largest portion of the heat of the coal is converted into forces which are lost; a large amount of it is uselessly expended in warming the machine itself and the surrounding atmosphere; much also is lost by friction.
That "knowledge is power" is an old maxim, but that new knowledge is new power is a new maximwhich scientific discovery has impressed upon us. By means of discoveries we have acquired new powers; by those of electricity we have acquired the ability of conversing with each other at unlimited distances, and by means of those in optics we are enabled to analyse the composition, and perceive some of the physical changes of the most distant heavenly bodies. As our ignorance is probably much greater than our knowledge, more inventions also, and extensions of human power, must ultimately result from discovering new qualities of bodies, than by applying to useful purposes their already known properties.
Experience in science has already shown that it is by means of invention based upon new discoveries that the greatest utilities are obtained, rather than by the exercise of invention upon knowledge acquired long ago. The information obtained by research in former times has been largely exhausted for the purposes of invention by modern inventors, and what we very greatly require now is new knowledge. Experience in science also leads us to believe that the extent of possible discovery is as boundless as Nature, and that an immense amount of new knowledge may yet be discovered. Every discoverer of repute could supply a copious list of investigations yet to be made.
An infinite number of questions in pure science remain to be decided by means of research. Is Electricity decomposible like radiant heat or light?Are the "elementary substances" really compound bodies? Are they all compounds of Hydrogen? Are they all decomposed by very high temperatures, as compound substances are "disassociated" by less elevated temperatures? Under what conditions is Fluorine isolated? Do gases transmit heat by conduction? Under what circumstances is Light converted into Electricity? and into Magnetism? What is the actual size of an atom of Hydrogen? Does Light (without heat) expand bodies? What is the actual molecular arrangement of the atoms of Hydrogen at 60 Fahrenheit? What is the cause of the absence of metalloids in the Sun? What are the properties of Fluorine? What is the vapour density of Cæsium? Under what circumstances is heat wholly converted into mechanical power? &c., &c. All these discoveries when made, will probably, sooner or later, be productive of practical benefits to mankind.
Nearly every manufacturer in this country is deriving, from scientific discoveries, advantages for which there has been little or no payment made to the discoverers. The makers of coal-tar-dyes, and dyers of wool and silk, are using Mitscherlich's discovery of nitro-benzine. Manufacturers of picric acid and "French purple" have enjoyed the fruits of the labours of Dr. Stenhouse. Makers of chlorate of potash and cyanide of potassium are profiting largely by the discoveries of Scheele, Gay-Lussac, and others. All the percussion cap makersare indebted to Howard and Brugnatelli for fulminating silver. Railway-contractors, quarry-proprietors, and others, use nitro-glycerine discovered by Sobrero. Iron smelters are benefiting by the discovery of Bunsen, that 42 per cent. of the heat of the fuel was lost as combustible gases—these gases are now utilized. Telegraphists and electro-platers are also indebted to him for his voltaic battery. The producers of metallic magnesium owe the origin of their process to him as being the first to convert it into wire and make known its great light giving power. Multitudes of persons now use his well-known "Bunsen's burner" for heating, cooking, and other operations. The various telegraph companies, copper smelters, and makers of copper telegraph wire, are using Dr. Matthiessen's discovery of the influence of impurities on the electric conducting power of copper. Phosphorus-makers are reaping the reward of the labours of Gahn and Scheele. The makers of electro-plate and German silver are deriving profits from the labours of Faraday, who investigated electrolysis; of Gay Lussac, who discovered cyanogen; and of Cronstedt, who discovered nickel. Makers of Bessemer steel enjoy advantages derived from the spectrum discoveries of Kirchoff. Iron and copper smelters, metallurgists in general, dyers, calico printers, bleachers, brewers, makers of vinegar, red lead, varnishes, colours, soaps, green vitriol, phosphorus, oil-of-vitriol, and many others, are deriving benefit from the discoveries of Priestley and Scheele. Physicians and their patients are receiving the reward of the labours of Soubeiran, Liebig, and Dumas, in the discovery of chloroform; of the researches of Fourcroy, Vauquelin, Pelletier, and others, in the discovery of quinine; and of many other chemists who discovered numerous remedial substances. By means of the discoveries of Oersted and others, embodied in the telegraph, manufacturers are enabled to anticipate the state of the markets and of the weather, and editors are enabled to obtain the earliest news.
Suppose that Gay Lussac, in 1815, had not discovered cyanide of potassium, and that it had never been discovered, it is highly probable that the manufacturing returns of Birmingham and Sheffield would be much less in amount at the present time than they are, simply because there is no other known substance with which the electro-plating of base metals with gold and silver can be satisfactorily effected. Or suppose that sal-ammoniac, chloride of zinc, or other soldering agents had not been discovered, the extensive and so-called "galvanizing" process could not have been effected, because without those substances the iron articles immersed in the melted zinc would not have received an adhesive metallic coating.
On the other hand, science has in various cases rendered obsolete some manufactures and superseded old customs, comforts and conveniences. We have ceased, or almost so, to use tinder-boxes, snuffers,sulphur matches, rush-lights, tallow candles, sedan chairs, stage coaches, the ancient water-bucket and well, and even the comparatively modern pump; coal fires also are gradually being superseded by fires of gas, and articles formed of solid silver are now being replaced by those of electro-plate; canals have also to some extent been supplanted by railways. But in all these cases science has supplied us either with something better or more suited to our present wants.
The great pecuniary benefits arising from the applications of science are generally reaped in the first instance by the great manufacturers, agriculturists, merchants, and capitalists. Countless fortunes have been made by means of processes and manufactures based upon scientific discovery. The pecuniary benefits of calico printing, bleaching, dyeing; of the great manufactures of cotton, iron, pottery, beer, sugar, glass, spirits, vinegar, gutta-percha, india-rubber, gun cotton, the numerous metals, machinery, electro-plate, washing soda, German silver, brass, phosphorus, manures, the common acids, numerous chemicals, and a multitude of other substances and articles, have been extremely great. More than eighteen hundred million pounds of sulphuric acid alone are manufactured in Europe yearly. The pecuniary advantages of the use of the electric telegraph and railways to merchants, the gains of capitalists by monies invested in railways, telegraphs, steam-ships, cotton-mills, gas-works,iron shipbuilding, engineering, and other great applications of science, have been enormous. The annual gas rental of London alone amounts to more than two millions sterling; and even in Birmingham the produce of gas is more than twenty-five hundred millions of cubic feet yearly. The amount of capital expended in the construction of railways only in this country, has been estimated at more than seven hundred millions of pounds, and the total receipts upon British railways has reached forty-three millions per annum. In the year 1875 our railways carried 200 million tons of goods, and consumed ten million tons of coal; the Great Northern Railway alone consumes 5,000 tons of coal each week. In the year 1877 there existed in the entire world about 198,000 miles of railway, the whole having been constructed since the year 1825. In the year 1880 six hundred millions of journeys were made by passengers on British railways; and the stock of those railways included 13,174 locomotives; 369,694 waggons, 28,717 passenger carriages, and 22,712 other vehicles. The London and North-Western Railway Company alone possessed, in the year 1873, no less than 1,900 locomotive engines, each of a value of nearly two thousand pounds; 4,000 carriages and 36,000 waggons; and it has been estimated by competent authorities, that there are in the world 200,000 steam-engines, having a total power of twelve million horses, or 100 million men. The number of cotton spindles on the whole Earth is estimated at about 71¼ millions. In the United States of America there are about five thousand telegraph stations, and 75,000 miles of line, which transmit yearly about 11,500,000 messages.—The telegrams of Great Britain number about one-fourth of a million per week. The world's telegrams during the year 1877 numbered nearly 130 millions; and the world's letters about 3,300 millions, or 9¼ millions each day. Even the little phosphorus match is being manufactured and consumed at a rate estimated at more than ten thousand millions daily.
Much of the wealth of this country, resulting from science, has been very easily obtained by its possessors. That acquired by means of our coal has especially been obtained without commensurate effort. The amount of that substance raised in Great Britain during the year 1876 was 734 millions of tons. To draw upon a great stock of that mineral is like drawing money from a bank, because coal, unlike any other abundant substance (except wood and petroline), contains in itself an immense store of energy, which is evolved as heat during combustion, and may be utilized. Each piece of coal contains sufficient energy to lift its own weight twenty-three hundred miles, but it costs only a small proportion of that power to extract and raise it from the mine. I do not mean by these remarks to imply that the wealth accruing from this great store of power in coal is derived chiefly by the owners of coal mines.
This acquisition of wealth without commensurate sacrifice is not an unqualified advantage; it constitutes a debt to nature, which upon the great principle of causation, and of equivalency of action and reaction, must sooner or later be repaid. Judging from the infallibility of the action of those laws, and the signs of the times, this nation is now beginning to repay in the form of emigration of trade to other lands, and of relatively less rapid national advance, the debt incurred by undue pecuniary success. An excess of money or power obtained without equivalent effort, fails to properly develop the intelligence of its possessors, and nations have been hastened to ruin in this way. Our great success in getting money has attracted many from the pursuit of knowledge, and our love of knowledge has not increased as fast as our wealth. The wealth of the upper classes has, by decoying from study undisciplined young men at our old Universities, kept down the general standard of scientific instruction throughout the country, and, by leading to neglect of scientific research, is now retarding our progress in arts, manufactures, commerce, and civilization. The consequent relative poverty of the working classes is also producing similar effects by retarding education, and contributing towards the great deficiency of skilled labour, of which our inventors, manufacturers, and others so strongly complain in the working of their scientific processes. Had a just share of the great amount of money, gained by the application of science to usefulpurposes, been applied to the payment and maintenance of scientific discoverers and inventors, as it should have been, the general standard of scientific education would have been higher, the poor would have had more employment and money, and the happiness and civilization of all would have been greater.
In a usual way the greatest pecuniary benefits, arising from science, sooner or later go to enrich the possessors of land. The demand created for coal, iron, lime, building-stone, and all the metals, by the industrial applications of science, has greatly increased the value of land under which those substances lie. The value of cultivated land has been everywhere increased by the discoveries of agricultural chemistry. Land has also been required for railways in nearly all parts of the kingdom, and has thereby been considerably raised in value. Discoveries produce inventions, inventions give rise to processes and manufactures, the employment of workmen and others, and the erection of workshops and dwellings, and these have rapidly increased the value of building ground. In Lancashire the value of such ground has been greatly increased by the inventions of the steam-engine and machinery, the discovery of chlorine, and their application to cotton manufacture. In all the great manufacturing districts, and in all the chief centres of industry, a similar result has occurred. Wherever a railway has been constructed, the value of land has also increased inconsequence of the increased facilities of communication. All these great additions to the value of land are largely due to the unpaid labours of scientific discoverers, and it may be said that this nation has largely gained its wealth, and is still living in a great degree on the products of those labours. Those great additions to the value of land are also permanent, are continually increasing, and are largely independent of any exertions on the part of the owners. That many other influences, besides that of science, have contributed to the development of our manufacturing and commercial prosperity is also true, but it would be foreign to the subject of the present chapter to point them out.
It is a fallacious argument to say that scientific discovery and increased value of land are only remotely connected together, a cause as certainly produces its effect, however many connections lie between them, provided the connections are certain—the number of links in a chain makes no difference in the transmission of motion from one end of it to the other. Great causes are frequently distant and wide-spread in their effects. Persons in general can easily understand that an acorn planted in the ground will in the course of time become an oak, because it is a palpable and visible effect; but they cannot so readily perceive that the benefits resulting from a knowledge of science ramify through all our manufacturing, artistic, and commercial occupations, our social and moralrelations, and our every-day life, not because the dependence of our welfare upon science is less real, but partly because the connection between the two is less understood.
Not only has science benefited manufacturers, but also operatives, because the extension of science to manufacturing purposes has compelled them to make themselves acquainted with intellectual subjects. "Instead of remaining mere machines, mechanically performing the work set before them, they are obliged to exercise the faculties of observation and judgment in watching the results and directing the action of mechanical, physical, and chemical powers. Instead of following the blind path of experience, using unknown forces to accomplish some definite result, they pursue their labours with the aid of known and certain laws." It is true that in many cases artisans who have acquired a little knowledge of science have thereby been rendered conceited and unfit for their special employment, and this has made many manufacturers object to technical scientific education for their servants; but this would not be so much the case if scientific knowledge were more generally and equally diffused. Arguments are not unfrequently adduced to support the opinion that ignorance has its advantages; but, however great the advantages of ignorance may be, those of knowledge are greater.
In consequence of the labours of scientific discoverers and inventors, the progress of science issuch that in a very few years a knowledge of it will be indispensible to all persons engaged in superintending or carrying out manufacturing operations, and in all arts, occupations and appointments in which man is dealing with matter. Science is fast penetrating into all our manufactures and occupations, and "those who are unscientific will have much less employment and will be left behind in the race of life." England also will be compelled, by the necessities of human progress and the advance of foreign intellect, to determine and recognize the proper value of scientific research as a basis of progress. National superiority can only be maintained by being first in the race, and not by buying inventions of other nations.
The philosophy of matter is the foundation of all manufacturing arts and artistic processes; technical education, or the relation of science to manufactures, &c., can only be properly imparted upon the basis of a sufficient knowledge of theoretical science. Science tends to abbreviate mental and bodily labour. The use of our reason saves us the labour of using our senses, because it enables us to know that under certain conditions a certain effect must occur. The use of our reason and senses also saves us using our hands.
The properties of a single substance are so numerous that if a workman was to thoroughly study the whole of them, he would become a scientific authority in the subjects of heat, light, electricity,magnetism, and chemistry. A blacksmith who knew all the physical and chemical properties and relations of iron and steel would be quite a scientific philosopher.
No man has more occasion to bless the introduction of the steam-engine, machinery, the galvanic battery, and science in general, than the working mechanic, because it has mitigated his physical toil by giving him the duty of simply directing the labour instead of actually performing it; whilst it has deprived him of one kind of employment it has provided him with something better. But a few years ago the operatives in the silver-plating trade had to lay the silver on the articles with their hands, with the aid of a soldering iron; now they have simply to set their batteries in action and watch the electricity doing it for them. In a similar manner the working engineer at his metal-turning lathe has merely to direct the action of his tools whilst the steam-engine performs the heavy labour of turning.
There is not a man in this kingdom who has not derived some advantage, in one way or another, from scientific research. The advantages of gas light, electric light, rapid postal service and transmission of goods, railway travelling, steam-ships for navigation, cotton apparel, photography, cheap pottery, improved medicine and surgery, telegraphic forecasts of weather, Australian preserved meats, &c., &c., have been reaped more or less by everyone, even the very paupers. Not only has travelling beenconsiderably cheapened and immensely increased, but also rendered more safe:—in travelling by diligence in France the average number of persons injured was 1 to every 30,000 carried; and killed, 1 in every 335,000; but by railway, notwithstanding the average length of the journey has greatly increased, the former has been diminished to 1 in 580,000, and the latter to one in five millions; safety in travelling by sea has also been greatly increased by means of improved lighthouses. By the rapid transmission of messages by telegraphs and of commodities by steam-ships and railways, the horrors of famine have been largely diminished; the health of this nation has also been improved by greater variety of foods, and the increasing cost of meat has been restrained. It is well known that in periods of famine, the great loss of life has arisen, not from universal scarcity of food, but from the loss of time in ordering and conveying it. Whilst also the steam-engine has been the means of relieving hundreds of thousands of men from mere animal toil; it has, with the aid of the printing-press, supplied them with cheap daily intelligence.
Science has also proved itself to be a great source of employment, as well as wealth. By developing new processes it has given employment to whole armies of workmen in numerous arts, manufactures, and occupations. Some of those employments necessitating scientific training. About 300,000 persons are employed on railways alone in GreatBritain, besides those who were engaged in their construction; and in the postal department alone of the telegraph service of this country more than fifteen thousand operatives are employed. Chemical works also find employment for twenty-six thousand, and gasworks for ten thousand work people. The telegraphs of the United States of America alone, provide employment for about 7,000 persons; and the railways of the world employ about 1,900,000 men.
