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´╗┐Title: Reflections on the Decline of Science in England
Author: Babbage, Charles, 1792-1871
Language: English
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By Charles Babbage






Of the causes which have induced me to print this volume I have little
to say; my own opinion is, that it will ultimately do some service
to science, and without that belief I would not have undertaken so
thankless a task. That it is too true not to make enemies, is an opinion
in which I concur with several of my friends, although I should hope
that what I have written will not give just reason for the permanence of
such feelings. On one point I shall speak decidedly, it is not connected
in any degree with the calculating machine on which I have been engaged;
the causes which have led to it have been long operating, and would have
produced this result whether I had ever speculated on that subject, and
whatever might have been the fate of my speculations.

If any one shall endeavour to account for the opinions stated in these
pages by ascribing them to any imagined circumstance peculiar to myself,
I think he will be mistaken. That science has long been neglected and
declining in England, is not an opinion originating with me, but is
shared by many, and has been expressed by higher authority than mine. I
shall offer a few notices on this subject, which, from their scattered
position, are unlikely to have met the reader's attention, and which,
when combined with the facts I have detailed in subsequent pages, will
be admitted to deserve considerable attention. The following extract
from the article Chemistry, in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, is from
the pen of a gentleman equally qualified by his extensive reading, and
from his acquaintance with foreign nations, to form an opinion entitled
to respect. Differing from him widely as to the cause, I may be
permitted to cite him as high authority for the fact.

"In concluding this most circumscribed outline of the History of
Chemistry, we may perhaps be allowed to express a faint shade of regret,
which, nevertheless, has frequently passed over our minds within the
space of the last five or six years. Admiring, as we most sincerely do,
the electro-magnetic discoveries of Professor Oersted and his followers,
we still, as chemists, fear that our science has suffered some degree
of neglect in consequence of them. At least, we remark that, during this
period, good chemical analyses and researches have been rare in England;
and yet, it must be confessed, there is an ample field for chemical
discovery. How scanty is our knowledge of the suspected fluorine! Are
we sure that we understand the nature of nitrogen? And yet these are
amongst our elements. Much has been done by Wollaston, Berzelius,
Guy-Lussac, Thenard, Thomson, Prout, and others, with regard to the
doctrine of definite proportions; but there yet remains the Atomic
Theory. Is it a representation of the laws of nature, or is it
not?"---CHEMISTRY, ENCYC. METROP. p.596.

When the present volume was considerably advanced, the public were
informed that the late Sir Humphry Davy had commenced a work, having the
same title as the present, and that his sentiments were expressed in the
language of feeling and of eloquence. It is to be hoped that it may be
allowed by his friends to convey his opinions to posterity, and that the
writings of the philosopher may enable his contemporaries to forget some
of the deeds of the President of the Royal Society.

Whatever may be the fate of that highly interesting document, we may
infer his opinions upon this subject from a sentiment expressed in his
last work:--

"--But we may in vain search the aristocracy now for
philosophers."----"There are very few persons who pursue science with
true dignity; it is followed more as connected with objects of profit
than those of fame."--SIR H. DAVY'S CONSOLATIONS IN TRAVEL.

The last authority which I shall adduce is more valuable, from the
varied acquirements of its author, and from the greater detail into
which he enters. "We have drawn largely, both in the present Essay, and
in our article on LIGHT, from the ANNALES DE CHEMIE, and we take this
ONLY opportunity distinctly to acknowledge our obligations to that most
admirably conducted work. Unlike the crude and undigested scientific
matter which suffices, (we are ashamed to say it) for the monthly and
quarterly amusement of our own countrymen, whatever is admitted into ITS
pages, has at least been taken pains with, and, with few exceptions, has
sterling merit. Indeed, among the original communications which
abound in it, there are few which would misbecome the first academical
collections; and if any thing could diminish our regret at the long
suppression of those noble memoirs, which are destined to adorn future
volumes of that of the Institute, it would be the masterly abstracts
of them which from time to time appear in the ANNALES, either from the
hands of the authors, or from the reports rendered by the committees
appointed to examine them; which latter, indeed, are universally models
of their kind, and have contributed, perhaps more than any thing, to the
high scientific tone of the French SAVANS. What author, indeed, but
will write his best, when he knows that his work, if it have merit, will
immediately be reported on by a committee, who will enter into all its
meaning; understand it, however profound: and, not content with MERELY
understanding it, pursue the trains of thought to which it leads; place
its discoveries and principles in new and unexpected lights; and bring
the whole of their knowledge of collateral subjects to bear upon it. Nor
ought we to omit our acknowledgement to the very valuable Journals of
Poggendorff and Schweigger. Less exclusively national than their Gallic
compeer, they present a picture of the actual progress of physical
science throughout Europe. Indeed, we have been often astonished to
see with what celerity every thing, even moderately valuable in the
scientific publications of this country, finds its way into their pages.
This ought to encourage our men of science. They have a larger audience,
and a wider sympathy than they are perhaps aware of; and however
disheartening the general diffusion of smatterings of a number of
subjects, and the almost equally general indifference to profound
knowledge in any, among their own countrymen, may be, they may rest
assured that not a fact they may discover, nor a good experiment they
may make, but is instantly repeated, verified, and commented upon, in
Germany, and, we may add too, in Italy. We wish the obligation were
mutual. Here, whole branches of continental discovery are unstudied,
and indeed almost unknown, even by name. It is in vain to conceal the
melancholy truth. We are fast dropping behind. In mathematics we have
long since drawn the rein, and given over a hopeless race. In
chemistry the case is not much letter. Who can tell us any thing of the
Sulfo-salts? Who will explain to us the laws of Isomorphism? Nay, who
among us has even verified Thenard's experiments on the oxygenated
acids,--Oersted's and Berzelius's on the radicals of the
earths,--Balard's and Serrulas's on the combinations of Brome,--and a
hundred other splendid trains of research in that fascinating science?
Nor need we stop here. There are, indeed, few sciences which would not
furnish matter for similar remark. The causes are at once obvious and
deep-seated; but this is not the place to discuss them."--MR. HERSCHEL'S

With such authorities, I need not apprehend much doubt as to the fact of
the decline of science in England: how far I may have pointed out some
of its causes, must be left to others to decide.

Many attacks have lately been made on the conduct of various scientific
bodies, and of their officers, and severe criticism has been lavished
upon some of their productions. Newspapers, Magazines, Reviews, and
Pamphlets, have all been put in requisition for the purpose. Odium has
been cast upon some of these for being anonymous. If a fact is to be
established by testimony, anonymous assertion is of no value; if it
can be proved, by evidence to which the public have access, it is of
no consequence (for the cause of truth) who produces it. A matter of
opinion derives weight from the name which is attached to it; but a
chain of reasoning is equally conclusive, whoever may be its author.

Perhaps it would be better for science, that all criticism should be
avowed. It would certainly have the effect of rendering it more matured,
and less severe; but, on the other hand, it would have the evil of
frequently repressing it altogether, because there exists amongst the
lower ranks of science, a "GENUS IRRITABILE," who are disposed to argue
that every criticism is personal. It is clearly the interest of all who
fear inquiries, to push this principle as far as possible, whilst those
whose sole object is truth, can have no apprehensions from the severest
scrutiny. There are few circumstances which so strongly distinguish the
philosopher, as the calmness with which he can reply to criticisms he
may think undeservedly severe. I have been led into these reflections,
from the circumstance of its having been stated publicly, that I was
the author of several of those anonymous writings, which were considered
amongst the most severe; and the assertion was the more likely to be
credited, from the fact of my having spoken a few words connected with
one of those subjects at the last anniversary of the Royal Society.
[I merely observed that the agreement made with the British Museum for
exchanging the Arundel MSS. for their duplicates, (which had just been
stated by the President,) was UNWISE;--because it was not to be expected
that many duplicates should be found in a library like that of the
Museum, weak in the physical and mathematical sciences: that it was
IMPROVIDENT and UNBUSINESSLIKE;--because it neither fixed the TIME
when the difference was to be paid, in case their duplicates should be
insufficient; nor did it appear that there were any FUNDS out of
which the money could be procured: and I added, that it would be more
advantageous to sell the MSS., and purchase the books we wanted with the
produce.] I had hoped in that diminutive world, the world of science, my
character had been sufficiently known to have escaped being the subject
of such a mistake; and, in taking this opportunity of correcting it, I
will add that, in the present volume, I have thought it more candid to
mention distinctly those whose line of conduct I have disapproved, or
whose works I have criticised, than to leave to the reader inferences
which he might make far more extensive than I have intended. I hope,
therefore, that where I have depicted species, no person will be so
unkind to others and unjust to me, as to suppose I have described

