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YEAR-BOOK OF FACTS IN SCIENCE AND ART
MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES AND IMPROVEMENTS
MECHANICS, USEFUL ARTS, NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, CHEMISTRY,
METEOROLOGY, GEOGRAPHY, ANTIQUITIES, ETC.
NOTES ON THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE DURING THE YEAR 1861 ; A LIST
EMINENT SCIENTIFIC MEN, ETC.
DAVID A. WELLS, A. M.,
AUTHOR OF PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, PRINCIPLES OF CHEMISTRY,
SCIENCE OF COMMON THINGS, ETC.
59 WASHINGTON STREET.
LONDON: TRUBNER & CO.
18 6 2.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by
GOULD AND LINCOLN,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
PROGRESS OF SCIENCE FOR THE YEAR 1861.
The fifteenth meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science was appointed to be held at Nashville, Tennessee, April, 1861; but, owing to the breaking out of the civil war, the meeting was necessarily postponed to some future and more auspicious occasion.
The thirty-first annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held at Manchester, September, 1861, Mr. William Fairbairn, the eminent engineer, being in the chair.
This meeting appears to have exceeded all others before held, in the numbers present, in the amount of general and local subscriptions (upon which the efficiency of the Association in promoting investigations mainly depends), in the value and number of the papers read, in the interest of the personal discussion, and in the excellence and variety of the evening discourses. Among the lectures of special interest was one by Professor Airy, the Astronomer Royal, “ On the Solar Eclipse of 1860,” and one by Prof. Miller, on the recent remarkable researches of Bunsen and Kirchhoff on 6 Spectrum Analysis ; abstracts of both being given in this volume. The subjects which commanded most general attention, however, among those brought before the Association, were the “ Origin and Antiquity of Man” and “ Iron-plated Ships.” The next meeting was appointed to be held at Cambridge, when the Prince of Wales is expected to take the chair.
From the annual address of the President, which was mainly a review of the recent progress of science, we make the following extracts:
“Were I to enlarge on the relation of the achievements of science to the comforts and enjoyments of man, I should have to refer to the present epoch as one of the most important in the history of the world. At no former period did science contribute so much to the uses of life and the wants of society. And in doing this it has only been fulfilling
that mission which Bacon, the great father of modern science, appointed for it, when he wrote, that the legitimate goal of the sciences is the endowment of human life with new inventions and riches,' and when he sought for a natural philosophy which, not spending its energy on barren disquisitions, should be operative for the benefit and endowment of mankind.'
“Looking, then, to the fact that, whilst in our time all the sciences have yielded this fruit, I shall probably best discharge the duties of the office I have the honor to fill by stating, as briefly as possible, the more recent scientific discoveries which have so influenced the relations of social life.
“The history of man, throughout the gradations and changes which he undergoes in advancing from a primitive barbarism to a state of civilization, shows that he has been chiefly stimulated to the cultivation of science, and the development of his inventive powers, by the urgent necessity of providing for his wants and securing his safety. There is no nation, however barbarous, which does not inherit the germs of civilization, and there is scarcely any which has not done something towards applying the rudiments of science to the purposes of daily life.
Again, if we compare man as he exists in small communities with his condition where large numbers are congregated together, we find that densely-populated countries are the most prolific in inventions, and advance most rapidly in science. Because the wants of the many are greater than those of the few, there is a more vigorous struggle against the natural limitations of supply, - a more careful husbanding of resources; and there are more minds at work.
Astronomy. - Without tracing the details of the history of astronomical science, we may notice that in more recent times astronomical discoveries have been closely connected with high mechanical skill in the construction of instruments of precision. The telescope has enormously increased the catalogue of the fixed stars, or those · landmarks of the universe,' as Sir John Herschel terms them, 'which never deceive the astronomer, navigator, or surveyor.' The number of known planets and asteroids has also been greatly enlarged. The discovery of Uranus resulted immediately from the perfection attained by Sir William Herschel in the construction of his telescope. More recently, the structure of the nebulæ has been unfolded through the application to their study of the colossal telescope of Lord Rosse.
“Our knowledge of the physical constitution of the central body of our system seems likely, at the present time, to be much increased. The spots on the sun's disk were noticed by Galileo and his contem