the accounts of Livy, Dionysios, and other writers, had also carefully read Sir Cornewall Lewis's analysis and criticism of the history, and then should ask what evidence of facts there might be for Mr. Rawlinson's version, or why he should follow Mr. Rawlinson rather than Sir Cornewall Lewis, who, at all events, wrote like an honest man, and made no attempt to explain away difficulties, or 'keep them out of sight? If such an inquirer were to insist on a straightforward reply, and on the production of the evidence which should establish this account of the Decemvirate, would either reply or evidence be forthcoming ? If in such a case Mr. Rawlinson should be compelled to keep silence, the publication of his work becomes in the interests of historical learning, if not of far higher things, a cause for grave regret. To Mr. Rawlinson himself we have no wish to impute the slightest wilful or conscious dishonesty ; but so long as men will write history without knowing or realising the difference between fact and fiction, so long must they who see that truth has been set at nought, raise their protests against a method which will yield as its results a mere pretence of knowledge without the reality.

By Dr.

ART. VII.-1. The Life and Letters of Faraday.

BENCE JONES, Secretary of the Royal Institution. Second

edition. 1870.2 Vol % 2. Faraday as a Discoverer. By John Tyndall. New

edition. 1870. 3. Éloge historique de Michel Faraday. Par M. DUMAS,

Secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie des Sciences. Paris :

1868. FARADAY, it has been truly said, was Davy's greatest dis

covery. Faraday, the blacksmith's son,--the bookbinder's apprentice - the pure, humble-minded seeker after truth,-the

, greatest experimentalist whom the world has yet seen. It is easy from the life of such a man to collect many topics of interest, and to obtain many useful subjects for reflection. But to give a true and complete picture of the man Faraday-to place his high and simple character, his tender heart, his quick imagination, his powerful intellect, in a clear light—is a task of no ordinary difficulty. Whilst to form an unbiassed judgment upon his great scientific labours and to fix the exact position he will ultimately occupy in the ranks of science is now scarcely possible for even the most distinguished amongst his fellow


workers. Michael Faraday is still to these a living word; they have known him and loved him; they have watched the flashing of his eye and the working of his face as he explained his discoveries; and the mellow tones of his kind voice still ring in their ears.

It is not therefore to the present generation of men of science that we can look for the true estimate of Faraday's work. Death, with destroying fingers,' must still be active before the cold unimpassioned critic can weigh to the exact scruple the measure of this great man's life. Let it be enough for us to endeavour simply to give an impression, in the first place of the man himself, and then of his most important labours. For the material needed in the first portion of this task we are almost wholly indebted to Dr. Bence Jones's admirable work, · The Life and Letters of Faraday,' written by one who knew him intimately and to whom every memory of Faraday is dear. In these two volumes we find a most perfect description of his character and of his daily life, from his first entrance as a labourer in the field of science in 1812 until he peacefully lay down to rest, at Hampton Court, on August 25th, 1867. Here, too, we find records of his scientific work, often given in his own words ; so that these, taken together with extracts from his lectures and selections from his letters, form a picture of his life which may be almost looked upon as an autobiography:

That his biographer felt keenly the difficulty of writing a life of Faraday is seen from the following words in the Preface; and the task could not have well fallen into abler hands, nor could it easily have been more satisfactorily accomplished.

* To write a life of Faraday,' says Dr. Bence Jones, seemed to me at first a hopeless work. Although I had listened to him as a lecturer for thirty years and had been with him frequently for upwards of twenty years, and although for more than fifteen years he had known me as one of his most intimate friends, yet my knowledge of him made me feel that he was too good a man for me to estimate rightly, and that he was too great a philosopher for me to understand thoroughly.'

In order to help us in tracing the scientific triumphs of his outwardly uneventful life, we could not have better guides than Professor Tyndall's lectures on Faraday as a Discoverer, and Monsieur Dumas' eloquent Éloge before the French Academy of Sciences on the event of Faraday's death. In both of these we find the work well done by able as well as by loving hands. No living man is more competent than Dr. Tyndall to give an account of Faraday's scientific labours ; he knew Faraday (at any rate in his later years) more intimately than VOL, CXXXII. NO. CCLXIX.




A year

any other man of science; their investigations lay much in the same direction, whilst in both we see that intense love of nature which is the true mark of a scientific spirit.

Michael Faraday was born at Newington, in Surrey, on September 22, 1791. His father afterwards worked as a blacksmith at Boyd's, in Welbeck Street, and when Michael was about five years old, the family removed to rooms over a coachhouse in Jacob's Well Mews, Charles Street, Manchester Square. This was the home of Faraday for ten years, and he has himself pointed out where he used to play at marbles in Spanish Place, and where, years later, he nursed his little sister in Manchester Square. My education,' he says, ' was of the

' • most ordinary description, consisting of little more than the • rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, at a common

day school; my hours out of school were passed at home and in the streets.' In 1804, when thirteen years of


he went on trial as shopboy to Mr. Riebau, a bookseller then carrying on business at 2 Blandford Street, close to the mews. later he was apprenticed, and in consideration of his faithful • service no premium is given.' Dr. Bence Jones tells a story which at once gives us an insight into Faraday's heart. Long after he was famous, as he was walking with his niece they met a news-boy: 'I always feel a tenderness for those boys,' said he, because I once carried newspapers myself.'

Four years later (1809), his father writes of him : Michael is bookbinder and stationer, and is very active in learning his * business . . . he likes his place well; he had a hard time for * some while at first going; but, as the old saying goes, he has • rather got the head above water, as there is (sic) two other • boys under him.' That from these earliest years Faraday showed a thirst for knowledge and a taste for experiment is seen from the following remarks made by himself :

"V Whilst an apprentice I loved to read scientific books which were under my hands, and, amongst them, delighted in Marcet's “ Conversa“ tions in Chemistry," and the electrical treatises in the “ Encyclopædia “ Britannica.” I made such simple experiments in chemistry as could be defrayed in their expense hy a few penee per week, and also constructed an electrical machine, first with a glass phial, and afterwards with a real cylinder, as well as other electrical apparatus of a corresponding kind. He told a friend that Watts. On the Mind' first made him think, and that his attention was turned to science by the article • Electricity,' in an encyclopædia he was employed to bind.

My master,' he says, "allowed me to go occasionally of an evening



to hear the lectures delivered by Mr. Tatum, on Natural Philosophy, at his house, 53 Dorset Street, Fleet Street. I obtained a knowledge of these lectures by bills in the streets and shop-windows near his house. The hour was eight o'clock in the evening. The charge was one shilling per lecture, and my brother Robert (who was three years older and followed his father's business) made me a present of the money for several.'

A commonplace book, termed the 'Philosophical Miscellany,' was kept by Faraday at this time, 'intended,' he says, 'to * promote both amusement and instruction, and also to corrobo• rate or invalidate those theories which are continually starting ' into the world of science. Collected by M. Faraday, 1809-10. In this book we find notices of all sorts, chiefly, however, relating to scientific matters, some showing a true perception of the importance of scientific discoveries. Thus one article is headed Galvanism. Mr. Davy has announced to the Royal • Society a great discovery in chemistry—the fixed alkalies have

been decomposed by the galvanic battery. It is interesting to hear from his own lips the story of his first visit to the Royal Institution, so long the scene of his labours and triumphs :

. During my apprenticeship I had the good fortune, through the kindness of Mr. Dance, who was a customer of my master's shop and also a member of the Royal Institution, to hear four of the last lectures of Sir H. Davy in that locality.* The dates of these lectures were February 29th, March 14th, April 8th and 10th, 1812. Of these I made notes, and then wrote out the lectures in a fuller form, interspersing them with such drawings as I could make. The desire to be engaged in scientific occupation, even though of the lowest kind, induced me, whilst an apprentice, to write, in my ignorance of the world and simplicity of my mind, to Sir Joseph Banks, then President of the Royal Society. Naturally enough, " no answer" was the reply left with the porter.'

Next follows in Dr. Bence Jones's Life a long series of letters written at this time to young Abbott, a friend somewhat younger than Faraday, and his superior in school attainments. These letters are invaluable as showing his thoughts when, as he says, he was giving up trade and taking to science. The following extract will serve to show that the Biographer truly estimates the remarkable character of these early letters when he says:

* It is difficult to believe that they were written by one who had been a newspaper-boy and who was still a bookbinder's apprentice, not yet twenty-one years of age, and whose only education had been the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Had they been written

* He always sat in the gallery over the clock.

by a highly-educated gentleman, they would have been remarkable for the easy correctness and fluency of their style, and for the courtesy, kindness, candour, deference, and even humility of the thoughts which they contain.'

The following extract from his first letter to Abbott shows how he began to educate himself in experiment, and how all his thoughts were directed towards science :

*I have lately made a few simple galvanic experiments, merely to illustrate to myself the first principles of the science. I was going to Knight's to obtain some nickel, and bethought me that they had malleable zinc. I inquired and bought some—have you seen any yet? The first portion I obtained was in the thinnest pieces possible--observe, in a flattened state. It was, they informed me, thin enough for the electric stick, or, as I before called it, De Luc's electric column. I obtained it for the purpose of forming discs, with which and copper to make a little battery. The first I completed contained the immense number of seven pairs of plates !!! and of the immense size of halfpence each !!!!!!

'I, sir, I my own self, cut out seven discs of the size of halfpennies each! I, sir, covered them with seven halfpence, and I interposed between, seven, or rather six, pieces of paper soaked in a solution of muriate of soda!!! But laugh no longer, dear A., rather wonder at the effects this trivial power produced. It was sufficient to produce the decomposition of sulphate of magnesia-—an effect which extremely surprised me; for I did not, could not, have any idea that the agent was competent to the purpose.'

In another letter written shortly after he says:

• I cannot see any subject except chlorine to write on. Be not surprised, my dear A., at the ardour with which I have embraced this new theory. I have seen Davy himself support it. I have seen him exhibit experiments (conclusive experiments) explanatory of it; and I have heard him apply these experiments to the theory, and explain and enforce them in (to me) an irresistible manner. Conviction, sir, struck me, and I was forced to believe him, and with that belief came admiration.' This admiration for scientific research and for the philosopher who was then startling Europe with his discoveries so worked upon the mind of the journeyman bookbinder, that under the

encouragement of Mr. Dance' (who had taken him to Davy's lectures), I wrote to Sir Humphry, sending, as a proof of ‘my earnestness, the notes I had taken of his last four lectures.' • My desire,' he wrote some years afterwards to Dr. Paris, was to escape from trade, which I thought vicious and selfish,

and to enter into the service of science, which I imagined * made its pursuers amiable and liberal.' The answer (to Davy's honour) was immediate, kind, and favourable.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »