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streets, at other times the blindness was almost total, and this state of things lasted for nearly thirteen years.
This dreadful calamity seemed to make it impossible to continue any systematic course of study, and the outlook for satisfactory work of any sort was extremely discouraging. The first necessity was medical assistance, and in quest of this Mr. Youmans came in the autumn of 1839 to New York, where for the most part he spent the remainder of his life. Until 1851 he was under the care of an oculist. Under such circumstances, if a man of eager energy and boundless intellectual craving were to be overwhelmed with despondency, we could not call it strange. If he were to become dependent upon friends for the means of support, it would be ungracious if not unjust to blame him. But Edward Youmans was not made of the stuff that acquiesces in defeat. He rose superior to calamity, he won the means of livelihood, and in darkness entered upon the path to an enviable fame. At first he had to resign himself to spending weary weeks over tasks that with sound eye-sight could have been dispatched in as many days. He invented some kind of writing-machine which held his paper firmly and enabled his pen to follow straight lines at proper distances apart. Long practice of this sort gave his handwriting a peculiar character which it retained in later years. When I first saw it in 1863 it seemed almost undecipherable; but that was far from being the case, and, after I had grown used to it, I found it but little less legible than the most beautiful chirography. The strokes, gnarled and jagged as they were, had a method in their madness, and every pithy sentence went straight as an arrow to its mark.
While conquering these physical obstacles Mr. Youmans began writing for the press, and gradually entered into relations with leading newspapers which became more and more important and useful as years went on. He became acquainted with Horace Greeley, William Henry Channing, and other gentlemen who were interested in social reforms. His sympathies were strongly enlisted with the little party of abolitionists, then held in such scornful disfavor by all other parties. He was also interested in the party of temperance, which, as he and others were afterward to learn, compounded for its essential uprightness of purpose by indulging in very gross intemperance of speech and action. The disinterestedness which always characterized him was illustrated by his writing many articles for a temperance paper which could not afford to pay its contributors, although he was struggling with such disadvantages in earning his own livelihood and carrying on his scientific studies. Those were days when leading reformers believed that by some cunningly contrived alteration of social arrangements our human nature, with all its inheritance from countless ages of brutality, can somehow be made over all in a moment, just as one would go to work with masons and carpenters and revamp a house. There are many good people who still labor under such a delusion.
Though Mr. Youmans was brought into frequent contact with reformers of this sort, it does not seem to me that his mind was ever deeply impressed with such ways of thinking. Science is teaching us that the method of evolution is that mill of God, of which we have heard, which, while it grinds with infinite efficacy, yet grinds .with wearisome slowness. It was Mr. Darwin's discovery of natural selection which first brought this truth home to us; but Sir Charles Lyell had in 1830 shown how enormous effects are wrought by the cumulative action of slight and unobtrusive causes, and this had much to do with turning men's minds toward some conception of evolution. It was about 1847 that Mr. Youmans was deeply interested in the work of geologists, as well as in the nebular theory, to which recent discoveries were adding fresh confirmation. Some time before this he had read that famous book, Vestiges of Creation, and, although Prof. Agassiz truly declared that it was an unscientific book crammed with antiquated and exploded fancies, I suspect that Mr. Youmans felt that amid all the chaff there was a very sound and sturdy kernel of truth.
Among the books which Mr. Youmans projected at this time, the first was a compendious history of progress in discovery and invention; but, after he had made extensive preparations, a book was published so similar in scope and treatment that he abandoned the undertaking. Another work was a treatise on arithmetic, on a new and philosophical plan; but, when this was approaching completion, he again found himself anticipated, this time by the book of Horace Mann. This was discouraging enough, but a third venture resulted in brilliant success. We have observed the eagerness with which, as a school-boy, Mr. Youmans entered upon the study of chemistry. His interest in this science grew with years, and he devoted himself to it so far as was practicable. For a blind man to carry on the study of a science which is preeminently one of observation and experiment might seem hopeless. It was at any rate absolutely necessary to see with the eyes of others if not with his own. Here the assistance rendered by his sister was invaluable. During most of this period she served as amanuensis and reader for him. But, more than this, she kept up for some time a course of laboratory work, the results of which were minutely described to her brother and discussed with him in the evenings. The lectures of Dr. John William Draper on chemistry were also thoroughly discussed and pondered.
The conditions under which Mr. Youmans worked made it necessary for him to consider every point with the extreme deliberation involved in framing distinct mental images of things and processes which he could not watch with the eye. It was hard discipline, but he doubtless profited from it. Nature had endowed him with an unusually clear head, but this enforced method must have made it still clearer. One of the most notable qualities of his mind was the absolute luminousness with which he saw things and the relations among things. It was this quality that made him so successful as an expounder of scientific truths. In the course of his pondering over chemical facts which he was obliged to take at second hand, it occurred to him that most of the pupils in common schools who studied chemistry were practically no better off. It was easy enough for schools to buy textbooks, but difficult for them to provide laboratories and apparatus; and it was much easier withal to find teachers who could ask questions out of a book than those who could use apparatus if provided. It was customary, therefore, to learn chemistry by rote; or, in other words, pupils' heads were crammed with unintelligible statements about things with queer names-such as manganese or tellurium-which they had never seen, and would not know if they were to see them. It occurred to Mr. Youmans that, if visible processes could not be brought before pupils, at any rate the fundamental conceptions of chemistry might be made clear by means of diagrams. He began devising diagrams in different colors, to illustrate the diversity in the atomic weights of the principal elements, and the composition of the more familiar compounds. At length, by uniting his diagrams, he obtained a comprehensive chart exhibiting the outlines of the whole scheme of chemical combination according to the binary or dualist theory then in vogue. This chart, when published, was a great success. It not only facilitated the acquirement of clear ideas, but it was suggestive of new ideas. It proved very popular, and kept the field until the binary theory was overthrown by the modern doctrine of substitution, which does not lend itself so readily to graphic treatment.
