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    By [[Charles Babbage]]
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    Of the causes which have induced me to print this volume I have little to
    say; my own opinion is, that it will ultimately do some service to
    science, and without that belief I would not have undertaken so thankless
    a task. That it is too true not to make enemies, is an opinion in which I
    concur with several of my friends, although I should hope that what I have
    written will not give just reason for the permanence of such feelings. On
    one point I shall speak decidedly, it is not connected in any degree with
    the calculating machine on which I have been engaged; the causes which
    have led to it have been long operating, and would have produced this
    result whether I had ever speculated on that subject, and whatever might
    have been the fate of my speculations.
    If any one shall endeavour to account for the opinions stated in these
    pages by ascribing them to any imagined circumstance peculiar to myself, I
    think he will be mistaken. That science has long been neglected and
    declining in England, is not an opinion originating with me, but is shared
    by many, and has been expressed by higher authority than mine. I shall
    offer a few notices on this subject, which, from their scattered position,
    are unlikely to have met the reader's attention, and which, when combined
    with the facts I have detailed in subsequent pages, will be admitted to
    deserve considerable attention. The following extract from the article
    Chemistry, in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, is from the pen of a
    gentleman equally qualified by his extensive reading, and from his
    acquaintance with foreign nations, to form an opinion entitled to respect.
    Differing from him widely as to the cause, I may be permitted to cite him
    as high authority for the fact.
    "In concluding this most circumscribed outline of the History of
    Chemistry, we may perhaps be allowed to express a faint shade of regret,
    which, nevertheless, has frequently passed over our minds within the space
    of the last five or six years. Admiring, as we most sincerely do, the
    electro-magnetic discoveries of Professor Oersted and his followers, we
    still, as chemists, fear that our science has suffered some degree of
    neglect in consequence of them. At least, we remark that, during this
    period, good chemical analyses and researches have been rare in England;
    and yet, it must be confessed, there is an ample field for chemical
    discovery. How scanty is our knowledge of the suspected fluorine! Are we
    sure that we understand the nature of nitrogen? And yet these are amongst
    our elements. Much has been done by Wollaston, Berzelius, Guy-Lussac,
    Thenard, Thomson, Prout, and others, with regard to the doctrine of
    definite proportions; but there yet remains the Atomic Theory. Is it a
    representation of the laws of nature, or is it not?"&mdash;-CHEMISTRY,
    ENCYC. METROP. p.596.
    When the present volume was considerably advanced, the public were
    informed that the late Sir Humphry Davy had commenced a work, having the
    same title as the present, and that his sentiments were expressed in the
    language of feeling and of eloquence. It is to be hoped that it may be
    allowed by his friends to convey his opinions to posterity, and that the
    writings of the philosopher may enable his contemporaries to forget some
    of the deeds of the President of the Royal Society.
    Whatever may be the fate of that highly interesting document, we may infer
    his opinions upon this subject from a sentiment expressed in his last
    "&mdash;But we may in vain search the aristocracy now for philosophers."&mdash;&mdash;"There
    are very few persons who pursue science with true dignity; it is followed
    more as connected with objects of profit than those of fame."&mdash;SIR H.
    The last authority which I shall adduce is more valuable, from the varied
    acquirements of its author, and from the greater detail into which he
    enters. "We have drawn largely, both in the present Essay, and in our
    article on LIGHT, from the ANNALES DE CHEMIE, and we take this ONLY
    opportunity distinctly to acknowledge our obligations to that most
    admirably conducted work. Unlike the crude and undigested scientific
    matter which suffices, (we are ashamed to say it) for the monthly and
    quarterly amusement of our own countrymen, whatever is admitted into ITS
    pages, has at least been taken pains with, and, with few exceptions, has
    sterling merit. Indeed, among the original communications which abound in
    it, there are few which would misbecome the first academical collections;
    and if any thing could diminish our regret at the long suppression of
    those noble memoirs, which are destined to adorn future volumes of that of
    the Institute, it would be the masterly abstracts of them which from time
    to time appear in the ANNALES, either from the hands of the authors, or
    from the reports rendered by the committees appointed to examine them;
    which latter, indeed, are universally models of their kind, and have
    contributed, perhaps more than any thing, to the high scientific tone of
    the French SAVANS. What author, indeed, but will write his best, when he
    knows that his work, if it have merit, will immediately be reported on by
    a committee, who will enter into all its meaning; understand it, however
    profound: and, not content with MERELY understanding it, pursue the trains
    of thought to which it leads; place its discoveries and principles in new
    and unexpected lights; and bring the whole of their knowledge of
    collateral subjects to bear upon it. Nor ought we to omit our
    acknowledgement to the very valuable Journals of Poggendorff and
    Schweigger. Less exclusively national than their Gallic compeer, they
    present a picture of the actual progress of physical science throughout
    Europe. Indeed, we have been often astonished to see with what celerity
    every thing, even moderately valuable in the scientific publications of
    this country, finds its way into their pages. This ought to encourage our
    men of science. They have a larger audience, and a wider sympathy than
    they are perhaps aware of; and however disheartening the general diffusion
    of smatterings of a number of subjects, and the almost equally general
    indifference to profound knowledge in any, among their own countrymen, may
    be, they may rest assured that not a fact they may discover, nor a good
    experiment they may make, but is instantly repeated, verified, and
    commented upon, in Germany, and, we may add too, in Italy. We wish the
    obligation were mutual. Here, whole branches of continental discovery are
    unstudied, and indeed almost unknown, even by name. It is in vain to
    conceal the melancholy truth. We are fast dropping behind. In mathematics
    we have long since drawn the rein, and given over a hopeless race. In
    chemistry the case is not much letter. Who can tell us any thing of the
    Sulfo-salts? Who will explain to us the laws of Isomorphism? Nay, who
    among us has even verified Thenard's experiments on the oxygenated acids,&mdash;Oersted's
    and Berzelius's on the radicals of the earths,&mdash;Balard's and
    Serrulas's on the combinations of Brome,&mdash;and a hundred other
    splendid trains of research in that fascinating science? Nor need we stop
    here. There are, indeed, few sciences which would not furnish matter for
    similar remark. The causes are at once obvious and deep-seated; but this
    is not the place to discuss them."&mdash;MR. HERSCHEL'S TREATISE ON SOUND,
    With such authorities, I need not apprehend much doubt as to the fact of
    the decline of science in England: how far I may have pointed out some of
    its causes, must be left to others to decide.
    Many attacks have lately been made on the conduct of various scientific
    bodies, and of their officers, and severe criticism has been lavished upon
    some of their productions. Newspapers, Magazines, Reviews, and Pamphlets,
    have all been put in requisition for the purpose. Odium has been cast upon
    some of these for being anonymous. If a fact is to be established by
    testimony, anonymous assertion is of no value; if it can be proved, by
    evidence to which the public have access, it is of no consequence (for the
    cause of truth) who produces it. A matter of opinion derives weight from
    the name which is attached to it; but a chain of reasoning is equally
    conclusive, whoever may be its author.
    Perhaps it would be better for science, that all criticism should be
    avowed. It would certainly have the effect of rendering it more matured,
    and less severe; but, on the other hand, it would have the evil of
    frequently repressing it altogether, because there exists amongst the
    lower ranks of science, a "GENUS IRRITABILE," who are disposed to argue
    that every criticism is personal. It is clearly the interest of all who
    fear inquiries, to push this principle as far as possible, whilst those
    whose sole object is truth, can have no apprehensions from the severest
    scrutiny. There are few circumstances which so strongly distinguish the
    philosopher, as the calmness with which he can reply to criticisms he may
    think undeservedly severe. I have been led into these reflections, from
    the circumstance of its having been stated publicly, that I was the author
    of several of those anonymous writings, which were considered amongst the
    most severe; and the assertion was the more likely to be credited, from
    the fact of my having spoken a few words connected with one of those
    subjects at the last anniversary of the Royal Society. [I merely observed
    that the agreement made with the British Museum for exchanging the Arundel
    MSS. for their duplicates, (which had just been stated by the President,)
    was UNWISE;&mdash;because it was not to be expected that many duplicates
    should be found in a library like that of the Museum, weak in the physical
    and mathematical sciences: that it was IMPROVIDENT and UNBUSINESSLIKE;&mdash;because
    it neither fixed the TIME when the difference was to be paid, in case
    their duplicates should be insufficient; nor did it appear that there were
    any FUNDS out of which the money could be procured: and I added, that it
    would be more advantageous to sell the MSS., and purchase the books we
    wanted with the produce.] I had hoped in that diminutive world, the world
    of science, my character had been sufficiently known to have escaped being
    the subject of such a mistake; and, in taking this opportunity of
    correcting it, I will add that, in the present volume, I have thought it
    more candid to mention distinctly those whose line of conduct I have
    disapproved, or whose works I have criticised, than to leave to the reader
    inferences which he might make far more extensive than I have intended. I
    hope, therefore, that where I have depicted species, no person will be so
    unkind to others and unjust to me, as to suppose I have described
    With respect to the cry against personality, which has been lately set up
    to prevent all inquiry into matters of scientific misgovernment, a few
    words will suffice.
    I feel as strongly as any one, not merely the impropriety, but the
    injustice of introducing private character into such discussions. There
    is, however, a maxim too well established to need any comment of mine. The
    public character of every public servant is legitimate subject of
    discussion, and his fitness or unfitness for office may be fairly
    canvassed by any person. Those whose too sensitive feelings shrink from
    such an ordeal, have no right to accept the emoluments of office, for they
    know that it is the condition to which all must submit who are paid from
    the public purse.
    The same principle is equally applicable to Companies, to Societies, and
    to Academies. Those from whose pocket the salary is drawn, and by whose
    appointment the officer was made, have always a right to discuss the
    merits of their officers, and their modes of exercising the duties they
    are paid to perform.
    This principle is equally applicable to the conduct of a Secretary of
    State, or to that of a constable; to that of a Secretary of the Royal
    Society, or of an adviser to the Admiralty.
    With respect to honorary officers, the case is in some measure different.
    But the President of a society, although not recompensed by any pecuniary
    remuneration, enjoys a station, when the body over which he presides
    possesses a high character, to which many will aspire, who will esteem
    themselves amply repaid for the time they devote to the office, by the
    consequence attached to it in public estimation. He, therefore, is
    answerable to the Society for his conduct in their chair.
    There are several societies in which the secretaries, and other officers,
    have very laborious duties, and where they are unaided by a train of
    clerks, and yet no pecuniary remuneration is given to them. Science is
    much indebted to such men, by whose quiet and unostentatious labours the
    routine of its institutions is carried on. It would be unwise, as well as
    ungrateful, to judge severely of the inadvertencies, or even of the
    negligence of such persons: nothing but weighty causes should justify such
    a course.
    Whilst, however, I contend for the principle of discussion and inquiry in
    its widest sense, because I consider it equally the safeguard of our
    scientific as of our political institutions, I shall use it, I hope,
    temperately; and having no personal feelings myself, but living in terms
    of intercourse with almost all, and of intimacy with several of those from
    whom I most widely differ, I shall not attempt to heap together all the
    causes of complaint; but, by selecting a few in different departments,
    endeavour to convince them that some alteration is essentially necessary
    for the promotion of that very object which we both by such different
    roads pursue.
    I have found it necessary, in the course of this volume, to speak of the
    departed; for the misgovernment of the Royal Society has not been wholly
    the result of even the present race. It is said, and I think with justice,
    in the life of Young, inserted amongst Dr. Johnson's, that the famous
    maxim, "DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM," "appears to savour more of female
    weakness than of manly reason." The foibles and the follies of those who
    are gone, may, without injury to society, repose in oblivion. But, whoever
    would claim the admiration of mankind for their good actions, must prove
    his impartiality by fearlessly condemning their evil deeds. Adopt the
    maxim, and praise to the dead becomes worthless, from its universality;
    and history, a greater fable than it has been hitherto deemed.
    Perhaps I ought to apologize for the large space I have devoted to the
    Royal Society. Certainly its present state gives it no claim to that
    attention; and I do it partly from respect for its former services, and
    partly from the hope that, if such an Institution can be of use to science
    in the present day, the attention of its members may be excited to take
    steps for its restoration. Perhaps I may be blamed for having published
    extracts from the minutes of its proceedings without the permission of its
    Council. To have asked permission of the present Council would have been
    useless. I might, however, have given the substance of what I have
    extracted without the words, and no one could then have reproached me with
    any infringement of our rules: but there were two objections to that
    course. In the first place, it is impossible, even for the most candid, in
    all cases, to convey precisely the same sentiment in different language;
    and I thought it therefore more fair towards those from whom I differed,
    as well as to the public, to give the precise words. Again: had it been
    possible to make so accurate a paraphrase, I should yet have preferred the
    risk of incurring the reproach of the Royal Society for the offence, to
    escaping their censure by an evasion. What I have done rests on my own
    head; and I shrink not from the responsibility attaching to it.
    If those, whose mismanagement of that Society I condemn, should accuse me
    of hostility to the Royal Society; my answer is, that the party which
    governs it is not the Royal Society; and that I will only admit the
    justice of the accusation, when the whole body, becoming acquainted with
    the system I have exposed, shall, by ratifying it with their approbation,
    appropriate it to themselves: an event of which I need scarcely add I have
    not the slightest anticipation.
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    <p class="toc">
      <br />
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_4_0001"> DEDICATION. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_PREF"> PREFACE. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_4_0003"> <b>REFLECTIONS ON THE DECLINE OF SCIENCE IN
      ENGLAND</b> </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_4_0004"> INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. </a>
      <br />
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 1. PROFESSIONAL IMPULSES. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 2. OF NATIONAL ENCOURAGEMENT. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 3. Of Encouragement from Learned
      Societies. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      IN ENGLAND. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2HCH0004"> CHAPTER IV. STATE OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY IN
      PARTICULAR. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      ROYAL SOCIETY. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 2. OF THE PRESIDENCY AND
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 3. OF THE SECRETARISHIPS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 4. OF THE SCIENTIFIC ADVISERS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      ONE PERSON. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 6. OF THE FUNDS OF THE SOCIETY. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 7. OF THE ROYAL MEDALS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 8. OF THE COPLEY MEDALS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 9. OF THE FAIRCHILD LECTURE. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 10. OF THE CROONIAN LECTURE. </a>
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
      SOCIETY. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2HCH0005"> CHAPTER V. OF OBSERVATIONS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 1. OF MINUTE PRECISION. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 2. ON THE ART OF OBSERVING. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 3. ON THE FRAUDS OF OBSERVERS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 2. OF BIENNIAL PRESIDENTS. </a>
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
      SOCIETY. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_SECT"> SECTION 6. ORDER OF MERIT. </a>
    <p class="toc">
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_CONC"> CONCLUSION. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_APPE"> APPENDIX, No. 1. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_APPE"> APPENDIX, No. 2. </a>
    <p class="toc">
      <a href="#link2H_APPE"> APPENDIX, No. 3, </a>
    <p class="toc">
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    It cannot have escaped the attention of those, whose acquirements enable
    them to judge, and who have had opportunities of examining the state of
    science in other countries, that in England, particularly with respect to
    the more difficult and abstract sciences, we are much below other nations,
    not merely of equal rank, but below several even of inferior power. That a
    country, eminently distinguished for its mechanical and manufacturing
    ingenuity, should be indifferent to the progress of inquiries which form
    the highest departments of that knowledge on whose more elementary truths
    its wealth and rank depend, is a fact which is well deserving the
    attention of those who shall inquire into the causes that influence the
    progress of nations.
    To trace the gradual decline of mathematical, and with it of the highest
    departments of physical science, from the days of Newton to the present,
    must be left to the historian. It is not within the province of one who,
    having mixed sufficiently with scientific society in England to see and
    regret the weakness of some of its greatest ornaments, and to see through
    and deplore the conduct of its pretended friends, offers these remarks,
    with the hope that they may excite discussion,&mdash;with the conviction
    that discussion is the firmest ally of truth,&mdash;and with the
    confidence that nothing but the full expression of public opinion can
    remove the evils that chill the enthusiasm, and cramp the energies of the
    science of England.
    The causes which have produced, and some of the effects which have
    resulted from, the present state of science in England, are so mixed, that
    it is difficult to distinguish accurately between them. I shall,
    therefore, in this volume, not attempt any minute discrimination, but
    rather present the result of my reflections on the concomitant
    circumstances which have attended the decay, and at the conclusion of it,
    shall examine some of the suggestions which have been offered for the
    advancement of British science.
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    That the state of knowledge in any country will exert a directive
    influence on the general system of instruction adopted in it, is a
    principle too obvious to require investigation. And it is equally certain
    that the tastes and pursuits of our manhood will bear on them the traces
    of the earlier impressions of our education. It is therefore not
    unreasonable to suppose that some portion of the neglect of science in
    England, may be attributed to the system of education we pursue. A young
    man passes from our public schools to the universities, ignorant almost of
    the elements of every branch of useful knowledge; and at these latter
    establishments, formed originally for instructing those who are intended
    for the clerical profession, classical and mathematical pursuits are
    nearly the sole objects proposed to the student's ambition.
    Much has been done at one of our universities during the last fifteen
    years, to improve the system of study; and I am confident that there is no
    one connected with that body, who will not do me the justice to believe
    that, whatever suggestions I may venture to offer, are prompted by the
    warmest feelings for the honour and the increasing prosperity of its
    institutions. The ties which connect me with Cambridge are indeed of no
    ordinary kind.
    Taking it then for granted that our system of academical education ought
    to be adapted to nearly the whole of the aristocracy of the country, I am
    inclined to believe that whilst the modifications I should propose would
    not be great innovations on the spirit of our institutions, they would
    contribute materially to that important object.
    It will be readily admitted, that a degree conferred by an university,
    ought to be a pledge to the public that he who holds it possesses a
    certain quantity of knowledge. The progress of society has rendered
    knowledge far more various in its kinds than it used to be; and to meet
    this variety in the tastes and inclinations of those who come to us for
    instruction, we have, besides the regular lectures to which all must
    attend, other sources of information from whence the students may acquire
    sound and varied knowledge in the numerous lectures on chemistry, geology,
    botany, history, &amp;c. It is at present a matter of option with the
    student, which, and how many of these courses he shall attend, and such it
    should still remain. All that it would be necessary to add would be, that
    previously to taking his degree, each person should be examined by those
    Professors, whose lectures he had attended. The pupils should then be
    arranged in two classes, according to their merits, and the names included
    in these classes should be printed. I would then propose that no young
    man, except his name was found amongst the "List of Honours," should be
    allowed to take his degree, unless he had been placed in the first class
    of some one at least of the courses given by the professors. But it should
    still be imperative upon the student to possess such mathematical
    knowledge as we usually require. If he had attained the first rank in
    several of these examinations, it is obvious that we should run no hazard
    in a little relaxing: the strictness of his mathematical trial.
    If it should be thought preferable, the sciences might be grouped, and the
    following subjects be taken together:&mdash;

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   Modern History.
   Laws of England.
   Civil Law.
   Political Economy.
   Applications of Science to Arts and Manufactures.
   Zoology, including Physiology and Comparative Anatomy.
   Botany, including Vegetable Physiology and Anatomy.


    One of the great advantages of such a system would be, that no young
    person would have an excuse for not studying, by stating, as is most
    frequently done, that the only pursuits followed at Cambridge, classics
    and mathematics, are not adapted either to his taste, or to the wants of
    his after life. His friends and relatives would then reasonably expect
    every student to have acquired distinction in SOME pursuit. If it should
    be feared that this plan would lead to too great a diversity of pursuits
    in the same individual, a limitation might be placed upon the number of
    examinations into which the same person might be permitted to enter. It
    might also be desirable not to restrict the whole of these examinations to
    the third year, but to allow the student to enter on some portion of them
    in the first or second year, if he should prefer it.
    By such an arrangement, which would scarcely interfere seriously with our
    other examinations, we should, I think, be enabled effectually to keep
    pace with the wants of society, and retaining fully our power and our
    right to direct the studies of those who are intended for the church, as
    well as of those who aspire to the various offices connected with our
    academical institutions; we should, at the same time, open a field of
    honourable ambition to multitudes, who, from the exclusive nature of our
    present studies, leave us with but a very limited addition to their stock
    of knowledge.
    Much more might be said on a subject so important to the interests of the
    country, as well as of our university, but my wish is merely to open it
    for our own consideration and discussion. We have already done so much for
    the improvement of our system of instruction, that public opinion will not
    reproach us for any unwillingness to alter. It is our first duty to be
    well satisfied that we can improve: such alterations ought only to be the
    result of a most mature consideration, and of a free interchange of
    sentiments on the subject, in order that we may condense upon the question
    the accumulated judgment of many minds.
    It is in some measure to be attributed to the defects of our system of
    education, that scientific knowledge scarcely exists amongst the higher
    classes of society. The discussions in the Houses of Lords or of Commons,
    which arise on the occurrence of any subjects connected with science,
    sufficiently prove this fact, which, if I had consulted the extremely
    limited nature of my personal experience, I should, perhaps, have doubted.
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    Interest or inclination form the primary and ruling motives in this
    matter: and both these exert greater or less proportionate influence in
    each of the respective cases to be examined.
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    A large portion of those who are impelled by ambition or necessity to
    advance themselves in the world, make choice of some profession in which
    they imagine their talents likely to be rewarded with success; and there
    are peculiar advantages resulting to each from this classification of
    society into professions. The ESPRIT DE CORPS frequently overpowers the
    jealousy which exists between individuals, and pushes on to advantageous
    situations some of the more fortunate of the profession; whilst, on the
    other hand, any injury or insult offered to the weakest, is redressed or
    resented by the whole body. There are other advantages which are perhaps
    of more importance to the public. The numbers which compose the learned
    professions in England are so considerable, that a kind of public opinion
    is generated amongst them, which powerfully tends to repress conduct that
    is injurious either to the profession or to the public. Again, the mutual
    jealousy and rivalry excited amongst the whole body is so considerable,
    that although the rank and estimation which an individual holds in the
    profession may be most unfairly appreciated, by taking the opinion of his
    rival; yet few estimations will be found generally more correct than the
    opinion of a whole profession on the merits of any one of its body. This
    test is of great value to the public, and becomes the more so, in
    proportion to the difficulty of the study to which the profession is
    devoted. It is by availing themselves of it that men of sense and
    judgment, who have occasion for the services of professional persons, are,
    in a great measure, guided in their choice.
    The pursuit of science does not, in England, constitute a distinct
    profession, as it does in many other countries. It is therefore, on that
    ground alone, deprived of many of the advantages which attach to
    professions. One of its greatest misfortunes arises from this
    circumstance; for the subjects on which it is conversant are so difficult,
    and require such unremitted devotion of time, that few who have not spent
    years in their study can judge of the relative knowledge of those who
    pursue them. It follows, therefore, that the public, and even that men of
    sound sense and discernment, can scarcely find means to distinguish
    between the possessors of knowledge, in the present day, merely
    elementary, and those whose acquirements are of the highest order. This
    remark applies with peculiar force to all the more difficult applications
    of mathematics; and the fact is calculated to check the energies of those
    who only look to reputation in England.
    As there exists with us no peculiar class professedly devoted to science,
    it frequently happens that when a situation, requiring for the proper
    fulfilment of its duties considerable scientific attainments, is vacant,
    it becomes necessary to select from among amateurs, or rather from among
    persons whose chief attention has been bestowed on other subjects, and to
    whom science has been only an occasional pursuit. A certain quantity of
    scientific knowledge is of course possessed by individuals in many
    professions; and when added to the professional acquirements of the army,
    the navy, or to the knowledge of the merchant, is highly meritorious: but
    it is obvious that this may become, when separated from the profession,
    quite insignificant as the basis of a scientific reputation.
    To those who have chosen the profession of medicine, a knowledge of
    chemistry, and of some branches of natural history, and, indeed, of
    several other departments of science, affords useful assistance. Some of
    the most valuable names which adorn the history of English science have
    been connected with this profession.
    The causes which induce the selection of the clerical profession are not
    often connected with science; and it is, perhaps, a question of
    considerable doubt whether it is desirable to hold out to its members
    hopes of advancement from such acquirements. As a source of recreation,
    nothing can be more fit to occupy the attention of a divine; and our
    church may boast, in the present as in past times, that the domain of
    science has been extended by some of its brightest ornaments.
    In England, the profession of the law is that which seems to hold out the
    strongest attraction to talent, from the circumstance, that in it ability,
    coupled with exertion, even though unaided by patronage, cannot fail of
    obtaining reward. It is frequently chosen as an introduction to public
    life. It also presents great advantages, from its being a qualification
    for many situations more or less remotely connected with it, as well as
    from the circumstance that several of the highest officers of the state
    must necessarily have sprung from its ranks.
    A powerful attraction exists, therefore, to the promotion of a study and
    of duties of all others engrossing the time most completely, and which is
    less benefited than most others by any acquaintance with science. This is
    one amongst the causes why it so very rarely happens that men in public
    situations are at all conversant even with the commonest branches of
    scientific knowledge, and why scarcely an instance can be cited of such
    persons acquiring a reputation by any discoveries of their own.
    But, however consistent other sciences may be with professional
    avocations, there is one which, from its extreme difficulty, and the
    overwhelming attention which it demands, can only be pursued with success
    by those whose leisure is undisturbed by other claims. To be well
    acquainted with the present state of mathematics, is no easy task; but to
    add to the powers which that science possesses, is likely to be the lot of
    but few English philosophers.
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    The little encouragement which at all previous periods has been afforded
    by the English Government to the authors of useful discoveries, or of new
    and valuable inventions, is justified on the following grounds:
    1. The public, who consume the new commodity or profit by the new
    invention, are much better judges of its merit than the government can be.
    2. The reward which arises from the sale of the commodity is usually much
    larger than that which government would be justified in bestowing; and it
    is exactly proportioned to the consumption, that is, to the want which the
    public feel for the new article.
    It must be admitted that, as general principles, these are correct: there
    are, however, exceptions which flow necessarily from the very reasoning
    from which they were deduced. Without entering minutely into these
    exceptions, it will be sufficient to show that all abstract truth is
    entirely excluded from reward under this system. It is only the
    application of principles to common life which can be thus rewarded. A few
    instances may perhaps render this position more evident. The principle of
    the hydrostatic paradox was known as a speculative truth in the time of
    Stevinus; [About the year 1600] and its application to raising heavy
    weights has long been stated in elementary treatises on natural
    philosophy, as well as constantly exhibited in lectures. Yet, it may
    fairly be regarded as a mere abstract principle, until the late Mr.
    Bramah, by substituting a pump instead of the smaller column, converted it
    into a most valuable and powerful engine.&mdash;The principle of the
    convertibility of the centres of oscillation and suspension in the
    pendulum, discovered by Huygens more than a century and a half ago,
    remained, until within these few years, a sterile, though most elegant
    proposition; when, after being hinted at by Prony, and distinctly pointed
    out by Bonenberger, it was employed by Captain Kater as the foundation of
    a most convenient practical method of determining the length of the
    pendulum.&mdash;The interval which separated the discovery, by Dr. Black,
    of latent heat, from the beautiful and successful application of it to the
    steam engine, was comparatively short; but it required the efforts of two
    minds; and both were of the highest order.&mdash;The influence of
    electricity in producing decompositions, although of inestimable value as
    an instrument of discovery in chemical inquiries, can hardly be said to
    have been applied to the practical purposes of life, until the same
    powerful genius which detected the principle, applied it, by a singular
    felicity of reasoning, to arrest the corrosion of the copper-sheathing of
    vessels. That admirably connected chain of reasoning, the truth of which
    is confirmed by its very failure as a remedy, will probably at some future
    day supply, by its successful application, a new proof of the position we
    are endeavouring to establish.
    [I am authorised in stating, that this was regarded by Laplace as the
    greatest of Sir Humphry Davy's discoveries. It did not fail in producing
    the effect foreseen by Sir H. Davy,&mdash;the preventing the corrosion of
    the copper; but it failed as a cure of the evil, by producing one of an
    OPPOSITE character; either by preserving too perfectly from decay the
    surface of the copper, or by rendering it negative, it allowed marine
    animals and vegetables to accumulate on its surface, and thus impede the
    progress of the vessel.]
    Other instances might, if necessary, be adduced, to show that long
    intervals frequently elapse between the discovery of new principles in
    science and their practical application: nor ought this at all to surprise
    us. Those intellectual qualifications, which give birth to new principles
    or to new methods, are of quite a different order from those which are
    necessary for their practical application.
    At the time of the discovery of the beautiful theorem of Huygens, it
    required in its author not merely a complete knowledge of the mathematical
    science of his age, but a genius to enlarge its boundaries by new
    creations of his own. Such talents are not always united with a quick
    perception of the details, and of the practical applications of the
    principles they have developed, nor is it for the interest of mankind that
    minds of this high order should lavish their powers on subjects unsuited
    to their grasp.
    In mathematical science, more than in all others, it happens that truths
    which are at one period the most abstract, and apparently the most remote
    from all useful application, become in the next age the bases of profound
    physical inquiries, and in the succeeding one, perhaps, by proper
    simplification and reduction to tables, furnish their ready and daily aid
    to the artist and the sailor.
    It may also happen that at the time of the discovery of such principles,
    the mechanical arts may be too imperfect to render their application
    likely to be attended with success. Such was the case with the principle
    of the hydrostatic paradox; and it was not, I believe, until the
    expiration of Mr. Bramah's patent, that the press which bears his name
    received that mechanical perfection in its execution, which has deservedly
    brought it into such general use.
    On the other hand, for one person who is blessed with the power of
    invention, many will always be found who have the capacity of applying
    principles; and much of the merit ascribed to these applications will
    always depend on the care and labour bestowed in the practical detail.
    If, therefore, it is important to the country that abstract principles
    should be applied to practical use, it is clear that it is also important
    that encouragement should be held out to the few who are capable of adding
    to the number of those truths on which such applications are founded.
    Unless there exist peculiar institutions for the support of such
    inquirers, or unless the Government directly interfere, the contriver of a
    thaumatrope may derive profit from his ingenuity, whilst he who unravels
    the laws of light and vision, on which multitudes of phenomena depend,
    shall descend unrewarded to the tomb.
    Perhaps it may be urged, that sufficient encouragement is already afforded
    to abstract science in our different universities, by the professorships
    established at them. It is not however in the power of such institutions
    to create; they may foster and aid the development of genius; and, when
    rightly applied, such stations ought to be its fair and honourable
    rewards. In many instances their emolument is small; and when otherwise,
    the lectures which are required from the professor are not perhaps in all
    cases the best mode of employing the energies of those who are capable of
    I cannot resist the opportunity of supporting these opinions by the
    authority of one of the greatest philosophers of a past age, and of
    expressing my acknowledgments to the author of a most interesting piece of
    scientific biography. In the correspondence which terminated in the return
    of Galileo to a professorship in his native country, he remarks, "But,
    because my private lectures and domestic pupils are a great hinderance and
    interruption of my studies, I wish to live entirely exempt from the
    former, and in great measure from the latter."&mdash;LIFE OF GALILEO,
    p.18. And, in another letter to Kepler, he speaks with gratitude of Cosmo,
    the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who "has now invited me to attach myself to him
    with the annual salary of 1000 florins, and with the title of Philosopher
    and principal Mathematician to his Highness, without the duties of any
    office to perform, but with most complete leisure; so that I can complete
    my treatise on Mechanics, &amp;c."&mdash;p.31. [Life of Galileo, published
    by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.]
    Surely, if knowledge is valuable, it can never be good policy in a country
    far wealthier than Tuscany, to allow a genius like Mr. Dalton's, to be
    employed in the drudgery of elementary instruction. [I utter these
    sentiments from no feelings of private friendship to that estimable
    philosopher, to whom it is my regret to be almost unknown, and whose
    modest and retiring merit, I may, perhaps, have the misfortune to offend
    by these remarks. But Mr. Dalton was of no party; had he ever moved in
    that vortex which has brought discredit, and almost ruin, on the Royal
    Society of England;&mdash;had he taken part with those who vote to each
    other medals, and, affecting to be tired of the fatigues of office, make
    to each other requisitions to retain places they would be most reluctant
    to quit; his great and splendid discovery would long since have been
    represented to government. Expectant mediocrity would have urged on his
    claims to remuneration, and those who covered their selfish purposes with
    the cloak of science, would have hastened to shelter themselves in the
    mantle of his glory.&mdash;But the philosopher may find consolation for
    the tardy approbation of that Society, in the applause of Europe. If he
    was insulted by their medal, he escaped the pain of seeing his name
    connected with their proceedings.] Where would have been the military
    renown of England, if, with an equally improvident waste of mental power,
    its institutions had forced the Duke of Wellington to employ his life in
    drilling recruits, instead of planning campaigns?
    If we look at the fact, we shall find that the great inventions of the age
    are not, with us at least, always produced in universities. The doctrines
    of "definite proportions," and of the "chemical agency of electricity,"&mdash;principles
    of a high order, which have immortalized the names of their discoverers,&mdash;were
    not produced by the meditations of the cloister: nor is it in the least a
    reproach to those valuable institutions to mention truths like these.
    Fortunate circumstances must concur, even to the greatest, to render them
    eminently successful. It is not permitted to all to be born, like
    Archimedes, when a science was to be created; nor, like Newton, to find
    the system of the world "without form and void;" and, by disclosing
    gravitation, to shed throughout that system the same irresistible radiance
    as that with which the Almighty Creator had illumined its material
    substance. It can happen to but few philosophers, and but at distant
    intervals, to snatch a science, like Dalton, from the chaos of indefinite
    combination, and binding it in the chains of number, to exalt it to rank
    amongst the exact. Triumphs like these are necessarily "few and far
    between;" nor can it be expected that that portion of encouragement, which
    a country may think fit to bestow on science, should be adapted to meet
    such instances. Too extraordinary to be frequent, they must be left, if
    they are to be encouraged at all, to some direct interference of the
    The dangers to be apprehended from such a specific interference, would
    arise from one, or several, of the following circumstances:&mdash;That
    class of society, from whom the government is selected, might not possess
    sufficient knowledge either to judge themselves, or know upon whose
    judgment to rely. Or the number of persons devoting themselves to science,
    might not be sufficiently large to have due weight in the expression of
    public opinion. Or, supposing this class to be large, it might not enjoy,
    in the estimation of the world, a sufficiently high character for
    independence. Should these causes concur in any country, it might become
    highly injurious to commit the encouragement of science to any department
    of the government. This reasoning does not appear to have escaped the
    penetration of those who advised the abolition of the late Board of
    The question whether it is good policy in the government of a country to
    encourage science, is one of which those who cultivate it are not perhaps
    the most unbiased judges. In England, those who have hitherto pursued
    science, have in general no very reasonable grounds of complaint; they
    knew, or should have known, that there was no demand for it, that it led
    to little honour, and to less profit.
    That blame has been attributed to the government for not fostering the
    science of the country is certain; and, as far as regards past
    administrations, is, to a great extent, just; with respect to the present
    ministers, whose strength essentially depends on public opinion, it is not
    necessary that they should precede, and they cannot remain long insensible
    to any expression of the general feeling. But supposing science were
    thought of some importance by any administration, it would be difficult in
    the present state of things to do much in its favour; because, on the one
    hand, the higher classes in general have not a profound knowledge of
    science, and, on the other, those persons whom they have usually
    consulted, seem not to have given such advice as to deserve the confidence
    of government. It seems to be forgotten, that the money allotted by
    government to purposes of science ought to be expended with the same
    regard to prudence and economy as in the disposal of money in the affairs
    of private life.
    [Who, for instance, could have advised the government to incur the expense
    of printing SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY copies of the Astronomical
    Observations made at Paramatta, to form a third part of the Philosophical
    Transactions for 1829, whilst of the Observations made at the Royal
    Observatory at Greenwich, two hundred and fifty copies only are printed?
    Of these seven hundred and fifty copies, seven hundred and ten will be
    distributed to members of the Royal Society, to six hundred of whom they
    will probably be wholly uninteresting or useless; and thus the country
    incurs a constantly recurring annual expense. Nor is it easy to see on
    what principle a similar destination could be refused for the observations
    made at the Cape of Good Hope.]
    To those who measure the question of the national encouragement of science
    by its value in pounds, shillings, and pence, I will here state a fact,
    which, although pretty generally known, still, I think, deserves
    attention. A short time since it was discovered by government that the
    terms on which annuities had been granted by them were erroneous, and new
    tables were introduced by act of Parliament. It was stated at the time
    that the erroneous tables had caused a loss to the country of between two
    and three millions sterling. The fact of the sale of those annuities being
    a losing concern was long known to many; and the government appear to have
    been the last to be informed on the subject. Half the interest of half
    that loss, judiciously applied to the encouragement of mathematical
    science, would, in a few years, have rendered utterly impossible such
    expensive errors.
    To those who bow to the authority of great names, one remark may have its
    weight. The MECANIQUE COELESTE, [The first volume of the first translation
    of this celebrated work into our own language, has just arrived in England
    from&mdash;America.] and the THEORIE ANALYTIQUE DES PROBABILITES, were
    both dedicated, by Laplace, to Napoleon. During the reign of that
    extraordinary man, the triumphs of France were as eminent in Science as
    they were splendid in arms. May the institutions which trained and
    rewarded her philosophers be permanent as the benefits they have conferred
    upon mankind!
    In other countries it has been found, and is admitted, that a knowledge of
    science is a recommendation to public appointments, and that a man does
    not make a worse ambassador because he has directed an observatory, or has
    added by his discoveries to the extent of our knowledge of animated
    nature. Instances even are not wanting of ministers who have begun their
    career in the inquiries of pure analysis. As such examples are perhaps
    more frequent than is generally imagined, it may be useful to mention a
    few of those men of science who have formerly held, or who now hold, high
    official stations in the governments of their respective countries.

<pre xml:space=“preserve”> Country. Name. Department of Public Office.


France.. Marquis Laplace(1) Mathematics President of the


France.. M.Carnot Mathematics Minister of War.

France.. Count Chaptal(2) Chemistry Minister of the


France.. Baron Cuvier(3) Comparative Minister of

                              Anatomy,           Public
                              History          Instruction

Prussia.. Baron Humboldt Oriental Ambassador

                             Languages         to England

Prussia.. Baron Alexander The celebrated Chamberlain to

             Humboldt        Traveller         the King of

Modena. Marquis Rangoni(4) Mathematics Minister of

                                               Finance and
                                               of Public
                                               President of
                                               Italian Academy
                                               of Forty.

Tuscany. Count Fossombroni Mathematics Prime Minister

             (5)                               of the Grand Duke
                                               of Tuscany.

Saxony.. M. Lindenau(6) Astronomy Ambassador.

(1) Author of the MECANIQUE COELESTE. (2) Author of TRAITE DE CHIMIE APPLIQUE AUX ARTS. (3) Author of LECONS D'ANATOMIE COMPAREE&mdash;RECHERCHES SUR OSSEMENS FOSSILES &amp;c. &amp;c. (4) Author of MEMORIA SULLE FUNZIONI GENERATRICI, Modena, 1824, and of various other memoirs on mathematical subjects. (5) Author of several memoirs on mechanics and hydraulics, in the Transactions of the Academy of Forty. (6) Author of TABLES BAROMETRIQUES, Gotha, 1809&mdash;TABULAE VENERIS, NOVAE ET CORRECTAE, Gothae, 1810&mdash;INVESTIGATIO NOVA ORBITAE A MERCURIO CIRCA SOLEM DESCRIPTAE, Gothae, 1813, and of other works. </pre>

    M. Lindenau, the Minister from the King of Saxony to the King of the
    Netherlands, commenced his career as astronomer at the observatory of the
    Grand Duke of Gotha, by whom he was sent as his representative at the
    German Diet. On the death of the late reigning Duke, M. Lindenau was
    invited to Dresden, and filled the same situation under the King of
    Saxony; after which he was appointed his minister at the court of the King
    of the Netherlands. Such occurrences are not to be paralleled in our own
    country, at least not in modern times. Newton was, it is true, more than a
    century since, appointed Master of the Mint; but let any person suggest an
    appointment of a similar kind in the present day, and he will gather from
    the smiles of those to whom he proposes it that the highest knowledge
    conduces nothing to success, and that political power is almost the only
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    SECTION 3. Of Encouragement from Learned Societies.
    There are several circumstances which concur in inducing persons pursuing
    science, to unite together, to form societies or academies. In former
    times, when philosophical instruments were more rare, and the art of
    making experiments was less perfectly known, it was almost necessary. More
    recently, whilst numerous additions are constantly making to science, it
    has been found that those who are most capable of extending human
    knowledge, are frequently least able to encounter the expense of printing
    their investigations. It is therefore convenient, that some means should
    be devised for relieving them from this difficulty, and the volumes of the
    transactions of academies have accomplished the desired end.
    There is, however, another purpose to which academies contribute. When
    they consist of a limited number of persons, eminent for their knowledge,
    it becomes an object of ambition to be admitted on their list. Thus a
    stimulus is applied to all those who cultivate science, which urges on
    their exertions, in order to acquire the wished-for distinction. It is
    clear that this envied position will be valued in proportion to the
    difficulty of its attainment, and also to the celebrity of those who enjoy
    it; and whenever the standard of scientific knowledge which qualifies for
    its ranks is lowered, the value of the distinction itself will be
    diminished. If, at any time, a multitude of persons having no sort of
    knowledge of science are admitted, it must cease to be sought after as an
    object of ambition by men of science, and the class of persons to whom it
    will become an object of desire will be less intellectual.
    Let us now compare the numbers composing some of the various academies of
    Europe.-The Royal Society of London, the Institute of France, the Italian
    Academy of Forty, and the Royal Academy of Berlin, are amongst the most

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   Name                          Number of      Number
                  Population.    Members          of
   Country.                      of its         Foreign
                                 Academy.       Members
   1. England.     22,299,000      685            50
   2. France.     32,058,000       76       8 Mem. 100 Corr.
   8. Prussia.    12,915,000       38            16
   4. Italy..    12,000,000       40             8


    It appears then, that in France, one person out of 427,000 is a member of
    the Institute. That in Italy and Prussia, about one out of 300,000 persons
    is a member of their Academies. That in England, every 32,000 inhabitants
    produces a Fellow of the Royal Society. Looking merely at these
    proportions, the estimation of a seat in the Academy of Berlin, must be
    more than nine times as valuable as a similar situation in England; and a
    member of the Institute of France will be more than thirteen times more
    rare in his country than a Fellow of the Royal Society is in England.
    Favourable as this view is to the dignity of such situations in other
    countries, their comparative rarity is by no means the most striking
    difference in the circumstances of men of science. If we look at the
    station in society occupied by the SAVANS of other countries, in several
    of them we shall find it high, and their situations profitable. Perhaps,
    at the present moment, Prussia is, of all the countries in Europe, that
    which bestows the greatest attention, and most unwearied encouragement on
    science. Great as are the merits of many of its philosophers, much of this
    support arises from the character of the reigning family, by whose
    enlightened policy even the most abstract sciences are fostered.
    The maxim that "knowledge is power," can be perfectly comprehended by
    those only who are themselves well versed in science; and to the
    circumstance of the younger branches of the royal family of Prussia having
    acquired considerable knowledge in such subjects, we may attribute the
    great force with which that maxim is appreciated.
    In France, the situation of its SAVANS is highly respectable, as well as
    profitable. If we analyze the list of the Institute, we shall find few who
    do not possess titles or decorations; but as the value of such marks of
    royal favour must depend, in a great measure, on their frequency, I shall
    mention several particulars which are probably not familiar to the English
    reader. [This analysis was made by comparing the list of the Institute,
    printed for that body in 1827, with the ALMANACH ROYALE for 1823.]

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

   Number of the Members of the      Total Number of each Class
   Institute of France who belong    of the Legion of Honour.
   to the Legion of Honour.
   GrandCroix.........  3                    80
   GrandOfficier.....   3                   160
   Commandeur........   4                   400
   Officier..........  17                 2,000
   Chevalier.........  40               Not limited.

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   Number of Members of the Institute      Total Number
   decorated with                          of
   the Order of St. Michel.                that Order.
   Grand Croix.......  2
   Chevalier......... 27
   Amongst the members of the Institute there
   Dukes...................  2
   Marquis.................  1
   Counts..................  4
   Viscounts................ 2
   Barons.................. 14
   Of these there are
   Peers of France.......... 5


    We might, on turning over the list of the 685 members of the Royal
    Society, find a greater number of peers than there are in the Institute of
    France; but a fairer mode of instituting the comparison, is to inquire how
    many titled members there are amongst those who have contributed to its
    Transactions. In 1827, there were one hundred and nine members who had
    contributed to the Transactions of the Royal Society; amongst these were

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

   Peer........................ 1
   Baronets.................... 5
   Knights..................... 5


    It should be observed, that five of these titles were the rewards of
    members of the medical profession, and one only, that of Sir H. Davy,
    could be attributed exclusively to science.
    It must not be inferred that the titles of nobility in the French list,
    were all of them the rewards of scientific eminence; many are known to
    have been such; but it would be quite sufficient for the argument to
    mention the names of Lagrange, Laplace, Berthollet, and Chaptal.
    The estimation in which the public hold literary claims in France and
    England, was curiously illustrated by an incidental expression in the
    translation of the debates in the House of Lords, on the occasion of His
    Majesty's speech at the commencement of the session of 1830. The Gazette
    de France stated, that the address was moved by the Duc de Buccleugh,
    "CHEF DE LA MAISON DE WALTER SCOTT." Had an English editor wished to
    particularize that nobleman, he would undoubtedly have employed the term
    WEALTHY, or some other of the epithets characteristic of that quality most
    esteemed amongst his countrymen.
    If we turn, on the other hand, to the emoluments of science in France, we
    shall find them far exceed those in our own country. I regret much that I
    have mislaid a most interesting memorandum on this subject, which I made
    several years since: but I believe my memory on the point will not be
    found widely incorrect. A foreign gentleman, himself possessing no
    inconsiderable acquaintance with science, called on me a few years since,
    to present a letter of introduction. He had been but a short time in
    London; and, in the course of our conversation, it appeared to me that he
    had imbibed very inaccurate ideas respecting our encouragement of science.
    Thinking this a good opportunity of instituting a fair comparison between
    the emoluments of science in the two countries, I placed a sheet of paper
    before him, and requested him to write down the names of six Englishmen,
    in his opinion, best known in France for their scientific reputation.
    Taking another sheet of paper, I wrote upon it the names of six Frenchmen,
    best known in England for their scientific discoveries. We exchanged these
    lists, and I then requested him to place against each name (as far as he
    knew) the annual income of the different appointments held by that person.
    In the mean time, I performed the same operation on his list, against some
    names of which I was obliged to place a ZERO. The result of the comparison
    was an average of nearly 1200L. per annum for the six French SAVANS whom I
    had named. Of the average amount of the sums received by the English, I
    only remember that it was very much smaller. When we consider what a
    command over the necessaries and luxuries of life 1200L. will give in
    France, it is underrating it to say it is equal to 2000L. in this country.
    Let us now look at the prospects of a young man at his entrance into life,
    who, impelled by an almost irresistible desire to devote himself to the
    abstruser sciences, or who, confident in the energy of youthful power,
    feels that the career of science is that in which his mental faculties are
    most fitted to achieve the reputation for which he pants. What are his
    prospects? Can even the glowing pencil of enthusiasm add colour to the
    blank before him? There are no situations in the state; there is no
    position in society to which hope can point, to cheer him in his laborious
    path. If, indeed, he belong to one of our universities, there are some few
    chairs in his OWN Alma Mater to which he may at some distant day pretend;
    but these are not numerous; and whilst the salaries attached are seldom
    sufficient for the sole support of the individual, they are very rarely
    enough for that of a family. What then can he reply to the entreaties of
    his friends, to betake himself to some business in which perhaps they have
    power to assist him, or to choose some profession in which his talents may
    produce for him their fair reward? If he have no fortune, the choice is
    taken away: he MUST give up that line of life in which his habits of
    thought and his ambition qualify him to succeed eminently, and he MUST
    choose the bar, or some other profession, in which, amongst so many
    competitors, in spite of his great talents, he can be but moderately
    successful. The loss to him is great, but to the country it is greater. We
    thus, by a destructive misapplication of talent which our institutions
    create, exchange a profound philosopher for but a tolerable lawyer.
    If, on the other hand, he possess some moderate fortune of his own; and,
    intent on the glory of an immortal name, yet not blindly ignorant of the
    state of science in this country, he resolve to make for that aspiration a
    sacrifice the greater, because he is fully aware of its extent;&mdash;if,
    so circumstanced, he give up a business or a profession on which he might
    have entered with advantage, with the hope that, when he shall have won a
    station high in the ranks of European science, he may a little augment his
    resources by some of those few employments to which science leads;&mdash;if
    he hope to obtain some situation, (at the Board of Longitude, for
    example,) [This body is now dissolved] where he may be permitted to
    exercise the talents of a philosopher for the paltry remuneration of a
    clerk, he will find that other qualifications than knowledge and a love of
    science are necessary for its attainment. He will also find that the high
    and independent spirit, which usually dwells in the breast of those who
    are deeply versed in these pursuits, is ill adapted for such appointments;
    and that even if successful, he must hear many things he disapproves, and
    raise no voice AGAINST them.
    Thus, then, it appears that scarcely any man can be expected to pursue
    abstract science unless he possess a private fortune, and unless he can
    resolve to give up all intention of improving it. Yet, how few thus
    situated are likely to undergo the labour of the acquisition; and if they
    do from some irresistible impulse, what inducement is there for them to
    deviate one step from those inquiries in which they find the greatest
    delight, into those which might be more immediately useful to the public?
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    The progress of knowledge convinced the world that the system of the
    division of labour and of cooperation was as applicable to science, as it
    had been found available for the improvement of manufactures. The want of
    competition in science produced effects similar to those which the same
    cause gives birth to in the arts. The cultivators of botany were the first
    to feel that the range of knowledge embraced by the Royal Society was too
    comprehensive to admit of sufficient attention to their favourite subject,
    and they established the Linnean Society. After many years, a new science
    arose, and the Geological Society was produced. At an another and more
    recent epoch, the friends of astronomy, urged by the wants of their
    science, united to establish the Astronomical Society. Each of these
    bodies found, that the attention devoted to their science by the parent
    establishment was insufficient for their wants, and each in succession
    experienced from the Royal Society the most determined opposition.
    Instituted by the most enlightened philosophers, solely for the promotion
    of the natural sciences, that learned body justly conceived that nothing
    could be more likely to render these young institutions permanently
    successful, than discouragement and opposition at their commencement.
    Finding their first attempts so eminently successful, they redoubled the
    severity of their persecution, and the result was commensurate with their
    exertions, and surpassed even their wildest anticipations. The
    Astronomical Society became in six years known and respected throughout
    Europe, not from the halo of reputation which the glory of its vigourous
    youth had thrown around the weakness of its declining years; but from the
    sterling merit of "its unpretending deeds, from the sympathy it claimed
    and received from every practical astronomer, whose labours it relieved,
    and whose calculations it lightened."
    But the system which worked so well is now changed, and the Zoological and
    Medico-Botanical Societies were established without opposition: perhaps,
    indeed, the total failure of the latter society is the best proof of the
    wisdom which guided the councils of the Royal. At present, the various
    societies exist with no feelings of rivalry or hostility, each pursuing
    its separate objects, and all uniting in deploring with filial regret, the
    second childhood of their common parent, and the evil councils by which
    that sad event has been anticipated.
    It is the custom to attach certain letters to the names of those who
    belong to different societies, and these marks of ownership are by many
    considered the only valuable part of their purchase on entry. The
    following is a list of some of these societies. The second column gives
    the ready-money prices of the tail-pieces indicated in the third.

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   SOCIETIES.               Fees on Admission         Appended
                            including Composition     Letters
                            for Annual Payments.
                                 L. s. d.
   Royal Society.............  50  0  0               F.R.S.
   Royal Society of Edinburgh. 25  4  0*              F.R.S.E.
   Royal Academy of Dublin...  26  5  0               M.R.I.A.
   Royal Society of Literature 36 15  0               F.R.S.Lit.
   Antiquarian...............  50  8  0               F.A.S.
   Linnean...................  36  0  0               F.L.S.
   Geological................  34 15  0               F.G.S.
   Astronomical..............  25  4  0               M.A.S.
   Zoological................  26  5  0               F.Z.S.
   Royal Institution.........  50  0  0               M.R.I.
   Royal Asiatic..............  31 10  0               F.R.A.S.
   Horticultural.............  43  6  0               F.H.S.
   Medico-Botanical..........  21  0  0               F.M.B.S.


    [* The Royal Society of Edinburgh now requires, for composition in lieu of
    annual contributions, a sum dependent on the value of the life of the
    Thus, those who are ambitious of scientific distinction, may, according to
    their fancy, render their name a kind of comet, carrying with it a tail of
    upwards of forty letters, at the average cost of 10L. 9s. 9d. per letter.
    Perhaps the reader will remark, that science cannot be declining in a
    country which supports so many institutions for its cultivation. It is
    indeed creditable to us, that the greater part of these societies are
    maintained by the voluntary contributions of their members. But, unless
    the inquiries which have recently taken place in some of them should
    rectify the SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT by which several have been oppressed, it
    is not difficult to predict that their duration will be short. Full
    inquiries at GENERAL MEETINGS, are the only safeguards; and a due degree
    of VIGILANCE should be exercised on those who DISCOURAGE these principles.
    Of the Royal Society, I shall speak in a succeeding page; and I regret to
    add, that I might have said more. My object is to amend it; but, like all
    deeply-rooted complaints, the operation which alone can contribute to its
    cure, is necessarily painful. Had the words of remonstrance or reproof
    found utterance through other channels, I had gladly been silent, content
    to support by my vote the reasonings of the friend of science and of the
    Society. But this has not been the case, and after frustrated efforts to
    introduce improvements, I shall now endeavour, by the force of plain, but
    perhaps painful truths, to direct public opinion in calling for such a
    reform, as shall rescue the Royal Society from contempt in our own
    country, from ridicule in others.
    On the next five societies in the list, I shall offer no remarks. Of the
    Geological, I shall say a few words. It possesses all the freshness, the
    vigour, and the ardour of youth in the pursuit of a youthful science, and
    has succeeded in a most difficult experiment, that of having an oral
    discussion on the subject of each paper read at its meetings. To say of
    these discussions, that they are very entertaining, is the least part of
    the praise which is due to them. They are generally very instructive, and
    sometimes bring together isolated facts in the science which, though
    insignificant when separate, mutually illustrate each other, and
    ultimately lead to important conclusions. The continuance of these
    discussions evidently depends on the taste, the temper, and the good sense
    of the speakers. The things to be avoided are chiefly verbal criticisms&mdash;praise
    of each other beyond its reasonable limits, and contest for victory. This
    latter is, perhaps, the most important of the three, both for the
    interests of the Society and of truth. With regard to the published
    volumes of their Transactions, it may be remarked, that if members were in
    the habit of communicating their papers to the Society in a more finished
    state, it would be attended with several advantages; amongst others, with
    that of lightening the heavy duties of the officers, which are perhaps
    more laborious in this Society than in most others. To court publicity in
    their accounts and proceedings, and to endeavour to represent all the
    feelings of the Society in the Council, and to avoid permanent Presidents,
    is a recommendation not peculiarly addressed to this Society, but would
    contribute to the well-being of all.
    Of the Astronomical Society, which, from the nature of its pursuits, could
    scarcely admit of the discussions similar to those of the Geological, I
    shall merely observe, that I know of no secret which has caused its great
    success, unless it be attention to the maxims which have just been stated.
    On the Zoological Society, which affords much rational amusement to the
    public, a few hints may at present suffice. The largeness of its income is
    a frightful consideration. It is too tempting as the subject for jobs, and
    it is too fluctuating and uncertain in its amount, not to render
    embarrassment in the affairs of the Society a circumstance likely to
    occur, without the greatest circumspection. It is most probable, from the
    very recent formation of this Institution, that its Officers and Council
    are at present all that its best friends could wish; but it is still right
    to mention, that in such a Society, it is essentially necessary to have
    men of business on the Council, as well as persons possessing extensive
    knowledge of its pursuits. It is more dangerous in such a Society than in
    any other, to pay compliments, by placing gentlemen on the Council who
    have not the qualifications which are requisite; a frequent change in the
    members of the Council is desirable, in order to find out who are the most
    regular attendants, and most qualified to conduct its business. Publicity
    in its accounts and proceedings is, from the magnitude of its funds, more
    essential to the Zoological than to any other society; and it is rather a
    fearful omen, that a check was attempted to be given to such inquiries at
    the last anniversary meeting. If it is to be a scientific body, the
    friends of science should not for an instant tolerate such attempts.
    It frequently happens, that gentlemen take an active part in more than one
    scientific society: in that case, it may be useful to derive instruction
    as to their merits, by observing the success of their measures in other
    The Asiatic Society has, amongst other benefits, caused many valuable
    works to be translated, which could not have otherwise been published.
    The Horticultural Society has been ridden almost to death, and is now
    rousing itself; but its constitution seems to have been somewhat impaired.
    There are hopes of its purgation, and ultimate restoration,
    notwithstanding a debt of 19,000L., which the Committee of Inquiry have
    ascertained to exist. This, after all, will not be without its advantage
    to science, if it puts a stop to HOUSE-LISTS, NAMED BY ONE OR TWO PERSONS,&mdash;to
    making COMPLIMENTARY councillors,&mdash;and to auditing the accounts
    WITHOUT EXAMINING EVERY ITEM, or to omitting even that form altogether.
    The Medico-Botanical Society suddenly claimed the attention of the public;
    its pretensions were great&mdash;its assurance unbounded. It speedily
    became distinguished, not by its publications or discoveries, but by the
    number of princes it enrolled in its list. It is needless now to expose
    the extent of its short-lived quackery; but the evil deeds of that
    institution will long remain in the impression they have contributed to
    confirm throughout Europe, of the character of our scientific
    establishments. It would be at once a judicious and a dignified course, if
    those lovers of science, who have been so grievously deceived in this
    Society, were to enrol upon the latest page of its history its highest
    claim to public approbation, and by signing its dissolution, offer the
    only atonement in their power to the insulted science of their country. As
    with a singular inversion of principle, the society contrived to render
    EXPULSION* the highest HONOUR it could confer; so it remains for it to
    exemplify, in suicide, the sublimest virtue of which it is capable. [*
    They expelled from amongst them a gentleman, of whom it is but slight
    praise to say, that he is the first and most philosophical botanist of our
    own country, and who is admired abroad as he is respected at home. The
    circumstance which surprised the world was not his exit from, but his
    previous entrance into that Society.]
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    As the venerable first parent of English, and I might perhaps say, of
    European scientific societies; as a body in the welfare of which, in the
    opinions of many, the interests of British science are materially
    involved, I may be permitted to feel anxiously, and to speak more in
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    I have no intention of stating what ought to be the qualifications of a
    Fellow of the Royal Society; but, for years, the practical mode of
    arriving at that honour, has been as follows:&mdash;
    A. B. gets any three Fellows to sign a certificate, stating that he (A.
    B.) is desirous of becoming a member, and likely to be a useful and
    valuable one. This is handed in to the Secretary, and suspended in the
    meeting-room. At the end of ten weeks, if A. B. has the good fortune to be
    perfectly unknown by any literary or scientific achievement, however
    small, he is quite sure of being elected as a matter of course. If, on the
    other hand, he has unfortunately written on any subject connected with
    science, or is supposed to be acquainted with any branch of it, the
    members begin to inquire what he has done to deserve the honour; and,
    unless he has powerful friends, he has a fair chance of being
    black-balled. [I understand that certificates are now read at the Council,
    previously to their being hung up in the meeting-room; but I am not aware
    that this has in the slightest degree diminished their number, which was,
    at the time of writing this note, TWENTY-FOUR.]
    In fourteen years' experience, the few whom I have seen rejected, have all
    been known persons; but even in such cases a hope remains;&mdash;perseverance
    will do much, and a gentleman who values so highly the distinction of
    admission to the Royal Society, may try again; and even after being twice
    black-balled, if he will a third time condescend to express his desire to
    become a member, he may perhaps succeed, by the aid of a hard canvass. In
    such circumstances, the odds are much in favour of the candidate
    possessing great scientific claims; and the only objection that could then
    reasonably be suggested, would arise from his estimating rather too highly
    a distinction which had become insignificant from its unlimited extension.
    It should be observed, that all members contribute equally, and that the
    sum now required is fifty pounds. It used, until lately, to be ten pounds
    on entrance, and four pounds annually. The amount of this subscription is
    so large, that it is calculated to prevent many men of real science from
    entering the Society, and is a very severe tax on those who do so; for
    very few indeed of the cultivators of science rank amongst the wealthy
    classes. Several times, whilst I have been consulting books or papers at
    Somerset House, persons have called to ask the Assistant-secretary the
    mode of becoming a member of the Royal Society. I should conjecture, from
    some of these applications, that it is not very unusual for gentlemen in
    the country to order their agents in London to take measures for putting
    them up at the Royal Society.
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    Why Mr. Davies Gilbert became President of the Royal Society I cannot
    precisely say. Let him who penned, and those who supported this resolution
    solve the enigma:
    "It was Resolved,
    "That it is the opinion of the Council that Davies Gilbert, Esq. is by far
    the most fit person to be proposed to the Society at the approaching
    anniversary as President, and that he be recommended accordingly."
    To resolve that he was a FIT person might have been sufficiently
    flattering: to state that he was the most fit, was a little hard upon the
    rest of the Society; but to resolve that he was "BY FAR THE MOST FIT" was
    only consistent with that strain of compliment in which his supporters
    indulge, and was a eulogy, by no means unique in its kind, I believe, even
    at that very Council.
    That Mr. Gilbert is a most amiable and kind-hearted man will be instantly
    admitted by all who are, in the least degree, acquainted with him: that he
    is fit for the chair of the Royal Society, will be allowed by few, except
    those who have committed themselves to the above-quoted resolution.
    Possessed of knowledge and of fortune more than sufficient for it, he
    might have been the restorer of its lustre. He might have called round
    him, at the council board, those most actively engaged in the pursuits of
    science, most anxious for the improvement of the Royal Society. Instead of
    himself proposing resolutions, he might have been, what a chairman ought
    to be, the organ of the body over which he presides. By the firmness of
    his own conduct he might have taught the subordinate officers of the
    Society the duties of their station. Instead of paying compliments to
    Ministers, who must have smiled at his simplicity, he might have
    maintained the dignity of his Council by the dignity of knowledge.
    But he has chosen a different path; with no motives of interest to allure,
    or of ambition to betray him, instead of making himself respected as the
    powerful chief of a united republic,&mdash;that of science,&mdash;he has
    grasped at despotic power, and stands the feeble occupant of its desolated
    kingdom, trembling at the force of opinions he might have directed, and
    refused even the patronage of their names by those whose energies he might
    have commanded.
    Mr. Gilbert told the Society he accepted the situation for a year; and
    this circumstance caused a difficulty in finding a Treasurer: an office
    which he had long held, and to which he wished to return.
    Another difficulty might have arisen, from the fact of the late Board of
    Longitude comprising amongst its Members the PRESIDENT of the Royal
    Society, and three of its Fellows, appointed by the President and Council.
    Of course, when Mr. Gilbert accepted the higher situation, he became, EX
    OFFICIO, a Member of the Board of Longitude; and a vacancy occurred, which
    ought to have been filled up by the President and Council. But when this
    subject was brought before them, in defiance of common sense, and the
    plain meaning of the act of parliament, which had enacted that the Board
    of Longitude should have the assistance of four persons belonging to the
    Royal Society, Mr. Gilbert refused to allow it to be filled up, on the
    ground that he should not be President next year, and had made no vacancy.
    Next year Mr. Gilbert wished again to be President one other year; but the
    Board of Longitude was dissolved, otherwise we might have had some LOCUM
    TENENS to retire at Mr. Gilbert's pleasure.
    These circumstances are in themselves of trifling importance, but they
    illustrate the character of the proceedings: and it is not becoming the
    dignity of science or of the Society that its officers should be so
    circumstanced as to have an apparent and direct interest in supporting the
    existing President, in order to retain their own places; and if such a
    system is once discovered, doubt immediately arises as to the frequency of
    such arrangements.
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    Whether the present Secretaries are the best qualified to aid in reforming
    the Society, is a question I shall not discuss. With regard to the senior
    Secretary, the time of his holding office is perhaps more unfortunate than
    the circumstance. If I might be permitted to allude for a moment to his
    personal character, I should say that the mild excellencies of his heart
    have prevented the Royal Society from deriving the whole of that advantage
    from his varied knowledge and liberal sentiments which some might perhaps
    have anticipated; and many will agree with me in regretting that his
    judgment has not directed a larger portion of the past deeds of the
    Councils of the Royal Society. Of the junior Secretary I shall only
    observe, that whilst I admit his industry, his perseverance, and his
    talents, I regret to see such valuable qualities exerted at a
    disadvantage, and that I sincerely wish them all the success they merit in
    situations more adapted for their developement.
    There are, however, some general principles which it may be important to
    investigate, which relate to the future as well as to the past state of
    the office of Secretary of the Royal Society. Inconvenience has already
    arisen from having had at a former period one of our Secretaries the
    conductor of a scientific journal; and this is one of the points in which
    I can agree with those who now manage the affairs of the Society. [These
    observations were written previous to the late appointment, to which I now
    devote Section 6. Experience seems to be lost on the Council of the Royal
    Society.] Perhaps it might be advantageous to extend the same
    understanding to the other officers of the Society at least, if not to the
    members of its Council.
    Another circumstance worthy of the attention of the Society is, to
    consider whether it is desirable, except in special cases, to have
    military persons appointed to any of its offices. There are several
    peculiarities in the military character, which, though they do not
    absolutely unfit their possessors for the individual prosecution of
    science, may in some degree disqualify such persons from holding offices
    in scientific institutions. The habits both of obedience and command,
    which are essential in military life, are little fitted for that perfect
    freedom which should reign in the councils of science. If a military chief
    commit an oversight or an error, it is necessary, in order to retain the
    confidence of those he commands, to conceal or mask it as much as
    possible. If an experimentalist make a mistake, his only course to win the
    confidence of his fellow-labourers in science, and to render his future
    observations of any use, is to acknowledge it in the most full and
    explicit manner. The very qualifications which contribute to the
    professional excellence of the soldier, constitute his defects when he
    enters the paths of science; and it is only in those rare cases where the
    force of genius is able to control and surmount these habits, that his
    admission to the offices of science can be attended with any advantage to
    Another objection deserving notice, although not applying exclusively to
    the military profession, is, that persons not imbued with the feelings of
    men of science, when they have published their observations, are too apt
    to view every criticism upon them as a personal question, and to consider
    that it is as offensive to doubt the accuracy of their observations as it
    is to doubt their word. Nothing can be more injurious to science than that
    such an opinion should be tolerated. The most unreserved criticism is
    necessary for truth; and those suspicions respecting his own accuracy,
    which every philosophical experimenter will entertain concerning his own
    researches, ought never to be considered as a reproach, when they are kept
    in view in examining the experiments of others. The minute circumstances
    and apparently trivial causes which lend their influence towards error,
    even in persons of the most candid judgment, are amongst the most curious
    phenomena of the human mind.
    The importance of affording every aid to enable others to try the merits
    of observations, has been so well expressed by Mayer, that I shall
    conclude these remarks with an extract from the Preface to his
    "Officii enim cujusque observatoris ease reor, de habitu instrumenti sui,
    de cura ac precautione, qua usus est, ad illud recte tractandum, deque
    mediis in errores ejus inquirendi rationem reddere publice, ut aliis
    quoque copia sit judicandi, quanta fides habenda conclusionibus ex nostris
    observationibus deductis aut deducendis. Hoc cum minus fecissent
    precedentis saeculi astronomi, praxin nimis secure, nimisque theoretice
    tractantes, factum inde potissimum est, ut illorum observationes tot
    vigiliis tantoque labore comparatae tam cito obsoleverint." P. viii.
    There are certain duties which the Royal Society owes to its own character
    as well as to the public, which, having been on some occasions apparently
    neglected, it may be here the proper place to mention, since it is
    reasonable to suppose that attention to them is within the province of its
    The first to which I shall allude is the singular circumstances attending
    the fact of the Royal Society having printed a volume of Astronomical
    Observations which were made at the Observatory of Paramatta (New South
    Wales), bearing the title of "The Third Part of the Philosophical
    Transactions for the Year 1829."
    Now this Observatory was founded at the private expense of a British
    officer; the instruments were paid for out of his purse; two observers
    were brought from Europe, to be employed in making use of those
    instruments, at salaries defrayed by him. A considerable portion of the
    observations so printed were made by these astronomers during their
    employment in his service, and some of them are personally his own. Yet
    has the Royal Society, in adopting them as part of its Transactions,
    omitted all mention, either in their title-page, preface, or in any part
    of the volume, of the FACT that the world owed these valuable observations
    to the enlightened munificence of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Brisbane;
    whose ardent zeal in the pursuit of science induced him to found, at his
    own private expense, an establishment which it has been creditable to the
    British Government to continue as a national institution. Had any kindred
    feelings existed in the Council, instead of endeavouring to shift the
    responsibility, they would have hastened to rectify an omission, less
    unjust to the individual than it was injurious to English science.
    Another topic, which concerns most vitally the character and integrity of
    the Royal Society, I hardly know how to approach. It has been publicly
    stated that confidence cannot be placed in the written minutes of the
    Society; and an instance has been adduced, in which an entry has been
    asserted to have been made, which could not have been the true statement
    of what actually passed at the Council.
    The facts on which the specific instance rests are not difficult to verify
    by members of the Royal Society. I have examined them, and shall state
    them before I enter on the reasoning which may be founded upon them. In
    the minutes of the Council, 26th November, 1829, we find&mdash;
    "Resolved, that the following gentlemen be recommended to be put upon the
    Council for the ensuing year." [Here follows a list of persons, amongst
    whom the name of Sir John Franklin occurs [Sir John Franklin was absent
    from London, and altogether unacquainted with this transaction, until he
    saw it stated in the newspapers some months after it had taken place. That
    his name was the one substituted for that of Captain Beaufort I know, from
    other evidence which need not be produced here, as the omission of the
    latter name is the charge that has been made.], and that of Captain
    Beaufort is not found. [Any gentleman may satisfy himself that this is not
    a mistake of the Assistant Secretary's, in copying, by consulting the
    rough minutes of that meeting of the Council, which it might perhaps be as
    well to write in a rough minute-book, instead of upon loose sheets of
    paper; nor can it be attributed to any error arising from accidentally
    mislaying the real minutes, for in that case the error would have been
    rectified immediately it was detected; and this has remained uncorrected,
    although publicly spoken of for months. As there is no erasure in the
    list, one is reluctantly compelled to conjecture that the real minutes of
    that meeting have been destroyed.]]
    Now this could not be the list actually recommended by the Council on the
    morning of the 26th of November, because the President himself, on the
    evening of that day, informed Capt. Beaufort that he was placed on the
    house list; and that officer, with the characteristic openness of his
    profession, wrote on the next or the following day to the President,
    declining that situation, and stating his reasons for the step.
    Upon the fact, therefore, of the suppression of part of a resolution of
    the Council, on the 26th of November, there can be no doubt; but in order
    to understand the whole nature of the transaction, other information is
    necessary. It has been the wish of many members of the Society, that the
    President should not absolutely name his own Council, but that the subject
    should be discussed fairly at the meeting previous to the Anniversary&mdash;this
    has always been opposed by Mr. Gilbert, and those who support him. Now, it
    has been stated, that, at the meeting of the Council on the 26th of
    November, the President took out of his pocket a bit of paper, from which
    he read the names of several persons as fit to be on the Council for the
    ensuing year;&mdash;that it was not understood that any motion was made,
    and it is certain that none was seconded, nor was any ballot taken on such
    an important question; and it was a matter of considerable surprise to
    some of those present, to discover afterwards that it was entered on the
    minutes as a resolution. This statement I have endeavoured to verify, and
    I believe it to be substantially correct; if it was a resolution, it was
    dictated, not discussed. It is also important to observe, that no similar
    resolution stands on the council-books for any previous year.
    On examining the minutes of the succeeding Council, no notice of the
    letter of Captain Beaufort to the President is found. Why was it omitted?
    If the first entry had been truly made, there would have been no necessity
    for the omission; and after the insertion of that letter, a resolution
    would naturally have followed, recommending another name instead of the
    one withdrawn. Such was the natural and open course; but this would have
    exposed to the Society the weakness of those who manage it. If the rough
    minutes of each meeting of the Council were read over before it separated,
    and were copied previously to the next meeting, such a substitution could
    hardly have occurred; but, unfortunately, this is not the case, and the
    delay is in some cases considerable. Thus, the minutes of the three
    Councils, held on February 4, on February 11, and on March 11, were not
    entered on the minute-books of the Council on Tuesday, the 16th March; nor
    was this the fault of the Assistant-secretary, for up to that day the
    rough minutes of no one of those Councils had been transmitted to him.
    Deeply as every friend to the Royal Society must regret such an
    occurrence, one slight advantage may accrue. Should that resolution be
    ever quoted hereafter to prove that the Council of 1829 really discussed
    the persons to be recommended as their successors, the detection of this
    suppression of one portion of it, will furnish better means of estimating
    the confidence due to the whole.
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    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    Whether it was feared by the PARTY who govern the Royal Society, that its
    Council would not be sufficiently tractable, or whether the Admiralty
    determined to render that body completely subservient to them, or whether
    both these motives concurred, I know not; but, low as has been for years
    its character for independence, and fallen as the Royal Society is in
    public estimation, it could scarcely be prepared for this last insult. In
    order to inform the public and the Society, (for I believe the fact is
    known to few of the members,) it will be necessary to trace the history of
    those circumstances which led to the institution of the offices of
    Scientific Advisers, from the time of the existence of the late Board of
    That body consisted, according to the act of parliament which established
    it, of certain official members, who usually possessed no knowledge of the
    subjects it was the duty of the Board to discuss&mdash;of certain
    professors of the two universities, and the Astronomer Royal, who had some
    knowledge, and who were paid 100L. a year for their attendance;&mdash;of
    three honorary members of the Royal Society, who combined the
    qualifications of the two preceding classes; and, lastly, of "three other
    persons," named Resident Commissioners, who were supposed to be "WELL
    were paid a hundred a year to do the work of the Board.
    The first three classes were permanent members, but the "three other
    persons" only held the appointment for ONE YEAR, and were renewable at the
    pleasure of the Admiralty. This Board was abolished by another act of
    parliament, on the ground that it was useless. Shortly after, the
    Secretary of the Admiralty communicated to the Council of the Royal
    Society, the copy of an Order in Council:
    November 1, 1828.
    SIR, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to send
    herewith, for the information of the President and Council of the Royal
    Society, a copy of His Majesty's Order in Council of the 27th of last
    month; explaining that the salaries heretofore allowed to the Resident
    Commissioners of the Board of Longitude, and to the Superintendents of the
    Nautical Almanac, and of Chronometers, shall be continued to them,
    notwithstanding the abolition of the Board of Longitude. And I am to
    acquaint you, that the necessary orders have been given to the Navy Board
    for the payment of the said salaries.
    I am, Sir,
    Your most obedient humble servant,
    27th October, 1828.
    The King's most Excellent Majesty in Council,
    Whereas, there was this day read at the Board a Memorial from the Right
    Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated 4th of this
    instant, in the words following, viz.&mdash;
    Whereas, by an Act of the 58th of his late Majesty's reign, cap. 20,
    instituted "An Act for the more effectually discovering the Longitude at
    sea, and encouraging attempts to find a Northern passage between the
    Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and to approach the North Pole," three
    persons well versed in the sciences of Mathematics, Astronomy, or
    Navigation, were appointed as a Resident Committee of the Board of
    Commissioners for discovery of the Longitude at sea, and a Superintendent
    of the Nautical Almanac and of Chronometers was also appointed, with such
    salaries for the execution of those services as his Majesty might, by any
    Order in Council, be pleased to direct; and, whereas, your Majesty was in
    consequence, by your Order in Council of the 27th of May, 1828, most
    graciously pleased to direct, that the three said Resident Commissioners
    should be paid at the rate of 100L. a year each; and by your further Order
    in Council, of the 31st October, 1818, that the Superintendent of the
    Nautical Almanac should be allowed a salary of 300L., and the
    Superintendent of Chronometers 100L. a year; and, whereas, the act above
    mentioned has been repealed, and the Board of Longitude abolished; and
    doubts have therefore arisen, whether the said Orders in Council shall
    still continue in force; and whereas it is expedient that the said
    appointments be continued; We beg leave most humbly to submit to your
    Majesty, that your Majesty may be graciously pleased, by your Order in
    Council, to direct that the said offices of Superintendent of the Nautical
    Almanac, and of Superintendent of Chronometers; and also the three persons
    before-mentioned as a Resident Committee, to advise with the Commissioners
    for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral, on all questions of
    discoveries, inventions, calculations, and other scientific subjects, be
    continued, with the same duties and salaries, and under the same
    regulations as heretofore; and further beg most humbly to propose, that
    such three persons to form the Resident Committee, be chosen annually by
    the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, from
    among the Council of the Royal Society.
    His Majesty, having taken the said Memorial into consideration, was
    pleased, by and with the advice of his Privy Council, to approve thereof
    and the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are to
    give the necessary directions herein accordingly.
    (Signed) JAMES HILLER.
    Thus, it appeared that the Admiralty were to choose three persons from
    among the Council of the Royal Society, who were to have a hundred a year
    each during the pleasure of the Admiralty.
    Such an open attack on the independence of the Council could not escape
    the remarks of some of the members, and a kind of mild remonstrance was
    made, in which the real ground of complaint was omitted.
    RESOLVED, That in acknowledging the communication of the Lords
    Commissioners of the Admiralty, made to the Council of the Royal Society,
    on the 20th of November last, it be represented to them that inconvenience
    may arise from the plan therein specified, from the circumstance of all
    the members of the Council being annually elected by the Society at large;
    and that body being consequently subject to continual changes from year to
    This was answered by the following letter from the Secretary of the
    ADMIRALTY OFFICE, DEC. 30, 1828.
    SIR, Having submitted to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your
    Letter of the 18th instant, subjoining an extract from the Minutes of the
    proceedings of the Council of the Royal Society, arising out of the
    communication made to them by their Lordships, on the subject of his
    Majesty's Order in Council, of the fifth of October last, I have their
    Lordships' command to acquaint you, for the information of the President
    and Council, and with reference to what they have stated as to the
    inconvenience which may arise from the intended plan of limiting their
    Lordships' choice of members of the Resident Committee of Scientific
    Advice to the Council of the Royal Society, that their Lordships were
    induced to recommend this plan to his Majesty as a mark of respect to the
    Society, and as a pledge to the public of the qualification of the persons
    chosen. Nor did their Lordships apprehend any inconvenience from the
    circumstance stated in the Minute of the Council, of the Members being
    annually elected, as the Resident Committee is also annually appointed;
    and, in point of fact, no practical inconvenience has been felt during the
    ten years that the Committee has been in existence, as four of the
    distinguished gentlemen whom their Lordships have successively appointed
    to this office, have continued during the whole period to be members of
    the Council; and if any such difficulty or inconvenience should hereafter
    arise, their Lordships will be ready to take proper measures for remedying
    Their Lordships' intention therefore is, to propose to Captain Kater and
    Mr. Herschel, to continue to fill this office; and to Dr. Young, who had
    resigned it, on receiving the appointment of Secretary to the late Board
    of Longitude, to be appointed.
    I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
    The representation made by the Council was not calculated to produce much
    effect; but the Secretary of the Admiralty, who knew well the stuff of
    which Councils of the Royal Society are composed, might have spared the
    bitter irony of making their Lordships say, that they recommended this
    OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE PERSONS CHOSEN," whilst he delicately hints
    to them their dependent situation, by observing, that the "RESIDENT
    The Secretary knew that, PRACTICALLY speaking, it had been the custom for
    years for the President of the Royal Society to nominate the Council, and
    consequently he knew that every scientific adviser must first be indebted
    to the President for being qualified to advise, and then to the Admiralty
    for deriving profit from his counsel. Thus then their Lordships, as a
    "MARK OF RESPECT FOR THE SOCIETY" confirm the dependence of the Council on
    the President, by making his nomination a qualification for place, and
    establish a new dependence of the same Council on themselves, by giving a
    hundred pounds each year to such three members of that Council as they may
    THE PERSONS CHOSEN," is, that Mr. Davies Gilbert had previously thought
    they would do for his Council.
    What the Society, when they are acquainted with it, may think of this mark
    of respect, or what value the public may put upon this pledge, must be
    left to themselves to express.
    In looking over the list of officers and Council of the Royal Society the
    weakest perhaps (for purposes of science) which was ever made, a
    consolation arises from the possibility of some of those who were placed
    there by way of compliment, occasionally attending. In that contracted
    field Lord Melville's penetration may not be uselessly employed; and the
    soldier who presides over our colonies may judge whether the principles
    which pervade it are open and liberal as his own.
    The inconvenience to the public service from such an arrangement is, that
    the number out of which the advisers are selected must, in any case, be
    very small; and may, from several circumstances, be considerably reduced.
    In a council fairly selected, to judge of the merits of the various
    subjects likely to be brought under the consideration of the Society,
    anatomy, chemistry, and the different branches of natural history, will
    share with the numerous departments of physical science, in claiming to be
    represented by persons competently skilled in those subjects. These claims
    being satisfied, but few places will be left to fill up with
    mathematicians, astronomers, and persons conversant with nautical
    Let us look at the present Council. Is there a single mathematician
    amongst them, if we except Mr Barlow, whose deservedly high reputation
    rests chiefly on his physical and experimental inquiries, and whom the
    President and the Admiralty have clearly shown they do not look upon as a
    mathematician, by not appointing him an adviser?
    Small as the number of those persons on the Council, who are conversant
    with the three subjects named in the Act of Parliament, must usually be,
    it may be still further diminished. The President, when he forms his
    Council, may decline naming those members who are most fit for such
    situations. Or, on the other hand, some of those members who are best
    qualified for them, from their knowledge, may decline the honour of being
    the nominees of Mr. Gilbert, as Vice Presidents, Treasurers, or
    Councillors, and thus lending their names to support a system of which
    they disapprove.
    Whether the first of these causes has ever operated can be best explained
    by those gentlemen who have been on the Council. The refusals are,
    notwithstanding the President's taciturnity on the subject, better known
    than he is willing that they should be.
    Having discussed the general policy of the measure, with reference both to
    the Society and to the public, and without the slightest reference to the
    individuals who may have refused or accepted those situations, I shall now
    examine the propriety of the appointments that have been made.
    Doubtless the gentlemen who now hold those situations either have never
    considered the influence such a mode of selection would have on the
    character of the Council; or, having considered it, they must have arrived
    at a different conclusion from mine. There may, however, be arguments
    which I have overlooked, and a discussion of them must ultimately lead to
    truth: but I confess that it appears to me the objections which have been
    stated rest on principles of human nature, too deeply seated to be easily
    That I am not singular in the view I have taken of this subject, appears
    from several circumstances. A question was asked respecting these
    appointments at the Anniversary before the last; and, from the nature of
    the answer, many of the members of the Society have been led to believe
    the objections have been removed. Several Fellows of the Society, who knew
    these facts, thought it inexpedient ever to vote for placing any gentleman
    on the Council who had accepted these situations; and, having myself the
    same view of the case, I applied to the Council to be informed of the
    names of the present Scientific Advisers. But although they remonstrated
    against the PRINCIPLE, they replied that they had "NO COGNIZANCE" of the
    The two first members of the Council, Mr. Herschel and Captain Kater, who
    were so appointed, and who had previously been Resident Commissioners
    under the Act, immediately refused the situations. Dr. Young became one of
    the Advisers; and Captain Sabine and Mr. Faraday were appointed by the
    Admiralty as the two remaining ones. Of Dr. Young, who died shortly after,
    I shall only observe that he possessed knowledge which qualified him for
    the situation.
    Whether those who at present fill these offices can be said to belong to
    that class of persons which the Order in Council and the Act of Parliament
    point out, is a matter on which doubt may reasonably be entertained. The
    Order in Council speaks of these three persons as being the same, and
    having the "SAME DUTIES" as those mentioned in the Act; and it recites the
    words of the Act, that they shall be persons "WELL VERSED IN THE SCIENCES
    OF MATHEMATICS ASTRONOMY, AND NAVIGATION." Of the fitness of the gentlemen
    who now hold those situations to pronounce judgment on mathematical
    questions, the public will be better able to form an opinion when they
    shall have communicated to the world any of their own mathematical
    inquiries. Although it is the practice to consider that acceptance of
    office is alone necessary to qualify a man for a statesman, a similar
    doctrine has not yet prevailed in the world of science. One of these
    gentlemen, who has established his reputation as a chemist, stands in the
    same predicament with respect to the other two sciences. It remains then
    to consider Captain Sabine's claims, which must rest on his skill in
    "PRACTICAL ASTRONOMY AND NAVIGATION,"&mdash;a claim which can only be
    allowed when the scientific world are set at rest respecting the
    extraordinary nature of those observations contained in his work on the
    That volume, printed under the authority of the Board of Longitude,
    excited at its appearance considerable attention. The circumstance of the
    Government providing instruments and means of transport for the purpose of
    these inquiries, placed at Captain Sabine's disposal means superior to
    those which amateurs can generally afford, whilst the industry with which
    he availed himself of these opportunities, enabled him to bring home
    multitudes of observations from situations rarely visited with such
    instruments, and for such purposes.
    The remarkable agreement with each other, which was found to exist amongst
    each class of observations, was as unexpected by those most conversant
    with the respective processes, as it was creditable to one who had devoted
    but a few years to the subject, and who, in the course of those voyages,
    used some of the instruments for the first time in his life.
    This accordance amongst the results was such, that naval officers of the
    greatest experience, confessed themselves unable to take such lunars;
    whilst other observers, long versed in the use of the transit instrument,
    avowed their inability to take such transits. Those who were conversant
    with pendulums, were at a loss how to make, even under more favourable
    circumstances, similarly concordant observations. The same opinion
    prevailed on the continent as well as in England. On whatever subject
    Captain Sabine touched, the observations he published seemed by their
    accuracy to leave former observers at a distance. The methods of using the
    instruments scarcely differed in any important point from those before
    adopted; and, but for a fortunate discovery, which I shall presently
    relate, the world must have concluded that Captain Sabine possessed some
    keenness of vision, or acuteness of touch, which it would be hopeless for
    any to expect to rival.
    The Council of the Royal Society spared no pains to stamp the accuracy of
    these observations with their testimony. They seem to have thrust Captain
    Sabine's name perpetually on their minutes, and in a manner which must
    have been almost distressing: they recommend him in a letter to the
    Admiralty, then in another to the Ordnance; and several of the same
    persons, in their other capacity, as members of the Board of Longitude,
    after voting him a THOUSAND POUNDS for these observations, are said to
    have again recommended him to the Master-General of the Ordnance. That an
    officer, commencing his scientific career, should be misled by such
    praises, was both natural and pardonable; but that the Council of the
    Royal Society should adopt their opinion so heedlessly, and maintain it so
    pertinaciously, was as cruel to the observer as it was injurious to the
    interests of science.
    It might have been imagined that such praises, together with the Copley
    medal, presented to Captain Sabine by the Royal Society, and the medal of
    Lalande, given to him by the Institute of France, had arisen from such a
    complete investigation of his observations, as should place them beyond
    the reach even of criticism. But, alas! the Royal Society may write, and
    nobody will attend; its medals have lost their lustre; and even the
    Institute of France may find that theirs cannot confer immortality. That
    learned body is in the habit of making most interesting and profound
    reports on any memoirs communicated to it; nothing escapes the penetration
    of their committees appointed for such purposes. Surely, when they enter
    on the much more important subject of the award of a medal, unusual pains
    must be taken with the previous report, and it might, perhaps, be of some
    advantage to science, and might furnish their admirers with arguments in
    their defence, if they would publish that on which the decree of their
    Lalande's medal to Captain Sabine was founded.
    It is far from necessary to my present object, to state all that has been
    written and said respecting these pendulum experiments: I shall confine
    myself merely to two points; one, the transit observations, I shall allude
    to, because I may perhaps show the kind of feeling that exists respecting
    them, and possibly enable Captain Sabine to explain them. The other point,
    the error in the estimation of the division of the level, I shall discuss,
    because it is an admitted fact.
    Some opinion may be formed of transit observations, by taking the
    difference of times of the passage of any star between the several wires;
    supposing the distances of those wires equal, the intervals of time
    occupied by the star in passing from one to the other, ought to be
    precisely the same. As those times of passing from one wire to another are
    usually given to seconds and tenths of seconds, it rarely happens that the
    accordance is perfect.
    The transit instrument used by Captain Sabine was thirty inches in length,
    and the wires are stated to be equi-distant. Out of about 370 transits,
    there are eighty-seven, or nearly one-fourth, which have the intervals
    between all the wires agreeing to the same, the tenth of a second. At
    Sierra Leone, nineteen out of seventy-two have the same accordance; and of
    the moon culminating stars, p. 409, twelve out of twenty-four are equally
    exact. With larger instruments, and in great observatories, this is not
    always the case.
    Captain Kater has given, in the Philosophical Transactions, 1819, p. 427,
    a series of transits, with a three and a half foot transit, in which about
    one-eleventh part of them only have this degree of accuracy; and it should
    be observed that not merely the instrument, but the stars selected, have,
    in this instance, an advantage over Captain Sabine's.
    The transit of M. Bessel is five feet in length, made by Frauenhofer, and
    the magnifying power employed is 182; yet, out of some observations of his
    in January, 1826, only one-eleventh have this degree of accordance. In
    thirty-three of the Greenwich observations of January, 1828, fifteen have
    this agreement, or five-elevenths; but this is with a ten-feet transit.
    Now in none of these instances do the times agree within a tenth of a
    second between all the wires; but I have accounted those as agreeing in
    all the wires in which there is not more than four-tenths of a second
    between the greatest and least.
    This superior accuracy of the small instrument requires some explanation.
    One which has been suggested is, that Captain Sabine employs a chronometer
    to observe transits with; and that since it beats five times in two
    seconds, each beat will give four-tenths of a second; and this being the
    smallest quantity registered, the agreement becomes more probable than if
    tenths were the smallest quantities noticed. In general, the larger the
    lowest unity employed the greater will be the apparent agreement amongst
    the differences. Thus, if, in the transit of stars near the pole, the
    times of passing the wires were only registered to the nearest minute, the
    intervals would almost certainly be equal. There is another circumstance,
    about which there is some difficulty. It is understood that the same
    instrument,&mdash;the thirty-inch transit, was employed by Lieutenant
    Foster; and it has not been stated that the wires were changed, although
    this has most probably been the case. Now, in the transits which the later
    observer has given, he has found it necessary to correct for a
    considerable inequality between the first and second wires (See Phil.
    Trans. 1827). If an erroneous impression has gone abroad on this subject,
    it is doing a service to science to insure its correction, by drawing
    attention to it.
    Should these observations be confirmed by other observers, it would seem
    to follow that the use of a chronometer renders a transit more exact, and
    therefore that it ought to be used in observatories.
    Among the instruments employed by Captain Sabine, was a repeating circle
    of six inches diameter, made by order of the Board of Longitude, for the
    express purpose of ascertaining how far repeating instruments might be
    diminished in size:&mdash;a most important subject, on which the Board
    seem to have entertained a very commendable degree of anxiety.
    The following extract from the "Pendulum Experiments" is important:
    "The repeating circle was made by the direction, and at the expense of the
    Board of Longitude, for the purpose of exemplifying the principle of
    repetition when applied to a circle of so small a diameter as six inches,
    carrying a telescope of seven inches focal length, and one inch aperture;
    and of practically ascertaining the degree of accuracy which might be
    retained, whilst the portability of the instrument should be increased, by
    a reduction in the size to half the amount which had been previously
    regarded by the most eminent artists as the extreme limit of diminution to
    which repeating circles, designed for astronomical purposes, ought to be
    "The practical value of the six-inch repeating circle may be estimated, by
    comparing the differences of the partial results from the mean at each
    station, with the correspondence of any similar collection of observations
    made with a circle, on the original construction, and of large dimensions;
    such, for instance, as the latitudes of the stations of the French are,
    recorded in the Base du Systeme Metrique: when, if due allowance be made
    for the extensive experience and great skill of the distinguished persons
    who conducted the French observations, the comparison will scarcely appear
    to the disadvantage of the smaller circle, even if extended generally
    through all the stations of the present volume; but if it be particularly
    directed to Maranham and Spitzbergen,&mdash;at which stations the partial
    results were more numerous than elsewhere, and obtained with especial
    regard to every circumstance by which their accuracy might be affected,
    the performance of the six-inch circle will appear fully equal to that of
    circles of the larger dimension. The comparison with the two stations, at
    which a more than usual attention was bestowed, is the more appropriate,
    because it was essential to the purposes for which the latitudes of the
    French stations were required, that the observations should always be
    conducted with the utmost possible regard to accuracy.
    "It would appear, therefore, that in a repeating circle of six inches, the
    disadvantages of a smaller image enabling a less precise contact or
    bisection, and of an arch of less radius admitting of a less minute
    subdivision, may be compensated by the principle of repetition."
    Captain Sabine has pointed out Maranham and Spitzbergen as places most
    favourable to the comparison. Let us take the former of these places, and
    compare the observations made there with the small repeating instrument of
    six inches diameter, with those made by the French astronomers at
    Formentera, with a repeating circle of forty-one centi-metres, or about
    sixteen inches in diameter, made by Fortin. It is singular that this
    instrument was directed, by the French Board of Longitude, to be made
    expressly for this survey, and the French astronomers paid particular
    attention to it, from the circumstance of some doubts having been
    entertained respecting the value of the principle of repetition.
    The following series of observations were made with the two instruments.
    [I have chosen the inferior meridian altitude of Polaris, merely because
    the number of sets of observations are rather fewer. The difference
    between the extremes of the altitude of Polaris, deduced from sets taken
    above the pole by the same observers, amounts to seven seconds and a
    Latitude deduced from Polaris, with a repeating circle, 16 inches
    diameter.&mdash;BASE DU SYSTEME METRIQUE, tom. iv. p. 376. 1807.

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

   Number of           Latitude              Names of Observers.
   Observations.       of Formentera.
                       deg. min. sec.
    64                  38  39  55.3         Biot
   100                          54.7         Arago
    10                          56.2         Biot
    88                          56.9         Biot
   120                          56.7         Arago
    84                          54.9         Biot
   100                          56.5         Arago
   102                          57.1         Arago
    80                          54.5         Biot
    88                          53.3         Arago
    90                          53.6         Arago
    88                          53.8         Arago
    92                          53.7         Arago
    42                          55.6         Chaix
    90                          54.1         Chaix
    80                          53.9         Arago
   Mean of 1318 Observations, 38deg. 39min. 54.93sec.


    Sets of Observations made with a six-inch repeating circle, at Maranham.

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

 Star.               Number of         Latitude       Observer.
                     Observations.     deduced.
                                    deg. min. sec.
 alpha Lyrae             8           2    31  42.4    Capt. Sabine
 alpha Lyrae            12                    43.8     Ditto
 alpha Pavonis          10                    44.5     Ditto
 alpha Lyrae            12                    44.6     Ditto
 alpha Cygni            12                    42.1     Ditto
 alpha Gruris           12                    42.2     Ditto
 Mean latitude deduced from 66 observations 2deg. 31min 43.3sec.


    In comparing these results, although the French observations were more
    than twenty times as numerous as the English, yet the deviations of the
    individual sets from the mean are greater. One second and three-tenths is
    the greatest deviation from the mean of the Maranham observations; whilst
    the greatest deviation of those of Formentera, is two seconds and
    two-tenths. If this mode of comparison should be thought unfair, on
    account of the greater number of the sets in the French observations, let
    any six, in succession, of those sets be taken, and compared with the six
    English sets; and it will be found that in no one instance is the greatest
    deviation from the mean of the whole of the observations less than in
    those of Maranham. It must also be borne in mind, that by the latitude
    deduced by the mean of 1250 superior culminations of Polaris by the same
    observers, the latitude of Formentera was found to be 38deg. 39min
    57.07sec., a result differing by 2.14sec. from the mean of the 1318
    inferior culminations given above. [This difference cannot be accounted
    for by any difference in the tables of refraction, as neither the
    employment of those of Bradley, of Piazzi, of the French, of Groombridge,
    of Young, of Ivory, of Bessel, or of Carlini, would make a difference of
    two-tenths of a second.]
    These facts alone ought to have awakened the attention of Captain Sabine,
    and of those who examined and officially pronounced on the merits of his
    observations; for, supposing the skill of the observers equal, it seems a
    necessary consequence that "the performance of the six-inch circle is" not
    merely "fully equal to that of circles of larger dimensions," but that it
    is decidedly SUPERIOR to one of sixteen inches in diameter.
    This opinion did indeed gain ground for a time; but, fortunately for
    astronomy, long after these observations were made, published, and
    rewarded, Captain Kater, having borrowed the same instrument, discovered
    that the divisions of its level, which Captain Sabine had considered to be
    equal to one second each, were, in fact, more nearly equal to eleven
    seconds, each one being 10.9sec. This circumstance rendered necessary a
    recalculation of all the observations made with that instrument: a
    re-calculation which I am not aware Captain Sabine has ever thought it
    necessary to publish. [Above two hundred sets of observations with this
    instrument are given in the work alluded to. It can never be esteemed
    satisfactory merely to state the mean results of the corrections arising
    from this error: for the confidence to be attached to that mean will
    depend on the nature of the deviations from it.]
    This is the more to be regretted, as it bears upon a point of considerable
    importance to navigation; and if it should have caused any alteration in
    his opinion as to the comparative merits of great and small instruments,
    it might have been expected from a gentleman, who was expressly directed
    by the Board of Longitude, to try the question with an instrument
    constructed for that especial purpose.
    Finding that this has not been done by the person best qualified for the
    task, perhaps a few remarks from one who has no pretensions to familiarity
    with the instrument, may tend towards elucidating this interesting
    The following table gives the latitudes as corrected for the error of

<pre xml:space=“preserve”> Station. Star Latitude Latitude Diffe-

                                 by Capt.    corrected for     rence
                                 Sabine      error of level.
                               deg.min.sec.   deg.min.sec.    sec.

Sierra Leone Sirius 8 29 27.9 8 29 34.7 6.8

Ascension Alph.Centuri 7 55 46.7 7 55 40.1 6.6

Bahia Alph.Lyrae 12 59 19.4 12 59 21.4 2.0

             Alph.Lyrae                21.2       58  49.8   31.4
             Alph.Pavonis              22.4       59   5.1   17.3

Maranham Alph.Lyrae 2 31 42.4 2 31 22 20.4

             Alph.Lyrae                43.8           31.8   12.0
             Alph.Pavonis              44.5           44      .5
             Alph.Lyrae                44.6           42.6    2.0
             Alph.Cygni                42.1           39.2    2.9
             Alph.Gruris               42.2           27.4   14.8

Trinidad Achernar 10 38 56.1 10 38 58.2 2.1

             Alph.Gruris               52.2           50.8    1.4
             Achernar                  59.3           56.6    2.7

Jamaica Polaris 17 56 8.6 17 56 4.6 4.0

                                        6.6            3.3    3.3

New York Sun 40 42 40.1 40 42 44.6 4.5

             Polaris                   48.9           38.2   10.7
             Sun                       41.4           47.2    5.8
             Beta Urs.Min.             42.3           58.4   16.1

Hammerfest Sun 70 40 5.3 70 40 7.2 1.9

Spitzbergen Sun 79 49 56.1 79 49 58.6 2.5

             Sun                       55.9           44.8   11.1
             Sun                       58.6           52.7    5.9
             Sun                       59.3           51.6    7.7
             Sun                       55.8           51.6    4.2
             Sun                   50   1.5           57.0    4.5

Greenland Sun 74 32 19.9 74 32 32.4 12.4

             Sun                       17.9           18.7    0.8

Drontheim Sun 63 25 51.3 63 26 6.1 14.8

             Alph.Urs.Min.             57.2           49.4    7.8


    This presents a very different view of the latitudes as determined by the
    small repeating circle, from that in Captain Sabine's book; and confining
    ourselves still to Maranham, where the latitudes "WERE OBTAINED, WITH
    appears, that if we take Captain Sabine's own test, namely, "the
    differences of the partial results from the mean at each station," the
    deviations become nearly ten times as large as they were before; a
    circumstance which might be expected to have some influence in the
    decision of the question.
    There is, however, another light in which it is impossible to avoid
    looking at this singular oversight. The second column of the table of
    latitudes must now be considered the true one, as that which really
    resulted from the observations. Now, on examining the column of true
    latitudes, the differences between the different sets of observations is
    so considerable as naturally to excite some fear of latent error, more
    especially as nearly the greatest discordance arises from the same star,
    Alph.Lyrae, observed after an interval of only three days. It becomes
    interesting to every person engaged in making astronomical observations,
    to know what is the probability of his being exposed to an error so little
    to be guarded against, and so calculated to lull the suspicions of the
    unfortunate astronomer to whom it may happen.
    In fact, the question resolves itself into this: the true latitude of a
    place being determined by sets of observations as in the first of the
    following columns&mdash;

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

                                                   Latitudes as
   True latitudes observed.                    computed by a mistake
                                                 of Capt. Sabine's.
                               deg.min.sec.       deg.min.sec.
   Alph.Lyrae, 28th Aug....  2  31  22.0        2  31  42.4
   Alph.Lyrae, 29th Aug....         31.8               43.8
   Alph.Pavonis, 29th Aug...         44,0               44.5
   Alph.Lyrae, 31st Aug....         42.6               44.6
   Alph.Cygni, 31st Aug....         39.2               42.0
   Alph.Gruris, 2d Sept....         27.4               42.2


    what are the chances that, by one error all the latitudes in the first
    column should be brought so nearly to an agreement as they are in the
    second column? The circumstance of the number of divisions of the level
    being almost arbitrary within limits, might perhaps be alleged as
    diminishing this extraordinary improbability: but let any one consider, if
    he choose the error of each set, as independent of the others, still he
    will find the odds against it enormous.
    When it is considered that an error, almost arbitrary in its law, has thus
    had the effect of bringing discordant observations into an almost
    unprecedented accordance, as at Maranham; and not merely so, but that at
    eight of the nine stations it has uniformly tended to diminish the
    differences between the partial results, and that at the ninth station it
    only increased it by a small fraction of a second, I cannot help feeling
    that it is more probable even that Captain Kater, with all his admitted
    skill, and that Captain Sabine himself, should have been both mistaken in
    their measures of the divisions of the level, than that so singular an
    effect should have been produced by one error; and I cannot bring myself
    to believe that such an anticipation is entirely without foundation.
    Whatever may be the result of a re-examination, it was a singular
    oversight NOT TO MEASURE the divisions of a level intended to be used for
    determining so important a question; more particularly as, in the very
    work to which reference was made by Captain Sabine for the purpose of
    comparing the observations, it was the very first circumstance which
    occupied the French philosophers, and several pages [See pages 265 to 275
    which forms the fourth volume of the BASE DU SYSTEME METRIQUE.] are filled
    with the details relative to the determination of the value of the
    divisions of the level. It would also have been satisfactory, with such an
    important object in view, to have read off some of the sets after each
    pair of observations, in order to see how far the system of repetition
    made the results gradually converge to a limit, and in order to know how
    many repetitions were sufficient. Such a course would almost certainly
    have led to a knowledge of the true value of the divisions of the level;
    for the differences in the altitude of the same star, after a few minutes
    of time, must, in many instances, have been far too great to have arisen
    from the change of its altitude: and had these been noticed, they must
    have been referred to some error in the instrument, which could scarcely,
    in such circumstances, have escaped detection.
    I have now mentioned a few of the difficulties which attend Captain
    Sabine's book on the pendulum, difficulties which I am far from saying are
    inexplicable. He would be bold indeed who, after so wonderful an instance
    of the effect of chance as I have been just discussing, should venture to
    pronounce another such accident impossible; but I think enough has been
    said to show, that the feeling which so generally prevails relative to it,
    is neither captious nor unreasonable.
    Enough also has appeared to prove, that the conduct of the Admiralty in
    appointing that gentleman one of their scientific advisers, was, under the
    peculiar circumstances, at least, unadvised. They have thus lent, as far
    as they could, the weight of their authority to support observations which
    are now found to be erroneous. They have thus held up for imitation
    observations which may induce hundreds of meritorious officers to throw
    aside their instruments, in the despair of ever approaching a standard
    which is since admitted to be imaginary; and they have ratified the
    doctrine, for I am not aware their official adviser has ever even modified
    it, that diminutive instruments are equal almost to the largest.
    To what extent this doctrine is correct, may perhaps yet admit of doubt.
    It cannot, however, admit of a doubt, that it is unwise to crown it with
    official authority, and thus expose the officers of their service to
    depend on means which may be quite insufficient for their purpose.
    How the Board of Longitude, after EXPRESSLY DIRECTING THIS INSTRUMENT TO
    BE MADE AND TRIED, could come to the decision at which they arrived,
    appears inexplicable. The known difference of opinion amongst the best
    observers respecting the repeating principle, ought to have rendered them
    peculiarly cautious, nor ought the opinion of a Troughton, that
    instruments of less than one foot in diameter may be considered, "FOR
    ASTRONOMY, AS LITTLE BETTER THAN PLAYTHINGS," [Memoirs of the Astronomical
    Society, Vol.I. p.53.] to have been rejected without the most carefully
    detailed experiments. There were amongst that body, persons who must have
    examined minutely the work on the Pendulum. Captain Kater must have felt
    those difficulties in the perusal of it which other observers have
    experienced; and he who was placed in the Board of Longitude especially
    for his knowledge of instruments, might, in a few hours, have arrived at
    more decisive facts. But perhaps I am unjust. Captain Kater's knowledge
    rendered it impossible for him to have been ignorant of the difficulties,
    and his candour would have prevented him from concealing them: he must,
    therefore, after examining the subject, have been outvoted by his
    lay-brethren who had dispensed with that preliminary.
    It would be unjust, before quitting this subject, not to mention with
    respect the acknowledgment made by an officer of the naval service of the
    errors into which he also fell from this same level. Lieutenant Foster,
    aware of the many occasions on which Captain Sabine had employed this
    instrument, and knowing that he considered each division as equal to one
    second, never thought that a doubt could exist on the subject, and made
    all his calculations accordingly. When Captain Kater made him acquainted
    with the mistake, Lieutenant Foster immediately communicated a paper [The
    paper of Lieutenant Foster is printed in the Philosophical Transactions,
    1827, p.122, and is worth consulting.] to the Royal Society, in which he
    states the circumstance most fully, and recomputed all the observations in
    which that instrument was used. Unfortunately, from the original
    observations of Mr. Ross being left on board the Fury at the time of her
    loss, the transcripts of his results could not be recomputed like the
    rest, and were consequently useless.
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  <div style="height: 4em;">
    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    Although the number of situations to which persons conversant with science
    may hope to be appointed, is small, yet it has somewhat singularly
    happened, that instances of one individual, holding more than one such
    appointment, are frequent. Not to speak of those held by the late Dr.
    Young, we have at present:&mdash;
    MR. POND&mdash;Astronomer Royal, Inspector of Chronometers, and
    Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac.
    CAPTAIN SABINE&mdash;An officer of artillery on leave of absence from his
    regiment; Secretary of the Royal Society; and Scientific Adviser of the
    MR. BRANDE&mdash;Clerk of the Irons at the Royal Mint; Professor of
    Chemistry at the Royal Institution; Analyser of Rough Nitre, &amp;c. to
    the East-India Company; Lecturer on Materia Medica, Apothecaries' Hall;
    Superintending Chemical Operator at ditto; Lecturer on Chemistry at ditto;
    Editor of the Royal Institution Journal; and Foreign Secretary to the
    Royal Society.
    One should be led to imagine, from these unions of scientific offices,
    either that science is too little paid, and that gentlemen cannot be found
    to execute the offices separately at the salaries offered; or else, that
    it is too well paid, since each requires such little attention, that
    almost any number can be executed by one person.
    The Director of the Royal Observatory has a larger and better collection
    of instruments, and more assistants to superintend, than any other
    astronomer in the world; and, to do it properly, would require the almost
    undivided attention of a man in the vigour of youth. Nor would a
    superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, if he made a point of being
    acquainted with every thing connected with his subject, find his situation
    at all a sinecure. Slight as are the duties of the Foreign Secretary of
    the Royal Society, it might have been supposed that Mr. Brande would
    scarcely, amongst his multifarious avocations, have found time even for
    them. But it may be a consolation to him to know, that from the progress
    the Society is making, those duties must become shortly, if they are not
    already, almost extinct.
    Doubtless the President, in making that appointment, looked most anxiously
    over the list of the Royal Society. He doubtless knew that the Academics
    of Sweden, of Denmark, of Scotland, of Prussia, of Hanover, and of France,
    derived honour from the discoveries of their Secretaries;&mdash;that they
    prided themselves in the names of Berzelius, of Oersted, of Brewster, of
    Encke, of Gauss, and of Cuvier. Doubtless the President must have been
    ambitious that England should contribute to this galaxy of glory, that the
    Royal Society should restore the lost Pleiad [Pleiades, an assemblage of
    seven stars in the neck of the constellation Taurus. There are now only
    six of them visible to the naked eye.&mdash;HUTTON'S DICTIONARY&mdash;Art.
    Pleiades.] to the admiring science of Europe. But he could discover no
    kindred name amongst the ranks of his supporters, and forgot, for a
    moment, the interest of the Society, in an amiable consideration for the
    feelings of his surrounding friends. For had the President chosen a
    brighter star, the lustre of his other officers might have been
    overpowered by its splendour: but relieved from the pain of such a
    contrast, he may still retain the hope, that, by their united brightness,
    these suns of his little system shall yet afford sufficient light to be
    together visible to distant nations, as a faint NEBULA in the obscure
    horizon of English science.
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  <div style="height: 4em;">
    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    Although the Society is not in a state approaching to poverty, it may be
    useful to offer a few remarks respecting the distribution of its money.
    EXPENSE OF ENGRAVINGS FOR SIR E. HOME'S PAPERS.&mdash;The great expense of
    the engravings which adorn the volumes of the Philosophical Transactions,
    is not sufficiently known. That many of those engravings are quite
    essential for the papers they illustrate, and that those papers are fit
    for the Transactions, I do not doubt; but, some inquiry is necessary, when
    such large sums are expended. I shall endeavour, therefore, to approximate
    to the sum these engravings have cost the Royal Society.
    Previous to 1810, there are upwards of seventy plates to papers of Sir E.
    Home's; in many of these, which I have purposely separated, the
    workmanship is not so minute as in the succeeding ones. Since 1810, there
    have occurred 187 plates attached to papers of the same author. Many of
    these have cost from twelve to twenty guineas each plate; but I shall take
    five pounds as the average cost of the first portion, and twelve as that
    of the latter. This would produce,

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

    70 X  5 =  350
   187 X 12 = 2244
   ......    &mdash;&mdash;-......    L2594


    As this is only proposed as a rough approximation, let us omit the odd
    hundreds, and we have two thousand pounds expended in plates only on ONE
    branch of science, and for one person! Without calling in question the
    importance of the discoveries contained in those papers, it may be
    permitted to doubt whether such a large sum might not have been expended
    in a manner more beneficial to science. Not being myself conversant with
    those subjects, I can only form an opinion of the value from extraneous
    circumstances. Had their importance been at all equal to their number, I
    should have expected to have heard amongst the learned of other countries
    much more frequent mention of them than I have done, and even the Council
    of the Royal Society would scarcely have excluded from their Transactions
    one of those productions which they had paid for as a lecture.
    It might also have been more delicate not to have placed on the Council so
    repeatedly a gentleman, for whose engravings they were annually expending,
    during the last twenty years, about an hundred pounds. On the other hand,
    when the Council lent Sir E. Home the whole of those valuable plates to
    take off impressions for his large work on Comparative Anatomy, of which
    they constitute almost the whole, it might have been as well not to have
    obliterated from each plate all indication of the source to which he was
    indebted for them.
    THE PRESIDENT'S DISCOURSES.&mdash;I shall mention this circumstance,
    because it fell under my own observation.
    Observing in the annual accounts a charge of 381L 5s. for the President's
    Speeches, I thought it right to inquire into the nature of this item.
    Happening to be on the Council the next year, I took an opportunity, at an
    early meeting of that Council, to ask publicly for an explanation of the
    following resolution, which stands in the Council-books for Dec. 21, 1828.
    "Resolved, That 500 copies of the President's Discourses, about to be
    printed by Mr. Murray, be purchased by the Society, at the usual trade
    The answer given to that question was, "THAT THE COUNCIL HAD AGREED TO
    I remarked at the time that such an answer was quite unsatisfactory, as
    the following statement will prove.
    The volume consists of 160 pages, or twenty sheets, and the following
    prices are very liberal:

<pre xml:space=“preserve”>

                                                 L  s. d.
   To composing and printing twenty sheets, at
        3L. per sheet...............             60  0  0
   Twenty reams of paper, at 3L. per ream.....   60  0  0
   Corrections, alterations, &amp;c..........        30  0  0
   Total cost of 500 copies......               150  0  0


    Now upon the subject of the expense of printing, the Council could not
    plead ignorance. The Society are engaged in printing, and in paying
    printers' bills, too frequently to admit of such an excuse; and several of
    the individual members must have known, from their own private experience,
    that the cost of printing such a volume was widely different from that
    they were about to pay, as an inducement to a bookseller to print it on
    his own account. Here, then, was a sum of above two hundred pounds beyond
    what was necessary for the object, taken from the funds of the Royal
    Society; and for what purpose? Did the President and his officers ever
    condescend to explain this transaction to the Council; or were they
    expected, as a matter of course, to sanction any thing proposed to them?
    Could they have been so weak, or so obedient, as to order the payment of
    above three hundred and eighty pounds, to induce a bookseller to do what
    they might have done themselves for less than half the sum? Or did they
    wish to make Mr. Murray a present of two hundred pounds? If so, he must
    have had powerful friends in the Council, and it is fit the Society should
    know who they were; for they were not friends, either to its interests or
    to its honour.
    The copies, so purchased, were ordered by the Council to be sold to
    members of the Society at 15s. each: (the trade price is 15s. 3d.) and out
    of the five hundred copies twenty-seven only have been sold: the remainder
    encumber our shelves. Thus, after four years, the Society are still losers
    of three hundred and sixty Pounds on this transaction.
    the printing of these observations is not paid for out of the funds of the
    Royal Society, yet as the Council of that body are the visitors of the
    Royal Observatory, it may not be misplaced to introduce the subject here.
    Some years since, a member of the Royal Society accidentally learned, that
    there was, at an old store-shop in Thames Street, a large quantity of the
    volumes of the Greenwich Observations on sale as waste paper. On making
    inquiry, he ascertained that there were two tons and a half to be disposed
    of, and that an equal quantity had already been sold, for the purpose of
    converting it into pasteboard. The vendor said he could get fourpence a
    pound for the whole, and that it made capital Bristol board. The fact was
    mentioned by a member of the Council of the Royal Society, and they
    thought it necessary to inquire into the circumstances.
    Now, the Observations made at the Royal Observatory are printed with every
    regard to typographical luxury, with large margins, on thick paper,
    hotpressed, and with no sort of regard to economy. This magnificence is
    advocated by some who maintain, that the volumes ought to be worthy of a
    great nation; whilst others, seeing how little that nation spends on
    science, regret that the sums allotted to it should not be applied with
    the strictest economy. If the Astronomer Royal really has a right to these
    volumes, printed by the government at a large expense, it is, perhaps, the
    most extravagant mode which was ever yet invented of paying a public
    servant. When that right was given to him,&mdash;let us suppose somebody
    had suggested the impolicy of it, lest he should sell the costly volumes
    for waste paper,&mdash;who would have listened for one moment to such a
    supposition? He would have been told that it was impossible to suppose a
    person in that high and responsible situation, could be so indifferent to
    his own reputation.
    A short time since, I applied to the President and Council of the Royal
    Society, for copies of the Greenwich Observations, which were necessary
    for an inquiry on which I was at that time engaged. Being naturally
    anxious to economize the small funds I can devote to science, the request
    appeared to me a reasonable one. It was, however, refused; and I was at
    the same time informed that the Observations could be purchased at the
    bookseller's. [This was a mistake; Mr. Murray has not copies of the
    Greenwich Observations prior to 1823.] When I consider that practical
    astronomy has not occupied a very prominent place in my pursuits, I feel
    disposed, on that ground, to acquiesce in the propriety of the refusal.
    This excuse can, however, be of no avail for similar refusals to other
    gentlemen, who applied nearly at the same time with myself, and whose time
    had been successfully devoted to the cultivation of that science. [M.
    Bessel, at the wish of the Royal Academy of Berlin, projected a plan for
    making a very extensive map of the heavens. Too vast for any individual to
    attempt, it was proposed that a portion should be executed by the
    astronomers of various countries, and invitations to this effect were
    widely circulated. One only of the divisions of this map was applied for
    by any English astronomer; and, after completing the portion of the map
    assigned to him, he undertook another, which had remained unprovided for.
    This gentleman, the Rev. Mr. Hussey, was one of the rejected applicants
    for the Greenwich Observations.]
    There was, however, another ground on which I had weakly anticipated a
    different result;&mdash;but those who occupy official situations, rendered
    remarkable by the illustrious names of their predecessors, are placed in
    no enviable station; and, if their own acquirements are confessedly
    insufficient to keep up the high authority of their office, they must
    submit to the mortifications of their false position. I am sure,
    therefore, that the President and officers of the Royal Society must have
    sympathized MOST DEEPLY with me, when they felt it their duty to propose
    that the Society over which Newton once presided, should refuse so
    trifling an assistance to the unworthy possessor of the chair he once
    In reply to my application to the President and Council, to be allowed a
    copy of the Greenwich Observations, I was informed that, "The number of
    copies placed by government at the disposal of the Royal Society, was
    insufficient to supply the demands made on them by various learned bodies
    in Europe; and, consequently, they were unable, however great their
    inclination, to satisfy the wishes of individual applicants." Now I have
    spent some time in searching the numerous proceedings in the council-books
    of the Royal Society, and I believe the following is the real state of the
    In 1785, Lord Sidney, one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State,
    wrote to the Council a letter, dated Whitehall, March 8, 1785, from which
    the following is extracted:&mdash;
    "The King has been pleased to consent, that any copies of the Astronomical
    Observations, made at the Observatory of Greenwich, (and paid for by the
    Board of Ordnance, pursuant to His Majesty's command, of July 21, 1767,)
    which may at any time remain in the hands of the printer, shall, after you
    have reserved such copies as you may think proper as presents, be given to
    the said Nevil Maskelyne, in consideration of his trouble in the
    superintending the printing thereof. I am to signify His Majesty's
    pleasure, that you do, from time to time, give the necessary orders for
    that purpose, until His Majesty's further commands shall be communicated
    to you.
    Soon after this letter, I find on the council-books:&mdash;
    "Ordered, That sixty copies of the Greenwich Observations, last published,
    be retained as presents, and that the rest be delivered to the Astronomer
    It is difficult to be sure of a negative fact, but in searching many
    volumes of the Proceedings of the Council, I have not discovered any
    revocation of this order, and I believe none exists. This is confirmed by
    the circumstance of the Council at the present day receiving precisely the
    same number of copies as their predecessors, and I believe that in fact
    they do not know the authority on which the right to those sixty rests.
    Supposing this order unrevoked, it was clearly meant to be left to the
    discretion of the Council, to order such a number to be reserved, "from
    time to time," as the demands of science might require. When, therefore,
    they found that the number of sixty copies was insufficient, they ought to
    have directed the printer to send them a larger number; but when they
    found out the purpose to which the Astronomer Royal applied them, they
    ought immediately to have ordered nearly the whole impression, in order to
    prevent this destruction of public property. If, on the other hand, the
    above order is revoked, and we really have no right to more than sixty
    copies; then, on discovering the Observations in their progress towards
    pasteboard, it was the duty of the Council of the Royal Society, as
    visitors of the Royal Observatory, immediately to have represented to
    Government the evil of the arrangement, and to have suggested, that if the
    Astronomer Royal have the right, it would be expedient to commute it for a
    liberal compensation.
    Whichever be the true view of the case, they have taken no steps on the
    subject; and I cannot help expressing my belief, that the President and
    Council were induced to be thus negligent of the interests of science,
    from the fear of interfering with the perquisites of the Astronomer Royal.
    It is, however, but justice to observe, that the injury already done to
    science, by the conversion of these Observations into pasteboard, is not
    so great as the public might have feared. Mr. Pond, than whom no one can
    be supposed better acquainted with their value, and whose right to judge
    no man can question, has shown his own opinion to be, that his reputation
    will be best consulted by diminishing the extent of their circulation.
    Before I quit the subject of the Royal Observatory, on which much might be
    said, I will just refer to the report by a Committee of the Royal Society
    that was made relative to it, some years since, and which, it is imagined,
    is a subject by no means grateful to the memory of any of the parties
    concerned in it. My object is to ascertain, whether any amendments have
    taken place in consequence. To one fact of considerable importance, I was
    myself a witness, when I was present officially at a visitation. At that
    time, no original observations made at the transit instrument were ever
    preserved. Had I not been an eye witness of the process of an observation,
    I should not have credited the fact.
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    At a period when the attention of Government to science had not undergone
    any marked change, a most unexpected occurrence took place. His Majesty
    intimated to the Royal Society, through his Secretary of State, his
    intention to found two gold medals, of the value of fifty guineas each, to
    be awarded annually by the Council of the Royal Society, according to the
    rules they were desired to frame for that purpose.
    The following is the copy of Mr. Peel's letter:&mdash;
    WHITEHALL, December 3d, 1825.
    I am commanded by the King to acquaint you, that His Majesty proposes to
    found two gold medals, of the value of fifty guineas each, to be awarded
    as honorary premiums, under the direction of the President and Council of
    the Royal Society, in such a manner as shall, by the excitement of
    competition among men of science, seem best calculated to promote the
    object for which the Royal Society was instituted.
    His Majesty desires to receive from the President and Council of the Royal
    Society their opinion upon the subject generally of the regulations which
    it may be convenient to establish with regard to the appropriation of the
    medals; and I have, therefore, to request that you will make the necessary
    communication to the Council of the Royal Society, in order that His
    Majesty's wishes may be carried into effect.
    I have the honour to be, &amp;c. &amp;c. (Signed) R. PEEL.
    Nothing could be more important for the interests of science, than this
    gracious manifestation of His Majesty's concern for its advancement. It
    was hailed by all who were made acquainted with it, as the commencement of
    a new era, and the energies which it might have awakened were immense. The
    unfettered nature of the gift excited admiration, whilst the confidence
    reposed in the Council was calculated to have insured the wavering faith
    of any less-gifted body. Even those who, either from knowing the
    MANAGEMENT of the Society, or from other grounds, doubted the policy of
    establishing medals, saw much to admire in the tone and spirit in which
    they were offered.
    The Council immediately came to the resolution of gratefully accepting
    them: and it appears that the President communicated that resolution, on
    the 26th, to Mr. Peel, in a letter, which is found on the minutes of the
    Council-book of the 26th of January.
    At the same Council, the rules for the award of the Royal medals were
    decided upon; they were as follow:&mdash;
    26th January, 1826.
    That it is the opinion of the Council, that the medals be awarded for the
    most important discoveries or series of investigations, completed and made
    known to the Royal Society in the year preceding the day of their award.
    That it is the opinion of the Council, that the presentation of the medals
    should not be limited to British subjects. And they propose, if it should
    be His Majesty's pleasure, that his effigy should form the obverse of the
    That two medals from the same die should be struck upon each foundation;
    one in gold, one in silver.
    If these rules are not the wisest which might have been formed, yet they
    are tolerably explicit; and it might have been imagined that even a
    councillor of the Royal Society, prepared for office by the education of a
    pleader, could not have mystified his brethren so completely, as to have
    made them doubt on the point of time. The rules fixed precisely, that the
    discoveries or experiments rewarded, must be completed and made known to
    the Royal Society, within the YEAR PRECEDING THE DAY of the award.
    Perhaps it might have been a proper mark of respect to this communication,
    to have convened a special general meeting of the Society, to have made
    known to the whole body the munificent endowment of their Patron: and when
    his approbation of the laws which were to govern the distribution of these
    medals had been intimated to the Council, such a course would have been in
    complete accordance with the wish expressed in Mr. Peel's letter, "TO
    EXCITE COMPETITION AMONGST MEN OF SCIENCE" by making them generally known.
    Let us now examine the first award of these medals: it is recorded in the
    following words:&mdash;
    November 16, 1826.
    ONE of the medals of His Majesty's donation for the present year was
    awarded to John Dalton, Esq. President of the Philosophical and Literary
    Society, Manchester, for his development of the Atomic Theory, and his
    other important labours and discoveries in physical science.
    The other medal for the present year was awarded to James Ivory, Esq. for
    his paper on Astronomical Refractions, published in the Philosophical
    Transactions for the year 1823, and his other valuable papers on
    mathematical subjects.
    The Copley medal was awarded to James South, Esq. for his observations of
    double stars, and his paper on the discordances between the sun's observed
    and computed right ascensions, published in the Transactions.
    It is difficult to believe that the same Council, which, in January,
    formed the laws for the distribution of these medals, should meet together
    in November, and in direct violation of these laws, award them to two
    philosophers, one of whom had made, and fully established, his great
    discovery almost twenty years before; and the other of whom (to stultify
    themselves still more effectually) they expressly rewarded for a paper
    made known to them three years before.
    Were the rules for the award of these medals read previous to their
    decision? Or were the obedient Council only used to register the edict of
    their President? Or were they mocked, as they have been in other
    instances, with the semblance of a free discussion?
    Has it never occurred to gentlemen who have been thus situated, that
    although they have in truth had no part in the decision, yet the Society
    and the public will justly attribute a portion of the merit or demerit of
    their award, to those to whom that trust was confided?
    Did no one member of the Council venture, with the most submissive
    deference, to suggest to the President, that the public eye would watch
    with interest this first decision on the Royal medals, and that it might
    perhaps be more discreet to adjudge them, for the first time, in
    accordance with the laws which had been made for their distribution? Or
    was public opinion then held in supreme contempt? Was it scouted, as I
    have myself heard it scouted, in the councils of the Royal Society?
    Or was the President exempt, on this occasion, from the responsibility of
    dictating an award in direct violation of the faith which had been pledged
    to the Society and to the public? and, did the Council, intent on
    exercising a power so rarely committed to them; and, perhaps, urged by the
    near approach of their hour of dinner, dispense with the formality of
    reading the laws on which they were about to act?
    Whatever may have been the cause, the result was most calamitous to the
    Society. Its decision was attacked on other grounds; for, with a strange
    neglect, the Council had taken no pains to make known, either to the
    Society, or to the public, the rules they had made for the adjudication of
    these medals.
    The evils resulting from this decision were many. In the first place, it
    was most indecorous and ungrateful to treat with such neglect the rules
    which had been approved by our Royal Patron. In the next place, the medals
    themselves became almost worthless from this original taint: and they
    ceased to excite "competition amongst men of science," because no man
    could feel the least security that he should get them, even though his
    discoveries should fulfil all the conditions on which they were offered,
    The great injury which accrued to science from this proceeding, induced
    me, in the succeeding session, when I found myself on the Council of the
    Royal Society, to endeavour to remove the stigma which rested on our
    character. Whether I took the best means to remedy the evil is now a
    matter of comparatively little consequence: had I found any serious
    disposition to set it right, I should readily have aided in any plans for
    doing that which I felt myself bound to attempt, even though I should
    stand alone, as I had the misfortune of doing on that occasion. [It is but
    justice to Mr. South, who was a member of that Council, to state, that the
    circumstance of his having had the Copley medal of the same year awarded
    to him, prevented him from taking any part in the discussion.]
    The impression which the whole of that discussion made on my mind will
    never be effaced. Regarding the original rules formed for the distribution
    of the Royal medals, when approved by his Majesty, as equally binding in
    honour and in justice, I viewed the decision of the Council, which
    assigned those medals to Mr. Dalton and Mr. Ivory, as void, IPSO FACTO, on
    the ground that it was directly at variance with that part which CONFINES
    the medals to discoveries made known to the Society within ONE YEAR
    PREVIOUS TO THE DAY OF THEIR AWARD. I therefore moved the following
    "1st, That the award of the Royal medals, made on the 16th of November,
    1826, being contrary to the conditions under which they were offered, is
    "2dly, That the sum of fifty guineas each be presented to J. Dalton, Esq.
    and James Ivory, Esq. from the funds of the Society; and that letters be
    written to each of those gentlemen, expressing the hope of the Council
    that this, the only method which is open to them of honourably fulfilling
    their pledges, will be received by those gentlemen as a mark of the high
    sense entertained by the Council of the importance and value of their
    discoveries, which require not the aid of medals to convey their
    reputation to posterity, as amongst the greatest which distinguished the
    age in which they lived."
    It may be curious to give the public a specimen of the reasoning employed
    in so select a body of philosophers as the Council of the Royal Society.
    It was contended, on the one hand, that although the award was SOMEWHAT
    IRREGULAR, yet nothing was more easy than to set it right. As the original
    rules for giving the medals were merely an order of the Council,&mdash;it
    would only be necessary to alter them, and then the award would agree
    perfectly with the laws. On the other hand, it was contended, that the
    original rules were unknown to the public and to the Society; and that, in
    fact, they were only known to the members of the Council and a few of
    their friends; and therefore the award was no breach of faith.
    All comment on such reasoning is needless. That such propositions could
    not merely be offered, but could pass unreproved, is sufficient to show
    that the feelings of that body do not harmonize with those of the age; and
    furnishes some explanation why several of the most active members of the
    Royal Society have declined connecting their names with the Council as
    long as the present system of management is pursued.
    The little interest taken by the body of the Society, either in its
    peculiar pursuits, or in the proceedings of the Council, and the little
    communication which exists between them, is an evil. Thus it happens that
    the deeds of the Council are rarely known to the body of the Society, and,
    indeed, scarcely extend beyond that small portion who frequent the weekly
    meetings. These pages will perhaps afford the first notice to the great
    majority of the Society of a breach of faith by their Council, which it is
    impossible to suppose a body, consisting of more than six hundred
    gentlemen, could have sanctioned.
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    An important distinction exists between scientific communications, which
    seems to have escaped the notice of the Councils of the Royal Society.
    They may contain discoveries of new principles,&mdash;of laws of nature
    hitherto unobserved; or they may consist of a register of observations of
    known phenomena, made under new circumstances, or in new and peculiar
    situations on the face of our planet. Both these species of additions to
    our knowledge are important; but their value and their rarity are very
    different in degree. To make and to repeat observations, even with those
    trifling alterations, which it is the fashion in our country (in the
    present day) to dignify with the name of discoveries, requires merely
    inflexible candour in recording precisely the facts which nature has
    presented, and a power of fixing the attention on the instruments
    employed, or phenomena examined,&mdash;a talent, which can be much
    improved by proper Instruction, and which is possessed by most persons of
    tolerable abilities and education.* To discover new principles, and to
    detect the undiscovered laws by which nature operates, is another and a
    higher task, and requires intellectual qualifications of a very different
    order: the labour of the one is like that of the computer of an almanac;
    the inquiries of the other resemble more the researches of the
    accomplished analyst, who has invented the formula: by which those
    computations are performed.
    [*That the use even of the large astronomical instruments in a national
    observatory, does not require any very profound acquirements, is not an
    opinion which I should have put forth without authority. The
    Astronomer-Royal ought to be the best judge.
    On the minutes of the Council of the Royal Society, for April 6, 1826,
    with reference to the Assistants necessary for the two mural circles, we
    find a letter from Mr. Pond on the subject, from which the following
    passage is extracted:
    "But to carry on such investigations, I want indefatigable, hard-working,
    and above all, obedient drudges (for so I must call them, although they
    are drudges of a superior order), men who will be contented to pass half
    their day in using their hands and eyes in the mechanical act of
    observing, and the remainder of it in the dull process of calculation."]
    Such being the distinction between the merits of these inquiries, some
    difference ought to exist in the nature of any rewards that may be
    proposed for their encouragement. The Royal Society have never marked this
    difference, and consequently those: honorary medals which are given to
    observations, gain a value which is due to those that are given for
    discoveries; whilst these latter are diminished in their estimation by
    such an association.
    I have stated this distinction, because I think it a just one; but the
    public would have little cause of complaint if this were the only ground
    of objection to the mode of appropriating the Society's medals. The first
    objection to be noticed, is the indistinct manner in which the object for
    which the medals are awarded is sometimes specified. A medal is given to
    A. B. "for his various papers."
    There are cases, few perhaps in number, where such a reason may be
    admissible; but it is impossible not to perceive the weakness of those who
    judge these matters legibly written in the phrase, "and for his various
    other communications," which comes in as the frequent tail-piece to these
    awards. With a diffidence in their own powers, which might be more admired
    if it were more frequently expressed, the Council think to escape through
    this loop-hole, should the propriety of their judgment on the main point
    be called in question. Thus, even the discovery which made chemistry a
    science, has attached to it in their award this feeble appendage.
    It has been objected to the Royal Society, that their medals have been too
    much confined to a certain set. When the Royal medals were added to their
    patronage, the past distribution of the Copley medals, furnished grounds
    to some of the journals to predict the future possessors of the new ones.
    I shall, doubtless, be told that the Council of the Royal Society are
    persons of such high feeling, that it is impossible to suppose their
    decision could be influenced by any personal motives. As I may not have
    had sufficient opportunities, during the short time I was a member of that
    Council, to enable me to form a fair estimate, I shall avail myself of the
    judgment of one, from whom no one will be inclined to appeal, who knew it
    long and intimately, and who expressed his opinion deliberately and
    The late Dr. Wollaston attached, as a condition to be observed in the
    distribution of the interest of his munificent gift of 2,000L. to the
    Royal Society, the following clause:&mdash;"And I hereby empower the said
    President, Council, and Fellows, after my decease, in furtherance of the
    above declared objects of the trust, to apply the said dividends to aid or
    reward any individual or individuals of any country, SAVING ONLY THAT NO
    Another improvement which might be suggested, is, that it is generally
    inexpedient to vote a medal until the paper which contains the discovery
    is at least read to the Society; perhaps even it might not be quite
    unreasonable to wish that it should have been printed, and consequently
    have been perused by some few of those who have to decide on its merits.
    These trifles have not always been attended to; and even so lately as the
    last year, they escaped the notice of the President and his Council. The
    Society was, however, indebted to the good sense of Mr. Faraday, who
    declined the proffered medal; and thus relieved us from one additional
    charge of precipitancy. [When this hasty adjudication was thus put a stop
    to, one of the members of the Council inquired, whether, as a Copley medal
    must by the will he annually given, some other person might not be found
    deserving of it. To which the Secretary replied, "We do not intend to give
    any this year." All further discussion was thus silenced.]
    Perhaps, also, as the Council are on some occasions apt to be oblivious,
    it might be convenient that the President should read, previously to the
    award of any medals or to the decision of any other important subjects,
    the statutes relating to them. He might perhaps propitiate their attention
    If those who have been conversant with the internal management of the
    Council, would communicate their information, something curious might
    perhaps be learned respecting a few of these medals. Concerning those of
    which I have had good means of information, I shall merely state&mdash;of
    three of them&mdash;that whatever may have been the official reasons for
    their award, I had ample reasons to convince me of the following being the
    true causes:&mdash;
    First.&mdash;A medal was given to A, at a peculiarly inappropriate time&mdash;BECAUSE
    Second.&mdash;Subsequently a medal was given to B, in order TO DESTROY THE
    Third.&mdash;A medal was given to C, "BECAUSE WE THINK HE HAS BEEN ILL
    I will now enter on an examination of one of their awards, which was
    peculiarly injudicious. I allude to that concerning the mode of rendering
    platina malleable. Respecting, as I did, the illustrious philosopher who
    invented the art, and who has left many other claims to the gratitude of
    mankind, I esteem it no disrespect to his memory to place that subject in
    its proper light.
    An invention in science or in art, may justly be considered as possessing
    the rights of property in the highest degree. The lands we inherit from
    our fathers, were cultivated ere they were born, and yielded produce
    before they were cultivated. The products of genius are the actual
    creations of the individual; and, after yielding profit or honour to him,
    they remain the permanent endowments of the human race. If the
    institutions of our country, and the opinions of society, support us fully
    in the absolute disposal of our fields, of which we can, by the laws of
    nature, be only the transitory possessors, who shall justly restrict our
    discretion in the disposal of those richer possessions, the products of
    intellectual exertion?
    Two courses are open to those individuals who are thus endowed with
    Nature's wealth. They may lock up in their own bosoms the mysteries they
    have penetrated, and by applying their knowledge to the production of some
    substance in demand in commerce, thus minister to the wants or comforts of
    their species, whilst they reap in pecuniary profit the legitimate reward
    of their exertions.
    It is open to them, on the other hand, to disclose the secret they have
    torn from Nature, and by allowing mankind to participate with them, to
    claim at once that splendid reputation which is rarely refused to the
    inventors of valuable discoveries in the arts of life.
    The two courses are rarely compatible, only indeed when the discoverer,
    having published his process, enters into equal competition with other
    If an individual adopt the first of these courses, and retaining his
    secret, it perish with him, the world have no right to complain. During
    his life, they profited by his knowledge, and are better off than if the
    philosopher had not existed.
    Monopolies, under the name of patents, have been devised to assist and
    reward those who have chosen the line of pecuniary profit. Honorary
    rewards and medals have been the feeble expressions of the sentiments of
    mankind towards those who have preferred the other course. But these have
    been, and should always be, kept completely distinct. [It is a condition
    with the Society of Arts, never to give a reward to any thing for which a
    patent has been, or is to be, taken out.]
    Let us now consider the case of platina. A new process was discovered of
    rendering it malleable, and the mere circumstance of so large a quantity
    having been sent into the market, was a positive benefit, of no ordinary
    magnitude, to many of the arts. The discoverer of this valuable process
    selected that course for which no reasonable man could blame him; and from
    some circumstance, or perhaps from accident, he preserved no written
    record of the manipulations. Had Providence appointed for that disorder,
    which terminated too fatally, a more rapid career, all the knowledge he
    had acquired from the long attention he had devoted to the subject, would
    have been lost to mankind. The hand of a friend recorded the directions of
    the expiring philosopher, whose anxiety to render useful even his
    unfinished speculations, proves that the previous omission was most
    probably accidental.
    Under such circumstances it was published to the world in the Transactions
    of the Royal Society. But what could induce that body to bestow on it
    their medal? To talk of adding lustre to the name of Wollaston by their
    medal, is to talk idly. They must have done it then as an example, as a
    stimulus to urge future inquiries in the career of discovery. But did they
    wish discoveries to be so endangered?
    The discoveries of Professor Mitscherlick, of Berlin, had long been
    considered, by a few members of the Society, as having strong claims on
    one of its honorary rewards; but difficulties had arisen, from so few
    members of the Council having any knowledge of discoveries which had long
    been familiar to Europe. The Council were just on the point of doing
    justice to the merits of the Prussian philosopher, when it was suggested
    that its medal should be given to Dr. Wollaston, and they immediately
    altered their intention, and thus enabled themselves to reserve their
    medal to Professor Mitscherlick for another year; at which period, for
    aught they knew, his discoveries might possess the additional merit of
    having been made prior to the limit allowed by their regulations. That
    medal was, in fact, voted at a meeting, at which no one member present was
    at all conversant with the subjects rewarded. I shall, however, say no
    more on this subject. They erred from feeling, an error so very rare with
    them, that it might be pardoned even for its singularity.
    I will, however, add one word to those whose censures have been unjustly
    dealt, to those who have reproached the philosopher for receiving
    pecuniary advantage from his inventions.
    Amongst the many and varied contrivances for the demands of science, or
    the arts of life, with which we were enriched by the genius of Wollaston,
    was it too much to allow him to retain, during his fleeting career, one
    out of the multitude, to furnish that: pecuniary supply, without which,
    the man will want food for his body, and the philosopher be destitute of
    tools for his inventions? Had he been, as, from the rank he held in
    science, he certainly would have been in other kingdoms, rich in the
    honours his country could bestow, and receiving from her a reward in some
    measure commensurate with his deserts,&mdash;then, indeed, there might
    have been reason for that reproach; but I am convinced that, in such
    circumstances, the philosopher would have balanced, with no "niggard"
    hand, the claims of his country, and would have given to it, unreservedly,
    the produce of his powerful mind.
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    Mr. Fairchild left by will twenty-five pounds to the Royal Society. This
    was increased by several subscriptions, and 100L. 3 per cent. South Sea
    Annuities was purchased, the interest of which was to be devoted annually
    to pay for a sermon to be preached at St.Leonard's, Shoreditch.
    Few members of the Society, perhaps, are aware, either of the bequest or
    of its annual payment. I shall merely observe, that for five years, from
    1800 to 1804, it was regularly given to Mr. Ascough; and that for
    twenty-six years past, it has been as regularly given to the Rev. Mr.
    The annual amount is too trifling to stimulate to any extraordinary
    exertions; yet, small as it is, it might, if properly applied, be
    productive of much advantage to religion, and of great honour to the
    Society. For this purpose, it would be desirable that it should be
    delivered at some church or chapel, more likely to be attended by members
    of the Royal Society. Notice of it should be given at the place of worship
    appointed, at least a week previous to its delivery, and at the two
    preceding weekly meetings of the Royal Society. The name of the gentleman
    nominated for that year, and the church at which the sermon is to be
    preached, should be stated.
    With this publicity attending it, and by a judicious selection of the
    first two or three gentlemen appointed to deliver it, it would soon be
    esteemed an honour to be invited to compose such a lecture, and the
    Society might always find in its numerous list of members or aspirants,
    persons well qualified to fulfil a task as beneficial for the promotion of
    true religion, as it ever must be for the interest of science. I am
    tempted to believe that such a course would call forth exertions of the
    most valuable character, as well as give additional circulation to what is
    already done on that subject.
    The geological speculations which have been adduced, perhaps with too much
    haste by some, as according with the Mosaic history, and by others, as
    inconsistent with its truth, would, if this subject had been attentively
    considered, have been allowed to remain until the fullest and freest
    inquiry had irrevocably fixed their claim to the character of indisputable
    facts. But, I will not press this subject further on my reader's
    attention, lest he should think I am myself delivering the lecture. All
    that I could have said on this point has been so much more ably stated by
    one whose enlightened view of geological science has taken away some
    difficulties from its cultivators, and, I hope, removed a stumbling-block
    from many respectable individuals, that I should only weaken by adding to
    the argument. [I allude to the critique of Dr. Ure's Geology in the
    British Review, for July, 1829; an Essay, equally worthy of a philosopher
    and a Christian.]
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    The payment [Three pounds.] for this Lecture, like that of the preceding,
    is small. It was instituted by Dr. Croone, for an annual essay on the
    subject of Muscular Motion. It is a little to be regretted, that it should
    have been so restricted; and perhaps its founder, had he foreseen the
    routine into which it has dwindled, might have endeavoured to preserve it,
    by affording it a wider range.
    By giving it to a variety of individuals, competition might have been
    created, and many young anatomists have been induced to direct their
    attention to the favourite inquiry of the founder of the Lecture; but from
    causes which need not here be traced, this has not been the custom&mdash;one
    individual has monopolized it year after year, and it seems, like the
    Fairchild Lecture, rather to have been regarded as a pension. There have,
    however, been some intervals; and we are still under obligations to those
    who have supported THE SYSTEM, for not appointing Sir Everard Home to read
    the Croonian Lecture twenty years in SUCCESSION. Had it been otherwise, we
    might have heard of vested rights.
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    The best friends of the Royal Society have long admitted, whilst they
    regretted, its declining fame; and even those who support whatever exists,
    begin a little to doubt whether it might not possibly be amended.
    The great and leading cause of the present state to which the Royal
    Society is reduced, may be traced to years of misrule to which it has been
    submitted. In order to understand this, it will be necessary to explain
    the nature of that misrule, and the means employed in perpetuating it.
    It is known, that by the statutes, the body of the Society have the power
    of electing, annually, their President, Officers, and Council; and it is
    also well known, that this is a merely nominal power, and that printed
    lists are prepared and put into the hands of the members on their entering
    the room, and thus passed into the balloting box. If these lists were, as
    in other scientific societies, openly discussed in the Council, and then
    offered by them as recommendations to the Society, little inconvenience
    would arise; but the fact is, that they are private nominations by the
    President, usually without notice, to the Council, and all the supporters
    of the system which I am criticizing, endeavour to uphold the right of
    this nomination in the President, and prevent or discourage any
    The Society has, for years, been managed by a PARTY, or COTERIE, or by
    whatever other name may be most fit to designate a combination of persons,
    united by no expressed compact or written regulations, but who act
    together from a community of principles. That each individual has
    invariably supported all the measures of the party, is by no means the
    case; and whilst instances of opposition amongst them have been very rare,
    a silent resignation to circumstances has been the most usual mode of
    meeting measures they disapproved. The great object of this, as of all
    other parties, has been to maintain itself in power, and to divide, as far
    as it could, all the good things amongst its members. It has usually
    consisted of persons of very moderate talent, who have had the prudence,
    whenever they could, to associate with themselves other members of greater
    ability, provided these latter would not oppose the system, and would thus
    lend to it the sanction of their name. The party have always praised each
    other most highly&mdash;have invariably opposed all improvements in the
    Society, all change in the mode of management; and have maintained, that
    all those who wished for any alteration were factious; and, when they
    discovered any symptoms of independence and inquiry breaking out in any
    member of the Council, they have displaced him as soon as they decently
    Of the arguments employed by those who support the SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT by
    which the Royal Society is governed, I shall give a few samples:
    refutation is rendered quite unnecessary&mdash;juxta-position is alone
    requisite. If any member, seeing an improper appointment in contemplation,
    or any abuse in the management of the affairs of the Society continued,
    raise a voice against it, the ready answer is, Why should you interfere?
    it may not be quite the thing you approve; but it is no affair of yours.&mdash;If,
    on the other hand, it do relate to himself, the reply is equally ready. It
    is immediately urged: The question is of a personal nature; you are the
    last person who ought to bring it forward; you are yourself interested. If
    any member of the Society, feeling annoyed at the neglect, or hurt by the
    injuries or insults of the Council, show signs of remonstrance, it is
    immediately suggested to him that he is irritated, and ought to wait until
    his feelings subside, and he can judge more coolly on the subject; whilst
    with becoming candour they admit the ill-treatment, but urge forbearance.
    If, after an interval, when reflection has had ample time to operate, the
    offence seems great as at first, or the insult appears unmitigated by any
    circumstances on which memory can dwell,&mdash;if it is then brought
    forward, the immediate answer is, The affair is out of date&mdash;the
    thing is gone by&mdash;it is too late to call in question a transaction so
    long past. Thus, if a man is interested personally, he is unfit to
    question an abuse; if he is not, is it probable that he will question it?
    and if, notwithstanding this, he do so, then he is to be accounted a
    meddler. If he is insulted, and complain, he is told to wait until he is
    cool; and when that period arrives, he is then told he is too late. If his
    remonstrance relates to the alteration of laws which are never referred
    to, or only known by their repeated breach, he is told that any alteration
    is useless; it is perfectly well known that they are never adhered to. If
    it relate to the impolicy of any regulations attaching to an office, he is
    immediately answered, that that is a personal question, in which it is
    impossible to interfere&mdash;the officer, it seems, is considered to have
    not merely a vested right to the continuance of every abuse, but an
    interest in transmitting it unimpaired to his successors.
    In the same spirit I have heard errors of calculation or observation
    defended. If small errors occur, it is said that they are too trifling to
    be of any importance. If larger errors are pointed out, it is immediately
    contended that they can deceive nobody, because of their magnitude.
    Perhaps it might be of some use, if the Council would oblige the world
    with their SCALE of ERROR, with illustrations from some of the most RECENT
    and APPROVED works, and would favour the uninformed with the orthodox
    creed upon all grades, from that which baffles the human faculties to
    detect, up to that which becomes innocuous from its size.
    The offices connected with the Royal Society are few in number, and their
    emolument small in amount; but the proper disposition of them is,
    nevertheless, of great importance to the Society, and was so to the
    science of England.
    In the first place, the President, having in effect the absolute
    nomination of the whole Council, could each year introduce a few
    gentlemen, whose only qualification to sit on it would be the high opinion
    they must necessarily entertain of the penetration of him who could
    discover their scientific merits. He might also place in the list a few
    nobles or officials, just to gild it. Neither of these classes would put
    any troublesome questions, and one of them might be employed, from its
    station in society, to check any that might be proposed by others.
    With these ingredients, added to the regular train of the party, and a
    star or two of science to shed lustre over the whole, a very manageable
    Council might be formed; and such has been its frequent composition.
    The duties of the Secretaries, when well executed, are laborious, although
    not in this respect equal to those of the same officers who, in several
    societies, give their gratuitous aid; and their labours are much lightened
    by the Assistant Secretary and his clerk. The following are their

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   The Senior Secretary ........... 105L.
   The Junior Secretary, 105L........ )
     5L. for making Indexto Phil. Trans... ) 110L.
   The Foreign Secretary...........  20L.


    Now it is not customary to change these annually; and as these offices are
    amongst the "loaves and fishes" they are generally given by the President
    to some staunch supporters of the system. They have frequently been
    bestowed, with very little consideration for the interest, or even for the
    dignity of the Society. To notice only one instance: the late Sir Joseph
    Banks appointed a gentleman who remained for years in that situation,
    although he was confessedly ignorant of every subject connected with the
    pursuits of the Society. I will, however, do justice to his memory, by
    saying that his respectability was preserved under such circumstances, by
    the most candid admission of the fact, accompanied by a store of other
    knowledge unfortunately quite foreign to the pursuits of the Society; and
    I will add, that I regretted to see him insulted by one President in a
    situation improperly given to him by a former.
    Next in order come the Vice-Presidents, who are appointed by the
    President; and in this respect the present practice is not inconvenient.
    The case, however, is widely different with the office of Treasurer. The
    President ought not to usurp the power of his appointment, which ought,
    after serious discussion by the Council, to be made by the Society at
    Besides the three Secretaries, there is an Assistant Secretary, and
    recently another has been added, who may perhaps be called a,
    Sub-assistant Secretary. All these places furnish patronage to the
    Let us now look at the occasional patronage of the President, arising from
    offices not belonging to the Society. He is, EX OFFICIO, a Trustee of the
    British Museum; and it may seem harsh to maintain that he is not a fit
    person to hold such a situation. It is no theoretical view, but it is the
    EXPERIENCE of the past which justifies the assertion; and I fear that
    unless he has the sole responsibility for some specific appointments, and
    unless his judgment is sharpened by the fear of public discussion, a
    President of the Royal Society, in the Board-room of the British Museum,
    is quite as likely as another person to sacrifice his public duty to the
    influence of power, or to private friendship. With respect to the merits
    of that Institution, I have no inclination at present to inquire: but when
    it is considered that there is at this moment attached to it no one whose
    observations or whose writings have placed him even in the second rank
    amongst the naturalists of Europe, the President of the Royal Society has
    given some grounds for the remark made by several members of the Society,
    that he is a little too much surrounded by the officers of a body who may
    reasonably be supposed to entertain towards him feelings either of
    gratitude or expectation. [It will be remembered that the name of Mr.
    Robert Brown has been but recently attached to the British Museum, and
    that it is to be attributed to his possessing a life interest in the
    valuable collection of the late Sir Joseph Banks.]
    The late Board of Longitude was another source of patronage, which,
    although now abolished, it may be useful to hint at.
    There were three members to be appointed by the Royal Society: these were
    honorary, and, as no salary was attached, it might have been expected that
    this limited number of appointments would have been given in all cases to
    persons qualified for them. But no: it was convenient to pay compliments;
    and Lord Colchester, whose talents and knowledge insured him respect as
    Speaker of the House of Commons, or as a British nobleman, was placed for
    years in the situation as one of the Commissioners of the Board of
    Longitude, for which every competent judge knew him to be wholly unfit.
    What was the return which he made for this indulgence? Little informed
    respecting the feelings of the Society, and probably misinformed by the
    party whose influence had placed him there, he saved them in the day of
    their peril.
    When the state of the Society had reached such a point that many of the
    more scientific members felt that some amendment was absolutely necessary
    to its respectability, a committee was formed to suggest to the Council
    such improvements as they might consider it expedient to discuss. [Amongst
    the names of the persons composing this Committee, which was proposed by
    Mr. South, were those of Dr. Wollaston and Mr. Herschel.] The Council
    received their report at the close of the session; and in recording it on
    the journals, they made an appeal to the Council for the ensuing year to
    Now when the party, to whose government some of these improvements would
    have been a death-warrant, found that the subject was likely to be taken
    up in the Council, they were in dismay: but the learned and grateful peer
    came to their assistance, and aided Mr. Davies Gilbert in getting rid of
    these improvements completely.
    It has been the fashion to maintain that all classes of the Royal Society
    should be represented in the Council, and consequently that a peer or two
    should find a place amongst them. Those who are most adverse to this
    doctrine would perhaps be the most anxious to render this tribute to any
    one really employing his time, his talents, or his rank in advancing the
    cause of science. But when a nobleman, unversed in our pursuits, will
    condescend to use the influence of his station in aiding a President to
    stifle, WITHOUT DISCUSSION, propositions recommended for consideration by
    some of the most highly gifted members of the Society,&mdash;those who
    doubt the propriety of the principle may reasonably be pardoned for the
    disgust they must necessarily entertain for the practical abuse to which
    it leads.
    Of the other three Commissioners, who received each a hundred a-year,
    although the nomination was, in point of form, in the Admiralty, yet it
    was well known that the President of the Royal Society did, in fact,
    always name them. Of these I will only mention one fact. The late Sir
    Joseph Banks assigned to me as a reason why I need not expect to be
    appointed, (as he had held out to me at a former period when I had spoken
    to him on the subject) that I had taken a prominent part in the formation
    of the ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY. I am proud of the part I did take in
    establishing that Society, although an undue share of its honour was
    assigned to me by the President.
    It may, perhaps, be inquired, why I publish this fact at this distance of
    time? I answer, that I stated it publicly at the Council of the
    Astronomical Society;&mdash;that I always talked of it publicly and openly
    at the time;&mdash;that I purposely communicated it to each succeeding
    President of the Royal Society; and that, although some may have forgotten
    the communications I made at the time, there are others who remember them
    The Secretary of the late Board of Longitude received 300L., and 200L.
    more, as Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac.
    Another situation, in the patronage of which the President is known to
    have considerable influence, is that of Astronomer Royal; and it is to be
    observed, that he is kept in the Council as much as possible,
    notwithstanding the nature of his duties.
    Of the three appointments of 100L. a-year each, which have been instituted
    since the abolition of the Board of Longitude, the President is supposed
    to have the control, thus making him quite sure of the obedience of his
    Besides these sources of patronage, there are other incidental occasions
    on which Government apply to the Royal Society to recommend proper persons
    to make particular experiments or observations; and, although I am far
    from supposing that these are in many instances given to persons the
    second or third best qualified for them, yet they deserve to be mentioned.
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    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    The indiscriminate admission of every candidate became at last so
    notorious, even beyond the pale of the Society, that some of the members
    began to perceive the inconveniences to which it led. This feeling,
    together with a conviction that other improvements were necessary to
    re-establish the Society in public opinion, induced several of the most
    active members to wish for some reform in its laws and proceedings; and a
    Committee was appointed to consider the subject. It was perfectly
    understood, that the object of this Committee was to inquire,&mdash;First,
    as to the means and propriety of limiting the numbers of this Society; and
    then, as to other changes which they might think beneficial. The names of
    the gentlemen composing this Committee were:&mdash;

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   Dr. Wollaston,           Mr. Herschel,
   Dr. Young,               Mr. Babbage,
   Mr. Davies Gilbert,      Captain Beaufort,
   Mr. South,               Captain Kater.


    The importance of the various improvements suggested was different in the
    eyes of different members. The idea of rendering the Society so select as
    to make it an object of ambition to men of science to be elected into it,
    was by no means new, as the following extract from the Minutes of the
    Council will prove:&mdash;
    "MINUTES OF COUNCIL. August 27, 1674 Present,

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 Sir W. Petty, Vice-President,
 Sir John Lowther,
 Sir John Cutler,
 Sir Christopher Wren,
 Mr. Oldenburgh,
 Sir Paul Neile.


    "It was considered by this Council, that to make the Society prosper, good
    experiments must be in the first place provided to make the weekly
    meetings considerable, and that the expenses for making these experiments
    must be secured by legal subscriptions for paying the contributors; which
    done, the Council might then with confidence proceed to the EJECTION OF
    The reformers of modern times were less energetic in the measures they
    recommended. Dr. Wollaston and some others thought the limitation of the
    numbers of the Society to be the most essential point, and 400 was
    suggested as a proper number to be recommended, in case a limitation
    should be ultimately resolved upon. I confess, such a limit did not appear
    to me to bring great advantages, especially when I reflected how long a
    time must have elapsed before the 714 members of the Society could be
    reduced by death to that number. And I also thought that as long as those
    who alone sustained the reputation of the Society by their writings and
    discoveries should be admitted into it on precisely the same terms, and on
    the payment of the same sum of money as other gentlemen who contributed
    only with their purse, it could never be an object of ambition to any man
    of science to be enrolled on its list.
    With this view, and also to assist those who wished for a limitation, I
    suggested a plan extremely simple in its nature, and which would become
    effective immediately. I proposed that, in the printed list of the Royal
    Society, a star should be placed against the name of each Fellow who had
    contributed two or more papers which had been printed in the Transactions,
    or that such a list should be printed separately at the end.
    At that period there were 109 living members who had contributed papers to
    the Transactions, and they were thus arranged:

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   37 Contributors of.. 1 paper
   21.......... 2 papers
   19.......... 3 ditto
   5 .......... 4 ditto
   3 .......... 5 ditto
   3 .......... 6 ditto
   ]2....  from 7 to 12 ditto
   14... of more than 12 papers.