With respect to the cry against personality, which has been lately set
up to prevent all inquiry into matters of scientific misgovernment, a
few words will suffice.

I feel as strongly as any one, not merely the impropriety, but the
injustice of introducing private character into such discussions. There
is, however, a maxim too well established to need any comment of mine.
The public character of every public servant is legitimate subject
of discussion, and his fitness or unfitness for office may be fairly
canvassed by any person. Those whose too sensitive feelings shrink from
such an ordeal, have no right to accept the emoluments of office, for
they know that it is the condition to which all must submit who are paid
from the public purse.

The same principle is equally applicable to Companies, to Societies, and
to Academies. Those from whose pocket the salary is drawn, and by whose
appointment the officer was made, have always a right to discuss the
merits of their officers, and their modes of exercising the duties they
are paid to perform.

This principle is equally applicable to the conduct of a Secretary of
State, or to that of a constable; to that of a Secretary of the Royal
Society, or of an adviser to the Admiralty.

With respect to honorary officers, the case is in some measure
different. But the President of a society, although not recompensed by
any pecuniary remuneration, enjoys a station, when the body over which
he presides possesses a high character, to which many will aspire, who
will esteem themselves amply repaid for the time they devote to the
office, by the consequence attached to it in public estimation. He,
therefore, is answerable to the Society for his conduct in their chair.

There are several societies in which the secretaries, and other
officers, have very laborious duties, and where they are unaided by a
train of clerks, and yet no pecuniary remuneration is given to them.
Science is much indebted to such men, by whose quiet and unostentatious
labours the routine of its institutions is carried on. It would be
unwise, as well as ungrateful, to judge severely of the inadvertencies,
or even of the negligence of such persons: nothing but weighty causes
should justify such a course.

Whilst, however, I contend for the principle of discussion and inquiry
in its widest sense, because I consider it equally the safeguard of our
scientific as of our political institutions, I shall use it, I hope,
temperately; and having no personal feelings myself, but living in terms
of intercourse with almost all, and of intimacy with several of those
from whom I most widely differ, I shall not attempt to heap together
all the causes of complaint; but, by selecting a few in different
departments, endeavour to convince them that some alteration is
essentially necessary for the promotion of that very object which we
both by such different roads pursue.

I have found it necessary, in the course of this volume, to speak of the
departed; for the misgovernment of the Royal Society has not been
wholly the result of even the present race. It is said, and I think with
justice, in the life of Young, inserted amongst Dr. Johnson's, that the
famous maxim, "DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM," "appears to savour more of
female weakness than of manly reason." The foibles and the follies of
those who are gone, may, without injury to society, repose in oblivion.
But, whoever would claim the admiration of mankind for their good
actions, must prove his impartiality by fearlessly condemning their evil
deeds. Adopt the maxim, and praise to the dead becomes worthless, from
its universality; and history, a greater fable than it has been hitherto

Perhaps I ought to apologize for the large space I have devoted to the
Royal Society. Certainly its present state gives it no claim to that
attention; and I do it partly from respect for its former services,
and partly from the hope that, if such an Institution can be of use to
science in the present day, the attention of its members may be excited
to take steps for its restoration. Perhaps I may be blamed for having
published extracts from the minutes of its proceedings without the
permission of its Council. To have asked permission of the present
Council would have been useless. I might, however, have given the
substance of what I have extracted without the words, and no one could
then have reproached me with any infringement of our rules: but
there were two objections to that course. In the first place, it is
impossible, even for the most candid, in all cases, to convey precisely
the same sentiment in different language; and I thought it therefore
more fair towards those from whom I differed, as well as to the public,
to give the precise words. Again: had it been possible to make so
accurate a paraphrase, I should yet have preferred the risk of incurring
the reproach of the Royal Society for the offence, to escaping their
censure by an evasion. What I have done rests on my own head; and I
shrink not from the responsibility attaching to it.

If those, whose mismanagement of that Society I condemn, should accuse
me of hostility to the Royal Society; my answer is, that the party which
governs it is not the Royal Society; and that I will only admit the
justice of the accusation, when the whole body, becoming acquainted
with the system I have exposed, shall, by ratifying it with their
approbation, appropriate it to themselves: an event of which I need
scarcely add I have not the slightest anticipation.


  Introductory Remarks
  CHAP. I.   On the Reciprocal Influence of Science and Education.
  CHAP. II.  Of the Inducements to Individuals to cultivate Science.
  --Sect. 1. Professional Impulses.
  ------  2. Of National Encouragement.
  ------  3. Of Encouragement from learned Societies.
  CHAP. III. General State of learned Societies in England.
  CHAP. IV.  State of the Royal Society in particular.
  --Sect. 1. Mode of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society.
  ------  2. Of the Presidency and Vice-Presidencies.
  ------  3. Of the Secretariships
  ------  4. Of the Scientific Advisers.
  ------  5. Of the Union of several Offices in one person.
  ------  6. Of the Funds of the Society.
  ------  7. Of the Royal Medals.
  ------  8. Of the Copley Medals.
  ------  9. Of the Fairchild Lecture.
  ------ 10. Of the Croonian Lecture.
  ------ 11. Of the Causes of the Present State of the Royal Society.
  ------ 12. Of the Plan for Reforming the Society.
  CHAP. V.   Of Observations.
  --Sect. 1. Of Minute Precision.
  ------  2. On the Art of Observing.
  ------  3. On the Frauds of Observers.
  CHAP. VI.  Suggestions for the Advancement of Science in England.
  --Sect. 1. Of the Necessity that Members of the Royal Society
  ---------  should express their Opinions.
  ------  2. Of Biennial Presidents.
  ------  3. Of the Influence of the Colleges of Physicians and
  ---------  Surgeons in the Royal Society.
  ------  4. Of the Influence of the Royal Institution on the Royal
  ---------  Society.
  ------  5. Of the Transactions of the Royal Society.
  ------  6. Order of Merit.
  ------  7. Of the Union of Scientific Societies.
  -------  NO. 2.
  -------  NO. 3.



It cannot have escaped the attention of those, whose acquirements enable
them to judge, and who have had opportunities of examining the state of
science in other countries, that in England, particularly with respect
to the more difficult and abstract sciences, we are much below other
nations, not merely of equal rank, but below several even of inferior
power. That a country, eminently distinguished for its mechanical
and manufacturing ingenuity, should be indifferent to the progress of
inquiries which form the highest departments of that knowledge on whose
more elementary truths its wealth and rank depend, is a fact which is
well deserving the attention of those who shall inquire into the causes
that influence the progress of nations.

To trace the gradual decline of mathematical, and with it of the highest
departments of physical science, from the days of Newton to the present,
must be left to the historian. It is not within the province of one who,
having mixed sufficiently with scientific society in England to see
and regret the weakness of some of its greatest ornaments, and to see
through and deplore the conduct of its pretended friends, offers these
remarks, with the hope that they may excite discussion,--with the
conviction that discussion is the firmest ally of truth,--and with the
confidence that nothing but the full expression of public opinion can
remove the evils that chill the enthusiasm, and cramp the energies of
the science of England.

The causes which have produced, and some of the effects which have
resulted from, the present state of science in England, are so mixed,
that it is difficult to distinguish accurately between them. I shall,
therefore, in this volume, not attempt any minute discrimination,
but rather present the result of my reflections on the concomitant
circumstances which have attended the decay, and at the conclusion of
it, shall examine some of the suggestions which have been offered for
the advancement of British science.