The success of the chemical chart led to the writing of a textbook of chemistry. This laborious work was completed in 1851, when Mr. Youmans was thirty years old. Prof. Silliman was then regarded as one of our foremost authorities in chemistry, but it was at once remarked of the new book that it showed quite as thorough a mastery of the whole subject of chemical combination as Silliman's. It was a text-book of a kind far less common then than now. There was nothing dry about it. The subject was presented with beautiful clearness, in a most attractive style. There was a firm grasp of the philosophical principles underlying chemical phenomena, and the meaning and functions of the science were set forth in such a way as to charm the student and make him wish for more. The book had an immediate and signal success; in after-years it was twice rewritten by the author, to accommodate it to the rapid advances made by the science, and it is still one of our best text-books of chemistry. It has had a sale of about one hundred and fifty thousand copies.
The publication of this book at once established its author's reputation as a scientific writer, and in another way it marked an era in his life. The long, distressing period of darkness now came to an end. Sight was so far recovered in one eye that it became possible to go about freely, to read, to recognize friends, to travel, and make much of life. I am told that his face had acquired an expression characteristic of the blind, but that expression was afterward completely lost. When I knew him it would never have occurred to me that his sight was imperfect, except perhaps as regards length of range.
Mr. Youmans's career as a scientific lecturer now began. His first lecture was the beginning of a series on the relations of organic life to the atmosphere. It was illustrated with chemical apparatus, and was given in a private room in New York to an audience which filled the room. Probably no lecturer ever faced his first audience without some trepidation, and Mr. Youmans had not the main-stay and refuge afforded by a manuscript, for his sight was never good enough to make such an aid available for his lectures. At first the right words were slow in finding their way to those ready lips, and his friends were beginning to grow anxious, when all at once a happy accident broke the spell. He was remarking upon the characteristic instability of nitrogen, and pointing to a jar of that gas on the table before him, when some fidgety movement of his knocked the jar off the table. He improved the occasion with one of his quaint bons mots, and, as there is nothing that greases the wheels of life like a laugh, the lecture went on to a successful close.
This was the beginning of a busy career of seventeen years of lecturing, ending in 1868; and I believe it is safe to say that few things were done in all those years of more vital and lasting benefit to the American people than this broadcast sowing of the seeds of scientific thought in the lectures of Edward Youmans. They came just at the time when the world was ripe for the doctrine of evolution, when all the wondrous significance of the trend of scientific discovery since Newton's time was beginning to burst upon men's minds. The work of Lyell in geology, followed at length in 1859 by the Darwinian theory; the doctrine of the correlation of forces and the consequent unity of nature; the extension and reformation of chemical theory; the simultaneous advance made in sociological inquiry, and in the conception of the true aims and proper methods of education—all this made the period a most fruitful one for the peculiar work of such a teacher as Youmans. The intellectual atmosphere was charged with conceptions of evolution. Mr. Youmans had arrived at such conceptions in the course of his study of the separate lines of scientific speculation which were now about to be summed up and organized by Herbert Spencer into that system of philosophy which marks the highest point to which the progressive intelligence of mankind has yet attained. In the field of scientific generalization upon this great scale, Mr. Youmans was not an originator; but his broadly sympathetic and luminous mind moved on a plane so near to that of the originators that he seized at once upon the grand scheme of thought as it was developed, made it his own, and brought to its interpretation and diffusion such a happy combination of qualities as one seldom meets with. The ordinary popularizer of great and novel truths is a man who comprehends them but partially and illustrates them in a lame and fragmentary way. But it was the peculiarity of Mr. Youmans that, while on the one hand he could grasp the newest scientific thought so surely and firmly that he seemed to have entered into the innermost mind of its author, on the other hand he could speak to the general public in a convincing and stimulating way that had no parallel. This was the secret of his power, and there can be no question that his influence in educating the American people to receive the doctrine of evolution was great and wide-spread.
The years when Mr. Youmans was traveling and lecturing were the years when the old lyceum system of popular lectures was still in its vigor. The kind of life led by the energetic lecturer in those days was not that of a Sybarite, as may be seen from a passage in one of his letters: “I lectured in Sandusky, and had to get up at five o'clock to reach Elyria; I had had but very little sleep. To get from Elyria to Pittsburg I must take the five o'clock morning train, and the hotel darkey said he would try to awaken me. I knew what that meant, and so did not get a single wink of sleep that night. Rode all day to Pittsburg, and had to lecture in the great Academy of Music over foot-lights. . . . The train that left for Zanesville departed at two in the morning. I had been assured a hundred times (for I asked everybody I met) that I would get a sleeping-car to Zanesville, and, when I was all ready to start, I was informed that this morning there was no sleeping-car. By the time I reached here I was pretty completely used up."
Such a fatiguing life, however, has its compensations. It brings the lecturer into friendly contact with the brightest minds among his fellow-countrymen in many and many places, and en