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THE present work is the definitive edition of my "Chronological History of Magnetism, Electricity and the Telegraph," which had tentative publication (1891-1892) serially in four leading technological Journals, viz. "Engineering" of London, "The Electrical World" of New York, "La Lumière Electrique" of Paris, and "L'Industrie Moderne "of Brussels.
Since the time of that first publication, it has received a most thorough revision of the original text, for correction of faults of form, or of substance, suggested by learned critics conversant with the history of electricity and magnetism; and there have been added. a very large number of new entries besides exhaustive notices of the work done by Peregrinus, Gilbert, Oersted, Faraday and other great pathfinders, also biographical and bibliographical notices of all the prominent ancient writers mentioned in the original compilation.
This bibliography commences B.C. 2637—conclusively shown to be the earliest date at which history notes anything resembling the application of the magnetic influence-and it ends with Michael Faraday, esteemed by Tyndall to be "the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen," and who is held 'to have done more for the development of electrical science than any other investigator." Thus is the chronological series shown to cover 4458 years, being purposely made to terminate at A.D. 1820-1821 (Oersted, Ampère, Arago, Faraday, etc.), the culminating period when, through the splendid discovery of electromagnetism, the two immense groups of phenomena were first linked together.
Besides the matter distinctly involved in the title of the new work, it has been deemed advisable to note in this History all the most important forms of the optical telegraph, or semeiograph. Many of the ancient and historical methods for communicating intelligence swiftly at great distances are noticed in their chronological order: doubtless, this will prove to the generality of readers no less interesting than the vast multitude of curious facts pertaining to the direct line of researches. An exhaustive cross-entry Index
of Selected Names and Subjects, embracing fuller titles and much additional data that could not well be entered into the body of the work, will, for the first time, make this mass of historical data. readily accessible.
To bar controversies and partisan discussion as to the relative merits of different discoverers and inventors, concerning which authorities are at variance, it has been thought best to quote all of the weightiest known authorities under the respective heads and dates of the several claimants. To the would-be historian
and to the delving student, this will certainly appear the better course. A case in point, and it is no uncommon one, attaches to the invention of the mariner's compass, where that instrument and its original employment in navigation are credited with equal assurance to China, Iceland, France, England and Italy, by equally eminent historians and scientists. And, as nearly all, except the very earliest, discoveries of any high importance have already been traced to their respective origins by many authors, additional data have been gathered and quoted wherever such data seemed deserving of more than the ordinary notices previously accorded them in print, or where the peculiar nature of the discovery, or the identity of its author, merited authentication to preclude doubt or controversy.
The unusual number of cumulative references purposely given throughout many entries (the most important of which were originally set in italics) cannot be seriously objected to, as they afford ready means for making searches through different accessible channels, covering various phases of a subject, and they facilitate the verification of all extracts and of all quoted passages. They likewise effectually offset the likelihood of misprints necessarily attaching to many of the authorities which are cited from, and which often can be found solely in, rare early publications or in more or less unintelligible manuscripts. Only those who have had to make important searches through such can appreciate the difficulties which continually beset the investigator. Many of the older serials likewise prove quite unreliable and disappointing, either through wrong pagination or irregular and sometimes conflicting dates of publication, as well as through the rearrangement or redistribution of parts or series, at various periods and in different volumes. This is the case, more particularly, with "Le Journal des Savants" and with "The Philosophical Transactions," as it is also with many technical serial publications of various countries which are referred to in the following pages.
In the Preface to his "Experimental Researches," the great
Faraday justly remarked that: "The date of a scientific paper containing any pretensions to discovery is frequently a matter of serious importance, and it is a great misfortune that there are many most valuable communications, essential to the history and progress of science, with respect to which this point cannot now be ascertained. This arises from the circumstance of the papers having no dates attached to them individually, and of the Journals in which they appear having such as are inaccurate, i. e. dates of a period earlier than that of publication.”