It may be objected that the extension of science in this country, instead of increasing employment for workmen has produced an opposite effect, by so increasing the production of goods by machinery, and by physical and chemical processes, that we have glutted the markets of the world in years gone by, and are now suffering the results of over-production. This is a very limited view of the case; over-production is only true of particular manufactures, and is a result of ill-directed commercial energy, to which manufacturing skill is only a servant. The objection also contains its own reply;—that it is certainly much greater to our advantage to have supplied other nations with manufactured commodities, than that other nations should have supplied us, as they would have done had they the manufacturing skill. At present, however, continental nations are gradually supplanting us in manufactures; and gradually supplying us with the goods which weformerly supplied them, and our fear is that this is largely a result of our neglect of science.
In many cases instead of superseding labour, science has changed its kind, or its mode of distribution;—in the case of steam-ships, instead of navigation being conducted entirely by nautical ability, it is partly effected by the skill of the engineer; conveyance of goods by road and canal has not been entirely supplanted, but partly supplemented by conveyance by railways. The diminution of labour which sometimes occurs in consequence of the progress of science is extremely small compared with its increase. The number of waggoners and horses now employed, merely to collect and deliver all the goods for railways, is actually much greater than the whole of those employed for conveying all the goods of the country before railways were constructed.
It would be altogether a false argument to say that the practical benefits derived from the labour of scientific discoverers by the different classes of the community are uncertain or imaginary, because the discoveries and the practical benefits are not in all cases immediately connected. We know that the consumers of tea in this country derive benefit from the grower of that herb in China through the hands of a series of intervening agents, as certainly as if they received the tea direct from his hands. Cause and effect are inseparable, and the remote effect of aseries of connected causes is not less certain than the immediate ones.
It is a remarkable fact, that of the multitude of rich manufacturers, merchants, capitalists, and land-owners in this country, who have derived such great pecuniary benefits from original scientific research, there is scarcely one who has ever given to a scientific society, institution, or investigator, a single thousand pounds for the aid of pure research in experimental physics or chemistry; the nearest approach to exceptions are a very few wealthy persons who have devoted themselves personally to scientific discovery. Manufacturers have willingly reaped the advantages of the labours of unpaid discoverers, but have not adequately sowed the means of future progress. Many of those manufacturers and others would, however, willingly give money towards such an object if they understood the value and the necessity of scientific research.
Whilst also many millions of pounds are annually expended in this country upon religious, philanthropic and other good objects, there is scarcely a scientific society or institution (with the exception of the Royal Society and the British Association) which expends even the small sum of five hundred pounds a year on pure experimental research in physics orchemistry. In the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the average annual expenses relating to experimental research, including salaries to assistants for research in the laboratory, from the year 1867 to 1871, did not amount to two hundred and fifty pounds. On the other hand, the "total net receipts" of the British and Foreign Bible Society alone, amount to about £213,000 a year. These circumstances strongly indicate extreme ignorance of the value and necessity of new scientific knowledge, and an equally strong desire to aid any good object which is understood. The money given to charitable and religious objects is largely a result of the unpaid labours of scientific investigators in the manner already described. The fact that verifiable truth is seriously neglected, whilst millions of pounds are annually devoted in this country to the support of dogmas and doctrines, proves that the English nation is even now in a very imperfectly civilized state.
Considering the multiplicity and variety of philanthropic institutions and bequests in this country, and the great effect original scientific research has in ameliorating the condition of mankind, and reducing the amount of human misery, it is surprising that no wealthy philanthropic individual has bequeathed funds for the endowment of an institution for pure research in physics or chemistry. In America, the Smithsonian Institution was founded at Washington by benevolent and patriotic persons, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men," and one of the objects of that institution is "to enlarge the existing stock of knowledge by the addition of new truths," and a portion of its plan is "to stimulate men of talent to make original researches by offering suitable rewards for memoirs containing new truths," and "to appropriate annually a portion of the income for particular researches."
What is the reason that scientific research is not sufficiently encouraged in England? It is chiefly ignorance. There are very few good and important subjects, understood by the public, which are not in this country greatly assisted, nor many valuable public servants, whose labours are understood, who do not receive liberal payment and reward; and scientific research and discoverers therefore are neglected, not wilfully, nor because persons are unwilling to encourage good objects, but because scientific discovery and its great value to the nation are so little known. Scarcely a member of our legislature, or of our Universities, is fully acquainted with the national importance of scientific discovery, and it would probably be impossible to find a subject of such great magnitude so little understood. Comparatively few persons have clear ideas of the essential differences between scientific instruction and research.
Scientific research can only be successfully pursued by employing the highest motive—viz., a love of truth in preference to all things; and this is a condition which very few persons really understand, and a principle which a still smaller number practise. Men in this country are so accustomed to be actuated by the less noble motive of immediate self-interest or of some apparent practical result, that they cannot perceive that in scientific investigation the most valuable results can only be obtained by employing the highest motive. However necessary and effective the motive of immediate self-interest or of apparent practical result may be in ordinary affairs of life, it will not enable a man to make many discoveries, because it leads him away from those which are possible to search for others which may or may not be possible. The beginning of discoveries are often so very small, that it requires acute senses and observation in order to perceive them; and if the mind is preoccupied with a desire to discover some particular practical object, new phenomena are overlooked. In discovery, man must follow where Nature leads.
Another cause of want of encouragement of research, is the natural selfishness which exists,though in very different degrees, in all men. Many wealthy persons wish things to remain as they are. Some manufacturers would not aid research unless they could monopolize its advantages. Students also generally prefer those subjects which are best rewarded, and do not sufficiently consider their intrinsic value. The love of truth for truth's sake alone is very weak in most men, and but few men make the greatest good their chief object in life.
The extreme ignorance in this country of the value of scientific research, is also largely due to the narrowness of the "practical" character of the English mind; men cannot perceive the deep-seated and universal sources of their wealth, and they prefer those occupations which yield the most obviously remunerative results. It is also partly due to scientific investigators themselves not having pleaded their own cause; such men have been so absorbed in the more important occupation of discovery, that they have, probably more than any other class of persons, neglected to enforce the just claims of their own subject. It is, however, chiefly caused by the influence of misapplied wealth, operating through the old Universities and large public schools. The sons of the wealthy are most of them educated at those institutions, and according to evidence supplied by University authorities to Royal Commissioners, many persons send their sons to those places for other purposes than to acquire learning, and allow them too much money. The considerable wealth of  In these various ways physical and chemical science has been kept very low in our chief seats of learning; and scientific research is greatly neglected by the governing authorities.these young men supplies them with attractions which decoy them from industrious study, and the wishes of the parents and students have been largely acquiesced in by the tutors and college authorities. At our old Universities also, physical and chemical knowledge is very much less rewarded than some other subjects, though latterly a considerable improvement has been made in this respect, but even now there is not a University in the kingdom in which a knowledge in scientific research is necessary in order to obtain the highest scientific honour.
It is reasonable to suppose that Universities should be fountains of new theoretical scientific knowledge, as well as be the disseminators of it, and that they (especially the old ones with their rich endowments) would be certain to promote scientific research, as being especially a part of their functions; but such is not the case. Our old Universities have not established any professorships of original research; they make no payment for such labour, nor reimburse any expenditure incurred in such occupation, and afford but little facility for the prosecution of pure scientific inquiry. Further, they discourage scientific discovery by giving the greatest emoluments, and thehighest honours in science they have to bestow, to young men who have never made a single original research, or discovered a new fact in science. The money paid in the form of comparatively sinecure fellowships, or retiring pensions to young men in Oxford alone, "now amounts to about eighty or ninety thousand pounds a year." It may be objected that young men are not capable of doing original research, but as they do it in German Universities, they can also do it in England, if they are properly disciplined, and are not decoyed from industry by the possession or expectation of wealth. A man who has never made a scientific research is not the most worthy recipient of the highest scientific honours, and in Germany it would not be given to him; he is not properly disciplined in the detection of error or the discernment of truth in matters of science; he is deficient in accuracy of scientific judgment, and in the true spirit of scientific inquiry.
It is unnecessary to speak of what has been done during the last few years at our old Universities and great public schools, in the erection of laboratories, and in other ways for the promotion of science, because it has been for the purposes of instruction, and not of original research. No amount of ordinary instruction in science will remedy the evils caused by want of original inquiry, because such instruction does not produce new knowledge, but only disseminates that already possessed.
Many persons in this country think that all scientific men are investigators, and that a portion of the funds of scientific institutions generally are expended upon investigation, but such is rarely the case. Many also consider that those scientific men who are applying new knowledge are discovering new truths. And nearly all persons look upon inventors as the only really practical scientific men, and upon discoverers as unpractical enthusiasts who spend their lives in pursuit of vague theories. But whilst the inventor is a great and useful agent of civilization, there is one behind him who is greater than he, viz., the man who provides him with the new knowledge upon which all his inventions must be based.
The general aspect in which scientific research is viewed by many persons in this country, is that of a refined intellectual pursuit, which may be encouraged and honoured for the purpose of maintaining the tone of society. The question, however, is not whether this nation shall encourage research as a refined intellectual occupation, but whether it will contribute towards its own welfare by aiding scientific discovery.
Many persons also look upon scientific research as a hobby or as unpractical, and upon discoverers as mere accumulators of knowledge, but this is simply in consequence of their ignorance of the subject; if discoveries were commercial commodities, the practical character of research would be within theircomprehension. A man who discovers knowledge for the use of invention is quite as practical a person as he who converts that knowledge into inventions fit for practical uses. The men who thus lead practical men must be practical themselves. Scientific discoverers may be considered the most practical men in existence, because their labours give rise to greater and more numerous practical results than those of any other persons. The discovery of a single substance, such as oil-of-vitriol, or washing-soda, has led to the formation of many valuable inventions, patented or otherwise, and to the establishment of thousands of manufactories. It is well known also that scientific discoverers are ardent lovers of truth, and are therefore very willing to communicate their knowledge for the good of mankind, and that manufacturers, men of business, and others, not unfrequently obtain from them and from their published researches, information of great value to themselves without even expecting to pay for it; forgetting that a scientific man may communicate in a passing remark, information which cost him years of labour to obtain.
Some persons also think that science is changeable and uncertain—that the discoveries of one generation are disproved by those of another, because they occasionally see scientific theories altered and superseded. But the real truth of the case is that the changes in the aspect of science which we continually witness do not often result from alterations in ourstock of positive knowledge, but from additions made to it. Demonstrable truth is imperishable. It is true that many theories have been invented and entertained for a while in the minds of scientific men, and have then passed away, but we must remember that these are only the scaffolding of science, and no part of its real fabric. They consist of ideas which, whilst they assist us in understanding science, and in making discoveries, form no real part of our positive knowledge.
Other persons seem to think that the laws of matter are different in the laboratory from what they are in the workshop; that the principles which regulate a scientific experiment are different from those which govern a large manufacturing process; but this is a wrong idea. The laws of matter are universal, substances have nearly the same properties in all places and in the hands of all men; water boils at the same temperature whether in the retort of a chemist, the saucepan of a kitchenmaid, or the pan of a soap-boiler; iron wire is as readily deprived of its rust in a chemist's acid bottle as in a wire-drawer's pickling tub; a piece of phosphorus will as readily ignite in the hands of a chemist as in those of a match maker; a galvanic battery yields the same quantity of electricity whether it be in the hands of an experimentalist or in those of a working electro-plater.
It is true that many things which have appeared very promising in theory or in experiment, havefailed altogether in practice, but why is this? it is not that the principles of nature operated in the one case and did not operate in the other, but that we have imperfectly understood them, that from some unforeseen circumstances we have been unable to apply them; or that we have indolently abandoned them without sufficient or proper trial. In many cases we are unable to obtain the same conditions of success upon the large scale that we have upon the small one. In other cases a process fails because of its too great expense; many attempts have been made to supersede steam as a motive power by means of electro-magnetism, and engines driven by that force have been constructed of five or ten horse-power, but the cost of driving them has been found to be at least ten times the amount of that of the steam-engine of equal strength. And in other cases we fail because we attempt at once to carry out upon a large scale that which has only been the subject of limited experiment, instead of enlarging the process by small degrees, and adapting the apparatus, the materials and the treatment, to the size of the operation.
That also which appears very simple in the hands of an experimentalist, almost invariably becomes much more complex when carried into practice in a manufactory, simply because there is then a greater number of conditions to be fulfilled. Electro-plating a piece of steel with silver is to a chemist a very simple matter, because it is of no importance to himwhether the silver adheres firmly, is of good colour, or is deposited at a certain cost; but with a manufacturer unless all these conditions are fulfilled, the process is a failure. These matters, however, belong to invention and not to original discovery.
We should not condemn theoretical science because we are not able, even with fair and persevering trial, to apply it to any useful purpose, but wait patiently until circumstances ripen for its application. Many inventions which are inapplicable in one state of knowledge become applicable by the progress of scientific research. The idea of an electric telegraph, attempted by Mr. Ronalds, in the year 1816, with the aid of frictional electricity, had to wait the development of the galvanic battery and the discovery of electro-magnetism before it could be successfully applied.
Many manufacturers seem to think that because some of their operations are completely routine, and have been handed down to them by their predecessors in nearly their present state, they are not at all indebted to science; but there is no manufacture, especially among metals, which has not in some degree been aided by scientific discovery.
In addition to the great benefits accruing from original research to all classes of society, our Governments have also derived immense advantages from the same source. The revenues have been greatly increased by the universal advantages conferred upon all kinds of industry and commerce byscientific knowledge. The additional taxes upon increased incomes from agriculture, arts, manufactures, mines; increased value of land and rents; investments in railway, telegraph, steam-ship and other companies, have been extremely great. From the sale of patents alone, a surplus sum of nearly six hundred thousand pounds has already accumulated. Our Governments are also indebted to original research for the use of percussion-powder, gun-cotton, improvements in cannon, projectiles, rifles, armour-plated ships, the ocean telegraph, field telegraph, the telephone, rapid postal communication, the speedy transport of troops and war-material, and a multitude of other advantages. The value of science to Governments in the prevention of war by means of more ready correspondence through telegraph is incalculable. Mr. Sumner, of America, at the period when the Atlantic telegraph was first employed, stated that the use of that telegraph averted a probable rupture between Great Britain and America. There was a period when we did not possess such evidence of the great value of science; but that time has now passed away, and our governing men have had abundant proof of the national importance of scientific discovery, and of the essential dependence of the welfare of this country upon scientific research.
Whilst vast sums of money are spent upon the applications of science in military and naval affairs, research itself is neglected; the superstructure isattended to, but the foundations are left to decay. A very small proportion of the money which is expended upon military affairs would, if devoted to research, save a great deal of expense in warfare:—
- "Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,—
- Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts,
- Given to redeem the human mind from error,
- There were no need of arsenals nor forts."—Longfellow.
Our Government has as yet made but little payment for the labour of pure research in experimental physics or chemistry; it has, however, given four thousand pounds a year for five years to be distributed by the Royal Society among scientific investigators, partly as personal payment. Income tax is deducted from these grants.
Want of recognition of the value of science has been so general in this country, that it is quite pleasing to quote a somewhat different case from the Illustrated London News, January 4th, 1873, viz., that of the late Archibald Smith, L.L.D., F.R.S. That gentleman was an investigator in pure mathematical science, and devoted the latter part of his life to the application of mathematics in the computation, reduction, and discussion of the deviation of the mariners' compass in wooden and in iron ships, and made practical deductions therefrom in the construction of those vessels. He published those practical applications of his scientific knowledge in the form of an Admiralty Manual, which was afterwards reprinted in various languages. Her Majesty's Governmentsubsequently "requested his acceptance of a gift of two thousand pounds, not as a reward, but as a mark of appreciation of the value of his researches, and of the influence they were exercising on the maritime interests of England and the world at large." The kind of labour rewarded in this case was not scientific discovery, but the practical application of previously existing scientific knowledge.
The case of the late Dr. Stenhouse, F.R.S., is one of rather an opposite kind. That gentleman devoted his life throughout to pure investigations in organic chemistry, and published several of his researches in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. His discoveries are very numerous, and although not much applied to practical uses by himself, the result of his researches on Lichens, and the yellow gum of Botany Bay, have been applied extensively by other persons in the manufacture of "French purple" and picric acid, and will doubtless continue to be applied to valuable uses. He held the Government appointment of Assayer to the Royal Mint, London, an office for several years unprofitable to him, but of increasing remunerative value, and which would have been subsequently worth £1,200 a year; but after the decease of his colleague, Dr. Miller, in 1870, that office, which was then worth to him about £600 a year, was abolished by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he lost the appointment, receiving, however, £500 as compensation. An application was therefore made to the Government, and a partial recompense to him was obtained, by Her Majesty granting him one hundred pounds a year "for eminence in chemical attainments, and on account of loss by suppression of office in the Mint." The only difference in these two instances, was, that in the second there was a very much greater amount of pure research and discovery, and a much smaller degree of applied knowledge.
These instances illustrate the statement, that however great an amount of valuable knowledge in pure science a man may discover and publish, or however freely he may provide others with the materials of invention and wealth, if he never invents anything, nor applies his knowledge to useful purposes, he is usually less rewarded even than an inventor. "The more intrinsically valuable the labour, and the greater the degree of profound original thought required to direct it, the less is it usually appreciated by the governing men of a nation." Absorbed in exciting questions relating to political emergencies, and national matters requiring immediate attention, even men of great administrative ability fail to appreciate the less direct though more fundamental sources of a nation's happiness and wealth. In harmony with these instances also, we find that it is not the pure sciences, but the concrete and applied ones, such as meteorology, geology, natural history, &c., in the Meteorological Department, theGeological Survey, the British and South Kensington Museums, the Geological Museum, &c., and the National Gallery of Art, which have received the greatest degree of support from our Governments.
That discoverers are not treated by us as we treat other valuable members of the community is quite clear; either a physician, a judge, divine, lawyer, or railway superintendent of high ability, obtain from one to many thousand pounds a year, but a discoverer in pure physics or chemistry is, in scarcely any case, paid anything for his labour. That most eminent discoverer, Faraday, received for his scientific lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, only £200 a year and apartments, during many years, and absolutely nothing for his great discoveries; and during the remainder of his life he only received a few hundred pounds per annum, including a pension of £300 pounds a year from Government. In contrast with this, the general manager of the Midland Railway has £4,000 a year. A General of our army receives £2,000, and a Field Marshal £4,000 a year (See "Whitaker's Almanack," 1873, pp. 121 and 138). A Head Master of either of the great public schools obtains from £3,000 a year upwards. An Archbishop of Canterbury receives £15,000 a year, besides a great amount of influence and power in the form of patronage to 183 livings, a palatial residence, and a seat in the House of Peers. A Bishop of London has £10,000, the patronage of 98 livings, and a seat in the House of Lords. I do not,however, mean to imply that these large emoluments are not deserved. Whilst also there are nearly 13,000 church benefices in England (See the "Clergy List," also "Whitaker's Almanack," 1873, pp. 153 and 155, and "Walford's County Families," 1872, pp. 173 and 610), there is scarcely a single appointment entirely devoted to scientific discovery, nor a single professorship in original research in science. I leave my readers to judge to what extent these instances illustrate the statement that discoverers are not treated by us as we treat other valuable members of the community. Partly in consequence of the foregoing neglect, the proportion of persons wholly devoted to scientific research in this country probably does not much exceed one in one million of the population.
It is scarcely credible that in a wealthy and civilized country, whilst the non-productive classes are protected in the enjoyment of titles and material wealth which in many cases they have not earned, the greatest scientific benefactors of the nation are constrained to live in straitened circumstances whilst working for the pecuniary and other advantages of those classes, and of manufacturers, capitalists, land-owners, and the nation in general. By these remarks it is not intended to imply that discoverers are intentionally neglected; but that the injustice they suffer is a disgrace to this country, and reflects discredit upon the governing classes, and especially upon those who reap the greatest advantage.
The men who are rewarded highly in this country are not always those who yield the greatest service to the nation, but frequently those who render the most immediate or most apparent benefit; to stop short at this cannot produce the greatest degree of success. The national services of a great discoverer are probably not equalled by those of any man. Who can estimate the value of the commercial, social, moral, political, and other great advantages to the world, of Oersted's discovery of the principle of electro-magnetism, which enabled the invention of the electric telegraph to be made? The men we reward the highest are not those who discover knowledge, but those who use or apply it; physicians, judges, bishops, lawyers, railway managers, military and naval officers, and head masters of schools, all of them gentlemen who render great services to the nation, by using, diffusing, and applying knowledge already possessed.
It requires less rare ability to apply knowledge to new purposes by means of invention, than to discover it; it is still less difficult to diffuse it by means of tuition and lectures, because the labours of a teacher consist largely of a repitition of other men's discoveries and inventions; and to use scientific knowledge in the ordinary business of every-day life, requires a still more common degree of ability.
A chief reason why ordinary business capacity is paid for whilst original research is not, is the fact that research is not considered a necessity; manypersons do not perceive its immense future value. Men perform those duties first which they feel they must: they are also willing to pay for the performance of those duties which press most urgently upon them, and defer all other kinds of labour that they consider will bear postponement. Most men act upon this rule, until they acquire a habit of sacrificing the future to the present, of neglecting more important matters in order to attend to less, and of living too much for money, without sufficient regard for the more valuable condition, viz., individual and national improvement. These circumstances also largely explain the fact that it requires more pressure to induce individuals or governing bodies to aid original research than to assist any other good object. Other chief reasons why persons in general cannot perceive the great practical value of new scientific truth are, because the perception of it requires a scientifically trained mind. The greatest truths are frequently the least obvious, and are therefore valued the least.
It may be objected that research is not aided, because it sometimes takes a long time to acquire a practical shape and make it pay. We do not omit to plant an acorn because it requires many years to become an oak; we do not neglect to rear a child because he may not live to become a man; but we leave scientific discovery to take care of itself. The intense desire which exists in this country for "quick returns" has shewn itself in the much greater readiness to aid technical education than to promotepermanent progress by means of original research. But the discoveries made in such a place as the Royal Institution of Great Britain have had a vastly greater beneficial effect upon civilization than that of any technical institution which has ever existed.
In a letter received by me from the Duke of Somerset, and which I have permission to publish, the true state of things in this country in relation to pure research is stated with remarkable accuracy and brevity:—
"The hindrances to scientific studies in this country are very many. The gentry are almost invariably educated by the clergy, and the clergy have seldom had time or opportunities for any scientific study. They usually take pupils or become tutors as soon as they have taken their degrees, and can only teach the Latin and Greek which they have themselves learned. The commercial classes value what they call practical science; this means some application of science for the purpose of making money. Competitive examinations may promote a superficial acquaintance with the elements of science, but are unfavourable to the development of scientific culture. The scientific associations tend to degrade science by exhibiting scientific men as candidates for applause from assemblies which seek amusement and startling results from lectures and experiments. The advancement of science, is therefore, left to comparatively few men, who are unregarded and unrewarded."
To remedy this state of things we require a general encouragement of pure scientific inquiry by the State and Universities. It is thought by some persons who have given special attention to the subject, that the State ought to encourage such research and science in general, by appointing a Minister of Science possessing scientific knowledge and good administrative ability; a Scientific Council to advise our Governments in all important matters relating to science; and by establishing State laboratories for pure scientific inquiry, with discoverers of repute in them wholly engaged in research in their respective subjects.
There are also many new experiments, investigations, and explorations, which neither private individuals, nor even corporate bodies, such as the Royal Society, the British Association, Geographical Society, can effectually make, and which only a Government can carry out, such as Arctic expeditions, trigonometrical surveys, deep sea dredging operations, magnetic observations, determinations of longitude, meteorological and astronomical observations, researches on tides, observations of earthquakes, determinations of the height of mountains and the density of the crust of the earth, experiments on the best form of ships, geographical explorations, and many others.
It is clear from the enormous advantages which this nation has already derived from scientific discovery in physics and chemistry, pursued with onlythe aid of the very limited means of private persons, that had research in those subjects been sufficiently supported, the manufactures, arts, commerce, wealth, and civilization of this country would have been much greater than they are; emigration also of the industrious classes, disease, pauperism, crime, the evil effects of famine, etc., would have been much less. The amount of knowledge and riches obtainable by means of research and invention is practically unlimited, and it is astonishing that this immense source of industry and wealth in a nation should have been so neglected by our Governments. The practical value of new scientific knowledge is vastly greater than that of all our goldfields or even of our coal supply, because it would not only enable us to obtain from coal several times the amount of available heat and mechanical power we now secure, but also to apply to our wants the numerous other materials composing the crust of our globe and the contents of our oceans; also all terrestrial forces, the internal heat, the tidal energy and atmospheric currents, and the immense amount of power this Earth is continually receiving from the Sun. Whilst at present vast amounts of materials and energy remain unutilized, nearly all those terrestrial substances and forces might probably be rendered of service to us if we possessed sufficient knowledge.
That scientific research is a far greater source of wealth and wellbeing than our stores of coal is easily proved. At present we obtain in our beststeam-engines only about one-seventh (or less) of the mechanical power producible by the combustion of the coal, the remainder being lost in various ways. And this occurs simply because we have not yet discovered a method of wholly converting heat into mechanical power. In some other instances we are able to convert one force wholly into another without loss, as for example: the chemical action of a voltaic cell into electricity; and by means of research we shall probably be enabled to effect a similar complete conversion of other powers into each other. The effect of converting heat wholly into mechanical power would be equal to increasing our stock of coals for that purpose to seven times its present amount. This instance is only one of the many thousand possible ways in which research may yet prove of value to mankind.
It is true that a very large amount of original research in physics and chemistry has been done in this country; the contents of our scientific journals and of the publications of our various Learned Societies prove this. It is also true that the English nation has been pre-eminently active in applying scientific knowledge to practical uses by means of inventions, and has been generally the first in carrying out inventions on a large scale. We have been either the first, or nearly so, in developing steam-engines, railways, locomotives, rapid trains, gas works, flour mills, blast-furnaces, cotton machinery, cheap postage, light-houses, electro-plating, lucifer-matches,  By means of our enterprise and capital also, the first railways, telegraphs, gas works, cotton mills, modern water works, suspension bridges, water wheels, harbours, lighthouses, &c., &c., in nearly all parts of the world were constructed; and foreign nations have been inducted into the practical methods of working our great manufacturing and technical applications of science.electric-telegraphs, submarine electric cables, great engineering establishments, iron ship-building, and many other important enterprises. Three out of four of all the great ocean steamers, and three-fourths of all the locomotives of the world were constructed in this country.
By means of English enterprise and skill the cities of Aix-la-Chapelle, Altona, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Frankfort-on-Maine, Ghent, Haarlem, Hanover, Lille, Rotterdam, Stolberg, Toulouse, Vienna, and others were lighted with gas. We formed Water Companies or Waterworks in Amsterdam, Berlin, and other cities, and drained Naples. We utilized the falls of the Rhone at Bellegarde, and thus obtained 10,000 horse-power for the use of the French manufacturers. We also sent the first steam-boat to Coblentz in 1817, and the first to America. We laid the first Atlantic cables. And as a general truth, we have been foremost in invention, application and enterprise.
Recent International Exhibitions however, and the migration of various branches of our trade to the Continent and America, have shown that the degree of our relative superiority in manufacturing skill is diminishing. Other nations, especially the German and American, perceiving the dependence of invention upon research, and the enormous pecuniary and other advantages gained by us, by the application of scientific knowledge to manufacturing and other purposes, have within the last few years aroused themselves, and are now pursuing pure science much more energetically than ourselves. A few years ago the relative number of original researches made per annum in England, France, and Germany were in the proportion 127, 245, and 777. Many of those made in Germany were valuable ones, and were made by Students in order to obtain a degree. Other nations are rapidly gaining upon us in the application of science to industrial purposes, and have even surpassed us in the extent of some of their manufacturing and technical operations. Many persons who have visited Europe and America at intervals during the last twenty years have testified to this.
The Vielle Montagne Zinc Company in Belgium employ 6,500 workmen, and produce annually 32,000 tons of zinc. The John Cockerill Company, engine-builders, Seraing, near Liege, employ nearly 8,000 men. Krupp, the great engineer at Essen, near Dusseldorf, employs about 10,000 workmen; his works at Essen alone cover 450 acres, and 1,000 tons of coal are consumed in them daily. The Anzin Company (Valenciennes) "is the largest coal company in the world, producing no less than 1,200,000 tons per annum, and employs 8,000 hands." The Chatillon and Commentry Iron and Coal Company (France), produce annually from 300,000 to 350,000 tons of coal and coke, nearly 70,000 tons of iron and steel, and employ nearly 9,000 workmen. At the Creuzot Ironworks (France), "the mineral concessions cover an area of nearly six square miles, the coal-fields nearly twenty-five square miles, the building 296 acres. There are nearly forty-five miles of railway between various parts of the works, upon which are generally running sixteen locomotives. The galleries in the mines are more than twenty miles long." 10,000 persons are employed in the works and the annual amount of wages paid equals £400,000.
Our practice with regard to original science has been very different from the plan carried out in Germany. Within the last few years great laboratories have been erected in Berlin, Leipzig, Aix la Chapelle, Bonn, Carlsruhe, Stuttgardt, and other places, at the expense of the State, and special provision has been made in them for original scientific research. A glance at the frequently published list of scientific investigations made in different countries will shew us that the Germans have been making a far greater number of discoveries in science than ourselves.
Sir R. B. C. Brodie, Professor of Chemistry atOxford, speaking of his experience when a student at Geissen, in Germany, states: "I say that the enthusiasm and earnestness of the young men in the laboratory was quite unparalleled in my experience at Oxford. The dilettante sort of way in which things go on there is very inferior indeed to the way the German students study. At Heidelberg, I have been told, there are about eighty professors, and amongst those professors are some of the most eminent men in Europe, so that they have a staff quite unsurpassed."
The industry of the Germans in scientific research is quite remarkable, they are availing themselves of the great fountain of knowledge to a much greater extent than ourselves, and are already beginning to reap the reward. Within the last few years they have succeeded, by means of researches, in making alizarine, the colouring principle of madder. "England produces immense quantities of benzene, the greatest part of which goes to Germany, there to be converted into aniline dyes, a considerable quantity of which goes back to England. No other country is so far advanced in the manufacture of the coal-tar colours as Germany. The quantity of alizarine manufactured by the German makers far surpasses the English production." (See "Alizarine, Natural and Artificial," by F. Versmann, New York, 1873). Statements of this kind are frequently published, and made by our manufacturers and others, of the departure of branch after branch of our manufactures to the Continent, and of continually increasing importation of foreign-made articles.
Some persons, having become aware of the cosmopolitan nature of scientific research, have suggested that it is a matter of no importance to us as a nation whether we make researches or not, as foreigners would make them, and we could apply them. But no honourable man would, after reflection, seriously maintain such a proposition, because it implies a willingness to obtain from the labours of other persons, advantages without paying for them. It is partly this absence of a desire to pay for the labour of investigation, which is now damaging the manufacturing and commercial prosperity of this country. It is also certain that however much we may have hitherto succeeded commercially, without making payment for research, we should have succeeded much better had we properly assisted investigators in pure science. Our success has hitherto been obtained, not in consequence, but in spite of the disadvantageous circumstances under which discoverers have laboured.
The commercial argument in favour of encouraging research, although the most effective with the great mass of persons, and therefore much dwelt upon in this chapter, is however quite a secondary one; the encouragement of truth for the sake of its own intrinsic worth, in preference to the material or extrinsic value of its results, should be the foundation of all aid to discovery. Justice, also, ought to come before all minor considerations, and no upright man would wish for a moment that anyone, and much less the greatest scientific intellects in the country, should work for his benefit without being remunerated.
It has been objected that Continental nations, the Germans in particular, have pirated our patents, infringed our designs, imitated our labels, used our names, and taken our improvements wholesale, and this may be true. But we still have had by far the largest portion of the reward of our greater energy and inventive skill; we have had the great advantage of being first in the markets of the world; and that advantage can only be retained by our being the first in the pursuit of original research, as we have so long been in the application of science to industrial arts, and not by purchasing foreign inventions, nor by accepting gifts of unrecompensed researches.
Nations as well as individuals are apt to push to an extreme the means by which they have succeeded in gaining either riches or power. We have devoted ourselves relatively too much to the pursuit of money and too little to the pursuit of knowledge. The desire for wealth is in this country so great, that probably nothing but a loss of that wealth will ever make us properly encourage the pursuit of new knowledge.