That the state of knowledge in any country will exert a directive
influence on the general system of instruction adopted in it, is a
principle too obvious to require investigation. And it is equally
certain that the tastes and pursuits of our manhood will bear on them
the traces of the earlier impressions of our education. It is therefore
not unreasonable to suppose that some portion of the neglect of science
in England, may be attributed to the system of education we pursue. A
young man passes from our public schools to the universities, ignorant
almost of the elements of every branch of useful knowledge; and at these
latter establishments, formed originally for instructing those who
are intended for the clerical profession, classical and mathematical
pursuits are nearly the sole objects proposed to the student's ambition.

Much has been done at one of our universities during the last fifteen
years, to improve the system of study; and I am confident that there
is no one connected with that body, who will not do me the justice to
believe that, whatever suggestions I may venture to offer, are prompted
by the warmest feelings for the honour and the increasing prosperity of
its institutions. The ties which connect me with Cambridge are indeed of
no ordinary kind.

Taking it then for granted that our system of academical education ought
to be adapted to nearly the whole of the aristocracy of the country, I
am inclined to believe that whilst the modifications I should propose
would not be great innovations on the spirit of our institutions, they
would contribute materially to that important object.

It will be readily admitted, that a degree conferred by an university,
ought to be a pledge to the public that he who holds it possesses a
certain quantity of knowledge. The progress of society has rendered
knowledge far more various in its kinds than it used to be; and to meet
this variety in the tastes and inclinations of those who come to us for
instruction, we have, besides the regular lectures to which all must
attend, other sources of information from whence the students may
acquire sound and varied knowledge in the numerous lectures on
chemistry, geology, botany, history, &c. It is at present a matter of
option with the student, which, and how many of these courses he shall
attend, and such it should still remain. All that it would be necessary
to add would be, that previously to taking his degree, each person
should be examined by those Professors, whose lectures he had attended.
The pupils should then be arranged in two classes, according to their
merits, and the names included in these classes should be printed. I
would then propose that no young man, except his name was found amongst
the "List of Honours," should be allowed to take his degree, unless he
had been placed in the first class of some one at least of the courses
given by the professors. But it should still be imperative upon the
student to possess such mathematical knowledge as we usually require. If
he had attained the first rank in several of these examinations, it
is obvious that we should run no hazard in a little relaxing: the
strictness of his mathematical trial.

If it should be thought preferable, the sciences might be grouped, and
the following subjects be taken together:--

     Modern History.
     Laws of England.
     Civil Law.

     Political Economy.
     Applications of Science to Arts and Manufactures.


     Zoology, including Physiology and Comparative Anatomy.
     Botany, including Vegetable Physiology and Anatomy.

One of the great advantages of such a system would be, that no young
person would have an excuse for not studying, by stating, as is most
frequently done, that the only pursuits followed at Cambridge, classics
and mathematics, are not adapted either to his taste, or to the wants of
his after life. His friends and relatives would then reasonably expect
every student to have acquired distinction in SOME pursuit. If it should
be feared that this plan would lead to too great a diversity of pursuits
in the same individual, a limitation might be placed upon the number of
examinations into which the same person might be permitted to enter. It
might also be desirable not to restrict the whole of these examinations
to the third year, but to allow the student to enter on some portion of
them in the first or second year, if he should prefer it.

By such an arrangement, which would scarcely interfere seriously with
our other examinations, we should, I think, be enabled effectually to
keep pace with the wants of society, and retaining fully our power
and our right to direct the studies of those who are intended for the
church, as well as of those who aspire to the various offices connected
with our academical institutions; we should, at the same time, open
a field of honourable ambition to multitudes, who, from the exclusive
nature of our present studies, leave us with but a very limited addition
to their stock of knowledge.

Much more might be said on a subject so important to the interests of
the country, as well as of our university, but my wish is merely to open
it for our own consideration and discussion. We have already done so
much for the improvement of our system of instruction, that public
opinion will not reproach us for any unwillingness to alter. It is our
first duty to be well satisfied that we can improve: such alterations
ought only to be the result of a most mature consideration, and of a
free interchange of sentiments on the subject, in order that we may
condense upon the question the accumulated judgment of many minds.

It is in some measure to be attributed to the defects of our system of
education, that scientific knowledge scarcely exists amongst the
higher classes of society. The discussions in the Houses of Lords or of
Commons, which arise on the occurrence of any subjects connected with
science, sufficiently prove this fact, which, if I had consulted the
extremely limited nature of my personal experience, I should, perhaps,
have doubted.


Interest or inclination form the primary and ruling motives in this
matter: and both these exert greater or less proportionate influence in
each of the respective cases to be examined.


A large portion of those who are impelled by ambition or necessity to
advance themselves in the world, make choice of some profession in which
they imagine their talents likely to be rewarded with success; and there
are peculiar advantages resulting to each from this classification of
society into professions. The ESPRIT DE CORPS frequently overpowers the
jealousy which exists between individuals, and pushes on to advantageous
situations some of the more fortunate of the profession; whilst, on the
other hand, any injury or insult offered to the weakest, is redressed or
resented by the whole body. There are other advantages which are perhaps
of more importance to the public. The numbers which compose the learned
professions in England are so considerable, that a kind of public
opinion is generated amongst them, which powerfully tends to repress
conduct that is injurious either to the profession or to the public.
Again, the mutual jealousy and rivalry excited amongst the whole body
is so considerable, that although the rank and estimation which an
individual holds in the profession may be most unfairly appreciated,
by taking the opinion of his rival; yet few estimations will be found
generally more correct than the opinion of a whole profession on the
merits of any one of its body. This test is of great value to the
public, and becomes the more so, in proportion to the difficulty of the
study to which the profession is devoted. It is by availing themselves
of it that men of sense and judgment, who have occasion for the services
of professional persons, are, in a great measure, guided in their

The pursuit of science does not, in England, constitute a distinct
profession, as it does in many other countries. It is therefore, on
that ground alone, deprived of many of the advantages which attach
to professions. One of its greatest misfortunes arises from this
circumstance; for the subjects on which it is conversant are so
difficult, and require such unremitted devotion of time, that few who
have not spent years in their study can judge of the relative knowledge
of those who pursue them. It follows, therefore, that the public, and
even that men of sound sense and discernment, can scarcely find means
to distinguish between the possessors of knowledge, in the present
day, merely elementary, and those whose acquirements are of the highest
order. This remark applies with peculiar force to all the more difficult
applications of mathematics; and the fact is calculated to check the
energies of those who only look to reputation in England.

As there exists with us no peculiar class professedly devoted to
science, it frequently happens that when a situation, requiring for the
proper fulfilment of its duties considerable scientific attainments, is
vacant, it becomes necessary to select from among amateurs, or rather
from among persons whose chief attention has been bestowed on other
subjects, and to whom science has been only an occasional pursuit.
A certain quantity of scientific knowledge is of course possessed by
individuals in many professions; and when added to the professional
acquirements of the army, the navy, or to the knowledge of the merchant,
is highly meritorious: but it is obvious that this may become, when
separated from the profession, quite insignificant as the basis of a
scientific reputation.

To those who have chosen the profession of medicine, a knowledge of
chemistry, and of some branches of natural history, and, indeed, of
several other departments of science, affords useful assistance. Some of
the most valuable names which adorn the history of English science have
been connected with this profession.

The causes which induce the selection of the clerical profession are
not often connected with science; and it is, perhaps, a question of
considerable doubt whether it is desirable to hold out to its members
hopes of advancement from such acquirements. As a source of recreation,
nothing can be more fit to occupy the attention of a divine; and our
church may boast, in the present as in past times, that the domain of
science has been extended by some of its brightest ornaments.

In England, the profession of the law is that which seems to hold out
the strongest attraction to talent, from the circumstance, that in it
ability, coupled with exertion, even though unaided by patronage, cannot
fail of obtaining reward. It is frequently chosen as an introduction
to public life. It also presents great advantages, from its being a
qualification for many situations more or less remotely connected
with it, as well as from the circumstance that several of the highest
officers of the state must necessarily have sprung from its ranks.