Of the aforenamed serials, the very important "Philosophical Transactions" have doubtless been most frequently alluded to herein, both in their original and abridged forms, and, for that reason, the assistance of representatives of the Royal Society has been sought in order to give a proper account to date, showing the difficulties which have throughout been encountered by its many successive editors. It will be seen, at pages 546-547, that there were numerous irregularities in the publication of the unabridged series from the initial date of 1665, only seven numbers having been issued from 1679 to 1682, whilst neither numbers nor volumes appeared between 1688 and 1690, and that, through lax editing, various numbers were often, during subsequent years, assigned to volumes differently designated. In the many abridged reports, irregularities are still greater, as shown at pages 547-548. During 1721, Motte edited "an abridgment, 1700-1720, in three volumes which was very incorrect" (" Dict. Nat. Biog.," Vol. XXXIX. p. 194). The six volumes of 1720-1732 also appeared in two volumes, published 1733. The two volumes of 1719-1733 contained an "Index to the previous seven volumes" by different authors. This was made up by John Martyn, who published in five volumes an abridgment of the Transactions for 1719-1750, which he had previously issued in three sets of two volumes each. Mr. Samuel H. Scudder's remarks as to various discrepancies are worthy of notice. He says ("Cat. of Scient. Serials," 1879, p. 27) that "the Philosophical Transactions Abridged have been very irregularly issued. The first five volumes went through several editions (from five to two, according to the volume) between 1705 and 1781; the later volumes through only one, 1734-1756." He adds: "There is a strange discrepancy here, the fourth edition of. the first volume being sometimes dated 1731, sometimes 1781, and sometimes 1782, whilst the fifth edition of volumes one to three is dated 1749; the eighth volume is again sometimes dated 1734, sometimes 1747."
Were I to indite an apologia for the present work, I could not
hope to express it more happily than does Mr. J. J. Fahie in the preface to his "History of Wireless Telegraphy, 1838-1899"; or, I might adopt the words of two of the most learned French authors of the day:
"Si je donne ces détails, nouveaux, ou peu connus, c'est qu'il est toujours intéressant de remonter à l'origine et au développement successif des inventions." (M. Berthelot, in the "Comptes Rendus.")
"S'il n'y a pas beaucoup de gens qu'elles intéressent, il y en a qu'elles intéressent beaucoup. À ceux-ci, nous avons, en rédigeant ces notes, eu l'intention et l'espérance de venir quelquefois en aide. Tout catalogue a des points obscurs, même les meilleurs. ... L'office propre, le devoir de la critique, est de rechercher si ces points obscurs ne pourraient pas être éclairés par quelque lumière. Il est vrai qu'elle y perd souvent sa peine. Mais cela ne doît jamais la décourager." (M. Hauréau, in "Le Journal des Savants.")
I am especially thankful for the warm encouragement which I have received, on all sides, since the original work appeared in serial form. This History has been frequently called for, and I regret that I have been hitherto prevented from bringing it out earlier in its present desirable book form. This is the more to be regretted as it long ago received the practical endorsement of the doyen of the electrical profession, Lord Kelvin (formerly styled Sir William Thomson), to whom it is dedicated. Leave to do this was obtained through a mutual friend in such a cordial manner that I cannot refrain from giving the correspondence attaching thereto :
January 4, 1894.
"I duly received yours of the 21st . . . but the point on which I feel guilty is your dedication. . . . I have now started the matter by writing to Lord Kelvin fully on the subject, and I hope, within a week, to get his reply, which I shall at once send to you-he cannot possibly wish to decline the honour. . . .
"Yours very truly,
January 13, 1894.
"Lord Kelvin's letter is so nice a one that I send you the original, otherwise I should have liked it as an autograph for my library. I shall be glad to hear that it has duly reached you.
"Yours very truly,
Glasgow, January 11, 1894.
Your letter of the 4th should have been answered sooner, but for my absence from home at the time it came.
"Will you tell Mr. Mottelay that I shall feel honoured by his dedicating his "Chronological History of Electricity and Magnetism" to me, and express to him my thanks for his kind proposal to do so.
"Yours very truly,
I desire to record my great indebtedness to Dr. Silvanus P. Thompson, D.Sc., F.R.S., for the interest he has throughout manifested in, and the material aid he has given to, the improvement and development of the present work. Especial acknowledgment is made of Dr. Thompson's personal revision of the articles on Petrus Peregrinus (at A.D. 1269), on William Gilbert (at A.D. 1600), and on Michael Faraday (at A.D. 1821). With all of these authors, he has become very prominently identified through the several special publications concerning them, which have been issued by him at different periods, and all of which are herein noticed in their proper order.
Thanks are likewise due, and are also by me hereby tendered, more particularly to Dr. Elihu Thomson, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; to Dr. J. A. Fleming, M.A., F.R.S.; to Mr. W. D. Weaver, late Editor of the "Electrical World"; to Mr. Wm. J. Hammer, representative of Mr. Thomas A. Edison; to Mr. A. Hastings White, assistant-librarian, Royal Society, London; to Messrs. Charles Spon and Louis H. Walter, M.A.; to Messieurs Henri Omont, Bibliothèque Nationale; Paul Marais, Bibliothèque Mazarine; Henri Martin, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal;