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6. “Then I will drop,” said the trusting Flake;
7. “ And if true to thy word and just thou art,
LESSON LXV. Progress of Discovery during the Last Half Century. –
ALTERED FROM THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. 1. We live in an age of wonders, and the last half century has witnessed a succession of the most mighty events and the most astounding discoveries which have ever been made, at least, during any other such period in the world's history.
2. Let us look back to the beginning of this century, and see what mighty works have been done by inventors since that time. In 1800 there was not a single steamboat in the world. Our inland seas and noble rivers were lying grand and silent in primeval loneliness, except when enlivened by the clumsy batteau, or the rude flat-boat.
3. In 1807, Fulton launched the Clermont, which made a passage to Albany in thirty-two hours. At that time the mode of travel was by schooners and sloops, which were frequently six days on the passage. The improvement was certainly great; but what would Fulton now say, to see steamboats running the same distance in eight hours, and some of them large enough to stow the Clermont on their forward decks!
Ă. No steamboat had broken the waters of the Mississippi, previous to 1815; the voyage from Cincinnati to New Or
leans was a tremendous undertaking, and occupied more time than a steamboat would now take to circumnavigate the globe. At present, it is calculated that there are no less than three thousand steamboats of all sizes in America, and the time saved to travelers, by the invention of the steamboat, is at least seventy per cent.; that is, a person can travel a greater distance in thirty days now, by steamboat, than he could in one hundred days, in 1800.
5. Just fancy Benjamin Franklin being almost wrecked in going from New York to Amboy, and the vessel which he was in occupying thirty-two hours on the passage, - a distance which is accomplished every day by our steamboats in an hour and a half;- a great change, truly! In Europe, steamboats were unknown until 1814, and no sea was regujarly navigated by steamboats until 1839.
6. The progress of marine navigation is remarkable. • In 1838 no steamship had ventured across the stormy Atlantic, to establish the practicability of ocean navigation. Now we have communication with Europe, by regular steam-packets, every week; and in proof of the advantages of steam navigation, our steamships have recently performed voyages in sixteen days, which have taken our finest sailing vessels from fifty to sixty days to accomplish.
7. If the last half century had given us no other invention than the steamboat, that alone, considering its importance, is enough to immortalize it. In 1800 there were no steamships in the wide world. Where is the country now where they are not seen, and where they are not exercising a most important influence ?
8. On the Hudson, on the Mississippi, on all our lakes, rivers and seas, and on all the oceans of the world. On that sea where the waters rolled up in walls to allow Moses and the Hebrews to pass dry-shod; on the ancient Nile, where Cleopatra's galley spread its silken sails to the breeze; on the Ganges and the Indus in the east, and the Sacramento in the west, there may be seen numerous monuments to the inventor of the steamboat. The steamship “rules the waves.”
The same subject, continued. 1. The steamboat is not the only important invention of the last half century; the progress of invention is just as
marked in other departments of discovery. Look at that iron horse, moving out of his stable, screaming and panting to start on his journey. That is the steam-engine in its most perfect state; it is a near approach to the spiritual and physical combination.
2. Behold how easily it drags the ponderous train at the rate of thirty miles per hour, thus conveying hundreds of pas sengers in comfort and safety, in an hour, to a distance which, but a few years ago, would take them nearly a whole day to accomplish by stages! Within three months, the Queen of England was transported from the interior of Scotland to London, a distance of four hundred miles, in ten hours. In 1800, the same journey could not be accomplished in less than eight days.
3. If the steamboat has revolutionized intercommunication by river and sea, the locomotive has done more to revolutionize travel by land. In 1800 there was not a single locomotive steam-engine in the world. On the 6th day of October, 1829, the Rocket ran on the Liverpool and Manchester railway, at the average rate of fifteen miles an hour.
4. In the United States there are now at least fifty-seven hundred miles of railway constructed, and there cannot be less than twenty thousand two hundred and fifty miles of railroad now in operation in Europe and America; neither Asia nor Africa can yet boast of a single line completed. What were the old Roman roads, in comparison to the foot-paths of our iron horses?
