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without notice, until about the year 1698, when Capt. Savary, a man of singular ingenuity, constructed an apparatus, for which he obtained a patent, to apply it to practical purposes. The invention of a safety-valve soon afterwards followed ; and that again was succeeded by the use of a close-fitted piston, working in a cylinder. Still, however, the engine was comparatively of little use, until Mr. Watt, a half century afterwards, effected the grand improvement of condensing the steam in a separate vessel, communicating by a pipe with the cylinder; and Mr. Washbrough, in 1778, by the application of it to produce a rotatory motion, opened the most extensive use of it for mechanical purposes.
It was in reference to the astonishing impulse thus given to mechanical pursuits, that Dr. Darwin, more than forty years ago, broke out in strains equally remarkable for their poetical enthusiasm, and prophetic truth, and predicted the future triumph of the steamengine.
“Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam, afar
And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud.” What would he have said, if he had but lived to witness the immortal invention of Fulton, which seems almost to move in the air, and to fly on the wings of the wind? And yet how slowly did this enterprise obtain the public favor! I myself have heard the illustrious inventor relate, in an animated and affecting manner, the history of his labors and discouragements. When (said he) I was building my first steam-boat at New York, the project was viewed by the public either with indifference, or with contempt, as a visionary scheme. My friends, indeed, were civil, but they were shy. They listened with patience to my explanations, but with a settled cast of incredulity on their countenances. I felt the full force of the lamentation of the poet,
“ Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land ?
All fear, none aid yo!, and few understand.” As I had occasion to pass daily to and from the building-yard, while my boat was in
I have often loitered unknown near the idle groups of strangers, gathering in little circles, and heard various inquiries as to the object of this new vehicle. The language was uniformly that of scorn, or sneer, or ridicule. The loud laugh often rose at my expense; the dry jest ; the wise calculation of losses and expenditures; the dull, but endless, repetition of the Fulton Folly. Never did a single encouraging remark, a bright hope, or a warm wish, cross my path. Silence itself was but politeness, veiling its doubts, or hiding its reproaches. At length the day arrived, when the experiment was to be put into operation. To me it was a most trying and interesting occasion. I invited many friends to go on board to witness the first successful trip. Many of them did me the favor to attend, as a matter of personal respect; but it was manisest, that they did it with reluctance, fearing to be the partners of my mortification, and not of my triumph. I was well aware, that in my case there were many reasons to doubt of my own success. The machinery was new and ill made; many parts of it were constructed by mechanics unaccustomed to such work; and unexpected difficulties might reasonably be presumed to present themselves from other causes. The moment arrived, in which the word was to be given for the vessel to move. My friends were in groups on the deck. There was anxiety, mixed with fear, among them. They were silent, and sad, and weary. I read in their looks nothing but disaster, and almost repented of my efforts. The signal was given, and the boat moved on a short distance, and then stopped, and became immovable. To the silence of the preceding moment now succeeded murmurs of discontent, and agitations, and whispers, and shrugs. I could hear distinctly repeated, “I told you it would be so it is a foolish scheme — I wish we were well out of it.” I elevated myself upon a platform, and addressed the assembly. I stated, that I knew not what was the matter ; but if they would be quiet, and indulge me for a half hour, I would either go on, or abandon the voyage for that time. This short respite was conceded without objection. I went below, examined the machinery, and discovered that the cause was a slight mal-adjustment of some of the work. In a short period it was obviated. The boat was again put in motion. She continued to move on. All were still incredulous. None seemed willing to trust the evidence of their own senses. We left the fair city of New York; we passed through the romantic and evervarying scenery of the highlands; we descried the clustering houses of Albany ; we reached its shores; and then, even then, when all seemed achieved, I was the victim of disappointment. Imagination superseded the influence of fact. It was then doubted, if it could be done again; or if done, it was doubted if it could be made of any great value.
Such was the history of the first experiment, as it fell, not in the very language which I have used, but in its substance, from the lips of the inventor. He did not live, indeed, to enjoy the full glory of his invention. It is mournful to say, that attempts were made to rob him, in the first place, of the merit of his invention, and, next, of its fruits. He fell a victim to his efforts to sustain his title to both.' When already his invention had covered the waters of the Hudson, he seemed little satisfied with the results, and looked forward to far more extensive operations. My ultimate triumph, he used to say, my ultimate triumph will be on the Mississippi. I know, indeed, that, even now, it is deemed impossible by many, that the difficulties of its navigation can be overcome. But I am confident of success. I may not live to see it; but the Mississippi will yet be covered by steam-boats; and thus an entire change be wrought in the course of the internal navigation and commerce of our country.
And it has been wrought. And the steam-boat, looking to its effects upon commerce and navigation, to the combined influences of facilities of travelling and facilities of trade, of rapid circulation of news, and still more rapid circulation of pleasures and products, seems destined to be numbered among the noblest benefactions to the human race.
I have passed aside from my principal purpose, to give, in this history of the steam-boat, a slight illustration of the slow progress of inventions. It may not be unacceptable, as a tribute to the memory of a man, who united in himself a great love of science with an inextinguishable desire to render it subservient to the practical business of life.
But, perhaps, the science of chemistry affords as striking an instance as any, which can be adduced, of the value of Lord Bacon's maxims, and of the paramount importance of facts over mere speculative philosophy. It was formerly an occult science, full of mysteries and unedifying processes, abounding in theories, and scarcely reducible to any rational principles. It is now in the highest sense entitled to the appellation of a science. The laws of chemical action have been examined and ascertained with great accuracy, and can now be demonstrated with as much clearness and facility, as any of the laws, which belong to mechanical philosophy. It has become eminently a practical science; and its
beneficial effects are felt in almost every department of life. The apothecary's shop no longer abounds with villanous compounds and nostrums, the disgrace of the art. Chemistry has largely administered to the convenience, as well as the efficacy, of medicines, by ascertaining their qualities and component parts, by removing nauseous substances, simplifying processes, and purifying the raw materials. It has secured the lives of thousands by its wonderful safety lamps, which prevent explosions from the invisible, but fatal firedamps of mines. It lights our streets and theatres by its beautiful gas, extracted from coal. It enters our dye-houses, and teaches us how to fix and discharge colors, to combine and to separate them; to bleach the brown fibre, and impart the never fading tint. It discloses the nature and properties of light and heat, of air and water, of the products of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, of earths, and alkalies, and acids, and minerals, and metals. And, though we have not as yet discovered by it the philosopher's stone, or learned how to transmute all other substances into gold; we have gained by it a much more valuable secret, the art of improving our agriculture, perfecting our manufactures, and multiplying all our comforts, by giving new power to all the arts of life, and adding new vigor to home-bred industry. It has indeed conferred benefits, where they have been least expected. By expounding the origin and causes of ignes fatui, it has put to flight the whole host of goblins, and imps, and fairies, and sprites, that inhabited our low grounds and wastes, and required some holy incantation to lay them, in the good old days of superstition, and omens, and death watches, and ghosts, that vanished at the crowing of the cock. It may not, indeed, be said to have given much aid to the law, except when some luckless inventor has been driven into a tedious lawsuit by an infringement of his patent, and has found his money melt away under its dissolving power.
Half a century ago the composition of the atmosphere and ocean were unknown to philosophy. The identity of the electric fluid and lightning was scarcely established. The wonders disclosed by the galvanic battery had not even entered into the imagination of
causes, which gradually led to these changes in the objects and pursuit of science. For a long period after the revival of letters, the minds of educated men were almost wholly engrossed by classical learning, and philology, and criticism, and dogmatical theology, and endless commentaries upon
scanty texts, both in law and divinity. The study of pure and mixed mathematics succeeded; and astronomy, as it deserved, absorbed all the attention and genius, which were not devoted to literature. But scholars of all sorts, by general consent, looked with indifference or disdain upon the common arts of life, and felt it to be a reproach to mingle in the business of the artisan. One would suppose, that the alliance between science and the arts was so natural and immediate, that little influence would be necessary to bring about their union. But the laboratory and the workshop, the study of the geometrician and the shed of the machinist, were for ages at almost immeasurable distances from each other; and the pathways between them were few, and little frequented.
It was not until some fortunate discoveries in the arts had led to opulence, that scientific men began to surrender their pride, and to devote themselves practically to the improvement of the arts. The first great step in modern science was to enter the work-shop, and superintend its operations, and analyze and explain its principles. And the benefits derived from this connexion have already been incalculable both to art and science. Each has been astonishingly improved by the other; and a hint derived from one has often led on to a train of inventions and discoveries, the future results of which are beyond all human power to measure. Thus, dignity and importance have been added to both. The manufacturer, the machinist, the chemist, the engineer, who is eminent in his art, may now place himself by the side of the scholar, and the mathematician, and the philosopher, and find no churlish claim for precedency put in. His rank in society, with reference either to the value of the products of his skill, or the depth of his genius, sinks him not behind the foremost of those, who strive for the first literary distinctions. This fortunate change in the public opinion, which has made it not only profitable, but honorable, to pursue the mechanical arts, is already working deeply into all the elements of modern society. It has already accomplished, what it is scarcely a figure of speech to call, miracles in the arts. Who is there, that would not desire to rival, if he does not envy, the inventions of Watt, of Arkwright, and Fulton ? Who would ask for a fairer reputation, or loftier or more enduring fame, than belongs to them? And yet we have but just entered on the threshold of the results, to which their labors must lead future generations. We can scarcely imagine the number of minds, which have been already stimulated to the pursuit of practical science by their successful