A powerful attraction exists, therefore, to the promotion of a study and
of duties of all others engrossing the time most completely, and which
is less benefited than most others by any acquaintance with science.
This is one amongst the causes why it so very rarely happens that men in
public situations are at all conversant even with the commonest branches
of scientific knowledge, and why scarcely an instance can be cited of
such persons acquiring a reputation by any discoveries of their own.

But, however consistent other sciences may be with professional
avocations, there is one which, from its extreme difficulty, and the
overwhelming attention which it demands, can only be pursued with
success by those whose leisure is undisturbed by other claims. To be
well acquainted with the present state of mathematics, is no easy task;
but to add to the powers which that science possesses, is likely to be
the lot of but few English philosophers.


The little encouragement which at all previous periods has been afforded
by the English Government to the authors of useful discoveries, or of
new and valuable inventions, is justified on the following grounds:

1. The public, who consume the new commodity or profit by the new
invention, are much better judges of its merit than the government can

2. The reward which arises from the sale of the commodity is usually
much larger than that which government would be justified in bestowing;
and it is exactly proportioned to the consumption, that is, to the want
which the public feel for the new article.

It must be admitted that, as general principles, these are correct:
there are, however, exceptions which flow necessarily from the very
reasoning from which they were deduced. Without entering minutely into
these exceptions, it will be sufficient to show that all abstract truth
is entirely excluded from reward under this system. It is only the
application of principles to common life which can be thus rewarded.
A few instances may perhaps render this position more evident. The
principle of the hydrostatic paradox was known as a speculative truth
in the time of Stevinus; [About the year 1600] and its application to
raising heavy weights has long been stated in elementary treatises on
natural philosophy, as well as constantly exhibited in lectures. Yet, it
may fairly be regarded as a mere abstract principle, until the late Mr.
Bramah, by substituting a pump instead of the smaller column, converted
it into a most valuable and powerful engine.--The principle of the
convertibility of the centres of oscillation and suspension in the
pendulum, discovered by Huygens more than a century and a half ago,
remained, until within these few years, a sterile, though most elegant
proposition; when, after being hinted at by Prony, and distinctly
pointed out by Bonenberger, it was employed by Captain Kater as the
foundation of a most convenient practical method of determining the
length of the pendulum.--The interval which separated the discovery, by
Dr. Black, of latent heat, from the beautiful and successful application
of it to the steam engine, was comparatively short; but it required the
efforts of two minds; and both were of the highest order.--The influence
of electricity in producing decompositions, although of inestimable
value as an instrument of discovery in chemical inquiries, can hardly be
said to have been applied to the practical purposes of life, until the
same powerful genius which detected the principle, applied it, by
a singular felicity of reasoning, to arrest the corrosion of the
copper-sheathing of vessels. That admirably connected chain of
reasoning, the truth of which is confirmed by its very failure as a
remedy, will probably at some future day supply, by its successful
application, a new proof of the position we are endeavouring to

[I am authorised in stating, that this was regarded by Laplace as the
greatest of Sir Humphry Davy's discoveries. It did not fail in producing
the effect foreseen by Sir H. Davy,--the preventing the corrosion of
the copper; but it failed as a cure of the evil, by producing one of an
OPPOSITE character; either by preserving too perfectly from decay the
surface of the copper, or by rendering it negative, it allowed marine
animals and vegetables to accumulate on its surface, and thus impede the
progress of the vessel.]

Other instances might, if necessary, be adduced, to show that long
intervals frequently elapse between the discovery of new principles
in science and their practical application: nor ought this at all to
surprise us. Those intellectual qualifications, which give birth to new
principles or to new methods, are of quite a different order from those
which are necessary for their practical application.

At the time of the discovery of the beautiful theorem of Huygens,
it required in its author not merely a complete knowledge of the
mathematical science of his age, but a genius to enlarge its boundaries
by new creations of his own. Such talents are not always united with a
quick perception of the details, and of the practical applications
of the principles they have developed, nor is it for the interest of
mankind that minds of this high order should lavish their powers on
subjects unsuited to their grasp.

