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declare to his contiding countrymen at home such natural history marvels as these. Sir Philberto puts him to the blush in the dignified reply: ‘I cannot meet with any that ever have heard of such a vegetable.'
At all their meetings this band of philosophers encouraged the communications of the learned in any station in life. Animated only by a desire to bring truth to light, they appear to have paid no regard to the circumstances of the men of learning who communicated with them; and it is to the king's royal credit that he gave them an express direction not only to admit to the fellowship a certain clever shopkeeper, but that he begged of them to find out as many more as they could, and admit them without more ado. Their entry-books teem with communications on the most extraordinary variety of subjects. It will present us with a pleasing view of their eagerness in receiving information, and their anxiety in the elimination of truth, to subjoin a few gleanings from this book for the benefit of the reader. Accounts were read of a spring in Lancashire that would presently catch fire on the approach of a flame; of burning-glasses performing extraordinary effects; of burning-glasses made of ice; of fireballs for fuel; of a more convenient way of using wax-candles; of the kindling of certain stones by the being moistened with water; of using ordinary fuel to the best advantage. Other accounts related to the fitness and unfitness of some waters for the making of beer or ale ;, and of brewing beer with ginger instead of hops. The next accounts speak of tides and currents ; of petrifying springe; of the water-plants of Tivoli ; of floating islands of ice; of the shining of dew in a common of Lancashire and elsewhere; of divers and diving—their habits, their long holding their breath, and of other notable things observed by them. In natural history their accounts were generally of some marvellous character. Relations were sent in of the growth, breeding, feeding, and ordering of oysters; of a sturgeon kept alive in St James's Park; of the movable teeth of pikes; of young eels cut alive out of the old ones; of the transporting of fish-spawn and carps alive from one place to another; of the strange increase of carps so transported; of snake-stones and other antidotes; of frogs, toads, newts, vipers, snakes, rattlesnakes; of swallows living after they had been frozen under water. But the most marvellous of these accounts was one sent in by Sir Robert Moray, their president, and actually published by them in their · Philosophical Transactions. In this extraordinary production the author declares that when he was in the Western Islands of Scotland he saw multitudes of little shells adhering to the trees, having with them little birds, perfectly shaped.
The experiments which were tried by them during the first ten years of the existence of this zealous association of philosophers surprise us by their number, and in many instances by their magnitude and difficulty. Their results as to the nature of what from all antiquity, or at anyrate since the days of Peripatetic Philosophy, had been regarded as an element -namely, fire-are admirable. They proved that fire was a state or condition of bodies, not itself an element, or having existence as such. Fire, say they, is only the act of the dissolution of heated combustible bodies by the air as a menstruum, and that heat and light are two inseparable effects of this dissolution ; that flame is a dissolution of smoke, which consists of combustible particles carried upward by the heat of rarefied air;
and that'aslies are a part of the combustible body not dissoluble by the air. Their experiments to determine this point, upon the construction of various bodies, are equally good; and although oxygen was unknown to them, they shewed that combustion depended on some ingredient in the air which was removed from it by the burning body. They obtained the excellent result that high temperature applied to combustible bodies, though it might cause their destruction, would not cause them to take fire and burn if deprived of air. Their investigations into the comparative heat of the flames of different combustibles are also good; and their attempts to determine the melting points of lead, tin, and other metals, valuable. A number of other investigations were carried on at a high temperature, the objects and design of which would have done no discredit to our own experimental era. Their experiments upon the air, in which Boyle greatly distinguished himself, have supplied science with facts, fresh and forcible at the present day. A number of experiments were made with the barometer on mountains, on the surface of the earth, and at the bottom of very deep pits, and at places far removed from each other. The machine called the air-gun was frequently in their hands. Though the invention of the balloon dates long subsequent to this period, the germ of the idea appears to have come to light in some of their researches, for we find in one of their entries an account of glass-balls or bubbles rising in a heavy or condensed air, and falling in a lighter or more rarefied. The production of various gases was a frequent experiment, and they obtained among others the valuable result that water actually dissolves air, which is expelled by heat, or by Mr Boyle's instrument for the exhaustion of air
