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in any considerable degree, and not by weighing probabilities,-Dot therefore we cannot see how they by pointing out faulty reasoning in can be greatly improved by the him who suggests them,—but simstudy of the mathematics.
ply by recalling some or all of the It is generally held forth as one previous problems on which the of the peculiar glories and advan- truth of that which is doubted tages of the mathematics, that they rests. The study of the mathetake nothing for granted; and that matics bas very happily and aptly every thing they assert is capable of been compared to sailing in the the strictest demonstration. Now trade winds: no skill, and but very this very circumstance, in our opi- little attention is required in the nion, disqualifies them from being master or crew; the sails being set, of great utili:y to the improvement the ship is borne forward in her of the reasoning faculty. No per- proper course without their direction son will contend, that the reasoning or assistance. There are no diffifaculty is in the least called into culties ; there is no necessity to exercise in assenting to the axioms take down the sails—to tack, or to of Euclid ; they are self-evident. exert their nautical skill. So it is Let us ihen come to the first pro- in mathematics : the mind is borne position : does not this depend upon forward by the very nature of the the axioms, or upon what is equally study in which it is engaged: proself-evident, that is, upon the con- vided it understand, remember, and tradiction involved in the very sup- apply wbat is past, it cannot bave position that this proposition is not the smallest difficulty in compretrue? But all the subsequent pro- hending the highest branches of positions depend on the axioms, this department of science. postulates, and first proposition; or,
that there is in other words, the most abstruse scarcely any room for the display of propositions in the highest branches the national character in the study of the pure mathematics, depend of mathematics: of course the ap. on others less abstruse ; and these plication of the mathematics to the again on others less abstruse, till we other sciences, or mixed matbema. descend to the axioms and plainest tics, as it is called, afford more problems of Euclid. And let it be room for this display. Since the remarked, that this dependance, or time of Newton, Britain certainly flowing of all the propositions from bas not retained the high rank sbe one small aud single source, is not then possessed among the nations a dependance that requires our of Europe for mathematical science: reasoning faculties to trace it, or and at present, her fame must that in the smallest degree is made rest rather on her advances and out by those faculties.
The mind discoveries in Chemistry, than on is as passive in perceiving and as- those which she has made in the senting to the truth of the most pure or mixed mathematics. abstruse problem, as it is in perceiv- Between the period when matbeing and assenting to the truth of matics declined among us, and the first axiom : the assent is invo- the time when chemistry began to luntary; indeed demonstration can assume the dignity of a science, produce no other species of assent: Electricity seems to have occupied if any doubts arise, they are quelled, the scientific men of Britain. But
though the facts in this branch of tention and reflection must always science are numerous, and many of be on the alert. But this is not all: them, illustrating and confirming the chemist must account for the one another, may be arranged in effect he sees produced; he must classes; yet a systematic form never class or reconcile it with the general can be given to Electricity, till its principles of the science.
From first or general principles are more the midst of many circumstances, certainly and clearly laid down: all of which perhaps seem to have and this cannot be done so long as contributed to the effect produced, the very nature of the agent that he must select those which were produces the effects to which the really operative, and pass by those name of Electricity is given, is so which, though present, did not utterly bid from the cognizance and exert any influence. Even his expower of man. Notwithstanding periments must not be made at all the attempts to form such a random: as general principles must theory of Electricity as will ac- be deduced from their results, so count for the facts of this science, they in their turn ought to be it will be found, on close exami- planned and pursued in conformity nation of every such theory, that it to general principles. is merely the annunciation, in dif- In chemical science two extremes ferent words, of those facts; or, at are to be avoided : on the one hand, the best, the classification of them an accumulation of unconnected under general beads. Electricity, facts and experiments, that lead to therefore, bas employed, and may no general result; and on the other employ, the diligence and skill of hand, a fondness for forming systems experimentalists ; but being as yet and theories before the scienceis without the range of the reasoning sufficiently advanced for their profaculties, it is not calculated to call per and legitimate formation. forth, in any striking degree, the Hence it will appear that Chedisplay of the peculiar intellectual mistry is a science that admits of features of any nation.
