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PROFESSOR YOUNG OP BELFAST.
We have often speculated as to what kind of an external visage this celebrated Professor could bear, and from which of the ancient races he had sprung; for the man who could write so many works, write them so much to the purpose, and write them with the dispatch of a power-loom, we feel convinced can be no common personage. We have asked if he were tall; and, recollecting the nursery phrase, 'long and lazy,' we felt convinced that the Professor could not rise above six feet in altitude, and was most probably one inch per foot short of that. We have asked if he were portly; and, recollecting that obesity of body is usually attended with obesity of mind, we felt convinced that he was not a fifteenstone man, but more probably as slender as Lord John himself. Again, as to lineage; he was too open and candid for a Scotchman; too uniformly reasonable to be a native of the green isle; and hence we can only infer that he is transplanted from our own shores—a missionary of science to a land whose dearth of real learning is a proverb and a byword. It may be well that whilst our inscrutable Premier is so generous to Maynooth, he should also confer some slight addition to the paltry grant for Belfast and the Presbyterians.t Nous verrons—and proceed to our purpose.
Professor Young published the first edition of his Algebra, which was the first of his long series of works on the elementary and the higher mathematics, about a quarter of a century ago; and here we have a fourth edition of it. In his first edition, he was the first to notice, in an elementary form, the method of solving numerical equations by continuous approximation, which had only just been made public, and not then made public but in a form too abstruse for general understanding. Amidst all his other labours, this has been with him “ a labour of love;' and, except to Horner himself, there is no one to whom so much is due for the completion of this important problem. It is in his works alone that the student can obtain a complete view of the problem in all its bearings, and in its most improved state.
• An Elementary Treatise on Algebra, 4th edition. Souter and Law, London.
+ He ought also to insist that those sums should be paid at the times when they are due, instead of six or nine months after, as we have from various sources heard is the case at present. It is disgraceful that money voted by Parliament for the payment of such duties should be kept back for the private uses of any set of officials - perhaps to be gambled with in railway sharesthrough whose hands it has to pass.
We have been led to notice this work, and to pay our tribute of respect to Professor Young, not from the class of works, superior as they are to all the English courses of mathematics, which we are acquainted with for the purposes of general education, but from having been much struck with his discussion of a question which has agitated the philosophic world for the greater part of a century-namely, Hume's celebrated Argument on Miracles. Every one feels that there is a sophism lurking somewhere in the argument, and many different attempts to expose it have been made: but we think that this will be found identical with numberless other sophisms which have crept into discussions regarding the nature of human certainty, and the force of circumstantial evidence.
The germ of Young's argument is due to that incompara ingenious thinker, Mr. Babbage; but Babbage had committed an oversight which very materially enlarged the number of direct and independent witnesses required to render an event more probable than improbable. The assignment of the true number by Professor Young, in the work before us, will render it one of interest to the theologian as well as to the metaphysician. We add the conclusion here; but must refer to the work itself for the investigation, which is mathematically valid in all its parts :
Any number of witnesses greater than twelve, whose veracity is such that they tell only one falsehood to nine truths, testifying to the truth of an event, the improbability of whose occurrence is a million to one, renders that event more likely to have occurred than not.'
If mathematicians would only contrive to throw an interest into their researches such as Professor Young takes every opportunity of doing in all his works, the study of the exact sciences' would not be so repulsive as most treatises tend to make it: and we are sure that those young men who are desirous of pursuing the study, and who shall be so fortunate as to fall in with this gentleman's works, will find it far from difficult, with fair application, to accomplish their purpose in a reasonable period.
The art of reasoning is more favourable to truth than to fluency. Hence women, who seldom study logic or observe its rules in discourse, if not so accurate, are generally more ready and conversational than men.
The impressions of infancy are not easily eradicated. Like the mole in the skin or the knot in the oak, they grow with its growth, and strengthen with its strength.
A GLANCE AT English LITERATURE AND ACADEMICAL
BY A SCOTCHMAN,
We have heard so much of late years about the march of intellect and the schoolmaster being abroad, that we are almost tempted to suspect either that the march must have been a very slow one, or that the gifted ex-Chancellor's schoolmaster must have been leading it in a wrong course, otherwise we should by this time have become a nation of philosophers. Seriously, however, the many' have now increased facilities for the acquirement of a sufficiency of education to form a groundwork, at least, on which to lay necessary secular information. There is, besides, no want of Mechanics’ Institutions,' Libraries of Useful Knowledge, ' and Information for the People,' or of lectures on every subject, from animal magnetism to political economy. We cannot, however, be unobservant of the fact that, amongst so many, the 'horribly exciting class of works is most in demand; and whether it be owing to such a course of reading, or to the desire for excitement engendered by popular evening lectures, the superior attraction possessed by the prelections on the subjects of socialism and the rights of man affords evidence, we fear, that while many of that class may have attained a certain amount of very superficial learning, they yet have not generally possessed themselves of a supply of moral knowledge to form a substratum for it; nor have the effects of their present popular system of education been developed in the increased happiness or improved demeanour of the working classes as a body.
But are these remarks alone applicable to the literary gusto of those in the humbler walks of society? We wish we could reply in the affirmative; the only material difference, in our opinion, being, that in its other grades it may perchance be less injurious in its consequences. We would designate this the age of immediate utility and enjoyment, and we deceive ourselves egregiously if we imagine that these ruling and absorbing motives will not insinuate themselves into the very literature of the country by which they are fostered, We will not, in the nineteenth century, receive instruction except through a medium of pleasure or amusement, and hence it is that talent has condescended to pander to the vitiated taste of the day by the production of literary works, the bulk of which serve but to pass an idle hour, while the perusal of many of them has a tendency to enfeeble the mental energies and to deteriorate the feelings of the heart.
We readily admit that there never existed, at any period of England's history, so much literary talent of a mediocre quality, or we might justly say of a quality somewhat more elevated than mediocrity, while we, at the same time, confidently maintain that there never was a greater paucity of men of profound genius devoting themselves to the pursuits of literature, notwithstanding the fascinations of her paths, and powerful as are her means for good or for evil to mankind. There are unquestionably names at present associated with the literature of England which would have shed a lustre on that of any country at any period, but still that lustre would, we humbly opine, have tended more to dazzle and to charm than to enlighten and instruct the public mind; while there is now, moreover, a legion of remarkably clever literateurs in this country whose emanations are always sparkling, though generally of a dubious, and oftentimes of a decidedly pernicious, tendency. That this is no exaggerated statement of the literary characteristics of the present day will, we think, be pretty generally admitted. The blinding motives which now lead more than ever, we fear, to the worship of the 'molten calf,' have likewise been greatly instrumental in lowering the aim, as well as the standard, of literature and learning in this country. To this point, however, we will return in the
But is there no fundamental cause for this leaning of the public taste, to a course of literature and study so little calculated to purify and elevate the mind? For our own part we think there is. According to our humble judgment, the evil originated in high places. In those very seats of learning which are mainly valuable in maintaining its standard and directing its moral tendency. It was not until those men who, in accepting the chairs in our universities, virtually undertook to devote themselves to the acquirement of knowledge—it was not till these men were so far carried away from their almost sacred undertaking, as occasionally, at least, to bow the knee to that very molten calf which has now, alas ! so many followers, even amongst the good and the wise-until the learned teachers of our universities began, more or less, to luxuriate in general studies, and to make their literary acquirements contribute to the public amusement from sordid motives, that their teaching had, by losing its savour, lost also its power to interest the student. And while the college luminary of a former day applied himself almost exclusively to the advancement of the peculiar branch of science or philosophy to which he had devoted his faculties, there were always a few, a limited few even then, who caught VOL. I.NO. VIII.
the inspiration of his genius; and thus it was that classical literature had a real existence amongst the select few, and a more or less partial one in the minds of many accomplished men. But a change has come over the state of the higher seats of learning, and one consequence of this appears in the gradually lowered standard of public taste, as now evinced by the demand for productions which, ephemeral as their existence may be, is of sufficient continuance to leave their injurious effects on those minds not much accustomed to distinguish their tendencies; and the probable consequence becomes year by year more serious to contemplate. We speak advisedly when we state, that when several of the chairs of our universities are vacant, it will in many cases be difficult to get them again filled in a manner at all beneficial or satisfactory, while in one or two departments it will be next to impossible. Science and classical learning are both in danger. Greek literature has at present no existence in England, and it would be a difficult task to find men so well acquainted even with the Greek language as those who formerly filled the Greek chairs in our least important provincial universities. It is fresh in our recollection, that when the extreme youth of the lamented Sir Daniel Sandford was alluded to as an objection to his getting the Glasgow University chair, it was triumphantly demanded by his supporters where one equally qualified could be found of mature years. Then, look to the Édinburgh College, hitherto, in its philosophical sections at least, second only to our two great national universities. A vacancy lately occurred in the chemistry chair, and although it is at once a lucrative appointment and an object of ambition, without injustice to the candidates who entered the field, we may affirm that few of them were worthy to occupy a chair formerly filled by such men as Black or Hope. But we need not multiply instances evincing the comparative absence of profound learning in this country. We have but to look to the new colleges of the metropolis, as well as to those of the capitals of the sister kingdoms, to discover several recent appointments which would not have taken place if better qualified men could have been found. But that golden deity already alluded to is ever in the way. No man will now allow his son to devote himself to Greek if he can prevent him doing so, for the study is not a lucrative one! and if a youth feels the bent of his genius to be for chemistry, his sire will only consent to his following it on account of that science being now more profitable in a pecuniary point, by being more generally in use as applied to manufactures.
Having brought the reader to this point of our subject, we