    100 Contributing Fellows of the Royal Society. 589 Papers contributed by
    Now the immediate effect of printing such a list would be the division of
    the Society into two classes. Supposing two or more papers necessary for
    placing a Fellow in the first class, that class would only consist of
    seventy-two members, which is nearly the same as the number of those of
    the Institute of France. If only those who had contributed three or more
    were admitted, then this class would be reduced to fifty-one. In either of
    these cases it would obviously become a matter of ambition to belong to
    the first class; and a more minute investigation into the value of each
    paper would naturally take place before it was admitted into the
    Transactions. Or it might be established that such papers only should be
    allowed to count, as the Committee, who reported them as fit to be
    printed, should also certify. The great objection made to such an
    arrangement was, that it would be displeasing to the rest of the Society,
    and that they had a vested right (having entered the Society when no
    distinction was made in the lists) to have them always continued without
    Without replying to this shadow of an argument of vested rights, I will
    only remark that he who maintains this view pays a very ill compliment to
    the remaining 600 members of the Royal Society; since he does, in truth,
    maintain that those gentlemen who, from their position, accidentally
    derive reputation which does not belong to them, are unwilling, when the
    circumstance is pointed out, to allow the world to assign it to those who
    have fairly won it; or else that they are incapable of producing any thing
    worthy of being printed in the Transactions of the Royal Society. Lightly
    as the conduct of the Society, as a body, has compelled me to think of it,
    I do not think so ill of the personal character of its members as to
    believe that if the question were fairly stated to them, many would object
    to it.
    Amongst the alterations which I considered most necessary to the
    renovation of the Society, was the recommendation, by the expiring
    Council, of those whom they thought most eligible for that of the ensuing
    The system which had got into practice was radically bad: it is impossible
    to have an INDEPENDENT Council if it is named by ONE PERSON. Our statutes
    were framed with especial regard to securing the fitness of the members
    elected to serve in the Council; and the President is directed, by those
    statutes, at the two ordinary meetings previous to the anniversary, to
    give notice of the elections, and "to declare how much it importeth the
    good of the Society that such persons may be chosen into the Council as
    are most likely to attend the meetings and business of the Council, and
    out of whom may be made the best choice of a President and other
    officers." This is regularly done; and, in mockery of the wisdom of our
    ancestors, the President has perhaps in his pocket the list of the future
    Council he has already fixed upon.
    In some other Societies, great advantage is found to arise from the
    discussion of the proper persons to be recommended to the Society for the
    Council of the next year. A list is prepared, by the Secretary, of the old
    Council, and against each name is placed the number of times he has
    attended the meetings of the Council. Those whose attendance has been
    least frequent are presumed to be otherwise engaged, unless absence from
    London, or engagement in some pursuit connected with the Society, are
    known to have interfered. Those members who have been on the Council the
    number of years which is usually allowed, added to those who go out by
    their own wish, and by non-attendance, are, generally, more in number than
    can be spared; and the question is never, who shall retire?&mdash;but,
    who, out of the rest of the Society, is most likely to work, if placed on
    the Council?
    If any difference of opinion should exist in a society, it is always of
    great importance to its prosperity to have both opinions represented in
    the Council. In this age of discussion it is impossible to stifle
    opinions; and if they are not represented in the Council, there is some
    chance of their being brought before the general body, or, at last, even
    before the public. It is certainly an advantage that questions should be
    put, and even that debates should take place on the days appropriated to
    the anniversaries of societies. This is the best check to the commencement
    of irregularities; and a suspicion may reasonably be entertained of those
    who endeavour to suppress inquiry.
    On the other hand, debates respecting the affairs of the Society should
    never be entered on at the ordinary meetings, as they interrupt its
    business, and only a partial attendance can be expected. That the conduct
    of those who have latterly managed the Royal Society has not led to such
    discussions, is to be attributed more to the forbearance of those who
    disapprove of the line of conduct they have pursued, than to the
    discretion of the party in not giving them cause.
    The public is the last tribunal; one to which nothing but strong necessity
    should induce an appeal. There are, however, advantages in it which may,
    in some cases, render it better than a public discussion at the
    anniversary. When the cause of complaint is a system rather than any one
    great grievance, it may be necessary to enter more into detail than a
    speech will permit; also the printed statement and arguments will probably
    come under the consideration of a larger number of the members. Another
    and a considerable benefit is, that there is much less danger of any
    expression of temper interrupting or injuring the arguments employed.
    There were other points suggested, but I shall subjoin the Report of the
    Your Committee having maturely considered the resolution of the Council
    under which they have been appointed; and having satisfied themselves that
    the progressive increase of the Society has been in a much higher ratio
    than the progressive increase of population, or the general growth of
    knowledge, or the extension of those sciences which it has been the great
    object of the Society to promote, they have agreed to the following
    Your Committee assume as indisputable propositions, that the utility of
    the Society is in direct proportion to its respectability. That its
    respectability can only be secured by its comprising men of high
    philosophical eminence; and that the obvious means of associating persons
    of this eminence will be the public conviction, that to belong to the
    Society is an honour. Your Committee, therefore, think themselves fully
    borne out in the conclusion, that it would be expedient to limit the
    Society to such a number as should be a fair representation of the talent
    of the country; the consequence of which will be, that every vacancy would
    become an object of competition among persons of acknowledged merit.
    From the returns which have been laid on your table, of the Fellows who
    have contributed papers, and from the best estimate they can make of the
    persons without doors who are engaged in the active pursuit of science,
    your Committee feel justified in recommending that those limits should be
    fixed at four hundred, exclusive of foreign members, and of such royal
    personages as it may be thought proper to admit.
    As many years must elapse before the present number of seven hundred and
    fourteen can be reduced to those limits by the course of nature, and as it
    would be prejudicial to the interests of the Society and of science, that
    no fresh accessions should take place during that long period, your
    Committee would further recommend, that till that event takes place, four
    new members should be annually admitted.
    With respect to the manner of admission, your Committee are of opinion,
    that there are several inconveniences in the present mode of proceeding to
    a single ballot upon each certificate, according to its seniority. If the
    above limitation should be adopted, it may be presumed, that for every
    vacancy there will be many candidates; from amongst them, it must be the
    general wish to select the most distinguished individuals; but to
    accomplish this, if the present system were to be continued, it would be
    necessary to reject all those candidates whose certificates were of
    earlier date than theirs; a process not only extremely irritating, but
    probably ineffectual from the want of unanimity. Your Committee,
    therefore, most earnestly recommend, that one general election should take
    place every year towards the end of the session, and that this should be
    conducted on the same principles as the present annual election of the
    Council and officers; VIZ. by having lists printed of all the candidates
    (whose certificates had been suspended for the usual time,) in which lists
    each Fellow would mark the requisite number of persons.
    As the charter, however, requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the
    Fellows present, your Committee suggest, that after the choice has been
    determined by the plurality of votes by ballot in the above manner, the
    successful candidates should be again submitted to a general vote, in
    accordance with the enactments of the said charter.
    In concluding this part of the subject, your Committee beg leave to
    remark, that by the method now proposed, the invidious act of blackballing
    would cease, and with it all feelings of resentment and mortification; as
    the result of such an open competition could only be construed by the
    public into a fair preference of the superior claims of the successful
    few, and not into a direct and disgraceful rejection of the others.
    Your Committee are fully aware, that such a reduction in the usual
    admissions would materially affect the pecuniary resources of the Society;
    but they are at the same time convinced, that by a vigorous economy its
    present income might be rendered adequate to all its real wants, and the
    aggregate expenditure might be considerably diminished by many small but
    wholesome retrenchments.
    It appears, from the accounts of last year, that although 1200L. was
    received for compositions, in addition to the standing income, and usual
    contributions, &amp;c., and although no money was invested, yet there was
    a balance only of a few pounds at the end of the year. It further appears,
    that 500L. was paid for the paper, 370L. for engravings, and nearly 340L.
    for printing; and from those alarming facts, your Committee submit to your
    consideration, whether the expenditure might not be beneficially
    controlled by a standing Committee of Finance.
    In obedience to the latter part of your resolution, your Committee now
    proceed to offer some further suggestions for your consideration. They
    conceive that it would afford a beneficial stimulus to individual
    exertion, if the Fellows who have received the medals of the Society, and
    those who have repeatedly enriched its Transactions, were distinguished by
    being collected into a separate and honourable list. It would also be
    found, perhaps, not less a future incentive than an act of retrospective
    justice, if the names of all those illustrious Fellows who have formerly
    obtained the medals, as well as of all those individuals who have been
    large benefactors to the Society, were recorded at the end of the list. It
    would be a satisfactory addition likewise to the annual list, if all those
    Fellows who have died, or had been admitted within the preceding year,
    were regularly noticed. And your Committee think, that these lists should
    always form part of the Transactions, and be stitched up with the last
    part of the volume.
    It requires no argument to demonstrate that the well-being of the Society
    mainly depends on the activity and integrity of its Council; and as their
    selection is unquestionably of paramount importance, your Committee hope
    that our excellent President will not consider it any impeachment of his
    impartiality, or any doubt of his zeal, if they venture to suggest, that
    the usual recommendation to the Society of proper members for the future
    Council should henceforth be considered as a fit subject for the diligent
    and anxious deliberation of the expiring Council.
    There is another point of great moment to the character of the Society,
    and to the dignified station it occupies among the learned associations of
    Europe; for its character abroad can only be appreciated by the nature and
    value of its Transactions. Your Committee allude to the important task of
    deciding on what papers should be published; and they are of opinion that
    it would be a material improvement on the present mode, if each paper were
    referred to a separate Committee, who should have sufficient time given
    them to examine it carefully, who should be empowered to communicate on
    any doubtful parts with the author; and who should report, not only their
    opinion, but the grounds on which that opinion is formed, for the ultimate
    decision of the Council.
    If it should be thought fit to adopt the suggestions which your Committee
    have now had the honour of proposing, they beg leave to move, that another
    Committee be appointed, with directions to frame or to alter the necessary
    statutes, so that they may be in strict accordance with the charters.
    In concluding the Report, your Committee do not wish to disguise the
    magnitude of some of the measures they have thought it their duty to
    propose; on the contrary, they would not only urge the fullest discussion
    of their expediency; but further, that if you should even be unanimously
    disposed to confirm them, your Committee would recommend, that the several
    statutes, when they have been drawn up or modified, should be only entered
    on your minutes, and not finally enacted. All innovations in the
    constitution, or even the habits of the Royal Society, should be
    scrutinized with the most jealous circumspection. It is enough for the
    present Council to have traced the plan; let the Council of the ensuing
    sessions share the credit of carrying that plan into effect.
    This Report was presented to the Council very late in the session of 1827,
    and on the 25th of June there occurs the following entry on the
    "The Report of the Committee for considering the best means of limiting
    the number of members, and such other suggestions as they may think
    conducive to the good of the Society, was received and read, and ordered
    to be entered on the minutes; and the Council, regarding the importance of
    the subject, and its bearings on the essential interests of the Society,
    in conformity with the concluding paragraph, and considering also the
    advanced stage of the session, recommend it to the most serious and early
    consideration of the Council for the ensuing year."
    Those who advocated these alterations, were in no hurry for their hasty
    adoption; they were aware of their magnitude, and anxious for the fullest
    investigation before one of them should be tried.
    Unfortunately, the concluding recommendation of the Committee did not
    coincide with the views of Mr. Gilbert, whom the party had determined to
    make their new President. That gentleman made such arrangements for the
    Council of the succeeding year, that when the question respecting the
    consideration of the Report of that Committee was brought forward, it was
    thrown aside in the manner I have stated. Thus a report, sanctioned by the
    names of such a committee, and recommended by one Council to "THE MOST
    SERIOUS and EARLY consideration of the Council for the ensuing year," was
    by that very Council rejected, without even the ceremony of discussing its
    merits. Was every individual recommendation it contained, not merely unfit
    to be adopted, but so totally deficient in plausibility as to be utterly
    unworthy of discussion? Or did the President and his officers feel, that
    their power rested on an insecure foundation, and that they did not
    possess the confidence of the working members of the Society?
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    There are several reflections connected with the art of making
    observations and experiments, which may be conveniently arranged in this
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    No person will deny that the highest degree of attainable accuracy is an
    object to be desired, and it is generally found that the last advances
    towards precision require a greater devotion of time, labour, and expense,
    than those which precede them. The first steps in the path of discovery,
    and the first approximate measures, are those which add most to the
    existing knowledge of mankind.
    The extreme accuracy required in some of our modern inquiries has, in some
    respects, had an unfortunate influence, by favouring the opinion, that no
    experiments are valuable, unless the measures are most minute, and the
    accordance amongst them most perfect. It may, perhaps, be of some use to
    show, that even with large instruments, and most practised observers, this
    is but rarely the case. The following extract is taken from a
    representation made by the present Astronomer-Royal, to the Council of the
    Royal Society, on the advantages to be derived from the employment of two
    mural circles:&mdash;
    "That by observing, with two instruments, the same objects at the same
    time, and in the same manner, we should be able to estimate how much of
    CAREFUL OBSERVATIONS, ought to be attributed to irregularity of
    refraction, and how much to THE IMPERFECTIONS OF INSTRUMENTS."
    In confirmation of this may be adduced the opinion of the late M.
    Delambre, which is the more important, from the statement it contains
    relative to the necessity of publishing all the observations which have
    been made.
    "Mais quelque soit le parti que l'on prefere, il me semble qu'on doit tout
    publier. Ces irregularites memes sont des faits qu'il importe de
    OBSERVATEURS LES PLUS EXERCES, et celui qui ne produiroit que des angles
    toujours parfaitment d'accord auroit ete singulierement bien servi par les
    circonstances ou ne seroit pas bien sincere."&mdash;BASE DU SYSTEME
    METRIQUE, Discours Preliminaire, p. 158.
    This desire for extreme accuracy has called away the attention of
    experimenters from points of far greater importance, and it seems to have
    been too much overlooked in the present day, that genius marks its tract,
    not by the observation of quantities inappreciable to any but the acutest
    senses, but by placing Nature in such circumstances, that she is forced to
    record her minutest variations on so magnified a scale, that an observer,
    possessing ordinary faculties, shall find them legibly written. He who can
    see portions of matter beyond the ken of the rest of his species, confers
    an obligation on them, by recording what he sees; but their knowledge
    depends both on his testimony and on his judgment. He who contrives a
    method of rendering such atoms visible to ordinary observers, communicates
    to mankind an instrument of discovery, and stamps his own observations
    with a character, alike independent of testimony or of judgment.
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    The remarks in this section are not proposed for the assistance of those
    who are already observers, but are intended to show to persons not
    familiar with the subject, that in observations demanding no unrivalled
    accuracy, the principles of common sense may be safely trusted, and that
    any gentleman of liberal education may, by perseverance and attention,
    ascertain the limits within which he may trust both his instrument and
    If the instrument is a divided one, the first thing is to learn to read
    the verniers. If the divisions are so fine that the coincidence is
    frequently doubtful, the best plan will be for the learner to get some
    acquaintance who is skilled in the use of instruments, and having set the
    instrument at hazard, to write down the readings of the verniers, and then
    request his friend to do the same; whenever there is any difference, he
    should carefully examine the doubtful one, and ask his friend to point out
    the minute peculiarities on which he founds his decision. This should be
    repeated frequently; and after some practice, he should note how many
    times in a hundred his reading differs from his friend's, and also how
    many divisions they usually differ.
    The next point is, to ascertain the precision with which the learner can
    bisect an object with the wires of the telescope. This can be done without
    assistance. It is not necessary even to adjust the instrument, but merely
    to point it to a distant object. When it bisects any remarkable point,
    read off the verniers, and write down the result; then displace the
    telescope a little, and adjust it again. A series of such observations
    will show the confidence which is due to the observer's eye in bisecting
    an object, and also in reading the verniers; and as the first direction
    gave him some measure of the latter, he may, in a great measure,
    appreciate his skill in the former. He should also, when he finds a
    deviation in the reading, return to the telescope, and satisfy himself if
    he has made the bisection as complete as he can. In general, the student
    should practise each adjustment separately, and write down the results
    wherever he can measure its deviations.
    Having thus practised the adjustments, the next step is to make an
    observation; but in order to try both himself and the instrument, let him
    take the altitude of some fixed object, a terrestrial one, and having
    registered the result, let him derange the adjustment, and repeat the
    process fifty or a hundred times. This will not merely afford him
    excellent practice, but enable him to judge of his own skill.
    The first step in the use of every instrument, is to find the limits
    within which its employer can measure the SAME OBJECT UNDER THE SAME
    CIRCUMSTANCES. It is only from a knowledge of this, that he can have
    confidence in his measures of the SAME OBJECT UNDER DIFFERENT
    These principles are applicable to almost all instruments. If a person is
    desirous of ascertaining heights by a mountain barometer, let him begin by
    adjusting the instrument in his own study; and having made the upper
    contact, let him write down the reading of the vernier, and then let him
    derange the UPPER adjustment ONLY, re-adjust, and repeat the reading. When
    he is satisfied about the limits within which he can make that adjustment,
    let him do the same repeatedly with the lower; but let him not, until he
    knows his own errors in reading and adjusting, pronounce upon those of the
    instrument. In the case of a barometer, he must also be assured, that the
    temperature of the mercury does not change during the interval.
    A friend once brought to me a beautifully constructed piece of mechanism,
    for marking minute portions of time; the three-hundredth parts of a second
    were indicated by it. It was a kind of watch, with a pin for stopping one
    of the hands. I proposed that we should each endeavour to stop it twenty
    times in succession, at the same point. We were both equally unpractised,
    and our first endeavours showed that we could not be confident of the
    twentieth part of a second. In fact, both the time occupied in causing the
    extremities of the fingers to obey the volition, as well as the time
    employed in compressing the flesh before the fingers acted on the stop,
    appeared to influence the accuracy of our observations. From some few
    experiments I made, I thought I perceived that the rapidity of the
    transmission of the effects of the will, depended on the state of fatigue
    or health of the body. If any one were to make experiments on this
    subject, it might be interesting, to compare the rapidity of the
    transmission of volition in different persons, with the time occupied in
    obliterating an impression made on one of the senses of the same persons.
    For example, by having a mechanism to make a piece of ignited charcoal
    revolve with different degrees of velocity, some persons will perceive a
    continuous circle of light before others, whose retina does not retain so
    long impressions that are made upon it.
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    Scientific inquiries are more exposed than most others to the inroads of
    pretenders; and I feel that I shall deserve the thanks of all who really
    value truth, by stating some of the methods of deceiving practised by
    unworthy claimants for its honours, whilst the mere circumstance of their
    arts being known may deter future offenders.
    There are several species of impositions that have been practised in
    science, which are but little known, except to the initiated, and which it
    may perhaps be possible to render quite intelligible to ordinary
    understandings. These may be classed under the heads of hoaxing, forging,
    trimming, and cooking.
    OF HOAXING. This, perhaps, will be better explained by an example. In the
    year 1788, M. Gioeni, a knight of Malta, published at Naples an account of
    a new family of Testacea, of which he described, with great minuteness,
    one species, the specific name of which has been taken from its habitat,
    and the generic he took from his own family, calling it Gioenia Sicula. It
    consisted of two rounded triangular valves, united by the body of the
    animal to a smaller valve in front. He gave figures of the animal, and of
    its parts; described its structure, its mode of advancing along the sand,
    the figure of the tract it left, and estimated the velocity of its course
    at about two-thirds of an inch per minute. He then described the structure
    of the shell, which he treated with nitric acid, and found it approach
    nearer to the nature of bone than any other shell.
    The editors of the ENCYCLOPEDIE METHODIQUE, have copied this description,
    and have given figures of the Gioenia Sicula. The fact, however, is, that
    no such animal exists, but that the knight of Malta, finding on the
    Sicilian shores the three internal bones of one of the species of Bulla,
    of which some are found on the south-western coast of England, [Bulla
    lignaria] described and figured these bones most accurately, and drew the
    whole of the rest of the description from the stores of his own
    Such frauds are far from justifiable; the only excuse which has been made
    for them is, when they have been practised on scientific academies which
    had reached the period of dotage. It should however be remembered, that
    the productions of nature are so various, that mere strangeness is very
    far from sufficient to render doubtful the existence of any creature for
    which there is evidence; [The number of vertebrae in the neck of the
    plesiosaurus is a strange but ascertained fact] and that, unless the
    memoir itself involves principles so contradictory, as to outweigh the
    evidence of a single witness, [The kind of contradiction which is here
    alluded to, is that which arises from well ascertained final causes; for
    instance, the ruminating stomach of the hoofed animals, is in no case
    combined with the claw-shaped form of the extremities, frequent in many of
    the carniverous animals, and necessary to some of them for the purpose of
    seizing their prey] it can only be regarded as a deception, without the
    accompaniment of wit.
    FORGING differs from hoaxing, inasmuch as in the latter the deceit is
    intended to last for a time, and then be discovered, to the ridicule of
    those who have credited it; whereas the forger is one who, wishing to
    acquire a reputation for science, records observations which he has never
    made. This is sometimes accomplished in astronomical observations by
    calculating the time and circumstances of the phenomenon from tables. The
    observations of the second comet of 1784, which was only seen by the
    Chevalier D'Angos, were long suspected to be a forgery, and were at length
    proved to be so by the calculations and reasonings of Encke. The pretended
    observations did not accord amongst each other in giving any possible
    orbit. But M. Encke detected an orbit, belonging to some of the
    observations, from which he found that all the rest might be almost
    precisely deduced, provided a mistake of a unity in the index of the
    logarithm of the radius vector were supposed to have been made in all the
    rest of the calculations. ZACH. CORR. ASTRON. Tom. IV. p. 456.
    Fortunately instances of the occurrence of forging are rare.
    TRIMMING consists in clipping off little bits here and there from those
    observations which differ most in excess from the mean, and in sticking
    them on to those which are too small; a species of "equitable adjustment,"
    as a radical would term it, which cannot be admitted in science.
    This fraud is not perhaps so injurious (except to the character of the
    trimmer) as cooking, which the next paragraph will teach, The reason of
    this is, that the AVERAGE given by the observations of the trimmer is the
    same, whether they are trimmed or untrimmed. His object is to gain a
    reputation for extreme accuracy in making observations; but from respect
    for truth, or from a prudent foresight, he does not distort the position
    of the fact he gets from nature, and it is usually difficult to detect
    him. He has more sense or less adventure than the Cook.
    OF COOKING. This is an art of various forms, the object of which is to
    give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the
    highest degree of accuracy.
    One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and
    out of these to select those only which agree, or very nearly agree. If a
    hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unlucky if he cannot
    pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up.
    Another approved receipt, when the observations to be used will not come
    within the limit of accuracy, which it has been resolved they shall
    possess, is to calculate them by two different formulae. The difference in
    the constants employed in those formulae has sometimes a most happy effect
    in promoting unanimity amongst discordant measures. If still greater
    accuracy is required, three or more formulae can be used.
    It must be admitted that this receipt is in some instances rather
    hazardous: but in cases where the positions of stars, as given in
    different catalogues, occur, or different tables of specific gravities,
    specific heats, &amp;c. &amp;c., it may safely be employed. As no
    catalogue contains all stars, the computer must have recourse to several;
    and if he is obliged to use his judgment in the selection, it would be
    cruel to deny him any little advantage which might result from it. It may,
    however, be necessary to guard against one mistake into which persons
    might fall.
    If an observer calculate particular stars from a catalogue which makes
    them accord precisely with the rest of his results, whereas, had they been
    computed from other catalogues the difference would have been
    considerable, it is very unfair to accuse him of COOKING; for&mdash;those
    catalogues may have been notoriously inaccurate; or&mdash;they may have
    been superseded by others more recent, or made with better instruments; or&mdash;the
    observer may have been totally ignorant of their existence.
    It sometimes happens that the constant quantities in formulae given by the
    highest authorities, although they differ amongst themselves, yet they
    will not suit the materials. This is precisely the point in which the
    skill of the artist is shown; and an accomplished cook will carry himself
    triumphantly through it, provided happily some mean value of such
    constants will fit his observations. He will discuss the relative merits
    of formulae he has just knowledge enough to use; and, with admirable
    candour assigning their proper share of applause to Bessel, to Gauss, and
    to Laplace, he will take THAT mean value of the constant used by three
    such philosophers, which will make his own observations accord to a
    There are some few reflections which I would venture to suggest to those
    who cook, although they may perhaps not receive the attention which, in my
    opinion, they deserve, from not coming from the pen of an adept.
    In the first place, it must require much time to try different formulae.
    In the next place it may happen that, in the progress of human knowledge,
    more correct formula: may be discovered, and constants may be determined
    with far greater precision. Or it may be found that some physical
    circumstance influences the results, (although unsuspected at the time)
    the measure of which circumstance may perhaps be recovered from other
    contemporary registers of facts. [Imagine, by way of example, the state of
    the barometer or thermometer.] Or if the selection of observations has
    been made with the view of its agreeing precisely with the latest
    determination, there is some little danger that the average of the whole
    may differ from that of the chosen ones, owing to some law of nature,
    dependent on the interval between the two sets, which law some future
    philosopher may discover, and thus the very best observations may have
    been thrown aside.
    In all these, and in numerous other cases, it would most probably happen
    that the cook would procure a temporary reputation for unrivalled accuracy
    at the expense of his permanent fame. It might also have the effect of
    rendering even all his crude observations of no value; for that part of
    the scientific world whose opinion is of most weight, is generally so
    unreasonable, as to neglect altogether the observations of those in whom
    they have, on any occasion, discovered traces of the artist. In fact, the
    character of an observer, as of a woman, if doubted is destroyed.
    The manner in which facts apparently lost are restored to light, even
    after considerable intervals of time, is sometimes very unexpected, and a
    few examples may not be without their use. The thermometers employed by
    the philosophers who composed the Academia Del Cimento, have been lost;
    and as they did not use the two fixed points of freezing and boiling
    water, the results of a great mass of observations have remained useless
    from our ignorance of the value of a degree on their instrument. M. Libri,
    of Florence, proposed to regain this knowledge by comparing their
    registers of the temperature of the human body and of that of some warm
    springs in Tuscany, which have preserved their heat uniform during a
    century, as well as of other things similarly circumstanced.
    Another illustration was pointed out to me by M. Gazzeri, the Professor of
    Chemistry at Florence. A few years ago an important suit in one of the
    legal courts of Tuscany depended on ascertaining whether a certain word
    had been erased by some chemical process from a deed then before the
    court. The party who insisted that an erasure had been made, availed
    themselves of the knowledge of M. Gazzeri, who, concluding that those who
    committed the fraud would be satisfied by the disappearance of the
    colouring matter of the ink, suspected (either from some colourless matter
    remaining in the letters, or perhaps from the agency of the solvent having
    weakened the fabric of the paper itself beneath the supposed letters) that
    the effect of the slow application of heat would be to render some
    difference of texture or of applied substance evident, by some variety in
    the shade of colour which heat in such circumstances might be expected to
    produce. Permission having been given to try the experiment, on the
    application of heat the important word reappeared, to the great
    satisfaction of the court.
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    One of the causes which has contributed to the success of the PARTY, is to
    be found in the great reluctance with which many of those whose names
    added lustre to the Society expressed their opinions, and the little
    firmness with which they maintained their objections. How many times have
    those whose activity was additionally stimulated by their interest,
    proposed measures which a few words might have checked; whilst the names
    of those whose culpable silence thus permitted the project to be matured,
    were immediately afterwards cited by their grateful coadjutors, as having
    sanctioned that which in their hearts they knew to be a job.
    Even in the few cases which have passed the limits of such forbearance,
    when the subject has been debated in the Council, more than one, more than
    two instances are known, where subsequent circumstances have occurred,
    which proved, with the most irresistible moral evidence, that members have
    spoken on one side of the question, and have voted on the contrary.
    This reluctance to oppose that which is disapproved, has been too
    extensively and too fatally prevalent for the interests of the Royal
    Society. It may partly be attributed to that reserved and retiring
    disposition, which frequently marks the man of real knowledge, as strongly
    as an officious interference and flippant manner do the charlatan, or the
    trader in science. Some portion of it is due to that improper deference
    which was long paid to every dictum of the President, and much of it to
    that natural indisposition to take trouble on any point in which a man's
    own interest is not immediately concerned. It is to be hoped, for the
    credit of that learned body, that no anticipation of the next feast of St.
    Andrew ever influenced the taciturnity of their disposition. [It may be
    necessary to inform those who are not members of the Royal Society, that
    this is the day on which those Fellows who choose, meet at Somerset House,
    to register the names of the Council and Officers the President has been
    pleased to appoint for the ensuing year; and who afterwards dine together,
    for the purpose of praising each other over wine, which, until within
    these few years, was PAID for out of the FUNDS of the Society. This abuse
    was attacked by an enterprising reformer, and of course defended by the
    coterie. It was, however, given up as too bad. The public may form some
    idea of the feeling which prevails in the Council, when they are informed
    that this practice was defended by one of the officers of the Society, on
    the ground that, if abolished, THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY WOULD LOSE HIS
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    The days in which the Royal Society can have much influence in science
    seem long past; nor does it appear a matter of great importance who
    conduct its mismanaged affairs. Perpetual Presidents have been tried until
    the Society has become disgusted with dictators. If any reform should be
    attempted, it might perhaps be deserving consideration whether the
    practice of several of the younger institutions might not be worthy
    imitation, and the office of President be continued only during two
    sessions. There may be some inconveniences attending this arrangement; but
    the advantages are conspicuous, both in the Astronomical and Geological
    Societies. Each President is ambitious of rendering the period of his
    reign remarkable for some improvement in the Society over which he
    presides; and the sacrifice of time which is made by the officers of those
    Societies, would become impossible if it were required to be continued for
    a much longer period. Another circumstance of considerable importance is,
    that the personal character of the President is less impressed on the
    Society; and, supposing any injudicious alterations to be made, it is much
    less difficult to correct them.
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    The honour of belonging to the Royal Society is much sought after by
    medical men, as contributing to the success of their professional efforts,
    and two consequences result from it. In the first place, the pages of the
    Transactions of the Royal Society occasionally contain medical papers of
    very moderate merit; and, in the second, the preponderance of the medical
    interest introduces into the Society some of the jealousies of that
    profession. On the other hand, medicine is intimately connected with many
    sciences, and its professors are usually too much occupied in their
    practice to exert themselves, except upon great occasions.
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    The Royal Institution was founded for the cultivation of the more popular
    and elementary branches of scientific knowledge, and has risen, partly
    from the splendid discoveries of Davy, and partly from the decline of the
    Royal Society, to a more prominent station than it would otherwise have
    occupied in the science of England. Its general effects in diffusing
    knowledge among the more educated classes of the metropolis, have been,
    and continue to be, valuable. Its influence, however, in the government of
    the Royal Society, is by no means attended with similar advantages, and
    has justly been viewed with considerable jealousy by many of the Fellows
    of that body. It may be stated, without disparagement to the Royal
    Institution, that the scientific qualifications necessary for its
    officers, however respectable, are not quite of that high order which
    ought to be required for those of the Royal Society, if the latter body
    were in a state of vigour.
    The Royal Institution interest has always been sufficient to appoint one
    of the Secretaries of the Royal Society; and at the present moment they
    have appointed two. In a short time, unless some effectual check is put to
    this, we shall find them nominating the President and the rest of the
    officers. It is certainly not consistent with the dignity of the Royal
    Society thus to allow its offices to be given away as the rewards of
    services rendered to other institutions. The only effectual way to put a
    stop to this increasing interest would be, to declare that no manager or
    officer of the Royal Institution should ever, at the same time, hold
    office in the Royal Society.
    The use the Members of the Royal Institution endeavour to make of their
    power in the Council of the Royal Society, is exemplified in the minutes
    of the Council of March 11, 1830, which may be consulted with advantage by
    those who doubt.
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    The Transactions of the Royal Society, unlike those of most foreign
    academies, contain nothing relating to the history of the Society. The
    volumes contain merely those papers communicated to the Society in the
    preceding year which the Council have selected for printing, a
    meteorological register, and a notice of the award of the annual medals,
    without any list of the Council and officers of the Society, by whom that
    selection and that award have been made.
    Before I proceed to criticise this state of things, I will mention one
    point on which I am glad to be able to bestow on the Royal Society the
    highest praise. I refer to the extreme regularity with which the volumes
    of the Transactions are published. The appearance of the half-volumes at
    intervals of six months, insures for any communication almost immediate
    publicity; whilst the shortness of the time between its reception and
    publication, is a guarantee to the public that the whole of the paper was
    really communicated at the time it bears date. To this may also be added,
    the rarity of any alterations made previously to the printing, a
    circumstance which ought to be imitated, as well as admired, by other
    societies. There may, indeed, be some, perhaps the Geological, in which
    the task is more difficult, from the nature of the subject. The sooner,
    however, all societies can reduce themselves to this rule, of rarely
    allowing any thing but a few verbal corrections to papers that are placed
    in their hands, the better it will be for their own reputation, and for
    the interests of science.
    It has been, and continues to be, a subject of deep regret, that the first
    scientific academy in Europe, the Institute of France, should be thus
    negligent in the regularity of its publications; and it is the more to be
    regretted, that it should be years in arrear, from the circumstance, that
    the memoirs admitted into their collection are usually of the highest
    merit. I know some of their most active members have wished it were
    otherwise; I would urge them to put a stop to a practice, which, whilst it
    has no advantages to recommend it, is unjust to those who contribute, and
    is only calculated to produce conflicting claims, equally injurious to
    science, and to the reputation of that body, whose negligence may have
    given rise to them. [Mr. Herschel, speaking of a paper of Fresnel's,
    observes&mdash;"This memoir was read to the Institute, 7th of October,
    1816; a supplement was received, 19th of January, 1818; M. Arago's report
    on it was read, 4th of June, 1821: and while every optical philosopher in
    Europe has been impatiently expecting its appearance for seven years, it
    lies as yet unpublished, and is only known to us by meagre notices in a
    periodical journal." MR HERSCHEL'S TREATISE ON LIGHT, p. 533.&mdash;ENCYCLOPAEDIA
    One of the inconveniences arising from having no historical portion in the
    volumes of the Royal Society is, that not only the public, but our own
    members are almost entirely ignorant of all its affairs. With a means of
    giving considerable publicity (by the circulation of above 800 copies of
    the Transactions) to whatever we wish to have made known to our members or
    to the world, will it be credited, that no notice was taken in our volume
    for 1826, of the foundation of two Royal medals, nor of the conditions
    under which they were to be distributed. [That the Council refrained from
    having their first award of those medals thus communicated, is rather
    creditable to them, and proves that they had a becoming feeling respecting
    their former errors.] That in 1828, when a new fund, called the donation
    fund, was established, and through the liberality of Dr. Wollaston and Mr.
    Davies Gilbert, it was endowed by them with the respective sums of 2,000L.
    and 1,000L. 3 per cents; no notice of such fact appears in our
    Transactions for 1829. Other gentlemen have contributed; and if it is
    desirable to possess such a fund, it is surely of importance to inform the
    non-attending, which is by far the largest part of the Society, that it
    exists; and that we are grateful to those by whom it has been founded and
    augmented. Neither did the Philosophical Transactions inform our absent
    members, that they could purchase the President's Discourses at the
    The list of the Officers, Council, and Members of the Royal Society is
    printed annually; yet, who ever saw it bound up with the Philosophical
    Transactions, to which it is intended to be attached? I never met with a
    single copy of that work so completed, not even the one in our own
    library. It is extremely desirable that the Society should know the names
    of their Council; and whilst it would in some measure contribute to
    prevent the President from placing incompetent persons upon it, it would
    also afford some check, although perhaps but a slight one, on the
    distribution of the medals. When I have urged the expediency of the
    practice, I have been answered by excuses, that the list could not be made
    up in time for the volume. If this is true of the first part, they might
    appear with the second; and even if this were impracticable, the plan of
    prefixing them to the volume of the succeeding year, would be preferable
    to that of omitting them altogether. The true reason, however, appeared at
    last. It was objected to the plan, that by the present arrangement, the
    porter of the Royal Society took round the list to those members resident
    in London, and got from some of them a remuneration, in the shape of a
    Christmas-box; and this would be lost, if the time of printing were
    changed. [During the printing of this chapter, a friend, on whom I had
    called, complained that the porter of the Royal Society had demanded
    half-a-crown for leaving the list.] Such are the paltry interests to which
    those of the Royal Society are made to bow.
    Another point on which information ought to be given in each volume, is
    the conditions on which the distribution of the Society's medals are made.
    It is true that these are, or ought to be, printed with the Statutes of
    the Society; but that volume is only in the hands of members, and it is
    for the credit of the medals themselves, that the laws which regulate
    their award should be widely known, in order that persons, not members of
    the Society, might enter into competition for them.
    Information relative to the admissions and deaths amongst the Society
    would also be interesting; a list of the names of those whom the Society
    had lost, and of those members who had been added to its ranks each year,
    would find a proper place in the historical pages which ought to be given
    with each volume of our Transactions.
    The want of a distinction between the working members of the Society, and
    those who merely honour it with their patronage, renders many
    arrangements, which would be advantageous to science, in some cases,
    injudicious, and in other instances, almost impossible.
    Collections of Observations which are from time to time given to the
    Society, may be of such a nature, that but few of the members are
    interested in them. In such cases, the expense of printing above 800
    copies may reasonably induce the Council to decline printing them
    altogether; whereas, if they had any means of discrimination for
    distributing them, they might be quite willing to incur the expense of
    printing 250. Other cases may occur, in which great advantage would
    accrue, if the principle were once admitted. Government, the Universities,
    public bodies, and even individuals might, in some cases, be disposed to
    present to the Royal Society a limited number of copies of their works, if
    they knew that they were likely to be placed in the hands of persons who
    would use them. Fifty or a hundred additional copies might, in some cases,
    not be objected to on the ground of expense, when seven or eight hundred
    would be quite out of the question.
    Let us suppose twenty copies of a description of some new chemical process
    to be placed at the disposal of the Royal Society by any public body; it
    will not surely be contended that they ought all to remain on the
    Society's shelves. Yet, with our present rules, that would be the case.
    If, however, the list of the Members of the Society were read over to the
    Council, and the names of those gentlemen known to be conversant with
    chemical science were written down; then, if nineteen copies of the work
    were given to those nineteen persons on this list, who had contributed
    most to the Transactions of the Society, they would in all probability be
    placed in the fittest hands.
    Complete sets of the Philosophical Transactions have now become extremely
    bulky; it might be well worth our consideration, whether the knowledge of
    the many valuable papers they contain would not be much spread, by
    publishing the abstracts of them which have been read at the ordinary
    meetings of the Society. Perhaps two or three volumes octavo, would
    contain all that has been done in this way during the last century.
    Another circumstance, which would contribute much to the order of the
    proceedings of the Council, would be to have a distinct list made out of
    all the statutes and orders of the Council relating to each particular
    Thus the President, by having at one view before him all that had ever
    been decreed on the question under consideration, would be much better
    able to prevent inconsistent resolutions, and to save the time of the
    Council from being wasted by unnecessary discussions.
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    Amongst the various proposals for encouraging science, the institution of
    an order of merit has been suggested. It is somewhat singular, that whilst
    in most of the other kingdoms of Europe, such orders exist for the purpose
    of rewarding, by honorary distinctions, the improvers of the arts of life,
    or successful discoverers in science, nothing of the kind has been
    established in England. [At the great meeting of the philosophers at
    Berlin, in 1828, of which an account is given in the Appendix; the respect
    in which Berzelius, Oersted, Gauss, and Humboldt were held in their
    respective countries was apparent in the orders bestowed on them by the
    Sovereigns of Sweden, of Denmark, of Hanover, and of Prussia; and there
    were present many other philosophers, whose decorations sufficiently
    attested the respect in which science was held in the countries from which
    they came.]
    Our orders of knighthood are favourable only to military distinction. It
    has been urged, as an argument for such institutions, that they are a
    cheap mode of rewarding science, whilst, on the other hand, it has been
    objected, that they would diminish the value of such honorary distinctions
    by making them common. The latter objection is of little weight, because
    the numbers who pursue science are few, and, probably, will long continue
    so. It would also be easily avoided, by restricting the number of the
    order or of the class, if it were to form a peculiar class of another
    order. Another objection, however, appears to me to possess far greater
    weight; and, however strong the disposition of the Government might be (if
    such an order existed) to fill it properly, I do not believe that, in the
    present state of public opinion respecting science, it could be done, and,
    in all probability, it would be filled up through the channels of
    patronage, and by mere jobbers in science.
    Another proposal, of a similar kind, has also been talked of, one which it
    may appear almost ridiculous to suggest in England, but which would be
    considered so in no other country. It is, to ennoble some of the greatest
    scientific benefactors of their country. Not to mention political causes,
    the ranks of the nobility are constantly recruited from the army, the
    navy, and the bar; why should not the family of that man, whose name is
    imperishably connected with the steam-engine, be enrolled amongst the
    nobility of his country? In utility and profit, not merely to that
    country, but to the human race, his deeds may proudly claim comparison
    even with the most splendid of those achieved by classes so rich in
    glorious recollections. An objection, in most cases fatal to such a
    course, arises from the impolicy of conferring a title, unless a
    considerable fortune exists to support it; a circumstance very rarely
    occurring to the philosopher. It might in some measure be removed, by
    creating such titles only for life. But here, again, until there existed
    some knowledge of science amongst the higher classes, and a sound state of
    public opinion relative to science, the execution of the plan could only
    be injurious.
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    This idea has occurred to several persons, as likely to lead to
    considerable advantages to science. If the various scientific societies
    could unite in the occupation of one large building, considerable economy
    would result from the union. By properly arranging their evenings of
    meeting, one meeting-room only need be required. The libraries might
    either be united, or arranged in adjoining rooms; and such a system would
    greatly facilitate the inquiries of scientific persons.
    Whether it would be possible to reunite in any way the different societies
    to the Royal Society, might be a delicate question; but although, on some
    accounts, desirable, that event is not necessary for the purpose of their
    having a common residence.
    The Medico-Botanical Society might, perhaps, from sympathy, be the first
    to which the Royal Society would apply; and by a proper interchange of
    diplomas, [A thing well understood by the INITIATED, both at HOME and
    ABROAD.] the two societies might be inoculated with each other. But even
    here some tact would be required; the Medico-Botanical is a little
    particular about the purity of its written documents, and lately
    attributed blame to one of its officers for some slight tampering with
    them, a degree of illiberality which the Council of the Royal Society are
    far from imitating.
    The Geological and the Astronomical Societies nourish no feelings of
    resentment to the parent institution for their early persecution; and
    though they have no inducement to seek, would scarcely refuse any union
    which might be generally advantageous to science.
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    In a work on the Decline of Science, at a period when England has so
    recently lost two of its brightest ornaments, I should hardly be excused
    if I omitted to devote a few words to the names of Wollaston and of Davy.
    Until the warm feelings of surviving kindred and admiring friends shall be
    cold as the grave from which remembrance vainly recalls their cherished
    forms, invested with all the life and energy of recent existence, the
    volumes of their biography must be sealed. Their contemporaries can expect
    only to read their eloge.
    In habits of intercourse with both those distinguished individuals,
    sufficiently frequent to mark the curiously different structure of their
    minds, I was yet not on such terms even with him I most esteemed, as to
    view his great qualities through that medium which is rarely penetrated by
    the eyes of long and very intimate friendship.
    Caution and precision were the predominant features of the character of
    Wollaston, and those who are disposed to reduce the number of principles,
    would perhaps justly trace the precision which adorned his philosophical,
    to the extreme caution which pervaded his moral character. It may indeed
    be questioned whether the latter quality will not in all persons of great
    abilities produce the former.
    Ambition constituted a far larger ingredient in the character of Davy, and
    with the daring hand of genius he grasped even the remotest conclusions to
    which a theory led him. He seemed to think invention a more common
    attribute than it really is, and hastened, as soon as he was in possession
    of a new fact or a new principle, to communicate it to the world, doubtful
    perhaps lest he might not be anticipated; but, confident in his own
    powers, he was content to give to others a chance of reaping some part of
    that harvest, the largest portion of which he knew must still fall to his
    own share.
    Dr. Wollaston, on the other hand, appreciated more truly the rarity of the
    inventive faculty; and, undeterred by the fear of being anticipated, when
    he had contrived a new instrument, or detected a new principle, he brought
    all the information that he could collect from others, or which arose from
    his own reflection, to bear upon it for years, before he delivered it to
    the world.
    The most singular characteristic of Wollaston's mind was the plain and
    distinct line which separated what he knew from what he did not know; and
    this again, arising from his precision, might be traced to caution.
    It would, however, have been visible to such an extent in few except
    himself, for there were very few so perfectly free from vanity and
    affectation. To this circumstance may be attributed a peculiarity of
    manner in the mode in which he communicated information to those who
    sought it from him, which was to many extremely disagreeable. He usually,
    by a few questions, ascertained precisely how much the inquirer knew upon
    the subject, or the exact point at which his ignorance commenced, a
    process not very agreeable to the vanity of mankind; taking up the subject
    at this point, he would then very clearly and shortly explain it.
    His acquaintance with mathematics was very limited. Many years since, when
    I was an unsuccessful candidate for a professorship of mathematics, I
    applied to Dr. W. for a recommendation; he declined it, on the ground of
    its not being his pursuit. I told him I asked it, because I thought it
    would have weight, to which he replied, that it ought to have none
    whatever. There is no doubt his view was the just one. Yet such is the
    state of ignorance which exists on these subjects, that I have several
    times heard him mentioned as one of the greatest mathematicians of the
    age. [This of course could only have happened in England.] But in this as
    in all other points, the precision with which he comprehended and retained
    all he had ever learned, especially of the elementary applications of
    mathematics to physics, was such, that he possessed greater command over
    those subjects than many of far more extensive knowledge.
    In associating with Wollaston, you perceived that the predominant
    principle was to avoid error; in the society of Davy, you saw that it was
    the desire to see and make known truth. Wollaston never could have been a
    poet; Davy might have been a great one.
    A question which I put, successively, to each of these distinguished
    philosophers, will show how very differently a subject may be viewed by
    minds even of the highest order.
    About the time Mr. Perkins was making his experiments on the compression
    of water, I was much struck with the mechanical means he had brought to
    bear on the subject, and was speculating on other applications of it,
    which I will presently mention.
    Meeting Dr. Wollaston one morning in the shop of a bookseller, I proposed
    this question: If two volumes of hydrogen and one of oxygen are mixed
    together in a vessel, and if by mechanical pressure they can be so
    condensed as to become of the same specific gravity as water, will the
    gases under these circumstances unite and form water? "What do you think
    they will do?" said Dr. W. I replied, that I should rather expect they
    would unite. "I see no reason to suppose it," said he. I then inquired
    whether he thought the experiment worth making. He answered, that he did
    not, for that he should think it would certainly not succeed.
    A few days after, I proposed the same question to Sir Humphry Davy. He at
    once said, "they will become water, of course;" and on my inquiring
    whether he thought the experiment worth making, he observed that it was a
    good experiment, but one which it was hardly necessary to make, as it must
    These were off-hand answers, which it might perhaps be hardly fair to have
    recorded, had they been of persons of less eminent talent: and it adds to
    the curiosity of the circumstance to mention, that I believe Dr.
    Wollaston's reason for supposing no union would take place, arose from the
    nature of the electrical relations of the two gases remaining unchanged,
    an objection which did not weigh with the philosopher whose discoveries
    had given birth to it.
    [The result of the experiment appeared, and still appears to me, to be of
    the highest importance; and I will shortly state the views with which it
    was connected. The next great discovery in chemistry to definite
    proportions, will be to find means of forming all the simple unions of one
    atom with one, with two, or with more of say other substance: and it
    occurred to me that the gaseous bodies presented the fairest chance of
    success; and that if wishing, for instance, to unite four atoms of one
    substance with one of another, we could, by mechanical means, reduce the
    mixed gases to the same specific gravity as the substance would possess
    which resulted from their union, then either that such union would
    actually take place, or the particles of the two substances would be most
    favourably situated for the action of caloric, electricity, or other
    causes, to produce the combination. It would indeed seem to follow, that
    if combination should take place under such circumstances, then the most
    probable proportion in which the atoms would unite, should be that which
    furnished a fluid of the least specific gravity: but until the experiments
    are made, it is by no means certain that other combinations might not be
    The singular minuteness of the particles of bodies submitted by Dr.
    Wollaston to chemical analysis, has excited the admiration of all those
    who have had the good fortune to witness his experiments; and the methods
    he employed deserve to be much more widely known.
    It appears to me that a great mistake exists on the subject. It has been
    adduced as one of those facts which prove the extraordinary acuteness of
    the bodily senses of the individual,&mdash;a circumstance which, if it
    were true, would add but little to his philosophical character; I am,
    however, inclined to view it in a far different light, and to see in it
    one of the natural results of the admirable precision of his knowledge.
    During the many opportunities I have enjoyed of seeing his minute
    experiments, I remember but one instance in which I noticed any remarkable
    difference in the acuteness of his bodily faculties, either of his
    hearing, his sight, or of his sense of smell, from those of other persons
    who possessed them in a good degree. [This was at Mr. South's observatory,
    and the object was, the dots on the declination circle of his equatorial;
    but, in this instance, Dr. Wollaston did not attempt to TEACH ME HOW TO
    SEE THEM.]
    He never showed me an almost microscopic wire, which was visible to his,
    and invisible to my own eye: even in the beautiful experiments he made
    relative to sounds inaudible to certain ears, he never produced a tone
    which was unheard by mine, although sensible to his ear; and I believe
    this will be found to have been the case by most of those whose minds had
    been much accustomed to experimental inquiries, and who possessed their
    faculties unimpaired by illness or by age.
    It was a much more valuable property on which the success of such
    inquiries depended. It arose from the perfect attention which he could
    command, and the minute precision with which he examined every object. A
    striking illustration of the fact that an object is frequently not seen,
    FROM NOT KNOWING HOW TO SEE IT, rather than from any defect in the organ
    of vision, occurred to me some years since, when on a visit at Slough.
    Conversing with Mr. Herschel on the dark lines seen in the solar spectrum
    by Fraunhofer, he inquired whether I had seen them; and on my replying in
    the negative, and expressing a great desire to see them, he mentioned the
    extreme difficulty he had had, even with Fraunhofer's description in his
    hand and the long time which it had cost him in detecting them. My friend
    then added, "I will prepare the apparatus, and put you in such a position
    that they shall be visible, and yet you shall look for them and not find
    them: after which, while you remain in the same position, I will instruct
    you how to see them, and you shall see them, and not merely wonder you did
    not see them before, but you shall find it impossible to look at the
    spectrum without seeing them."
    On looking as I was directed, notwithstanding the previous warning, I did
    not see them; and after some time I inquired how they might be seen, when
    the prediction of Mr. Herschel was completely fulfilled.
    It was this attention to minute phenomena which Dr. Wollaston applied with
    such powerful effect to chemistry. In the ordinary cases of precipitation
    the cloudiness is visible in a single drop as well as in a gallon of a
    solution; and in those cases where the cloudiness is so slight, as to
    require a mass of fluid to render it visible, previous evaporation,
    quickly performed on slips of window glass, rendered the solution more
    The true value of this minute chemistry arises from its cheapness and the
    extreme rapidity with which it can be accomplished: it may, in hands like
    those of Wollaston, be used for discovery, but not for measure. I have
    thought it more necessary to place this subject on what I consider its
    true grounds, for two reasons. In the first place, I feel that injustice
    has been done to a distinguished philosopher in attributing to some of his
    bodily senses that excellence which I think is proved to have depended on
    the admirable training of his intellectual faculties. And, in the next
    place, if I have established the fact, whilst it affords us better means
    of judging of such observations as lay claim to an accuracy "MORE THAN
    HUMAN," it also opens, to the patient inquirer into truth, a path by which
    he may acquire powers that he would otherwise have thought were only the
    gift of nature to a favoured few.
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    APPENDIX, No. 1.
    In presenting to my readers the account of the meeting of men of science
    at Berlin, in the autumn of 1828, I am happy to be able to state, that its
    influence has been most beneficial, and that the annual meeting to be held
    in 1831, will take place at Vienna, the Emperor of Austria having
    expressed a wish that every facility which his capital affords should be
    given to promote its objects.
    It is gratifying to find that a country, which has hitherto been
    considered adverse to the progress of knowledge, should become convinced
    of its value; and it is sincerely to be hoped, that every one of the
    numerous members of the Society will show, by his conduct, that the paths
    of science are less likely than any others to interfere with those of
    The existence of a large society of cultivators of the natural sciences
    meeting annually at some great capital, or some central town of Europe, is
    a circumstance almost unknown to us, and deserving of our attention, from
    the important advantages which may arise from it.
    About eight years ago, Dr. Okens, of Munich, suggested a plan for an
    annual meeting of all Germans who cultivated the sciences of medicine and
    botany. The first meeting, of about forty members, took place at Leipsic,
    in 1822, and it was successively held at Halle, Wurtzburg, Frankfort on
    the Maine, Dresden, Munich, and Berlin. All those who had printed a
    certain number of sheets of their inquiries on these subjects were
    considered members of this academy.
    The great advantages which resulted to these sciences from the
    communication of observations from all quarters of Germany, soon induced
    an extension of the plan, and other departments of natural knowledge were
    admitted, until, at the last meeting, the cultivators even of pure
    mathematics were found amongst the ranks of this academy.
    Several circumstances, independent of the form and constitution of the
    academy, contributed to give unwonted splendour to the last meeting, which
    took place at Berlin in the middle of September of the last year.
    The capital selected for its temporary residence is scarcely surpassed by
    any in Europe in the number and celebrity of its savans.
    The taste for knowledge possessed by the reigning family, has made
    knowledge itself fashionable; and the severe sufferings of the Prussians
    previous to the war, by which themselves and Europe were freed, have
    impressed on them so strongly the lesson that "knowledge is power," that
    its effects are visible in every department of the government; and there
    is no country in Europe in which talents and genius so surely open for
    their possessors the road to wealth and distinction.
    Another circumstance also contributed its portion to increase the numbers
    of the meeting of the past year. The office of president, which is
    annually changed, was assigned to M. Alexander de Humboldt. The
    universality of his acquirements, which have left no branch within the
    wide range of science indifferent or unexplored, has connected him by
    friendship with almost all the most celebrated philosophers of the age;
    whilst the polished amenity of his manners, and that intense desire of
    acquiring and of spreading knowledge, which so peculiarly characterizes
    his mind, renders him accessible to all strangers, and insures for them
    the assistance of his counsel in their scientific pursuits, and the
    advantage of being made known to all those who are interested or occupied
    in similar inquiries.
    Professor Lichtenstein, (Director of the Museum of Zoology,) as secretary
    of the academy, was indefatigable in his attentions, and most ably
    seconded the wishes of its distinguished president.
    These two gentlemen, assisted by several of the residents at Berlin,
    undertook the numerous preliminary arrangements necessary for the
    accommodation of the meeting.
    On the 18th of September, 1828, there were assembled at Berlin 377 members
    of the academy, whose names and residences (in Berlin) were printed in a
    small pamphlet, and to each name was attached a number, to indicate his
    seat in the great concert room, in which the morning meetings took place.
    Each member was also provided with an engraved card of the hall of
    meeting, on which the numbers of the seats were printed in black ink, and
    his own peculiar seat marked in red ink, so that every person immediately
    found his own place, and knew where to look for any friend whom he might
    wish to find.
    At the hour appointed for the opening of the meeting, the members being
    assembled, and the galleries and orchestra being filled by an assemblage
    of a large part of the rank and beauty of the capital, and the side-boxes
    being occupied by several branches of the royal family, and by the foreign
    ambassadors, the session of the academy was opened by the eloquent address
    of the president.
    SPEECH made at the Opening of the Society of German Naturalists and
    Natural Philosophers at Berlin, the 18th of September, 1828.&mdash;By
    Since through your choice, which does me so much honour, I am permitted to
    open this meeting, the first duty which I have to discharge is one of
    gratitude. The distinction which has been conferred on him who has never
    yet been able to attend your excellent society, is not the reward of
    scientific efforts, or of feeble and persevering attempts to discover new
    phenomena, or to draw the light of knowledge from the unexplored depths of
    nature. A finer feeling, however, directed your attention to me. You have
    assured me, that while, during an absence of many years, and in a distant
    quarter of the globe, I was labouring in the same cause with yourselves, I
    was not a stranger in your thoughts. You have likewise greeted my return
    home, that, by the sacred tie of gratitude, you might bind me still longer
    and closer to our common country.
    What, however, can the picture of this, our native land, present more
    agreeable to the mind, than the assembly which we receive to-day for the
    first time within our walls; from the banks of the Neckar, the birth-place
    of Kepler and of Schiller, to the remotest border of the Baltic plains;
    from hence to the mouths of the Rhine, where, under the beneficent
    influence of commerce, the treasuries of exotic nature have for centuries
    been collected and investigated, the friends of nature, inspired with the
    same zeal, and, urged by the same passion, flock together to this
    assembly. Everywhere, where the German language is used, and its peculiar
    structure affects the spirit and disposition of the people. From the Great
    European Alps, to the other side of the Weichsel, where, in the country of
    Copernicus, astronomy rose to renewed splendour; everywhere in the
    extensive dominions of the German nation we attempt to discover the secret
    operations of nature, whether in the heavens, or in the deepest problems
    of mechanics, or in the interior of the earth, or in the finely woven
    tissues of organic structure.
    Protected by noble princes, this assembly has annually increased in
    interest and extent. Every distinction which difference of religion or
    form of government can occasion is here annulled. Germany manifests itself
    as it were in its intellectual unity; and since knowledge of truth and
    performance of duty are the highest object of morality, that feeling of
    unity weakens none of the bonds which the religion, constitution, and laws
    of our country, have rendered dear to each of us. Even this emulation in
    mental struggles has called forth (as the glorious history of our country
    tells us,) the fairest blossoms of humanity, science, and art.
    The assembly of German naturalists and natural philosophers since its last
    meeting, when it was so hospitably received at Munich, has, through the
    flattering interest of neighbouring states and academies, shone with
    peculiar lustre. Allied nations have renewed the ancient alliance between
    Germany and the ancient Scandinavian North.
    Such an interest deserves acknowledgment the more, because it unexpectedly
    increases the mass of facts and opinions which are here brought into one
    common and useful union. It also recalls lofty recollections into the mind
    of the naturalist. Scarcely half a century has elapsed since Linne
    appears, in the boldness of the undertakings which he has attempted and
    accomplished, as one of the greatest men of the last century. His glory,
    however bright, has not rendered Europe blind to the merits of Scheele and
    Bergman. The catalogue of these great names is not completed; but lest I
    shall offend noble modesty, I dare not speak of the light which is still
    flowing in richest profusion from the North, nor mention the discoveries
    in the chemical nature of substances, in the numerical relation of their
    elements, or the eddying streams of electro-magnetic powers. [The
    philosophers here referred to are Berzelius and Oersted.] May those
    excellent persons, who, deterred neither by perils of sea or land, have
    hastened to our meeting from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, England,
    and Poland, point our the way to other strangers in succeeding years, so
    that by turns every part of Germany may enjoy the effects of scientific
    communication with the different nations of Europe.
    But although I must restrain the expression of my personal feelings in
    presence of this assembly, I must be permitted at least to name the
    patriarchs of our national glory, who are detained from us by a regard for
    those lives so dear to their country;&mdash;Goethe, whom the great
    creations of poetical fancy have not prevented from penetrating the ARCANA
    of nature, and who now in rural solitude mourns for his princely friend,
    as Germany for one of her greatest ornaments;&mdash;Olbers, who has
    discovered two bodies where he had already predicted they were to be
    found;&mdash;the greatest anatomists of our age&mdash;Soemmering, who,
    with equal zeal, has investigated the wonders of organic structure, and
    the spots and FACULAE of the sun, (condensations and openings of the
    photosphere;) Blumenbach, whose pupil I have the honour to be, who, by his
    works and his immortal eloquence, has inspired everywhere a love of
    comparative anatomy, physiology, and the general history of nature, and
    who has laboured diligently for half a century. How could I resist the
    temptation to adorn my discourse with names which posterity will repeat,
    as we are not favoured with their presence?
    These observations on the literary wealth of our native country, and the
    progressive developement of our institution, lead us naturally to the
    obstructions which will arise from the increasing number of our
    fellow-labourers, The chief object of this assembly does not consist, as
    in other societies whose sphere is more limited, in the mutual interchange
    of treatises, or in innumerable memoirs, destined to be printed in some
    general collection. The principal object of this Society is, to bring
    those personally together who are engaged in the same field of science. It
    is the immediate, and therefore more obvious interchange of ideas, whether
    they present themselves as facts, opinions, or doubts. It is the
    foundation of friendly connexion which throws light on science, adds
    cheerfulness to life, and gives patience and amenity to the manners.
    In the most flourishing period of ancient Greece, the distinction between
    words and writing first manifested itself most strongly amongst a race,
    which had raised itself to the most splendid intellectual superiority, and
    to whose latest descendants, as preserved from the shipwreck of nations,
    we still consecrate our most anxious wishes. It was not the difficulty of
    interchange of ideas alone, nor the want of German science, which has
    spread thought as on wings through the world, and insured it a long
    continuance, that then induced the friends of philosophy and natural
    history in Magna Graecia and Asia Minor to wander on long journeys. That
    ancient race knew the inspiring influence of conversation as it
    extemporaneously, freely, and prudently penetrates the tissue of
    scientific opinions and doubts. The discovery of the truth without
    difference of opinion is unattainable, because the truth, in its greatest
    extent, can never be recognized by all, and at the same time. Each step,
    which seems to bring the explorer of nature nearer to his object, only
    carries him to the threshold of new labyrinths. The mass of doubt does not
    diminish, but spreads like a moving cloud over other and new fields; and
    whoever has called that a golden period, when difference of opinions, or,
    as some are accustomed to express it, the disputes of the learned, will be
    finished, has as imperfect a conception of the wants of science, and of
    its continued advancement, as a person who expects that the same opinions
    in geognosy, chemistry, or physiology, will be maintained for several
    The founders of this society, with a deep sense of the unity of nature,
    have combined in the completest manner, all the branches of physical
    knowledge, and the historical, geometrical, and experimental philosophy.
    The names of natural historian and natural philosopher are here,
    therefore, nearly synonymous, chained by a terrestrial link to the type of
    the lower animals. Man completes the scale of higher organization. In his
    physiological and pathological qualities, he scarcely presents to us a
    distinct class of beings. As to what has brought him to this exalted
    object of physical study, and has raised him to general scientific
    investigation, belongs principally to this society. Important as it is not
    to break that link which embraces equally the investigation of organic and
    inorganic nature, still the increasing ties and daily developement of this
    institution renders it necessary, besides the general meeting which is
    destined for these halls, to have specific meetings for single branches of
    science. For it is only in such contracted circles,&mdash;it is only among
    men whom reciprocity of studies has brought together, that verbal
    discussions can take place. Without this sort of communication, would the
    voluntary association of men in search of truth be deprived of an
    inspiring principle.
    Among the preparations which are made in this city for the advancement of
    the society, attention has been principally paid to the possibility of
    such a subdivision into sections. The hope that these preparations will
    meet with your approbation, imposes upon me the duty of reminding you,
    that, although you had entrusted to two travellers, equally, the duty of
    making these arrangements, yet it is to one alone, my noble friend, M.
    Lichtenstein, that the merit of careful precaution and indefatigable
    activity is due. Out of respect to the scientific spirit which animates
    the Society of German Naturalists and Natural Philosophy, and in
    acknowledgment of the utility of their efforts, government have seconded
    all our wishes with the greatest cheerfulness.
    In the vicinity of the place of meeting, which has in this manner been
    prepared for our general and special labours, are situated the museums
    dedicated to anatomy, zoology, oryctognosy, and geology. They exhibit to
    the naturalist a rich mine for observation and critical discussion. The
    greater number of these well-arranged collections have existed, like the
    University of Berlin, scarcely twenty years. The oldest of them, to which
    the Botanical Garden, (one of the richest in Europe) belongs, have during
    this period not only been increased, but entirely remodelled. The
    amusement and instruction derived from such institutions, call to our
    minds, with deep feelings of gratitude, that they are the work of that
    great monarch, who modestly and in simple grandeur, adorns every year this
    royal city with new treasures of nature and art; and what is of still
    greater value than the treasures themselves,&mdash;what inspires every
    Prussian with youthful strength, and with an enthusiastic love for the
    ancient reigning family,&mdash;that he graciously attaches to himself
    every species of talent, and extends with confidence his royal protection
    to the free cultivation of the understanding.
    This was followed by a paper on magnetism, by Professor Oersted; and
    several other memoirs were then read.
    The arrival of so many persons of similar pursuit, (for 464 members were
    present,) rendered it convenient to have some ordinary, at which those who
    chose might dine, and introduce their friends or families. This had been
    foreseen, and his Majesty had condescended to allow the immense building
    used for the exercise of his troops, to be employed for this purpose.
    One-third of it was floored on the occasion, and tables were arranged, at
    which, on one occasion, 850 persons sat down to dinner. On the evening of
    the first day, M. de Humboldt gave a large SOIREE in the concert rooms
    attached to the theatre. About 1200 persons assembled on this occasion,
    and his Majesty the King of Prussia honoured with his presence the fete of
    his illustrious chamberlain. The nobility of the country, foreign princes,
    and foreign ambassadors, were present. It was gratifying to observe the
    princes of the blood mingling with the cultivators of science, and to see
    the heir-apparent to the throne, during the course of the evening, engaged
    in conversation with those most celebrated for their talents, of his own,
    or of other countries.
    Nor were the minor arrangements of the evening beneath the consideration
    of the President. The words of the music selected for the concert, were
    printed and distributed to the visitors. The names of the most illustrious
    philosophers which Germany had produced, were inscribed in letters of gold
    at the end of the great concert room.
    In the first rank amongst these stood a name which, England, too, enrolls
    amongst the brightest in her scientific annals; and proud, as well she may
    be, of having fostered and brought to maturity the genius of the first
    Herschel, she has reaped an ample reward in being able to claim as
    entirely her own, the inheritor of his talents and his name.
    The six succeeding days were occupied, in the morning, by a meeting of the
    academy, at which papers of general interest were read. In the afternoon,
    through the arrangement of M. de Humboldt and M. Lichtenstein, various
    rooms were appropriated for different sections of the academy. In one, the
    chemical philosophers attended to some chemical memoir, whilst the
    botanists assembled in another room, the physiologists in a third, and the
    natural philosophers in a fourth. Each attended to the reading of papers
    connected with their several sciences. Thus every member was at liberty to
    choose that section in which he felt most interest at the moment, and he
    had at all times power of access to the others. The evenings were
    generally spent at some of the SOIREES of the savans, resident at Berlin,
    whose hospitality and attentions to their learned brethren of other
    countries were unbounded. During the unoccupied hours of the morning, the
    collections of natural history, which are rapidly rising into importance,
    were open to examination; and the various professors and directors who
    assisted the stranger in his inquiries, left him equally gratified by the
    knowledge and urbanity of those who so kindly aided him.
    A map of Europe was printed, on which those towns only appeared which had
    sent representatives to this scientific congress; and the numbers sent by
    different kingdoms appeared by the following table, which was attached to