Whilst research is being neglected, manufacturers and others in all directions are asking for improvements in their machines and processes; employers of steam engines want to obtain more power from the coals; makers of washing soda wish to recover their lost sulphur; copper smelters, want to utilize the copper smoke; glass makers wish to prevent bad colour in their glass; iron puddlers want to economise heat; gas companies are desirous of diminishing theleakage of gas; iron smelters wish to avoid the evil effects of impurities in the iron; manufacturers in general want to utilise their waste products and prevent their polluting our streams and atmosphere; and so on without end. And inventors are continually trying to supply these demands, by exercising their skill in every possible way, with the aid of scientific information contained in books; but after putting manufacturers and themselves to great expense, they very frequently fail, not always through want of inventive skill, but often through want of new knowledge attainable only by means of pure research. Judging from the vast amount of inventive skill already expended upon the steam engine, and the small proportion of available mechanical power yet obtained from the coals consumed in it, it is highly probable that a machine for completely converting heat into mechanical force cannot be invented until more scientific knowledge is discovered.
It must not be supposed from these remarks, that discoveries which will enable a man to make any particular invention, can be produced to order; that is only true to a very limited extent. Men are beggars of nature, and must not expect to be permitted to choose her gifts, or dictate what secrets shall be disclosed. We may however be certain that if we acquire a very much greater supply of new scientific knowledge, we shall then be able to perfect many good inventions, though not always of the kind we wish, or in the way we expect. The great sewage questionmay perhaps be solved in quite an unexpected way, possibly by the discovery of some substance capable of precipitating ammonia and organic matter from their solutions.
Nearly all our manufacturing processes are full of imperfections; thus the loss of gas by a single large provincial gas company, after that substance has left the works, amounts to nearly one hundred and fifty millions of cubic feet per annum, and to a value of about £18,000; and the soil of all our large cities and towns is permeated and rendered fœtid by coal gas. And it has been stated by an eminent authority in such matters that we might save 500,000 tons of coal a year by economizing the waste heat of furnaces, by purifying the coal, coking it, etc. In a single chemical manufactory, out of about two thousand tons of hydrochloric acid used per annum, about eight hundred tons have been allowed to flow away as a polluting substance, because it was not possible to utilise it. The loss of material from a single large glass works equals fourteen hundred tons per annum, and a value of £8,000. Similar grave defects might be pointed out in nearly all our large manufactures, by those acquainted with the subject.
Inventions are wanted for quickening the process of vinegar making, and diminishing the percentage of loss of the acid. For bleaching discoloured fats. For quickening the process of converting cast iron into malleable iron. To easily separate nitrogen from the oxygen of the atmosphere. To economically convertthe nitrogen of the air into valuable products, such as nitric acid and ammonia. To find uses for the immense quantities of minerals which abound all over the earth; to utilise wolfram and find applications for tungstic acid; to apply titanic acid to great industrial purposes; to produce aluminium on the large scale, as we now produce iron. To tan leather more quickly, and without detriment to its quality. To prevent the rusting of iron. To more perfectly prevent smoke. To collect and use the sulphuric acid of the salt cake consumed in the glass manufacture. To make window glass by means of common salt. To deodorise offensive substances. To find larger uses for phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, and common salt. To remove phosphorus and sulphur from iron ores, and sulphur from coal and coke. To obtain a good white alloy as a cheaper substitute for German silver. To convert white phosphorus into the red variety by a less dangerous process than the present one. To prevent the putrefaction of "peltries" in glue making. To obtain better and cheaper materials for colouring glass. To more perfectly prevent animal food from change. To obviate or prevent explosions in mines. To perfectly purify ordinary red lead for making flint glass. A cheaper process for converting common salt into washing soda; and so on without end.
We also very badly require a method of recording our thoughts in readable forms upon paper, without the slow and laborious process of writing. An incalculable amount of brains and of intellect, especially ofthe greatest thinkers, would be saved by such a discovery. The curative arts also are permeated with empiricism, and thousands of lives of persons of all classes of society, are annually lost in this country through want of a more perfect scientific basis of medicine, attainable only by means of experiment and observation.
In this country, such great practical results have been obtained by means of invention, that many persons suppose a sufficiency of inventive skill will enable us to effect every possible scientific object, and are surprised that no one can invent a plan of utilising the entire heat of coals, or a mode of overcoming the sewage difficulty, or prevent the great leakage of coal gas, or arrest epidemics, or produce a steam engine which shall work without waste of power. The progress of invention however depends upon that of discovery, and these various inventions, etc., wanted by manufacturers and others probably cannot be perfected until suitable new knowledge is found. Every new invention has its own appropriate discoveries, by means of which alone it can be perfected; it was not possible to perfect the idea of an electric telegraph before the discoveries of Volta and Oersted were made. According to scientific laws, out of everything proceeds everything, and out of nothing, nothing can come, even ideas are not created. An unlimited number of inventions cannot be made by means of a limited amount of scientific knowledge; and our present stock of such information applicable toinvention, is very insufficient. One great reason why only a small portion of patents are of practical value; and so many useless ones are taken out is, that in consequence of our so-called "practical" spirit, we overestimate the power of invention and under-value the discovery of new abstract truths; because also invention has done so much, we think it will continue to do so, but the latter depends upon a continued supply of discoveries.
Nearly every manufacturer is aware by painful experience of the great and almost incessant variation that occurs in the quality and properties of the materials used in his trade, and the frequent risk of failure of his process. In the manufacture of iron, for example, the presence of much phosphorus, sulphur, or silicon in the ore is liable to be very detrimental to the quality of the iron produced from it; in the manufacture of glass, the least quantity of iron in the materials will seriously injure the colour of the product; in the selection of copper for telegraph wire, if it contains the least trace of arsenic, the wire will not conduct the electricity properly. The difficulties experienced in procuring suitable materials for a manufacturing process are in some cases very great; and when they are procured, additional difficulties arise from the inability of the manufacturer or his manager to analyse them.
Every manufacturer is also aware that the difficulties encountered in manufactures are not limited to the substances employed, but extend to all the differentprocesses and stages of processes through which these substances have to pass, and to all the forces, tools, machinery, and appliances employed in those processes; in the manufacture of glass, for example, the greatest care has to be exercised in the making and gradual heating of the pots in which the glass is melted, the proportions of the materials, the construction of the furnaces, the management of the heat, and a whole host of minor conditions too numerous to mention, all of which must be attended to with the greatest care. In the manufacture of iron and steel, the smelting of copper, the refining of nickel, the preparation and baking of porcelain, and in many other trades, innumerable difficulties, all having their origin in the properties of matter and forces, continually beset the manufacturers. In some cases difficulties occur which perplex both the workman and the scientific man called in to his aid, and so far from an unscientific workman being able to overcome them, even with the aid of the scientific man, he is unable to do so.
The hidden difficulties which beset a manufacturer are not unfrequently so inscrutable that the present state of knowledge in science fails to explain them. Who can tell why it is that wire-work of brass or German silver becomes gradually brittle by lapse of time? Or why varnish made in the open country has different properties from that made in a town? Or why silk dyed in Lyons should possess a finer colour than the same silk dyed by the same process in Coventry?With our present extremely imperfect knowledge of Physical and Chemical science, we can perhaps hardly form an idea of the amount of knowledge yet to be discovered respecting the phenomena which manufactures present.
One of the inevitable results of these difficulties in manufacturing processes and of deficiency of knowledge, is the production of a large amount of goods of an inferior quality; and useless goods, technically called "wasters," the cost of which has to be laid upon the saleable ones, and thus the price of the latter is enhanced to the consumer. For instance, flint glass discoloured by iron has sometimes to be sold at a loss for making common enamel; waste window glass has to be sold as "rockery" for ornamenting gardens, and defective articles of glass or metal have to be re-melted.
In consequence of this want of new knowledge, manufacturers continue to suffer losses which might be avoided; high prices of useful articles are maintained; defects in their quality are not improved; preventable accidents still continue to happen; the health of workmen continues to suffer; many means of curing diseases remain unknown; medical practice remains full of empiricism, &c., &c.
The great sewage question is apparently in this predicament; we are probably trying to solve it without first discovering the requisite knowledge; inventors, engineers, and consulting chemists have racked their brains, and have not been able to devise a satisfactoryremedy, and meanwhile the health of the entire population of this country is suffering. If we so neglect the fundamental means of ameliorating our condition we deserve to suffer. One would suppose that cholera, contagious diseases, colliery accidents, pollution of air and water, enormous waste of heat from fires, and a multitude of other evils which depend upon physical and chemical conditions, are of but little importance, that we should so neglect one of the most effectual means of preventing them; and it is perfectly clear that by neglecting to aid research, those who gain so much money and advantage from original science, and render no return, are unwittingly sacrificing national interests upon a large scale to personal benefit.
The practice of some manufacturers using and deriving great profit from new knowledge evolved by research, without recompensing the discoverers, sometimes causes injury to the public welfare by preventing the publication of discoveries which have an immediate practical application. Experience of this kind has constrained me to postpone the publication of a method I have found of readily and quickly converting lumps of white phosphorus into the red variety in a state of powder without protracted heat or grinding.
"What will be the next chapter of British enterprise and invention, and who and where the men to perform the chief part in it? As to the work to be done, there can be no doubt or mystery, for not a day passeswithout loud complaints, indignant remonstrances, fatal oversights, sad mis-calculations, terrible shortcomings, social or material evils to be remedied if possible, whole masses of people, indeed whole classes to be succoured and lifted out of the slough, and enormous difficulties placed by nature in our way evidently that we may exercise our wit and our virtues in the attempt to overcome them. Here, from all these Isles, there arises a despairing cry from agriculture, as if it had really reached the end of its tether, and had found itself landed in utter helplessness and insolvency—a bad speculation altogether. Here are countless problems, and at the same time countless discoveries, which if they lead to nothing else, prove the inexhaustible nature of our dominion over the elements. Then, for the sea, with its terrible average of wreck and total loss running on without intermission and with but rare abatement, who shall say there is here no work for the discoverer and inventor who will give his heart and soul and mind to it?"
It is indeed high time, that by means of discoveries which will enable us to predict with certainty the nature of coming seasons, we shall be better enabled to cope with adversities in agriculture; also, that the numerous wrecks, and the thousands of lives lost with them every year on our coasts, should be diminished. But these desirable results cannot be effected by invention based upon insufficient knowledge; invention must be preceded by general as well as special research, because the former often discloses importanttruths which we cannot predict. Our present electric lights in light-houses and on large ocean steamers, had their origin, not in direct inventions or special researches for the purpose, but in abstract researches on apparently remote subjects.
It is nothing less than a national crime that proper provision has not yet been made for investigating scientifically the causes of famine and pestilence, also physiology and pathology, and the discovery of the laws which regulate diseases and epidemics. What can be more painful to behold than a mother and father deprived of a whole family of five or six children in rapid succession by scarlatina or other contagious disease, and both the parents and medical men utterly unable to save them; and this is a common occurrence. Persons who are ignorant of science look with an abject feeling of helplessness upon great national calamities, and even upon private afflictions, such as a local epidemic, as if there was absolutely no remedy, whilst scientific men believe that by extension of knowledge, such evils might be largely avoided or prevented.
Many persons however, actuated by the very kindest of motives, but insufficiently acquainted with the necessity, conditions, results, and advantages of experiments, unwittingly obstruct the discovery of new knowledge in physiology and pathology, by attempting to prevent experiments being made upon animals.
We should not strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Nearly every step in life involves a choicebetween two alternatives, and this is the case with experiments upon living creatures, either such experiments must be made, or the wholesale slaughter of men and other animals, by pestilences, epidemics, small-pox, foot and mouth disease, &c., must continue. Many of the properties of living bodies, like those of dead ones, can only be ascertained by means of experiments, no other course is possible; and the knowledge so obtained enables us not only to prolong the lives but also to alleviate the sufferings of all kinds of living creatures. Nearly all our medical and surgical knowledge has been obtained by observation and study, either of the results of experiments made by ourselves, or by the course of nature for us; and the former is often attended by immeasurably less pain and expence than the latter. No one who has ever made in a proper manner new experiments, would venture to assert that valuable knowledge is not gained by them; and this statement is as correct of experiments in physiology as in all the other sciences.
The total amount of pain inflicted upon animals by vivisection experiments in this country is infinitesimally small—because, firstly, the proportion of experimentalists in so-called "vivisection," does not amount to one person in one million of our inhabitants:—secondly, students cannot be induced to enter upon scientific research in physiology, because such labour is unrewarded, either by enabling them to obtain certificates, degrees, or money. Whatever pain also,is inflicted in such experiments, is by men of the highest eminence in physiology, and therefore by the most competent persons.
Experimental research is an occupation requiring an exceptional kind of ability and experience; and persons who have never made experiments, nor studied their relation to human welfare, are largely incompetent to determine when and how they should be made, the real effects of them, or the value of the knowledge they afford. To persons inexperienced in scientific research, many experiments appear useless, which have great practical value, either immediately or at a later period. Our greatest curse is ignorance; and knowledge, by enabling us to avoid the fatal effects of pestilences, and epidemics, is as necessary as food to mankind. The "Anti-vivisection" movement however is but one of the phases of the ever-existing conflict between the advancing and retarding sections of mankind.
Greater sympathy with suffering accompanies greater civilization. The increased humanity of the present age over that of previous ones, is largely due to the discovery and extension of new scientific knowledge. Science, by showing more clearly to man his true position in nature and in relation to his fellow-men and other animals, has rendered more evident the concrete fact, that the happiness of each depends upon the happiness of all, and the happiness and welfare of all upon that of each individual. It has also operated in a more apparent, though lessimportant way, by inculcating better systems of hygiene, improved sanitary arrangements, &c, &c. It is not to the zeal of "anti-vivisectionists," but to the well-directed labours of experimental medical men, that mankind are indebted for the discovery and invention of nearly every known method of preventing and alleviating animal suffering and of prolonging human life. This statement is true of vaccination, the use of chloroform in general surgery, dentistry, and midwifery, of carbolic acid spray in surgical operations; the abolition of the practice of searing amputated limbs with a red-hot iron; and many other improvements. Ferrier's comparatively recent vivisection experiments have already enabled medical men to treat more successfully those formidable diseases, epilepsy and abcess of the brain.
What this nation badly requires, is not less experimental research, but more. When famines result from insufficiency of Solar heat, instead of investigating the conditions of the Sun's surface to enable us to predict their occurrence and provide accordingly, we allow them to come upon us in our unprepared state and produce their fearful effects. When contagious disease overtakes us, what do we do? Instead of previously employing and paying scientific investigators to make experiments in physiological and chemical science, to enable us to combat it successfully, we vainly attempt to apply our present stock of chemical and physiological knowledge to ward off the difficulty. When high price of fuel intervenes, insteadof previously giving discoverers the means of finding new principles relating to heat, and to chemical, and electrical action, we ineffectually endeavour by means of invention, to economise fuel. These are the pottering, short-sighted, and ignorant ways in which "the great English nation" temporises with great evils, and permits national welfare to be sacrificed to private gain, instead of employing for the discovery of new knowledge some of that superfluous wealth which in many instances is a curse to its possessors.
2 ^ Essays and Addresses, Owen's College, 1874, pp. 172-182.
3 ^ See Chapter 2, Section B.
4 ^ In the year 1870, a gentleman of the name of Davis bequeathed £2,000 to the Royal Institution, London, to aid original scientific research.
5 ^ As a notable exception to the above statement:—"Scientific research has now an Institute of its own in Birmingham, without being indebted to the public funds. A fund has already been collected for carrying on the work. The building is called 'The Institute of Scientific Research.'" See Nature, January 7th, 1881, p. 366; the Athenæum, February 5th, 1881, p. 204; the English Mechanic, p. 537, February 11th, 1881.
6 ^ Professor Bache left 50,000 dollars, and Smithson bequeathed 541,000 dollars to this Institution.
7 ^ Respecting the Members of our Houses of Legislature, a former Postmaster-General remarked to me, that a dose of scientific research would be too much for them.
8 ^ The Victoria University has recently become a partial exception to this statement.
9 ^ See "Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers," vol. 5, pp. 719 and 890; and vol. 8, p. 1,010.
10 ^ See Nature, April 24th and May 1st, 1873, pp. 485 and 13; also Work and Wages, by Brassey, pp. 170 and 178.
11 ^ Note.—See "Work and Wages," by Brassey, p.p. 15-131 and 132; also the "Laboratory," vol. 1, p.p. 313-316, 378 and 380.