A number of excellent experiments on artificial respiration were successfully performed. The necessity of pure air for respiration was also shewn, and the fact that respiration can be carried on without inconvenience in air much more condensed than is the ordinary air we breathe. They endeavoured also to ascertain the capacity of the human lungs for air, and the expulsive power of the muscles of respiration. Dr Wilkins performed some curious experiments before them, blowing up large weights by his breath. Their attention was likewise directed to meteorology; and an ingenious and excellent anemometer, or measurer of the force of the wind, was constructed, and its indications carefully studied. They performed a number of experiments also upon fluids. The solution of various salts, the temperature, pressure, expansion, and condensation of water in its various states, engaged their attention. They constructed several barometers forty feet high, with water, oil, &c. for the fluids. They also obtained interesting results upon the phenomena of capillary attraction. Among other of their experiments, it is interesting to record that of forcing water out of a vessel by its own vapour :' one of the early evidences of the motive power of steam. Magnetic experiments were also tried by them. The variation and dip of the magnetic needle, and the lifting force of natural and artificial magnets, were all inquired into. A number of botanical experiments were also performed. They proved the necessity of air to the germination of seeds, and tried whether plants would grow topsy-turvy, in order to find whether there were any valves in the pores of the wood, which opened only one way. A number of interesting physiological experiments were also made by them. Eggs were
hatched; animals strangled and brought to life again by artificial respiration; the fable of the spontaneous origin of life exposed; the effects of poisons on various creatures were noted; transfusion was tried; and a variety of experiments, which of late years have been repeated, of injecting various liquids into the veins of animals. A number of experiments were also made upon the phenomena of light, sound, colours, the laws of motion, &c. Their chemical experiments, consisting chiefly of distillation, evaporation, solution, and crystallisation, were instructive. Among other notable things examined, was 'the vaucilaginous matter called star-shoot.' Optical experiments were also made. A variety of anatomical discoveries were communicated. It is unnecessary to swell the list; but it is apparent from this succinct account of their experimental labours, that if children in knowledge, our philosophers were men in energy and perseverance. In the short time that the New Philosophy had been at work, a greater mass of facts had been collected together than in a whole century prior to this era. Some of their experiments appear, and in truth they were childish, but others have yielded both sound and solid information to succeeding inquirers. It appears that even in their day the utilitarian was accustomed to utter his provoking inquiry-cui boni? But the philosophers, remembering the advice of Lord Bacon, that there ought to be experiments of light as well as of fruit, disregarded the inquiry, and set themselves manfully to the task they had begun.
For a considerable time after their union into a body corporate, this association of philosophers had no public organ for the publishing of its scientific intelligence. At the beginning of March 1664, the first number of the most important scientific work ever published in this country made its appearance. Its title is curious. It is called : “Philosophical Transactions, giving some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in many considerable Parts of the World.' It was edited and published under the care of Mr Henry Oldenburg, who to this society of philosophers was what Boswell was to Johnsonthoroughly bustling, aetive, nay, indefatigable gatherer of scientific intelligence, full of zeal in his work, and of method in its accomplishment. It will form an amusing contrast if we select the table of contents of one of these early numbers, and set it by the side of one of the recent parts of the same work :
Some Observations and Experiments 1. The Bakerian Lecture. On the Difupon May-dew.— The Motion of the fusion of Liquids. Second Comet Predicted by the same 2. On the Nitrogenated Principles of Person who Predicted that of the for- Vegetables as the sources of Artificial mer.-A Relation of the Advice given by Alkaloids. a French Gentleman touching the Con- 3. On the Mechanical Equivalent of junction of the Ocean and the Mediter- Heat. ranean.-Of the way of killing Rattle- 4. On the Automatic Registration of snakes used in Virginia. -A Relation Magnetometers, and Meteorological Inof Persons Killed with Subterraneous struments, by Photography, Damps. Of the Mineral of Liege, 5. Researches regarding the Molecular yielding both Brimstone and Vitriol, Constitution of the Volatile Organic and the way of Extracting them out Bases. of it, used at Liege.-An Account of 6. On the Development of the Great Mr Boyle's Experimental History of Anterior Veins in Man, &c. Cold.
7: Experimental Researches in Elec
in their voyages.
The alphabetical table for the third volume, or indeed for any of the early volumes of this work, well repays perusal. It differs from ordinary tables of contents in the concise notes appended to each subject ; and instead of being, like other indices, wholly unreadable per se, its perusal is both interesting, and furnishes an excellent idea of the contents of the volume and of the state of science. This statement may be justified by a few of these notes which we shall draw from thence, running through them in their alphabetical order :—'Aches healed by the feet of Birds called Fregati in Jamaica.—Anatomical remarks on Thomas Parre, who dyed in the 153rd year of his age.-A probable way of preventing and curing Sea-sickness in Sea - Voyages.--Answers from Bermuda concerning the tydes there, Whales, Sperma-ceti, Strange Spiders' Webbs, Rare Vegetables, and Longevity of the Inhabitants. Every line of these alphabetical tables, as active Mr Oldenburg calls them, manifests the state of his own mind and that of his brother philosophers, and shews how, amid more serious inquiries, it was their delight to wander now and then amid the flower-bestrewed fields of fable and romance, and to lend a willing ear to relations of things new and strange.
To this end they were accustomed to invite the attendance of travelled persons at their meetings, that they might tell some of the wonders beheld
M. Monconys, a Frenchman, gives us the following interesting peep at the little philosophic band during one of their meetings:
- I went,' he says, 'to the Academy of Gresien (Gresham), where the learned assemble every Wednesday for the purpose of performing an infinite number of experiments. The president, who is always a person of condition, is seated at a large table, and the secretary at the other side of it. The academicians are seated on benches around the room. The president was my Lord Brunker (Brouncker), and the secretary M. Oldenbourg. The president has a little wooden hammer, with which he raps the table in order to procure silence when one of the members is about to speak. Thus there is no confusion nor uproar. The secretary recorded the result of the experiments, whether successful or otherwise, in order that they might not only profit by the success, but also learn wisdom from their failures.' Evelyn relates of one of these visitors, a Monsieur Jardine, who had been thrice in the East Indies and Persia, that he was a very handsome person, extremely affable, and not inclined to “talke wonders.' At these meetings, in addition to experiments performed and accounts received, curious objects from various parts of the world were exhibited. In the MS. minutes of the Oxford Philosophical Society occurs the following interesting account of the remarkable mineral asbestos, which was exhibited at one of the meetings in question :—The curiosity consisted of a handkerchief brought by a merchant lately come from China, “made of salamander's wool, or Linum asbesti, which, to try whether it was genuine or no, was put into a strong charcoal fire, in which, not being injured, it was taken out, oiled, and put in again. The oil being burnt off, the handkerchief was taken out again, and was altered only in two respects-it lost two drachms and five grains of its weight, and was more brittle than ordinary; for which reason it was not handled until it was grown cold, by which means it had recovered its former tenacity, and in a great measure its weight. The merchant who obliged the society with the sight of so great a rarity, acquainted them that
he had received it from a Tartar, who told him that the Tartars, among whom this sort of cloth is, sold it at £80 sterling the China ell, which is less than our ell; and that they greatly use this cloth in burning the bodyes (to preserve the ashes) of great persons; and that in Tartary it is affirmed to be made of the root of a tree!'
Among other things connected with these meetings, our notice is attracted by the name of the famous Dr Denis Papin, the inventor of the celebrated bone-digester.' This machine, which perhaps first exhibited the power of steam, was exhibited at these meetings, and Evelyn gives us a most amusing account of our philosopher-children supping together upon a meal prepared by the assistance of Dr Papin's digesters. Evelyn's remarks deserve transcribing. . Weut,' he says, “this afternoon with severall of the R. S. to a supper, which was all dressed, both fish and flesh, in M. Papin's digesters, by which the hardest bones of beef itselfe and mutton were made as softe as cheese, without water or other liquor, and with less than eight ounces of coales, producing an incredible quantity of gravy; and for close of all, a jelly made of the bones of beef, the best for clearness and good relish, and the most delicious that I have ever seen or tasted. We eat pike and other fish-bones, and all without impediment; but nothing exceeded the pigeons, which tasted just as if baked in a pie; all these being stewed in their own juice, without any addition of water save what swam about in the digester, as in balneo ; the natural juice of all these provisions acting on the grosser substances reduced the hardest bones to tendernesse. This philosophical supper caused much mirth amongst us, and exceedingly pleased all the company. I sent a glasse of the jelly to my wife, to the reproach of all that the ladies ever made of the best hart's horn.' How delightful was science then, when her children met to hear about wonderful things, and to cook suppers by high-pressure steam! It appears that Dr Papin made a public exhibition weekly of the powers of his new invention. At a later meeting, soon after the birth of that iron giant which has helped to revolutionise the world, Savery exhibited his engine for raising water by the force of fire. The model worked well, and its inventor received a certificate of its success, which enabled him to obtain a patent shortly afterwards. A small engine made by this inventor was exhibited in Lambeth, and drove a stream of water a considerable height. The Marquis of Worcester had already made his steam-engine, and it was in operation at Vauxhall. At a still later meeting Dr Papin brought before the philosophers a proposition about a boat, to be rowed by oars moved with heat. He evidently conceived the idea of employing steam for the purposes of navigation; and in another paper he distinctly states, that without doubt oars fixed to an axis could be most conveniently made to revolve by our tubes. It would only be necessary to furnish the piston-rod with teeth, which might act on a toothed-wheel properly fitted to it, and which, being fitted on the axis to which the oars were attached, would communicate a rotary motion to it.' The expense of making the necessary experiments, although not exceeding £15, was too great to enable the ingenious inventor to carry out his idea.
The formation of museums full of unheard of curiosities' also distinguishes the period we have designated as the Childhood of Experimental Philosophy; and it is as natural to the taste of men in the condition we