Most, if not all, of our ordinary sound-producers send forth waves which are not of uniform intensity throughout. A trumpet is loudest in the direction of its axis. The same is true of a gun. A bell, with its mouth pointed upwards or downwards, sends forth waves which are far denser in the horizontal plane passing through the bell than at an angular distance of 90 deg. from that plane. The oldest bellbangers must have been aware of the fact that the sides of the bell, and not its mouth, emitted the strongest sound, their practice being probably determined by this knowledge. Our slabs of gun-cotton also emit waves of different densities in different parts. It has occurred in the experiments at Shoeburyness that when the broad side of a slab was turned towards the suspending wire of a second slab six feet distant, the wire was cut by the explosion, while when the edge of the slab was turned to the wire this never occurred.
To the circumstance that the broadsides of the slabs faced the sea is probably to be ascribed the remarkable fact observed on March 23, that in two directions, not far removed from the line of fire, the gun-cotton detonated in the open had a slight advantage over the new gun.
Theoretic considerations rendered it probable that the shape and size of the exploding mass would affect the constitution of the wave of sound. I did not think large rectangular slabs the most favourable shape, and accordingly proposed cutting a large slab into fragments of different sizes, and pitting them against each other The differences between the sounds were by no means so great as the differences in the quantities of explosive material might lead one to expect. The mean values of eighteen series of observations made on board the 'Galatea,' at distances varying from 1.75 mile to 4.8 miles, were as follows:
Weights 4 oz. 6 oz. 9 oz. 12 oz.
Value of sound 3.12 3.34 4.0 4.03
These charges were cut from a slab of dry gun-cotton about 1.75 inch thick: they were squares and rectangles of the following dimensions:
4 oz, 2 inches by 2 inches;
6 oz, 2 inches by 3 inches;
9 oz, 3 inches by 3 inches;
12 oz, 2 inches by 6 inches.
The numbers under the respective weights express the recorded value of the sounds. They must be simply taken as a ready means of expressing the approximate relative intensity of the sounds as estimated by the ear. When we find a 9-oz. charge marked 4, and a 12-oz. charge marked 4.03, the two sounds may be regarded as practically equal in intensity, thus proving that an addition of 30 per cent. in the larger charges produces no sensible difference in the sound. Were the sounds estimated by some physical means, instead of by the ear, the values of the sounds at the distances recorded would not, in my opinion, show a greater advance with the increase of material than that indicated by the foregoing numbers. Subsequent experiments rendered still more certain the effectiveness, as well as the economy, of the smaller charges of gun-cotton.
It is an obvious corollary from the foregoing experiments that on our 'nesses' and promontories, where the land is clasped on both sides for a considerable distance by the sea—where, therefore, the sound has to propagate itself rearward as well as forward—the use of the parabolic gun, or of the parabolic reflector, might be a disadvantage rather than an advantage. Here guncotton, exploded in the open, forms the most appropriate source of sound. This remark is especially applicable to such lightships as are intended to spread the sound all round them as from central foci.
As a signal in rock lighthouses, where neither syren, steam-whistle, nor gun could be mounted; and as a handy fleet-signal, dispensing with the lumber of special signal-guns, the gun-cotton will prove invaluable. But in most of these cases we have the drawback that local damage may be done by the explosion. The lantern of the rock lighthouse might suffer from concussion near at hand, and though mechanical arrangements might be devised, both in the case of the lighthouse and of the ship's deck, to place the firing-point of the gun-cotton at a safe distance, no such arrangement could compete, as regards simplicity and effectiveness, with the expedient of a gun-cotton rocket. Had such a means of signalling existed at the Bishop's Rock lighthouse, the ill-fated 'Schiller' might have been warned of her approach to danger ten, or it may be twenty, miles before she reached the rock which wrecked her. Had the fleet possessed such a signal, instead of the ubiquitous but ineffectual whistle, the 'Iron Duke' and 'Vanguard' need never have come into collision.
It was the necessity of providing a suitable signal for rock lighthouses, and of clearing obstacles which cast an acoustic shadow, that suggested the idea of the gun-cotton rocket to Sir Richard Collinson, Deputy Master of the Trinity House. His idea was to place a disk or short cylinder of gun-cotton in the head of a rocket, the ascensional force of which should be employed to carry the disk to an elevation of 1000 feet or thereabouts, where by the ignition of a fuse associated with a detonator, the gun-cotton should be fired, sending its sound in all directions vertically and obliquely down upon earth and sea. The first attempt to realise this idea was made on July 18, 1876, at the firework manufactory of the Messrs. Brock, at Nunhead. Eight rockets were then fired, four being charged with 5 oz. and four with 7.5 oz. of gun-cotton. They ascended to a great height, and exploded with a very loud report in the air. On July 27, the rockets were tried at Shoeburyness.
The most noteworthy result on this occasion was the hearing of the sounds at the Mouse Lighthouse, 8.5 miles E. by S, and at the Chapman Lighthouse, 8.5 miles W. by N; that is to say, at opposite sides of the firing-point. It is worthy of remark that, in the case of the Chapman Lighthouse, land and trees intervened between the firing-point and the place of observation. This,' as General Younghusband justly remarked at the time, 'may prove to be a valuable consideration if it should be found necessary to place a signal station in a position whence the sea could not be freely observed.' Indeed, the clearing of such obstacles was one of the objects which the inventor of the rocket had in view.
With reference to the action of the wind, it was thought desirable to compare the range of explosions produced near the surface of the earth with others produced at the elevation attainable by the gun-cotton rockets. Wind and weather, however, are not at our command; and hence one of the objects of a series of experiments conducted on December 13, 1876, was not fulfilled. It is worthy, however, of note that on this day, with smooth water and a calm atmosphere, the rockets were distinctly heard at a distance of 11.2 miles from the firing-point. The quantity of gun-cotton employed was 7.5 oz. On Thursday, March 8, 1877, these comparative experiments of firing at high and low elevations were pushed still further. The gun-cotton near the ground consisted of 0.5-lb. disks, suspended from a horizontal iron bar about 4.5 feet above the ground.
The rockets carried the same quantity of gun-cotton in their heads, and the height to which they attained, as determined by a theodolite, was from 800 to 900 feet. The day was cold, with occasional squalls of snow and hail, the direction of the sound being at right angles to that of the wind. Five series of observations were made on board the 'Vestal,' at distances varying from 3 to 6 miles. The mean value of the explosions in the air exceeded that of the explosions near the ground by a small but sensible quantity. At Windmill Hill, Gravesend, however, which was nearly to leeward, and 5.5 miles from the firing-point, in nineteen cases out of twenty-four the disk fired near the ground was loudest; while in the remaining five the rocket had the advantage.
Towards the close of the day the atmosphere became very serene. A few distant cumuli sailed near the horizon, but the zenith and a vast angular space all round it were absolutely free from cloud. From the deck of the 'Galatea' a rocket was discharged, which reached a great elevation, and exploded with a loud report. Following this solid nucleus of sound was a continuous train of echoes, which retreated to a continually greater distance, dying gradually off into silence after seven seconds' duration. These echoes were of the same character as those so frequently noticed at the South Foreland in 1872-73, and called by me 'aerial echoes.'
On the 23rd of March the experiments were resumed, the most noteworthy results of that day's observations being that the sounds were heard at Tillingham, 10 miles to the N.E.; at West Mersea, 15.75 miles to the N.E. by E; at Brightlingsea, 17.5 miles to the N.E.; and at Clacton Wash, 20.5 miles to the N.E. by 1/2 E. The wind was blowing at the time from the S.E. Some of these sounds were produced by rockets, some by a 24-lb. howitzer, and some by an 8-inch Maroon.
In December, 1876, Mr. Gardiner, the managing director of the Cotton-powder Company, had proposed a trial of this material against the gun-cotton. The density of the cotton he urged was only 1.03, while that of the powder was 1.70. A greater quantity of explosive material being thus compressed into the same volume, Mr. Gardiner thought that a greater sonorous effect must be produced by the powder. At the instance of Mr. Mackie, who had previously gone very thoroughly into the subject, a Committee of the Elder Brethren visited the cotton-powder manufactory, on the banks of the Swale, near Faversham, on the 16th of June, 1877. The weights of cotton-powder employed were 2 oz, 8 oz, 1 lb, and 2 lbs, in the form of rockets and of signals fired a few feet above the ground. The experiments throughout were arranged and conducted by Mr. Mackie. Our desire on this occasion was to get 'as near to windward as possible, but the Swale and other obstacles limited our distance to 1.5 mile. We stood here E.S.E. from the firing-point while the wind blew fresh from the N.E.
The cotton-powder yielded a very effective report. The rockets in general had a slight advantage over the same quantities of material fired near the ground. The loudness of the sound was by no means proportional to the quantity of the material exploded, 8 oz. yielding very nearly as loud a report as 1 lb. The 'aerial echoes,' which invariably followed the explosion of the rockets, were loud and long-continued.
On the 17th of October, 1877, another series of experiments with howitzers and rockets was carried out at Shoeburyness. The charge of the howitzer was 3 lbs. of L. G. powder. The charges of the rockets were 12 oz, 8 oz, 4 oz, and 2 oz. of gun-cotton respectively. The gun and the four rockets constituted a series, and eight series were fired during the afternoon of the 17th. The observations were made from the 'Vestal' and the 'Galatea,' positions being successively assumed which permitted the sound to reach the observers with the Wind, against the wind, and across the wind. The distance of the 'Galatea' varied from 3 to 7 miles, that of the 'Vestal,' which was more restricted in her movements, being 2 to 3 miles. Briefly summed up, the result is that the howitzer, firing a 3-lb. charge, which it will be remembered was our best gun at 'the South Foreland, was beaten by the 12-oz. rocket, by the 8-oz. rocket, and by the 4-oz. rocket. The 2-oz. rocket alone fell behind the howitzer.
It is worth while recording the distances at which some of the sounds were heard on the day now referred to:
1. Leigh 6.5 miles W.N.W. 24 out of 40 sounds heard.
2. Girdler 12 miles S.E. by E. 5 out of 40 sounds heard. Light-vessel
3. Reculvers 171 miles S.E. by S. 18 out of 40 sounds heard.
4. St. Nicholas 20 miles S.E. 3 out of 40 sounds heard.
5. Epple Bay 22 miles S.E. by E. 19 out of 40 sounds heard.
6. Westgate 23 miles S.E. by E. 9 out of 40 sounds heard.
7. Kingsgate 25 miles S.E. by E. 8 out of 40 sounds heard.
The day was cloudy, with occasional showers of drizzling rain; the wind about N.W. by N. all day; at times squally, rising to a force of 6 or 7 and sometimes dropping to a force of 2 or 3. The station at Leigh excepted, all these places were to leeward of Shoeburyness. At four other stations to leeward, varying in distance from 15.5 to 24.5 miles, nothing was heard, while at eleven stations to windward, varying from 8 to 26 miles, the sounds were also inaudible. It was found, indeed, that the sounds proceeding directly against the wind did not penetrate much beyond 3 miles.
On the following day, viz. the 18th October, we proceeded to Dungeness with the view of making a series of strict comparative experiments with gun-cotton and cotton-powder. Rockets containing 8 oz, 4 oz, and 2 oz. of gun-cotton had been prepared at the Royal Arsenal; while others, containing similar quantities of cotton-powder, had been supplied by the Cotton-powder Company at Faversham. With these were compared the ordinary 18-pounder gun, which happened to be mounted at Dungeness, firing the usual charge of 3 lbs. of powder, and a syren.
From these experiments it appeared that the guncotton and cotton-powder were practically equal as producers of sound.
The effectiveness of small charges was illustrated in a very striking manner, only a single unit separating the numerical value of the 8-oz. rocket from that of the 2-oz. rocket. The former was recorded as 6.9 and the latter as 5.9, the value of the 4-oz. rocket being intermediate between them. These results were recorded by a number of very practised observers on board the 'Galatea.' They were completely borne out by the observations of the Coastguard, who marked the value of the 8-oz rocket 6-1, and that of the 2-oz. rocket 5.2. The 18-pounder gun fell far behind all the rockets, a result, possibly, to be in part ascribed to the imperfection of the powder. The performance of the syren was, on the whole, less satisfactory than that of the rocket. The instrument was worked, not by steam of 70 lbs. pressure, as at the South Foreland, but by compressed air, beginning with 40 lbs. and ending with 30 lbs. pressure. The trumpet was pointed to windward, and in the axis of the instrument the sound was about as effective as that of the 8-oz. rocket. But in a direction at right angles to the axis, and still more in the rear of this direction, the syren fell very sensibly behind even the 2-oz. rocket.
These are the principal comparative trials made between the gun-cotton rocket and other fog-signals; but they are not the only ones. On the 2nd of August, 1877, for example, experiments were made at Lundy Island with the following results. At 2 miles distant from the firing-point, with land intervening, the 18-pounder, firing a 3-lb. charge, was quite unheard. Both the 4-oz. rocket and the 8-oz. rocket, however, reached an elevation which commanded the acoustic shadow, and yielded loud reports. When both were in view the rockets were still superior to the gun. On the 6th of August, at St. Ann's, the 4-oz. and 8-oz. rockets proved superior to the syren. On the Shambles Light-vessel, when a pressure of 13 lbs. was employed to sound the syren, the rockets proved greatly superior to that instrument. Proceeding along the sea margin at Flamboro' Head, Mr. Edwards states that at a distance of 1.25 mile, with the 18-pounder previously used as a fog-signal hidden behind the cliffs, its report was quite unheard, while the 4-oz. rocket, rising to an elevation which brought it clearly into view, yielded a powerful sound in the face of an opposing wind.
On the evening of February 9th, 1877, a remarkable series of experiments were made by Mr. Prentice at Stowmarket with the gun-cotton rocket. From the report with which he has kindly furnished me I extract the following particulars. The first column in the annexed statement contains the name of the place of observation, the second its distance from the firing-point, and the third the result observed:
Stoke Hill, Ipswich 10 miles Rockets clearly seen and sounds distinctly heard 53 seconds after the flash.
Melton 15 miles Signals distinctly heard. Thought at first that sounds were reverberated from the sea.
Framlingham 18 miles Signals very distinctly heard, both in the open air and in a closed room. Wind in favour of sound.
Stratford. 19 miles St. Andrews Reports loud; startled pheasants in a cover close by.
Tuddenham. 10 miles St. Martin Reports very loud; rolled away like thunder.
Christ Church Park. 11 miles Report arrived a little more than a minute after flash.
Nettlestead Hall 6 miles Distinct in every part of observer's house. Very loud in the open air.
Bildestone 6 miles Explosion very loud, wind against sound.
Nacton 14 miles Reports quite distinct—mistaken by inhabitants for claps of thunder.
Aldboro' 25 miles Rockets seen through a very hazy atmosphere; a rumbling detonation heard.
Capel Mills 11 miles Reports heard within and without the observer's house. Wind opposed to sound.
Lawford 15.5 miles Reports distinct: attributed to distant thunder.
In the great majority of these cases, the direction of the sound enclosed a large angle with the direction of the wind. In some cases, indeed, the two directions were at right angles to each other. It is needless to dwell for a moment on the advantage of possessing a signal commanding ranges such as these.
The explosion of substances in the air, after having been carried to a considerable elevation by rockets, is a familiar performance. In 1873, moreover, the Board of Trade proposed a light-and-sound rocket as a signal of distress, which proposal was subsequently realized, but in a form too elaborate and expensive for practical use. The idea of a gun-cotton rocket fit for signalling in fogs is, I believe, wholly due to Sir Richard Collinson, the Deputy Master of the Trinity House. Thanks to the skilful aid given by the authorities of Woolwich, by Mr. Prentice, and Mr. Brock, that idea is now an accomplished fact; a signal of great power, handiness, and economy, being thus placed at the service of our mariners. Not only may the rocket be applied in association with lighthouses and lightships, but in the Navy also it may be turned to important account. Soon after the loss of the 'Vanguard' I ventured to urge upon an eminent naval officer the desirability of having an organized code of fog-signals for the fleet. He shook his head doubtingly, and referred to the difficulty of finding room for signal guns. The gun-cotton rocket completely surmounts this difficulty, It is manipulated with ease and rapidity, while its discharges may be so grouped and combined as to give a most important extension to the voice of the admiral in command. It is needless to add that at any point upon our coasts, or upon any other coast, where its establishment might be desirable, a fog-signal station might be extemporised without difficulty.
I have referred more than once to the train of echoes which accompanied the explosion of gun-cotton in free air, speaking of them as similar in all respects to those which were described for the first time in my Report on Fog-signals, addressed to the Corporation of Trinity House in 1874. [Footnote: See also 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1874, p. 183.] To these echoes I attached a fundamental significance. There was no visible reflecting surface from which they could come. On some days, with hardly a cloud in the air and hardly a ripple on the sea, they reached a magical intensity. As far as the sense of hearing could judge, they came from the body of the air in front of the great trumpet which produced them. The trumpet blasts were five seconds in duration, but long before the blast had ceased the echoes struck in, adding their strength to the primitive note of the trumpet. After the blast had ended the echoes continued, retreating further and further from the point of observation, and finally dying away at great distances. The echoes were perfectly continuous as long as the sea was clear of ships, 'tapering' by imperceptible gradations into absolute silence. But when a ship happened to throw itself athwart the course of the sound, the echo from the broadside of the vessel was returned as a shock which rudely interrupted the continuity of the dying atmospheric music.
These echoes have been ascribed to reflection from the crests of the sea-waves. But this hypothesis is negatived by the fact, that the echoes were produced in great intensity and duration when no waves existed—when the sea, in fact, was of glassy smoothness. It has been also shown that the direction of the echoes depended not on that of waves, real or assumed, but on the direction of the axis of the trumpet. Causing that axis to traverse an arc of 210 deg., and the trumpet to sound at various points of the arc, the echoes were always, at all events in calm weather, returned from that portion of the atmosphere towards which the trumpet was directed. They could not, under the circumstances, come from the glassy sea; while both their variation of direction and their perfectly continuous fall into silence, are irreconcilable with the notion that they came from fixed objects on the land. They came from that portion of the atmosphere into which the trumpet poured its maximum sound, and fell in intensity as the direct sound penetrated to greater atmospheric distances.
The day on which our latest observations were made was particularly fine. Before reaching Dungeness, the smoothness of the sea and the serenity of the air caused me to test the echoing power of the atmosphere. A single ship lay about half a mile distant between us and the land. The result of the proposed experiment was clearly foreseen. It was this. The rocket being sent up, it exploded at a great height; the echoes retreated in their usual fashion, becoming less and less intense as the distances of the invisible surfaces of reflection from the observers increased. About five seconds after the explosion, a single loud shock was sent back to us from the side of the vessel lying between us and the land. Obliterated for a moment by this more intense echo the aerial reverberation continued its retreat, dying away into silence in two or three seconds afterwards. [Footnote: The echoes of the gun fired on shore this day were very brief; those of the 12-oz. gun-cotton rocket were 12" and those of the 8-oz. cotton-powder rocket 11" in duration.]
I have referred to the firing of an 8-oz. rocket from the deck of the 'Galatea' on March 8, 1877, stating the duration of its echoes to be seven seconds. Mr. Prentice, who was present at the time, assured me that in his experiments similar echoes had been frequently heard of more than twice this duration. The ranges of his sounds alone would render this result in the highest degree probable.
To attempt to interpret an experiment which I have not had an opportunity of repeating, is an operation of some risk; and it is not without a consciousness of this that I refer here to a result announced by Professor Joseph Henry, which he considers adverse to the notion of aerial echoes. He took the trouble to point the trumpet of a syren towards the zenith, and found that when the syren was sounded no echo was returned. Now the reflecting surfaces which give rise to these echoes are for the most part due to differences of temperature between sea and air. If, through any cause, the air above be chilled, we have descending streams—if the air below be warmed, we have ascending streams as the initial cause of atmospheric flocculence. A sound proceeding vertically does not cross the streams, nor impinge upon the reflecting surfaces, as does a sound proceeding horizontally across them. Aerial echoes, therefore, will not accompany the vertical sound as they accompany the horizontal one. The experiment, as I interpret it, is not opposed to the theory of these echoes which I have ventured to enunciate. But, as I have indicated, not only to see but to vary such an experiment is a necessary prelude to grasping its full significance.
In a paper published in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1876, Professor Osborne Reynolds refers to these echoes in the following terms Without attempting to explain the reverberations and echoes which have been observed, I will merely call attention to the fact that in no case have I heard any attending the reports of the rockets, [Footnote: These carried 12 oz. of gunpowder, which has been found by Col. Fraser to require an iron case to produce an effective explosion.] although they seem to have been invariable with the guns and pistols. These facts suggest that the echoes are in some way connected with the direction given to the sound. They are caused by the voice, trumpets, and the syren, all of which give direction to the sound; but I am not aware that they have ever been observed in the case of a sound which has no direction of greatest intensity.' The reference to the voice, and other references in his paper, cause me to think that, in speaking of echoes, Professor Osborne Reynolds and myself are dealing with different phenomena. Be that as it may, the foregoing observations render it perfectly certain that the condition as to direction here laid down is not necessary to the production of the echoes.
There is not a feature connected with the aerial echoes which cannot be brought out by experiments in the air of the laboratory. I have recently made the following experiment: A rectangle, x Y (p. 331), 22 inches by 12, was crossed by twenty-three brass tubes (half the number would suffice and only eleven are shown in the figure), each having a slit along it from which gas can issue. In this way twenty-three low flat flames were obtained. A sounding reed a fixed in a short tube was placed at one end of the rectangle, and a 'sensitive flame,' [Footnote: Fully described in my 'Lectures on Sound,' 3rd edition, p. 227.] f, at some distance beyond the other end. When the reed sounded, the flame in front of it was violently agitated, and roared boisterously. Turning on the gas, and lighting it as it issued from the slits, the air above the flames became so heterogeneous that the sensitive flame was instantly stilled, rising from a height of 6 inches to a height of 18 inches. Here we had the acoustic opacity of the air in front of the South Foreland strikingly imitated. [Footnote: Lectures on Sound, 3rd ed, p. 268.] Turning off the gas, and removing the sensitive flame to f, some distance behind the reed, it burned there tranquilly, though the reed was sounding. Again lighting the gas as it issued from the brass tubes, the sound reflected from the heterogeneous air threw the sensitive flame into violent agitation. Here we had imitated the aerial echoes heard when standing behind the syren-trumpet at the South Foreland. The experiment is extremely simple, and in the highest degree impressive.
The explosive rapidity of dynamite marks it as a substance specially suitable for the production of sound. At the suggestion of Professor Dewar, Mr. McRoberts has carried out a series of experiments on dynamite, with extremely promising results. Immediately after the delivery of the foregoing lecture I was informed that Mr. Brock proposed the employment of dynamite in the Collinson rocket.
XI. ON THE STUDY OF PHYSICS.
[Footnote: From a lecture delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Spring of 1854.]
I HOLD in my hand an uncorrected proof of the syllabus of this course of lectures, and the title of the present lecture A there stated to be 'On the Importance of the Study of Physics as a Means of Education.' The corrected proof, however, contains the title: 'On the Importance of the Study of Physics as a Branch of Education.' Small as this editorial alteration may seem, the two words suggest two radically distinct modes of viewing the subject before us. The term Education is sometimes applied to a single faculty or organ, and if we know wherein the education of a single faculty consists, this will help us to clearer notions regarding the education of the sum of all the faculties, or of the mind. When, for example, we speak of the education of the voice, what do we mean? There are certain membranes at the top of the windpipe which throw into vibration the air forced between them from the lungs, thus producing musical sounds. These membranes are, to some extent, under the control of the will, and it is found that they can be so modified by exercise as to produce notes of a clearer and more melodious character. This exercise we call the education of the voice. We may choose for our exercise songs new or old, festive or solemn; the education of the voice being the object aimed at, the songs may be regarded as the means by which this education is accomplished. I think this expresses the state of the case more clearly than if we were to call the songs a branch of education. Regarding also the education of the human mind as the improvement and development of the mental faculties, I shall consider the study of Physics as a means towards the attainment of this end. From this point of view, I degrade Physics into an implement of culture, and this is my deliberate design.
The term Physics, as made use of in the present Lecture, refers to that portion of natural science which lies midway between astronomy and chemistry. The former, indeed, is Physics applied to 'masses of enormous weight,' while the latter is Physics applied to atoms and molecules. The subjects of Physics proper are therefore those which lie nearest to human perception: light and heat, colour, sound, motion, the loadstone, electrical attractions and repulsions, thunder and lightning, rain, snow, dew, and so forth. Our senses stand between these phenomena and the reasoning mind. We observe the fact, but are not satisfied with the mere act of observation: the fact must be accounted for—fitted into its position in the line of cause and effect. Taking our facts from Nature we transfer them to the domain of thought: look at them, compare them, observe their mutual relations and connexions, and bringing them ever clearer before the mental eye, finally alight upon the cause which unites them. This is the last act of the mind, in this centripetal direction—in its progress from the multiplicity of facts to the central cause on which they depend. But, having guessed the cause, we are not yet contented. We set out from the centre and travel in the other direction. If the guess be true, certain consequences must follow from it, and we appeal to the law and testimony of experiment whether the thing is so. Thus is the circuit of thought completed,—from without inward, from multiplicity to unity, and from within outward, from unity to multiplicity. In thus traversing both ways the line between cause and effect, all our reasoning powers are called into play. The mental effort involved in these processes may be compared to those exercises of the body which invoke the co-operation of every muscle, and thus confer upon the whole frame the benefits of healthy action.
The first experiment a child makes is a physical experiment: the suction-pump is but an imitation of the first act of every new-born infant. Nor do I think it calculated to lessen that infant's reverence, or to make him a worse citizen, when his riper experience shows him that the atmosphere was his helper in extracting the first draught from his mother's breast. The child grows, but is still an experimenter: he grasps at the moon, and his failure teaches him to respect distance. At length his little fingers acquire sufficient mechanical tact to lay hold of a spoon. He thrusts the instrument into his mouth, hurts his gums, and thus learns the impenetrability of matter. He lets the spoon fall, and jumps with delight to hear it rattle against the table. The experiment made by accident is repeated with intention, and thus the young student receives his first lessons upon sound and gravitation. There are pains and penalties, however, in the path of the enquirer: he is sure to go wrong, and Nature is just as sure to inform him of the fact. He falls downstairs, burns his fingers, cuts his hand, scalds his tongue, and in this way learns the conditions of his physical well being. This is Nature's way of proceeding, and it is wonderful what progress her pupil makes. His enjoyments for a time are physical, and the confectioner's shop occupies the foreground of human happiness; but the blossoms of a finer life are already beginning to unfold themselves, and the relation of cause and effect dawns upon the boy. He begins to see that the present condition of things is not final, but depends upon one that has gone before, and will be succeeded by another. He becomes a puzzle to himself; and to satisfy his newly-awakened curiosity, asks all manner of inconvenient questions. The needs and tendencies of human nature express themselves through these early yearnings of the child. As thought ripens, he desires to know the character and causes of the phenomena presented to his observation; and unless this desire has been granted for the express purpose of having it repressed, unless the attractions of natural phenomena be like the blush of the forbidden fruit, conferred merely for the purpose of exercising our self-denial in letting them alone; we may fairly claim for the study of Physics the recognition that it answers to an impulse implanted by nature in the constitution of man.
A few days ago, a Master of Arts, who is still a young man, and therefore the recipient of a modern education, stated to me that until he had reached the age of twenty years he had never been taught anything whatever regarding natural phenomena, or natural law. Twelve years of his life previously had been spent exclusively among the ancients. The case, I regret to say, is typical. Now, we cannot, without prejudice to humanity, separate the present from the past. The nineteenth century strikes its roots into the centuries gone by, and draws nutriment from them. The world cannot afford to lose the record of any great deed or utterance; for such are prolific throughout all time. We cannot yield the companionship of our loftier brothers of antiquity,—of our Socrates and Cato,—whose lives provoke us to sympathetic greatness across the interval of two thousand years. As long as the ancient languages are the means of access to the ancient mind, they must ever be of priceless value to humanity; but surely these avenues might be kept open without making such sacrifices as that above referred to, universal. We have conquered and possessed ourselves of continents of land, concerning which antiquity knew nothing; and if new continents of thought reveal themselves to the exploring human spirit, shall we not possess them also? In these latter days, the study of Physics has given us glimpses of the methods of Nature which were quite hidden from the ancients, and we should be false to the trust committed to us, if we were to sacrifice the hopes and aspirations of the Present out of deference to the Past.
The bias of my own education probably manifests itself in a desire I always feel to seize upon every possible opportunity of checking my assumptions and conclusions by experience. In the present case, it is true, your own consciousness might be appealed to in proof of the tendency of the human mind to inquire into the phenomena presented to it by the senses; but I trust you will excuse me if, instead of doing this, I take advantage of the facts which have fallen in my way through life, referring to your judgment to decide whether such facts are truly representative and general, and not merely individual and local.
At an agricultural college in Hampshire, with which I was connected for some time, and which is now converted into a school for the general education of youth, a Society was formed among the boys, who met weekly for the purpose of reading reports and papers upon various subjects. The Society had its president and treasurer; and abstracts of its proceedings were published in a little monthly periodical issuing from the school press. One of the most remarkable features of these weekly meetings was, that after the general business had been concluded, each member enjoyed the right of asking questions on any subject on which he desired information. The questions were either written out previously in a book, or, if a question happened to suggest itself during the meeting, it was written upon a slip of paper and handed in to the Secretary, who afterwards read all the questions aloud. A number of teachers were usually present, and they and the boys made a common stock of their wisdom in furnishing replies. As might be expected from an assemblage of eighty or ninety boys, varying from eighteen to eight years old, many odd questions were proposed. To the mind which loves to detect in the tendencies of the young the instincts of humanity generally, such questions are not without a certain philosophic interest, and I have therefore thought it not derogatory to the present course of Lectures to copy a few of them, and to introduce them here. They run as follows:
What are the duties of the Astronomer Royal?
What is frost?
Why are thunder and lightning more frequent in summer than in winter?
What occasions falling stars?
What is the cause of the sensation called 'pins and needles '?
What is the cause of waterspouts?
What is the cause of hiccup?
If a towel be wetted with water, why does the wet portion become darker than before?
What is meant by Lancashire witches?
Does the dew rise or fall?
What is the principle of the hydraulic press?
Is there more oxygen in the air in summer than in winter?
What are those rings which we see round the gas and sun?
What is thunder?
How is it that a black hat can be moved by forming round it a magnetic circle, while a white hat remains stationary?
What is the cause of perspiration?
Is it true that men were once monkeys?
What is the difference between the soul and the mind?
Is it contrary to the rules of Vegetarianism to eat eggs?
In looking over these questions, which were wholly unprompted, and have been copied almost at random from the book alluded to, we see that many of them are suggested directly by natural objects, and are not such as had an interest conferred on them' by previous culture. Now the fact is beyond the boy's control, and so certainly is the desire to know its cause. The sole question then is, whether this desire is to be gratified or not. Who created the fact? Who implanted the desire? Certainly not man. Who then will undertake to place himself between the desire and its fulfilment, and proclaim a divorce between them? Take, for example, the case of the wetted towel, which at first sight appears to be one of the most unpromising questions in the list. Shall we tell the proposer to repress his curiosity, as the subject is improper for him to know, and thus interpose our wisdom to rescue the boy from the consequences of a wish which acts to his prejudice? Or, recognising the propriety of the question, how shall we answer it? It is impossible to answer it without reference to the laws of optics—without making the boy to some extent a natural philosopher. You may say that the effect is due to the reflection of light at the common surface of two media of different refractive indices. But this answer presupposes on the part of the boy a knowledge of what reflection and refraction are, or reduces you to the necessity of explaining them.
On looking more closely into the matter, we find that our wet towel belongs to a class of phenomena which have long excited the interest of philosophers. The towel is white for the same reason that snow is white, that foam is white, that pounded granite or glass is white, and that the salt we use at table is white. On quitting one medium and entering another, a portion of light is always reflected, but on this condition—the media must possess different refractive indices. Thus, when we immerse a bit of glass in water, light is reflected from the common surface of both, and it is this light which enables us to see the glass. But when a transparent solid is immersed in a liquid of the same refractive index as itself, it immediately disappears. I remember once dropping the eyeball of an ox into water; it vanished as if by magic, with the exception of the crystalline lens, and the surprise was so great as to cause a bystander to suppose that the vitreous humour had been instantly dissolved. This, however, was not the case, and a comparison of the refractive index of the humour with that of water cleared up the whole matter. The indices were identical, and hence the light pursued its way through both as if they formed one continuous mass.
In the case of snow, powdered quartz, or salt, we have a transparent solid mixed with air. At every transition from solid to air, or from air to solid, a portion of light is reflected, and this takes place so often that the light is wholly intercepted. Thus from the mixture of two transparent bodies we obtain an opaque one. Now the case of the towel is precisely similar. The tissue is composed of semi-transparent vegetable fibres, with the interstices between them filled with air; repeated reflection takes place at the limiting surfaces of air and fibre, and hence the towel becomes opaque like snow or salt. But if we fill the interstices with water, we diminish the reflection; a portion of the light is transmitted, and the darkness of the towel is due to its increased transparency. Thus the deportment of various minerals, such as hydrophane and tabasheer, the transparency of tracing paper used by engineers, and many other considerations of the highest scientific interest, are involved in the simple enquiry of this unsuspecting little boy.
Again, take the question regarding the rising or falling of the dew—a question long agitated, and finally set at rest by the beautiful researches of Wells. I do not think that any boy of average intelligence will be satisfied with the simple answer that the dew falls. He will wish to learn how you know that it falls, and, if acquainted with the notions of the middle ages, he may refer to the opinion of Father Laurus, that a goose egg filled in the morning with dew and exposed to the sun, will rise like a balloon—a swan's egg being better for the experiment than a goose egg. It is impossible to give the boy a clear notion of the beautiful phenomenon to which his question refers, without first making him acquainted with the radiation and conduction of heat. Take, for example, a blade of grass, from which one of these orient pearls is depending.
During the day the grass, and the earth beneath it, possess a certain amount of warmth imparted by the sun; during a serene night, heat is radiated from the surface of the grass into space, and to supply the loss, there is a flow of heat from the earth to the blade. Thus the blade loses heat by radiation, and gains heat by conduction. Now, in the case before us, the power of radiation is great, whereas the power of conduction is small; the consequence is that the blade loses more than it gains, and hence becomes more and more refrigerated. The light vapour floating around the surface so cooled is condensed upon it, and there accumulates to form the little pearly globe which we call a dew-drop.
Thus the boy finds the simple and homely fact which addressed his senses to be the outcome and flower of the deepest laws. The fact becomes, in a measure, sanctified as an object of thought, and invested for him with a beauty for evermore. He thus learns that things which, at first sight, seem to stand isolated and without apparent brotherhood in Nature are organically united, and finds the detection of such analogies a source of perpetual delight. To enlist pleasure on the side of intellectual performance is a point of the utmost importance; for the exercise of the mind, like that of the body, depends for its value upon the spirit in which it is accomplished. Every physician knows that something more than mere mechanical motion is comprehended under the idea of healthful exercise—that, indeed, being most healthful which makes us forget all ulterior ends in the mere enjoyment of it. What, for example, could be substituted for the action of the playground, where the boy plays for the mere love of playing, and without reference to physiological laws; while kindly Nature accomplishes her ends unconsciously, and makes his very indifference beneficial to him. You may have more systematic motions, you may devise means for the more perfect traction of each particular muscle, but you cannot create the joy and gladness of the game, and where these are absent, the charm and the health of the exercise are gone. The case is similar with the education of the mind.
The study of Physics, as already intimated, consists of two processes, which are complementary to each other—the tracing of facts to their causes, and the logical advance from the cause to the fact. In the former process, called induction, certain moral qualities come into play. The first condition of success is patient industry, an honest receptivity, and a willingness to abandon all preconceived notions, however cherished, if they be found to contradict the truth. Believe me, a self-renunciation which has something lofty in it, and of which the world never hears, is often enacted in the private experience of the true votary of science. And if a man be not capable of this self-renunciation—this loyal surrender of himself to Nature and to fact, he lacks, in my opinion, the first mark of a true philosopher.
Thus the earnest prosecutor of science, who does not work with the idea of producing a sensation in the world, who loves the truth better than the transitory blaze of to-day's fame, who comes to his task with a single eye, finds in that task an indirect means of the highest moral culture. And although the virtue of the act depends upon its privacy, this sacrifice of self, this upright determination to accept the truth, no matter how it may present itself—even at the hands of a scientific foe, if necessary—carries with it its own reward. When prejudice is put under foot and the stains of personal bias have been washed away—when a man consents to lay aside his vanity and to become Nature's organ—his elevation is the instant consequence of his humility.
I should not wonder if my remarks provoked a smile, for they seem to indicate that I regard the man of science as a heroic, if not indeed an angelic, character; and cases may occur to you which indicate the reverse. You may point to the quarrels of scientific men, to their struggles for priority, to that unpleasant egotism which screams around its little property of discovery like a scared plover about its young. I will not deny all this; but let it be set down to its proper account, to the weakness—or, if you will—to the selfishness of Man, but not to the charge of Physical Science.
The second process in physical investigation is deduction, or the advance of the mind from fixed principles to the conclusions which flow from them. The rules of logic are the formal statement of this process, which, however, was practised by every healthy mind before ever such rules were written. In the study of Physics, induction and deduction are perpetually wedded to each other. The man observes, strips facts of their peculiarities of form, and tries to unite them by their essences; having effected this, he at once deduces, and thus checks his induction.
Here the grand difference between the methods at present followed, and those of the ancients, becomes manifest. They were one-sided in these matters: they omitted the process of induction, and substituted conjecture for observation. They could never, therefore, fulfil the mission of Man to 'replenish the earth, and subdue it.' The subjugation of Nature is only to be accomplished by the penetration of her secrets and the patient mastery of her laws. This not only enables us to protect ourselves from the hostile action of natural forces, but makes them our slaves. By the study of Physics we have indeed opened to us treasuries of power of which antiquity never dreamed. But while we lord it over Matter, we have thereby become better acquainted with the laws of Mind; for to the mental philosopher the study of Physics furnishes a screen against which the human spirit projects its own image, and thus becomes capable of self-inspection.
Thus, then, as a means of intellectual culture, the study of Physics exercises and sharpens observation: it brings the most exhaustive logic into play: it compares, abstracts, and generalizes, and provides a mental scenery appropriate to these processes. The strictest precision of thought is everywhere enforced, and prudence, foresight, and sagacity are demanded. By its appeals to experiment, it continually checks itself, and thus walks on a foundation of facts. Hence the exercise it invokes does not end in a mere game of intellectual gymnastics, such as the ancients delighted in, but tends to the mastery of Nature. This gradual conquest of the external world, and the consciousness of augmented strength which accompanies it, render the study of Physics as delightful as it is important.
With regard to the effect on the imagination, certain it is that the cool results of physical induction furnish conceptions which transcend the most daring flights of that faculty. Take for example the idea of an all-pervading aether which transmits a tingle, so to speak, to the finger ends of the universe every time a street lamp is lighted. The invisible billows of this aether can be measured with the same ease and certainty as that with which an engineer measures a base and two angles, and from these finds the distance across the Thames. Now it is to be confessed that there may be just as little poetry in the measurement of an aethereal undulation as in that of the river; for the intellect, during the acts of measurement and calculation, destroys those notions of size which appeal to the poetic sense. It is a mistake to suppose, with Dr. Young, that
An undevout astronomer is mad;
there being no necessary connexion between a devout state of mind and the observations and calculations of a practical astronomer. It is not until the man withdraws from his calculation, as a painter from his work, and thus realizes the great idea on which he has been engaged, that imagination and wonder are excited. There is, I admit, a possible danger here. If the arithmetical processes of science be too exclusively pursued, they may impair the imagination, and thus the study of Physics is open to the same objection as philological, theological, or political studies, when carried to excess. But even in this case, the injury done is to the investigator himself: it does not reach the mass of mankind. Indeed, the conceptions furnished by his cold unimaginative reckonings may furnish themes for the poet, and excite in the highest degree that sentiment of wonder which, notwithstanding all its foolish vagaries, table-turning included, I, for my part, should be sorry to see banished from the world.
I have thus far dwelt upon the study of Physics as an agent of intellectual culture; but like other things in Nature, this study subserves more than a single end. The colours of the clouds delight the eye, and, no doubt, accomplish moral purposes also, but the selfsame clouds hold within their fleeces the moisture by which our fields are rendered fruitful. The sunbeams excite our interest and invite our investigation; but they also extend their beneficent influences to our fruits and corn, and thus accomplish, not only intellectual ends, but minister, at the same time, to our material necessities. And so it is with scientific research.
While the love of science is a sufficient incentive to the pursuit of science, and the investigator, in the prosecution of his enquiries, is raised above all material considerations, the results of his labours may exercise a potent influence upon the physical condition of the community. This is the arrangement of Nature, and not that of the scientific investigator himself; for he usually pursues his object without regard to its practical applications.
And let him who is dazzled by such applications—who sees in the steam-engine and the electric telegraph the highest embodiment of human genius and the only legitimate object of scientific research, beware of prescribing conditions to the investigator. Let him beware of attempting to substitute for that simple love with which the votary of science pursues his task, the calculations of what he is pleased to call utility. The professed utilitarian is unfortunately, in most cases, the very last man to see the occult sources from which useful results are derived. He admires the flower, but is ignorant of the conditions of its growth. The scientific man must approach Nature in his own way; for if you invade his freedom by your so-called practical considerations, it may be at the expense of those qualities on which his success as a discoverer depends. Let the self-styled practical man look to those from the fecundity of whose thought be, and thousands like him, have sprung into existence. Were they inspired in their first enquiries by the calculations of utility? Not one of them. They were often forced to live low and lie hard, and to seek compensation for their penury in the delight which their favourite pursuits afforded them.
In the words of one well qualified to speak upon this subject, 'I say not merely look at the pittance of men like John Dalton, or the voluntary starvation of the late Graff; but compare what is considered as competency or affluence by your Faradays, Liebigs, and Herschels, with the expected results of a life of successful commercial enterprise: then compare the amount of mind put forth, the work done for society in either case, and you will be constrained to allow that the former belong to a class of workers who, properly speaking, are not paid, and cannot be paid for their work, as indeed it is of a sort to which no payment could stimulate.'
But while the scientific investigator, standing upon the frontiers of human knowledge, and aiming at the conquest of fresh soil from the surrounding region of the unknown, makes the discovery of truth his exclusive object for the time, he cannot but feel the deepest interest in the practical application of the truth discovered. There is something ennobling in the triumph of Mind over Matter. Apart even from its uses to society, there is something elevating in the idea of Man having tamed that wild force which flashes through the telegraphic wire, and made it the minister of his will. Our attainments in these directions appear to be commensurate with our needs. We had already subdued horse and mule, and obtained from them all the service which it was in their power to render: we must either stand still, or find more potent agents to execute our purposes. At this point the steam-engine appears. These are still new things; it is not long since we struck into the scientific methods which have produced these results. We cannot for an instant regard them as the final achievements of Science, but rather as an earnest of what she is yet to do. They mark our first great advances upon the dominion of Nature. Animal strength fails, but here are the forces which hold the world together, and the instincts and successes of Man assure him that these forces are his when he is wise enough to command them.
As an instrument of intellectual culture, the study of Physics is profitable to all: as bearing upon special functions, its value, though not so great, is still more tangible. Why, for example, should Members of Parliament be ignorant of the subjects concerning which they are called upon to legislate? In this land of practical physics, why should they be unable to form an independent opinion upon a physical question? Why should the member of a parliamentary committee be left at the mercy of interested disputants when a scientific question is discussed, until he deems the nap a blessing which rescues him from the bewilderments of the committee-room? The education which does not supply the want here referred to, fails in its duty to England. With regard to our working people, in the ordinary sense of the term working, the study of Physics would, I imagine, be profitable, not only as a means of intellectual culture, but also as a moral influence to woo them from pursuits which now degrade them. A man's reformation oftener depends upon the indirect, than upon the direct action of the will. The will must be exerted in the choice of employment which shall break the force of temptation by erecting a barrier against it. The drunkard, for example, is in a perilous condition if he content himself merely with saying, or swearing, that he will avoid strong drink. His thoughts, if not attracted by another force, will revert to the public-house, and to rescue him permanently from this, you must give him an equivalent.
By investing the objects of hourly intercourse with an interest which prompts reflection, new enjoyments would be opened to the working man, and every one of these would be a point of force to protect him against temptation. Besides this, our factories and our foundries present an extensive field of observation, and were those who work in them rendered capable, by previous culture, of observing what they see, the results might be incalculable. Who can say what intellectual Samsons are at the present moment toiling with closed eyes in the mills and forges of Manchester and Birmingham? Grant these Samsons sight, and you multiply the chances of discovery, and with them the prospects of national advancement. In our multitudinous technical operations we are constantly playing with forces our ignorance of which is often the cause of our destruction. There are agencies at work in a locomotive of which the maker of it probably never dreamed, but which nevertheless may be sufficient to convert it into an engine of death. When we reflect on the intellectual condition of the people who work in our coal mines, those terrific explosions which occur from time to time need not astonish us. If these men possessed sufficient physical knowledge, from the operatives themselves would probably emanate a system by which these shocking accidents might be avoided. Possessed of the knowledge, their personal interests would furnish the necessary stimulus to its practical application, and thus two ends would be served at the same time the elevation of the men and the diminution of the calamity.
Before the present Course of Lectures was publicly announced, I had many misgivings as to the propriety of my taking a part in them, thinking that my place might be better filled by an older and more experienced man. To my experience, however, such as it was, I resolved to adhere, and I have therefore described things as they revealed themselves to my own eyes, and have been enacted in my own limited practice. There is one mind common to us all; and the true expression of this mind, even in small particulars, will attest itself by the response which it calls forth in the convictions of my hearers. I ask your permission to proceed a little further in this fashion, and to refer to a fact or two in addition to those already cited, which presented themselves to my notice during my brief career as a teacher in the college already alluded to. The facts, though extremely humble, and deviating in some slight degree from the strict subject of the present discourse, may yet serve to illustrate an educational principle.
One of the duties which fell to my share was the instruction of a class in mathematics, and I usually found that Euclid and the ancient geometry generally, when properly and sympathetically addressed to the understanding, formed a most attractive study for youth. But it was my habitual practice to withdraw the boys from the routine of the book, and to appeal to their self-power in the treatment of questions not comprehended in that routine. At first, the change from the beaten track usually excited aversion: the youth felt like a child amid strangers; but in no single instance did this feeling continue. When utterly disheartened, I have encouraged the boy by the anecdote of Newton, where he attributes the difference between him and other men, mainly to his own patience; or of Mirabeau, when he ordered his servant, who had stated something to be impossible, never again to use that blockhead of a word. Thus cheered, the boy has returned to his task with a smile, which perhaps had something of doubt in it, but which, nevertheless, evinced a resolution to try again. I have seen his eye brighten, and, at length, with a pleasure of which the ecstasy of Archimedes was but a simple expansion, heard him exclaim, 'I have it, sir.' The consciousness of self-power, thus awakened, was of immense value; and, animated by it, the progress of the class was astonishing. It was often my custom to give the boys the choice of pursuing their propositions in the book, or of trying their strength at others not to be found there. Never in a single instance was the book chosen. I was ever ready to assist when help was needful, but my offers of assistance were habitually declined. The boys had tasted the sweets of intellectual conquest and demanded victories of their own. Their diagrams were scratched on the walls, cut into the beams upon the playground, and numberless other illustrations were afforded of the living interest they took in the subject. For my own part, as far as experience in teaching goes, I was a mere fledgling—knowing nothing of the rules of pedagogics, as the Germans name it; but adhering to the spirit indicated at the commencement of this discourse, and endeavouring to make geometry a means rather than a branch of education. The experiment was successful, and some of the most delightful hours of my existence have been spent in marking the vigorous and cheerful expansion of mental power, when appealed to in the manner here described.
Our pleasure was enhanced when we applied our mathematical knowledge to the solution of physical problems. Many objects of hourly contact had thus a new interest and significance imparted to them. The swing, the see-saw, the tension of the giant-stride ropes, the fall and rebound of the football, the advantage of a small boy over a large one when turning short, particularly in slippy weather; all became subjects of investigation. A lady stands before a looking-glass, of her own height; it was required to know how much of the glass was really useful to her? We learned with pleasure the economic fact that she might dispense with the lower half and see her whole figure notwithstanding. It was also pleasant to prove by mathematics, and verify by experiment, that the angular velocity of a reflected beam is twice that of the mirror which reflects it. From the hum of a bee we were able to determine the number of times the insect flaps its wings in a second. Following up our researches upon the pendulum, we learned how Colonel Sabine had made it the means of determining the figure of the earth; and we were also startled by the inference which the pendulum enabled us to draw, that if the diurnal velocity of the earth were seventeen times its present amount, the centrifugal force at the equator would be precisely equal to the force of gravitation, so that an inhabitant of those regions would then have the same tendency to fall upwards as downwards. All these things were sources of wonder and delight to us: and when we remembered that we were gifted with the powers which had reached such results, and that the same great field was ours to work in, our hopes arose that at some future day we might possibly push the subject a little further, and add our own victories to the conquests already won.
I ought to apologise to you for dwelling so long upon this subject; but the days spent among these young philosophers made a deep impression on me. I learned among them something of myself and of human nature, and obtained some notion of a teacher's vocation. If there be one profession in England of paramount importance, I believe it to be that of the schoolmaster; and if there be a position where selfishness and incompetence do most serious mischief, by lowering the moral tone and exciting irreverence and cunning where reverence and noble truthfulness ought to be the feelings evoked, it is that of the principal of a school. When a man of enlarged heart and mind comes among boys, when he allows his spirit to stream through them, and observes the operation of his own character evidenced in the elevation of theirs,—it would be idle to talk of the position of such a man being honourable. It is a blessed position. The man is a blessing to himself and to all around him. Such men, I believe, are to be found in England, and it behoves those who busy themselves with the mechanics of education at the present day, to seek them out. For no matter what means of culture may be chosen, whether physical or philological, success must ever mainly depend upon the amount of life, love, and earnestness, which the teacher himself brings with him to his vocation.
Let me again, and finally, remind you that the claims of that science which finds in me to-day its unripened advocate, are those of the logic of Nature upon the reason of her child—that its disciplines, as an agent of culture, are based upon the natural relations subsisting between Man and the universe of which he forms a part. On the one side, we have the apparently lawless shifting of phenomena; on the other side, mind, which requires law for its equilibrium, and through its own indestructible instincts, as well as through the teachings of experience, knows that these phenomena are reducible to law. To chasten this apparent chaos is a problem which man has set before him. The world was built in order: and to us are trusted the will and power to discern its harmonies, and to make them the lessons of our lives. From the cradle to the grave we are surrounded with objects which provoke inquiry. Descending for a moment from this high plea to considerations which lie closer to us as a nation—as a land of gas and furnaces, of steam and electricity: as a land which science, practically applied, has made great in peace and mighty in war: I ask you whether this 'land of old and just renown' has not a right to expect from her institutions a culture more in accordance with her present needs than that supplied by declension and conjugation? And if the tendency should be to lower the estimate of science, by regarding it exclusively as the instrument of material prosperity, let it be the high mission of our universities to furnish the proper counterpoise by pointing out its nobler uses—lifting the national mind to the contemplation of it as the last development of that 'increasing purpose' which runs through the ages and widens the thoughts of men.
XII. ON CRYSTALLINE AND SLATY CLEAVAGE.
[Footnote: From a discourse delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, June 6, 1856.]
WHEN the student of physical science has to investigate the character of any natural force, his first care must be to purify it from the mixture of other forces, and thus study its simple action. If, for example, he wishes to know how a mass of liquid would shape itself if at liberty to follow the bent of its own molecular forces, he must see that these forces have free and undisturbed exercise. We might perhaps refer him to the dewdrop for a solution of the question; but here we have to do, not only with the action of the molecules of the liquid upon each other, but also with the action of gravity upon the mass, which pulls the drop downwards and elongates it. If he would examine the problem in its purity, he must do as Plateau has done, detach the liquid mass from the action of gravity; he would then find the shape to be a perfect sphere. Natural processes come to us in a mixed manner, and to the uninstructed mind are a mass of unintelligible confusion. Suppose half-a-dozen of the best musical performers to be placed in the same room, each playing his own instrument to perfection, but no two playing the same tune; though each individual instrument might be a source of perfect music, still the mixture of all would produce mere noise.
Thus it is with the processes of nature, where mechanical and molecular laws intermingle and create apparent confusion. Their mixture constitutes what may be called the noise of natural laws, and it is the vocation of the man of science to resolve this noise into its components, and thus to detect the underlying music.
The necessity of this detachment of one force from all other forces is nowhere more strikingly exhibited than in the phenomena of crystallisation. Here, for example, is a solution of common sulphate of soda or Glauber salt. Looking into it mentally, we see the molecules of that liquid, like disciplined squadrons under a governing eye, arranging themselves into battalions, gathering round distinct centres, and forming themselves into solid masses, which after a time assume the visible shape of the crystal now held in my hand. I may, like an ignorant meddler wishing to hasten matters, introduce confusion into this order. This may be done by plunging a glass rod into the vessel; the consequent action is not the pure expression of the crystalline forces; the molecules rush together with the confusion of an unorganised mob, and not with the steady accuracy of a disciplined host. In this mass of bismuth also we have an example of confused crystallisation; but in the crucible behind me a slower process is going on: here there is an architect at work 'who makes no chips, no din,' and who is now building the particles into crystals, similar in shape and structure to those beautiful masses which we see upon the table. By permitting alum to crystallise in this slow way, we obtain these perfect octahedrons; by allowing carbonate of lime to crystallise, nature produces these beautiful rhomboids; when silica crystallises, we have formed these hexagonal prisms capped at the ends by pyramids; by allowing saltpetre to crystallise we have these prismatic masses, and when carbon crystallises, we have the diamond. If we wish to obtain a perfect crystal we must allow the molecular forces free play; if the crystallising mass be permitted to rest upon a surface it will be flattened, and to prevent this a small crystal must be so suspended as to be surrounded on all sides by the liquid, or, if it rest upon the surface, it must be turned daily so as to present all its faces in succession to the working builder.
In building up crystals these little atomic bricks often arrange themselves into layers which are perfectly parallel to each other, and which can be separated by mechanical means; this is called the cleavage of the crystal. The crystal of sugar I hold in my hand has thus far escaped the solvent and abrading forces which sooner or later determine the fate of sugar-candy. I readily discover that it cleaves with peculiar facility in one direction. Again I lay my knife upon this piece of rocksalt, and with a blow cleave it in one direction. Laying the knife at right angles to its former position, the crystal cleaves again; and finally placing the knife at right angles to the two former positions, we find a third cleavage. Rocksalt cleaves in three directions, and the resulting solid is this perfect cube, which may be broken up into any number of smaller cubes. Iceland spar also cleaves in three directions, not at right angles, but oblique to each other, the resulting solid being a rhomboid. In each of these cases the mass cleaves with equal facility in all three directions. For the sake of completeness I may say that many crystals cleave with unequal facility in different directions: heavy spar presents an example of this kind of cleavage.
Turn we now to the consideration of some other phenomena to which the term cleavage may be applied. Beech, deal, and other woods cleave with facility along the fibre, and this cleavage is most perfect when the edge of the axe is laid across the rings which mark the growth of the tree. If you look at this bundle of hay severed from a rick, you will see a sort of cleavage in it also; the stalks lie in horizontal planes, and only a small force is required to separate them laterally. But we cannot regard the cleavage of the tree as the same in character as that of the hayrick. In the one case it is the molecules arranging themselves according to organic laws which produce a cleavable structure, in the other case the easy separation in one direction is due to the mechanical arrangement of the coarse sensible stalks of hay.
This sandstone rock was once a powder held in mechanical suspension by water. The powder was composed of two distinct parts, fine grains of sand and small plates of mica. Imagine a wide strand covered by a tide, or an estuary with water which holds such powder in suspension: how will it sink? The rounded grains of sand will reach the bottom first, because they encounter least resistance, the mica afterwards, and when the tide recedes we have the little plates shining like spangles upon the surface of the sand. Each successive tide brings its charge of mixed powder, deposits its duplex layer day after day, and finally masses of immense thickness are piled up, which by preserving the alternations of sand and mica tell the tale of their formation. Take the sand and mica, mix them together in water, and allow them to subside; they will arrange themselves in the manner indicated, and by repeating the process you can actually build up a mass which shall be the exact counterpart of that presented by nature. Now this structure cleaves with readiness along the planes in which the particles of mica are strewn. Specimens of such a rock sent to me from Halifax, and other masses from the quarries of Over Darwen in Lancashire, are here before you. With a hammer and chisel I can cleave them into flags; indeed these flags are employed for roofing purposes in the districts from which the specimens have come, and receive the name of 'slatestone.' But you will discern without a word from me, that this cleavage is not a crystalline cleavage any more than that of a hayrick is. It is molar, not molecular.
This, so far as I am aware of, has never been imagined, and it has been agreed among geologists not to call such splitting as this cleavage at all, but to restrict the term to a phenomenon of a totally different character.
Those who have visited the slate quarries of Cumberland and North Wales will have witnessed the phenomenon to which I refer. We have long drawn our supply of roofing-slates from such quarries; school-boys ciphered on these slates, they were used for tombstones in churchyards, and for billiard-tables in the metropolis; but not until a comparatively late period did men begin to enquire how their wonderful structure was produced. What is the agency which enables us to split Honister Crag, or the cliffs of Snowdon, into laminae from crown to base? This question is at the present moment one of the great difficulties of geologists, and occupies their attention perhaps more than any other. You may wonder at this. Looking into the quarry of Penrhyn, you may be disposed to offer the explanation I heard given two years ago. 'These planes of cleavage,' said a friend who stood beside me on the quarry's edge, 'are the planes of stratification which have been lifted by some convulsion into an almost vertical position.' But this was a mistake, and indeed here lies the grand difficulty of the problem. The planes of cleavage stand in most cases at a high angle to the bedding. Thanks to Sir Roderick Murchison, I am able to place the proof of this before you. Here is a specimen of slate in which both the planes of cleavage and of bedding are distinctly marked, one of them making a large angle with the other. This is common. The cleavage of slates then is not a question of stratification; what then is its cause?
In an able and elaborate essay published in 1835, Prof. Sedgwick proposed the theory that cleavage is due to the action of crystalline or polar forces subsequent to the consolidation of the rock. 'We may affirm,' he says, 'that no retreat of the parts, no contraction of dimensions in passing to a solid state, can explain such phenomena. They appear to me only resolvable on the supposition that crystalline or polar forces acted upon the whole mass simultaneously in one direction and with adequate force.' And again, in another place: 'Crystalline forces have re-arranged whole mountain masses, producing a beautiful crystalline cleavage, passing alike through all the strata.' [Footnote: Transactions of the Geological Society, ser. ii, vol. iii. p. 477.]
The utterance of such a man struck deep, as it ought to do, into the minds of geologists, and at the present day there are few who do not entertain this view either in whole or in part. [Footnote: In a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, dated from the Cape of Good Hope February 20, 1836, Sir John Herschel writes as follows: 'If rocks have been so heated as to allow of a commencement of crystallisation, that is to say, if they have been heated to a point at which the particles can begin to move amongst themselves, or at least on their own axes, some general law must then determine the position in which these particles will rest on cooling. Probably that position will have some relation to the direction in which the heat escapes. Now when all or a majority of particles of the same nature have a general tendency to one position, that must of course determine a cleavage plane.'] The boldness of the theory, indeed, has, in some cases, caused speculation to run riot, and we have books published on the action of polar forces and geologic magnetism, which rather astonish those who know something about the subject. According to this theory whole districts of North Wales and Cumberland, mountains included, are neither more nor less than the parts of a gigantic crystal. These masses of slate were originally fine mud, composed of the broken and abraded particles of older rocks. They contain silica, alumina, potash, soda, and mica mixed mechanically together. In the course of ages the mixture became consolidated, and the theory before us assumes that a process of crystallisation afterwards rearranged the particles and developed in it a single plane of cleavage. Though a bold, and I think inadmissible, stretch of analogies, this hypothesis has done good service. Right or wrong, a thoughtfully uttered theory has a dynamic power which operates against intellectual stagnation; and even by provoking opposition is eventually of service to the cause of truth. It would, however, have been remarkable if, among the ranks of geologists themselves, men were not found to seek an explanation of slate-cleavage involving a less hardy assumption.
The first step in an enquiry of this kind is to seek facts. This has been done, and the labours of Daniel Sharpe (the late President of the Geological Society, who, to the loss of science and the sorrow of all who knew him, has so suddenly been taken away from us), Mr. Henry Clifton Sorby, and others, have furnished us with a body of facts associated with slaty cleavage, and having a most important bearing upon the question.
Fossil shells are found in these slate-rocks. I have here several specimens of such shells in the actual rock, and occupying various positions in regard to the cleavage planes. They are squeezed, distorted, and crushed; in all cases the distortion leads to the inference that the rock which contains these shells has been subjected to enormous pressure in a direction at right angles to the planes of cleavage. The shells are all flattened and spread out in these planes. Compare this fossil trilobite of normal proportions with these others which have suffered distortion. Some have lain across, some along, and some oblique to the cleavage of the slate in which they are found; but in all cases the distortion is such, as required for its production a compressing force acting, at right angles to the planes of cleavage. As the trilobites lay in the mud, the jaws of a gigantic vice appear to have closed upon them and squeezed them into the shapes you see.
We sometimes find a thin layer of coarse gritty material, between two layers of finer rock, through which and across the gritty layer pass the planes of lamination. The coarse layer is found bent by the pressure into sinuosities like a contorted ribbon. Mr. Sorby has described a striking case of this kind. This crumpling can be experimentally imitated; the amount of compression might, moreover, be roughly estimated by supposing the contorted bed to be stretched out, its length measured and compared with the shorter distance into which it has been squeezed. We find in this way that the yielding of the mass has been considerable.
Let me now direct your attention to another proof of pressure; you see the varying colours which indicate the bedding on this mass of slate. The dark portion is gritty, being composed of comparatively coarse particles, which, owing to their size, shape and gravity, sink first and constitute the bottom of each layer. Gradually, from bottom to top the coarseness diminishes, and near the upper surface we have a layer of exceedingly fine grain. It is the fine mud thus consolidated from which are derived the German razor-stones, so much prized for the sharpening of surgical instruments.
When a bed is thin, the fine-grain slate is permitted to rest upon a slab of the coarse slate in contact with it; when the fine bed is thick, it is cut into slices which are cemented to pieces of ordinary slate, and thus rendered stronger. The mud thus deposited is, as might be expected, often rolled up into nodular masses, carried forward, and deposited among coarser material by the rivers from which the slate-mud has subsided. Here are such nodules enclosed in sandstone. Everybody, moreover, who has ciphered upon a school-slate must remember the whitish-green spots which sometimes dotted the surface of the slate, and over which the pencil usually slid as if the spots were greasy. Now these spots are composed of the finer mud, and they could not, on account of their fineness, bite the pencil like the surrounding gritty portions of the slate. Here is a beautiful example of these spots: you observe them, on the cleavage surface, in broad round patches. But turn the slate edgeways and the section of each nodule is seen to be a sharp oval with its longer axis parallel to the cleavage. This instructive fact has been adduced by Mr. Sorby. I have made excursions to the quarries of Wales and Cumberland, and to many of the slate yards of London, and found the fact general. Thus we elevate a common experience of our boyhood into evidence of the highest significance as regards a most important geological problem. From the magnetic deportment of these slates, I was led to infer that these spots contain a less amount of iron than the surrounding dark slate. An analysis was made for me by Mr. Hambly in the laboratory of Dr. Percy at the School of Mines with the following result:
ANALYSIS OF SLATE.
Dark Slate, two analyses.
1. Percentage of iron 5.85
2. Percentage of iron 6.13
Whitish Green Slate.
1. Percentage of iron 3.24
2. Percentage of iron 3.12
According to these analyses the quantity of iron in the dark slate immediately adjacent to the greenish spot is nearly double the quantity contained in the spot itself. This is about the proportion which the magnetic experiments suggested.
Let me now remind you that the facts brought before you are typical—each is the representative of a class. We have seen shells crushed; the trilobites squeezed, beds contorted, nodules of greenish marl flattened; and all these sources of independent testimony point to one and the same conclusion, namely, that slate-rocks have been subjected to enormous pressure in a direction at right angles to the Planes of cleavage.
In reference to Mr. Sorby's contorted bed, I have said that by supposing it to be stretched out and its length measured, it would give us an idea of the amount of yielding of the mass above and below the bed. Such a measurement, however, would not give the exact amount of yielding. I hold in my hand a specimen of slate with its bedding marked upon it; the lower portions of each layer being composed of a comparatively coarse gritty material something like what you may suppose the contorted bed to be composed of. Now in crossing these gritty portions, the cleavage turns, as if tending to cross the bedding at another angle. When the pressure began to act, the intermediate bed, which is not entirely unyielding, suffered longitudinal pressure; as it bent, the pressure became gradually more transverse, and the direction of its cleavage is exactly such as you would infer from an action of this kind—it is neither quite across the bed, nor yet in the same direction as the cleavage of the slate above and below it, but intermediate between both. Supposing the cleavage to be at right angles to the pressure, this is the direction which it ought to take across these more unyielding strata.
Thus we have established the concurrence of the phenomena of cleavage and pressure—that they accompany each other; but the question still remains, Is the pressure sufficient to account for the cleavage? A single geologist, as far as I am aware, answers boldly in the affirmative. This geologist is Sorby, who has attacked the question in the true spirit of a physical investigator. Call to mind the cleavage of the flags of Halifax and Over Darwen, which is caused by the interposition of layers of mica between the gritty strata. Mr. Sorby finds plates of mica to be also a constituent of slate-rock. He asks himself, what will be the effect of pressure upon a mass containing such plates confusedly mixed up in it? It will be, he argues, and he argues rightly, to place the plates with their flat surfaces more or less perpendicular to the direction in which the pressure is exerted. He takes scales of the oxide of iron, mixes them with a fine powder, and on squeezing the mass finds that the tendency of the scales is to set themselves at right angles to the line of pressure. Along the planes of weakness produced by the scales the mass cleaves.
By tests of a different character from those applied by Mr. Sorby, it might be shown how true his conclusion is—that the effect of pressure on elongated particles, or plates, will be such as he describes it. But while the scales must be regarded as a true cause, I should not ascribe to them a large share in the production of the cleavage. I believe that even if the plates of mica were wholly absent, the cleavage of slate-rocks would be much the same as it is at present.
Here is a mass of pure white wax: it contains no mica particles, no scales of iron, or anything analogous to them. Here is the selfsame substance submitted to pressure. I would invite the attention of the eminent geologists now before me to the structure of this wax. No slate ever exhibited so clean a cleavage; it splits into laminae of surpassing tenuity, and proves at a single stroke that pressure is sufficient to produce cleavage, and that this cleavage is independent of intermixed plates or scales. I have purposely mixed this wax with elongated particles, and am unable to say at the present moment that the cleavage is sensibly affected by their presence—if anything, I should say they rather impair its fineness and clearness than promote it.
The finer the slate is the more perfect will be the resemblance of its cleavage to that of the wax. Compare the surface of the wax with the surface of this slate from Borrodale in Cumberland. You have precisely the same features in both: you see flakes clinging to the surfaces of each, which have been partially torn away in cleaving. Let any close observer compare these two effects, he will, I am persuaded, be led to the conclusion that they are the product of a common cause. [Footnote: I have usually softened the wax by warming it, kneaded it with the fingers, and pressed it between thick plates of glass previously wetted. At the ordinary summer temperature the pressed wax is soft, and tears rather than cleaves; on this account I cool my compressed specimens in a mixture of pounded ice and salt, and when thus cooled they split cleanly.]
But you will ask me how, according to my view, does pressure produce this remarkable result? This may be stated in a very few words.
There is no such thing in nature as a body of perfectly homogeneous structure. I break this clay which seems so uniform, and find that the fracture presents to my eyes innumerable surfaces along which it has given way, and it has yielded along those surfaces because in them the cohesion of the mass is less than elsewhere. I break this marble, and even this wax, and observe the same result; look at the mud at the bottom of a dried pond; look at some of the ungravelled walks in Kensington Gardens on drying after rain,—they are cracked and split, and other circumstances being equal, they crack and split where the cohesion is a minimum. Take then a mass of partially consolidated mud. Such a mass is divided and subdivided by interior surfaces along which the cohesion is comparatively small. Penetrate the mass in idea, and you will see it composed of numberless irregular polyhedra bounded by surfaces of weak cohesion. Imagine such a mass subjected to pressure,—it yields and spreads out in the direction of least resistance; the little polyhedra become converted into laminae, separated from each other by surfaces of weak cohesion, and the infallible result will be a tendency to cleave at right angles to the line of pressure. [Footnote: It is scarcely necessary to say that if the mass were squeezed equally in all directions no laminated structure could be produced; it must have room to yield in a lateral direction. Mr. Warren De la Rue informs me that he once wished to obtain white-lead in a fine granular state, and to accomplish this he first compressed it. The mould was conical, and permitted the lead to spread out a little laterally. The lamination was as perfect as that of slate, and it quite defeated him in his effort to obtain a granular powder.]
Further, a mass of dried mud is full of cavities and fissures. If you break dried pipe-clay you see them in great numbers, and there are multitudes of them so small that you cannot see them. A flattening of these cavities must take place in squeezed mud, and this must to some extent facilitate the cleavage of the mass in the direction indicated.
Although the time at my disposal has not permitted me duly to develope these thoughts, yet for the last twelve months the subject has presented itself to me almost daily under one aspect or another. I have never eaten a biscuit during this period without remarking the cleavage developed by the rolling-pin. You have only to break a biscuit across, and to look at the fracture, to see the laminated structure. We have here the means of pushing the analogy further. I invite you to compare the structure of this slate, which was subjected to a high temperature during the conflagration of Mr. Scott Russell's premises, with that of a biscuit. Air or vapour within the slate has caused it to swell, and the mechanical structure it reveals is precisely that of a biscuit. During these enquiries I have received much instruction in the manufacture of puff-paste. Here is some such paste baked under my own superintendence. The cleavage of our hills is accidental cleavage, but this is cleavage with intention. The volition of the pastrycook has entered into its formation. It has been his aim to preserve a series of surfaces of structural weakness, along which the dough divides into layers. Puff-paste in preparation must not be handled too much; it ought, moreover, to be rolled on a cold slab, to prevent the butter from melting, and diffusing itself, thus rendering the paste more homogeneous and less liable to split. Puff-paste is, then, simply an exaggerated case of slaty cleavage.
The principle here enunciated is so simple as to be almost trivial; nevertheless, it embraces not only the cases mentioned, but, if time permitted, it might be shown you that the principle has a much wider range of application. When iron is taken from the puddling furnace it is more or less spongy, an aggregate in fact of small nodules: it is at a welding heat, and at this temperature is submitted to the process of rolling. Bright smooth bars are the result. But notwithstanding the high heat the nodules do not perfectly blend together. The process of rolling draws them into fibres. Here is a mass acted upon by dilute sulphuric acid, which exhibits in a striking manner this fibrous structure. The experiment was made by my friend Dr. Percy, without any reference to the question of cleavage.
Break a piece of ordinary iron and you have a granular fracture; heat the iron, you elongate these granules, and finally render the mass fibrous. Here are pieces of rails along which the wheels of locomotives have slid-den; the granules have yielded and become plates. They exfoliate or come off in leaves; all these effects belong, I believe, to the great class of phenomena of which slaty cleavage forms the most prominent example. [Footnote: For some further observations on this subject by Mr. Sorby and myself, see Philosophical Magazine for August, 1856.]
We have now reached the termination of our task. You have witnessed the phenomena of crystallisation, and have had placed before you the facts which are found associated with the cleavage of slate rocks. Such facts, as expressed by Helmholtz, are so many telescopes to our spiritual vision, by which we can see backward through the night of antiquity, and discern the forces which have been in operation upon the earth's surface
Ere the lion roared, Or the eagle soared.
From evidence of the most independent and trustworthy character, we come to the conclusion that these slaty masses have been subjected to enormous pressure, and by the sure method of experiment we have shown—and this is the only really new point which has been brought before you—how the pressure is sufficient to produce the cleavage. Expanding our field of view, we find the self-same law, whose footsteps we trace amid the crags of Wales and Cumberland, extending into the domain of the pastrycook and ironfounder; nay, a wheel cannot roll over the half-dried mud of our streets without revealing to us more or less of the features of this law. Let me say, in conclusion, that the spirit in which this problem has been attacked by geologists, indicates the dawning of a new day for their science. The great intellects who have laboured at geology, and who have raised it to its present pitch of grandeur, were compelled to deal with the subject in mass; they had no time to look after details. But the desire for more exact knowledge is increasing; facts are flowing in which, while they leave untouched the intrinsic wonders of geology, are gradually supplanting by solid truths the uncertain speculations which beset the subject in its infancy. Geologists now aim to imitate, as far as possible, the conditions of nature, and to produce her results; they are approaching more and more to the domain of physics, and I trust the day will soon come when we shall interlace our friendly arms across the common boundary of our sciences, and pursue our respective tasks in a spirit of mutual helpfulness, encouragement and goodwill.