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   Russia.........  1
   Austria........  0
   England........  1
   Holland........  2
   Denmark........  7
   France ........  1
   Sardinia .......  0
   Prussia........ 95
   Bavaria........ 12
   Hanover........  5
   Saxony ........ 21
   Wirtemburg ......  2
   Sweden ........ 13
   Naples ........  1
   Poland ........  3
   German States..... 43
                          &mdash;-                       206
   Berlin .......  172
                          &mdash;-                       378


    The proportion in which the cultivators of different sciences appeared,
    was not easy to ascertain, because there were few amongst the more eminent
    who had not added to more than one branch of human knowledge. The
    following table, though not professing to be very accurate, will afford,
    perhaps, a tolerably fair view:&mdash;

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   Geometers.............  11
   Astronomers...........   5
   Natural Philosophers .  23
                           &mdash; 39
   Mines............   5
   Mineralogy ......  16
   Geology..........   9
                       &mdash; 30
   Chemistry........... 18
   Geography...........  8
   Anatomy............. 12
   Zoology............  14
   Natural History....   8
   Botany.............. 35
                        &mdash; 57
   Physicians.......   175
   Amateurs  .......     9
   Various .........    35


    A medal was struck in commemoration of this meeting, and it was proposed
    that it should form the first of a series, which should comprise all those
    persons most celebrated for their scientific discoveries in the past and
    present age.
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    APPENDIX, No. 2.
    An examination into some charges brought against one of the twenty-four
    candidates, mentioned in a note as having their names suspended in the
    meeting-room of the Royal Society, at one time, has caused a printed
    pamphlet to be circulated amongst the members of the Society. Of the
    charges themselves I shall offer no opinion, but entreat every member to
    judge for himself. I shall, however, make one extract, which tends to show
    how the ranks of the Society are recruited.
    22, UPPER BEDFORD-PLACE, MARCH 13, 1830.
    "When I wished you to Propose me at the Geological Society, you asked me
    why you should not propose me also at the Royal Society; and my answer
    was, that it was an honour to which I did not think I could aspire; that
    my talents were too insignificant to warrant such pretensions. Many days
    passed, and still you pressed me on the subject, because your partiality
    made you think me deserving of the honour; but I resisted, really through
    modesty, not that I did not covet the distinction, until something was
    said of my paper on the meteoric mass of iron of Brazil, which was
    published some years ago in the Transactions of the Royal Society; when
    you insisted on proposing me, and I assented gratefully, because I was and
    am desirous of being a Fellow of the Royal Society, if I can be supposed
    worthy of having my name so honourably enrolled."
    "All that you have said respecting your being a candidate for admission
    into the Royal Society, is correct to the letter. I pressed the subject
    upon you, and I would do it again to-morrow, were it necessary."
    Here, then, we find Mr. Children, who has been on the Council of the Royal
    Society, and who was, a few years since, one of its Secretaries, pressing
    one of his friends to become, and actually insisting on proposing him as,
    a Fellow of the Royal Society, He must have been well aware of the
    feelings which prevail amongst the Council as to the propriety of such a
    step, and by publishing the fact, seems quite satisfied that such a course
    is advantageous to the interests of the Society. That similar applications
    were not unfrequently made in private, is well known; but it remains for
    the Society to consider whether, now they are publicly and officially
    announced to them, it will sanction this mode of augmenting the already
    numerous list of its fellows.
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    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    APPENDIX, No. 3,
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    <br /><br /><br /><br />
    N. B.&mdash;The Numbers are made up to the present year for the Papers,
    but only to 1827 for Members of the Council.

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   No. of     No. of
   Papers     years on
   printed    Council.
   in Phil.
   Trans.&mdash;&mdash;&mdash;&mdash;        &mdash;&mdash;&mdash;-
     3                 Aberdeen, Earl of.
     3           3     Abernethy, John.
                 2     Allan, Thomas.
     3                 Allen, William.
                 1     Arden, Lord.
                 1     Atholl, Duke of.
     7           2     Babbage, Charles,
                 1     Babington, William.
     1           2     Baily,Francis.
     9                 Barlow, Peter. (C)
                 2     Barnard, Sir F. Augusta.
                 5     Barrow, John.
     2                 Bauer, Francis.
     1                 Bayley, John.
                 1     Beaufort, Francis.
                 2     Beaufoy, Henry.
     5                 Bell, Charles.
                 1     Bingley, Robert.
                 1     Blackburne, John.
                 3     Blake, William.
     1           3     Blane, Sir Gilbert.
     1           1     Blizard, Sir William.
     1           1     Bostock, John.
    12          10     Brande, Wm. Thos. (C)
    16                 Brewster, David. (C)
     6           1     Brodie, B. Collins. (C)
     1                 Bromhead Sir E. F.
     3                 Brougham, Henry.
                 1     Browne, Henry.
                 1     Brown, Robert.
                 2     Brownlow, Earl.
     1                 Buckland, Rev. W. (C)
                 1     Burney, Rev. C. Parr.
                 1     Canterbury, Archbp. of.
                 1     Carew, Rt. Hon. R. P.
     7                 Carlisle, Sir Anthony.
                 2     Carlisle, Nicholas.
     1                 Carne, Joseph.
                 1     Carrington, Sir C. E.
                 2     Charleville, Earl of.
     7           2     Chenevix, Richard. (C)
     3           4     Children, John George.
    10                 Christie, Sam. Hunter.
                 1     Clerk, Sir George.
     2                 Clift, William.
     9                 Cloyne, Bishop of. (C)
                 2     Colby, Colonel Thomas.
                 1     Colebrooke, Henry T.
     2           2     Cooper, Sir Astley P. (C)
                 1     Crichton, Sir Alex.
                 5     Croker, John Wilson.
                 1     Cullum, Sir T. Gery.
     2                 Dalton, John.
                 2     Darnley, Earl of
     1                 Darwin, Robert Waring.
     1                 Davis, John Francis.
     2                 Davy, Edmund.
    13                 Davy, John.
     3                 Dyllwin, Lewis Weston.
     1                 Dollond, George.
                 1     Dudley and Ward, Visc.
     2                 Earle, Henry.
                 1     Egremont, Earl of.
     1                 Fallows, Rev. Fearon.
     8                 Faraday, Michael.
                 1     Farnborough, Lord.
     1                 Fisher, Rev. George.
                 1     Fly, Rev. Henry.
     2                 Foster, Henry.
     1           1     Frankland, Sir Thomas.
     1                 Gibbes, Sir Geo, Smith.
     2          13     Gilbert, Davies.
                 2     Gillies, John.
     5                 Goldingham, John.
     3           1     Gompertz, Benjamin.
                 1     Goodenough, George T.
                 2     Gordon, Sir James W.
     3                 Granville, Augustus B.
     1                 Greatorex, Thomas.
     1                 Greenough, Geo.Bellas.
     1                 Griffiths, John.
     3           1     Groombridge, Stephen.
                 1     Halford, Sir Henry.
     2                 Hall, Basil.
                 1     Hamilton, Wm. Rich.
                 2     Hardwicke, Earl of.
     2                 Harvey, George.
     1                 Harwood, J.
    16          10     Hatchett, Charles. (C)
                 1     Hawkins, John.
     2           2     Heberden, William.
     9                 Hellins, Rev. John, (C)
                 1     Henley, Morton Lord.
    10                 Henry, William. (C)
    12           6     Herschel, John F.W. (C)
                 1     Hoare, Henry Hugh
                 1     Hoare, Sir Richard Colt.
                 2     Hobhouse, Sir Benj.
     1                 Holland, Henry.
   109          16     Home, Sir Everard. (C)
     2                 Hope, Thomas Charles.
     1                 Hosack, David.
     1           1     Horsburgh, James.
     1                 Howard, Luke.
     2                 Hume, Sir Abraham.
     7           2     Ivory, James.C.
                 1     Jekyll, Joseph.
     4           1     Johnson, Jas. Rawlins.
    13           7     Kater, Capt. Henry. (C)
     2                 Kidd, John.
    24           1     Knight, Thomas A. (C)
     1           1     Konig, Charles.
                 2     Lambert, Aylmer B.
                 1     Lansdowne, Marquis of.
     1           1     Latham, John.
     2                 Lax, Rev. William.
     1                 Leach, William Elford.
                 1     Lowther, Viscount.
     2                 Macartney, James.
     2                 Macdonald, Lieut. Col.
                 1     Mac Grigor, Sir James.
                 2     Mac Leay, Alexander.
                 1     Mansfield, Earl of
     4          11     Marsden, William.
                 1     Mathias, Thomas Jas.
                 3     Maton, William George.
     1                 Miller, Lieut. Col. G.
                 2     Montagu, Matthew.
     7           4     Morgan, William.
                 1     Mount Edgecumbe, Earl of.
                 3     Murdoch, Thomas.
                 2     Nicholl, Rt. Hon. Sir J.
                 1     Norfolk, Duke of.
                 2     Ord, Craven.
     1                 Parry, Charles Henry.
                 1     Pepys, Sir Lucas.
     6           2     Pepys, Wm. Hasledine.
     7                 Philip, A. P. Wilson.
     1                 Phillips, Richard.
                 2     Pitt, William Morton.
     1          29     Planta, Joseph.
    19          17     Pond, John.  (C)
     2                 Powell, Rev. Baden.
     2                 Prinsep, James.
     4           1     Prout William.
                 1     Rackett, Rev. Thomas.
                 1     Redesdale, Lord.
                 2     Reeves, John.
     5           3     Rennell, James  (C)
     1                 Rennie, George.
     4                 Ritchie,
     1                 Robertson, James.
                 1     Rogers, Samuel.
     2           1     Roget, Peter Mark.
                 3     Rudge, Edward.
    12                 Sabine, Edward. (C)
                 2     Sabine, Joseph.
                 1     St. Aubyn, Sir John.
     3                 Scoresby, jun. William.
     2                 Scott, John Corse.
     3           1     Seppings, Sir Robert. (C)
     1                 Sewell, Sir John.
                 3     Somerset, Duke of.
                 3     Sotheby, William.
     3           2     South, James. (C)
                 5     Spencer, Earl.
                 3     Stanley, Sir John Thos.
                 3     Staunton, Sir Geo. Thos.
                 2     Stowell,Lord.
                 1     Sumner, George Holme.
     1                 Thomas, Honoratus L.
     2                 Thomson, Thomas.
     1                 Tiarks, Dr. John Lewis.
     1                 Troughton, Edward. (C)
     2                 Ure, Andrew.
                 2     Warburton, Henry.
     1                 Weaver, Thomas.
     1                 Whewell, William.
     3                 Whidbey, Joseph.
     2           3     Wilkins, Charles.
     3                 Williams, John Lloyd.
     1           1     Wilson, Sir Giffin.
                 2     Wilson, Gloucester.
                 1     Yorke, Rt. Hon. Chas.


    I had intended to have printed a list of those persons to whom the Royal
    Society had in past years awarded the Copley medals, and the reasons for
    which they were given; but having applied to the Council for permission to
    employ an amanuensis, to copy those awards, either from the minutes, or
    from the volumes of the Philosophical Transactions, I was surprised at
    receiving a refusal. I confess it appeared to me, that as a whole, those
    adjudications did us credit, although I doubted the propriety of many
    individual cases. As, however, the Council seem to have had a different
    opinion, and as I had made the application through courtesy, I shall
    decline printing a list, every individual portion of which has been
    already published in many ways, although the whole has never been printed
    in a collected form.
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