5. In 1835 there were only fifteen miles of railway in New York; now there are about fifteen hundred, and a traveler can journey as far in one day as he could formerly in eight. The wealth invested in railroads is enormous; their influence upon mankind, in every respect, is beyond calculation. But this grand invention is not the limit of the great discoveries made in our day.
6. Twenty years ago, who would have believed that the sunlight would be used for a limner's pencil ? Not one; and yet this has been done. In 1839, when M. Daguerre, a distinguished chemist of Paris, first published his discovery of a method of taking pictures on metal plates by means of the light of the sun, the public regarded his assertion with feelings of incredibility.
7. And if this discovery has not produced so important results, nor affected the state of society so much, as the steanships and railways, still it is a beautiful and wonderful invention ; and the time may not be far distant when it wil! be available in the representation of the wonders of the heavens.
8. Among the grand discoveries of the last half century, the electric telegraph stands out in bold relief. It has given to man the power of transmitting his thoughts to his fellowman, thousands of miles distant, in a few seconds. Electricity leaves the thunderbolt in the sky, and, like Mercury dismissed from Olympus, acts as letter-carrier and message-boy."
9. In 1837, when Morse first proclaimed that he could send messages by electricity to any distance, wise people shrugged their shoulders, and regarded the assertion as an absurdity. And when the proposal was before Congress, in 1843, to appropriate thirty thousand dollars to test this new system of telegraphing, it met with sternly determined opposition even from those who are conservatives in nothing but scientific discovery.
10. In 1843, the first line of telegraph in our country was completed between Washington and Baltimore, and since that time the progress of telegraph lines has been most surprising, if anything can now surprise us in the shape of discovery. All the important cities in our union are now linked together by the lightning tracks; and wherever we travel, there we behold, suspended on slender poles, those attenuated threads, along which the lightning speeds with messages of love, of hope, of joy, or of fear.
11. The telegraph has produced most astonishing changes in the modes of conducting business. A few years ago, the news for the daily papers, even from small distances, was procured at great trouble and expense. Now, a steamship arrives at Halifax, Boston, or New York, in the morning, and the European news is published in the New Orleans papers in the evening. The speeches delivered in the halls of Congress to-day, will be read to-morrow in the newspapers of all our important cities. Our astronomers, pale watchers of the rolling spheres,” employ the lightning pen also to register their observations.
The same subject, concluded. 1. The whole science of Voltaism, electro-magnetism, and electrotyping, are trophies of the discoveries made during the
last fifty years. Volta's letter to Sir Joseph Banks, announcing the discovery of the Voltaic pile, is dated March 20, 1800. The splendid discovery of the electro-magnet, by Oersted, is dated 1821 ; and the beautiful art of electrotyping, by which electricity is made to educe the metals from their liquid solution, and copy, with the greatest accuracy,
the most delicate engravings, is but a few years
old. 2. Electro-magnetism has been employed to separate metals from their ores, to drive machinery, and to suspend huge bars of iron in the air. What it may accomplish in future times (for there are still mysteries connected with it) it is not possible to predict.
3. Before the beginning of this century, what was the printing-press, in comparison with what it now is? A few years ago, there was not a single press driven by steam; now there is not a paper with a large circulation printed without it. A few years ago, the best-constructed press could throw off but three or four thousand impressions in an hour. The latest improved press can now print ten thousand, and the time is at hand when a single press will throw off sixteen thousand, in the same time.* The improvements in other departments of typography have been equally striking and beneficial.
4. In what may be termed minor machines, the inventions and improvements have not been of minor importance. Fifteen years ago, pins were all made by hand. Each pin was composed of more than one piece, and several persons were required to finish a single pin. A machine now completes the operation from beginning to end. In Waterbury, Conn., one million and thirty thousand pins are finished every day. The machinery for counting and sticking the pins in papers is equally ingenious.
*5. The improvements made during the last half century in all kinds of machinery for manufacturing flexible fabrics would require volumes to describe them, in all their numberless variations. The most beautiful carpets, with the most intricate patterns, are woven by machinery driven by water or by steam.
6. Iron fingers are made to raise the figures with more accuracy and speed than those of the most skillful weaver. In some departments of manufacture, improvements have succeeded one another with such rapidity, that one set of
* Col. Hoe, of New York, has already constructed a press which throws off twenty thousand impressions in an hour.