the full display of the peculiar It is otherwise with Chemistry: features of national intellect; and we know of no study which calls Britain may be justly proud that for the exercise, and consequently she is not behind any other country advances the improvement, of so in this delightful and useful science, many of the mental faculties. It and that her chemists are strongly requires attention—not merely the marked by those grand features attention of the eye, but the at. which we have attempted to shew tention of the mind : in chemical constitute the intellectual character experiments so many agents are at of this nation. work,—some of them not cogni- In estimating the rank which zable, or even to be suspected, un- Britain is entitled to maintain, on less by the most accurate observer, account of her advances in Cheand who to accurate observation mistry, three circumstances ought unites a knowledge, and a constant to be borne in mind, and duly and ready recollection, of every weighed. In the first place, the chemical agent that can exist and discoveries made in Chemistry; in operate under the circumstances of the second place, the successful the case,—that the powers of at- attempts to give to Chemistry the
soul (if the expression may be al- the same electrical state, their comlowed) as well as the form of a ponent parts would repel each other, science ; avd lastly, the application and consequently they would be deof Chemistry to practical purposes. composed. He made the experi
So far as discoveries in Chemistry ment, and succeeded. Here we see ought to be regarded in estimating a striking instance of all the species the rank which Britain is entitled to of intellectual merit which an exhold, on account of her advances in periment in Chemistry can well this science, this country has no call forth. Only an acute, comprereason to dread comparison or com- hensive, and well disciplined mind petition with other nations. It is could have drawn the inference we believe admitted by all, that the that led the way to the experiment; discoveries of Davy are not only the and the manner in which it was most astonishing and splendid, but conducted, in all its paris, proves the most interesting and important that these. higher intellectual powers that have been made in Chemistry, were not, as is too often the case, —at least during the present cen- unsupported by those of a lower tury. They have entirely changed order, or by mere mechanical dexthe appearance of this science, and terity and contrivance. have opened a view into its arcana, In the second place, with respect the extent and bearings of which to successful attempts to give to are yet very imperfectly known. Chemistry the soul as well as form It is scarcely necessary to add, that of a science, Britain cannot boast we allude to the discovery of the much : but she is not singular. composition of the alkalies, earths, For since the theory of Lavoisier &c. Had this discovery been has been so rudely shaken by more inerely accidental, or had it been modern discoveries, no new one, so the result only of a long and labo- satisfactory and perfect in its parts, rious set of experiments, made nor so generally received, has been merely to see what the Galvanic submitted to the world. The apparatus could effect, little merit theory of Lavoisier was strongly could have accrued to Davy from it; recommended by its simplicity; but it is a happy and direct illustra- and by its uniting so firmly, and tion of what we have just laid down seeming to explain so satisfactorily, as one of the peculiar advantages a very great number of chemical and dignities of chemical science facts and appearances. At present of the opportunities which it gives Chemistry is much less simple : of rendering general principles sub- there is no one grand principle servient to experiment. Berzelius, which runs through it so completely a celebrated Swedish chemist, had as the principle on which the thefrom his experiments drawn the in- ory of Lavoisier rested. Hence it ference, that chemical affinity and might be inferred, that Chemistry, electrical attraction were in fact as a science, was rather retrograde: the same : hence Davy concluded, but this would not be a fair inthat as bodies in the same state of ference. Simplicity, in many cases, electricity repel each other, if he is a presumption of the truth of a could give to bodies which were in theory; but in no case an undoubted fact compound, though they had proof of it. Simplicity of theory not hitherto been proved to be so, may be attained when the facts to
be be explained are few. As the num. such as are drawn from Mechanics ber and variety of facts increases, and Chemistry are the most splenthe theory may no longer apply to did and useful of which this country or account for them : but in process can boast. But as we bave pointed of time, as these new facts are out these, as well as instances of better understood, and further il- the application of Chemistry to the lustrated, by a still greater acces- health, &c. of man, in the History sion and variety of facts, a new of Knowledge, &c. in our last Vótheory will be discovered, which lume, there is no necessity to dwell must be at once more philosophical upon them in this place. and more simple, because it will The same soundness and sobriety bind together, and, as it were, put of mind,—the same preference of soul into a much greater number what is useful and practical,—that and variety of phenomena.
are discoverable in our chemical If Britain, however, partakes of pursuits, mark the present state what other nations equally desi- of all the other brances of science derate, in regard to the want of a in Britain. This observation applies satisfactory theory of Chemistry, with peculiar justice and force to she has advanced before them in the the state of the sciences of Natural application of Chemistry to prac- History and Medicine. In the tical purposes, as much as in the latter, more particularly, Britain has splendour of her chemical disco- advanced considerably before most veries. Indeed, it is one of the of her neighbours, in at once getmost pleasing and peculiar marks of ting rid of all absurd and obsolete the scientific pursuits of Britain, in theories and practices, and in bavnearly all their branches, that they ing discarded the more modern, but have been judiciously and most ef- not more sound or useful theories of fectually applied to practical pur- Medicine, which till very lately poses. This arises partly from a were cherished by her medical men, circumstance in our national cha- and are still maintained very gene. racter, to which we have already rally on the Continent. The nature alluded more than once-our pre- and cure of diseases are better unference of what is practical and derstood in Britain, at present, than useful to what is merely speculative; they ever were before ; and yet but it also arises, in some measure, general theories are discarded. But from our being a manufacturing though these are discarded, the parnation. The weight of our taxes ticular cause of each disorder, ibe absolutely requires us to save ex- symptoms and effects of its different pense and labour in our manufac- stages, and every species of practituring processes ; and these can be cal and useful knowledge regarding saved only by improvements in it, are better understood. science : of these improvements,
CHAPTER CHAPTER X.
State and Character of the Literary Habits and Attainments of the
THE literary habits and charac- There is some small portion of
ter of those who read and truth, but much more error, in this those who write, must be nearly of proposition. We may admit that a similar nature; in the same man- learning, properly so called—that ner as the characters of those who is, a knowledge of the Greek and govern and those who are governed Roman classics-was more profound must agree in essentials, though and extensive formerly than it is at they may differ in many points, present; and that many autbors and in the degree and proportion came before the public with much in which the sum total of the more elaborate and careful prepa. character or its constituent parts ration than perhaps any authors do exist in them : and for the same in our time. But this is the utmost reasons; the circumstances of a we can concede ; consequently, if nation, as well as the original cba- these remarks with respect to the racter of its individuals, must em- authors of a preceding age be corbrace and act upon all. With re- rect, the information possessed by spect to the authors of any country, those who read their works could the character of their genius and not be extensive, except on classiattainments must be stamped, as cal and some other particular subwell as the line of their pursuits jects. marked out, in a very important Let us but reflect a moment on degree, by the circumstances with the state of science at present; at which they and their readers are the number of works of Chernistry, equally and at the same time sur- for instance, that are almost daily rounded,
published. Is not this a proof that When we consider the great an acquaintance with this science is number and variety of works that pretty generally extended ? in fact, almost daily issue from the press, is it not a rare thing to meet with we may be assured that readers are persons totally ignorant of it, among much more numerous at present that class, all the members of which, than they ever were at any previous not half a century ago, were enperiod. It is indeed asserted, that tirely unacquainted with it? knowledge at present is very super- But there is one undoubted fact ficial; and that the acquirements which, more than any other that and information now attained can- could be brought forward, points not fairly be compared with those out and proves the advances of the to which our ancestors arrived. present age in knowledge: we