In mathematical science, more than in all others, it happens that truths
which are at one period the most abstract, and apparently the most
remote from all useful application, become in the next age the bases
of profound physical inquiries, and in the succeeding one, perhaps, by
proper simplification and reduction to tables, furnish their ready and
daily aid to the artist and the sailor.

It may also happen that at the time of the discovery of such principles,
the mechanical arts may be too imperfect to render their application
likely to be attended with success. Such was the case with the principle
of the hydrostatic paradox; and it was not, I believe, until the
expiration of Mr. Bramah's patent, that the press which bears his
name received that mechanical perfection in its execution, which has
deservedly brought it into such general use.

On the other hand, for one person who is blessed with the power of
invention, many will always be found who have the capacity of applying
principles; and much of the merit ascribed to these applications will
always depend on the care and labour bestowed in the practical detail.

If, therefore, it is important to the country that abstract principles
should be applied to practical use, it is clear that it is also
important that encouragement should be held out to the few who
are capable of adding to the number of those truths on which such
applications are founded. Unless there exist peculiar institutions
for the support of such inquirers, or unless the Government directly
interfere, the contriver of a thaumatrope may derive profit from his
ingenuity, whilst he who unravels the laws of light and vision, on which
multitudes of phenomena depend, shall descend unrewarded to the tomb.

Perhaps it may be urged, that sufficient encouragement is already
afforded to abstract science in our different universities, by the
professorships established at them. It is not however in the power of
such institutions to create; they may foster and aid the development of
genius; and, when rightly applied, such stations ought to be its fair
and honourable rewards. In many instances their emolument is small; and
when otherwise, the lectures which are required from the professor are
not perhaps in all cases the best mode of employing the energies of
those who are capable of inventing.

I cannot resist the opportunity of supporting these opinions by the
authority of one of the greatest philosophers of a past age, and of
expressing my acknowledgments to the author of a most interesting piece
of scientific biography. In the correspondence which terminated in the
return of Galileo to a professorship in his native country, he remarks,
"But, because my private lectures and domestic pupils are a great
hinderance and interruption of my studies, I wish to live entirely
exempt from the former, and in great measure from the latter."--LIFE
OF GALILEO, p.18. And, in another letter to Kepler, he speaks with
gratitude of Cosmo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who "has now invited me
to attach myself to him with the annual salary of 1000 florins, and with
the title of Philosopher and principal Mathematician to his Highness,
without the duties of any office to perform, but with most complete
leisure; so that I can complete my treatise on Mechanics, &c."--p.31.
[Life of Galileo, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

Surely, if knowledge is valuable, it can never be good policy in a
country far wealthier than Tuscany, to allow a genius like Mr. Dalton's,
to be employed in the drudgery of elementary instruction. [I utter these
sentiments from no feelings of private friendship to that estimable
philosopher, to whom it is my regret to be almost unknown, and whose
modest and retiring merit, I may, perhaps, have the misfortune to offend
by these remarks. But Mr. Dalton was of no party; had he ever moved in
that vortex which has brought discredit, and almost ruin, on the Royal
Society of England;--had he taken part with those who vote to each other
medals, and, affecting to be tired of the fatigues of office, make to
each other requisitions to retain places they would be most reluctant
to quit; his great and splendid discovery would long since have been
represented to government. Expectant mediocrity would have urged on his
claims to remuneration, and those who covered their selfish purposes
with the cloak of science, would have hastened to shelter themselves in
the mantle of his glory.--But the philosopher may find consolation for
the tardy approbation of that Society, in the applause of Europe. If
he was insulted by their medal, he escaped the pain of seeing his name
connected with their proceedings.] Where would have been the military
renown of England, if, with an equally improvident waste of mental
power, its institutions had forced the Duke of Wellington to employ his
life in drilling recruits, instead of planning campaigns?

If we look at the fact, we shall find that the great inventions of the
age are not, with us at least, always produced in universities. The
doctrines of "definite proportions," and of the "chemical agency of
electricity,"--principles of a high order, which have immortalized the
names of their discoverers,--were not produced by the meditations of
the cloister: nor is it in the least a reproach to those valuable
institutions to mention truths like these. Fortunate circumstances must
concur, even to the greatest, to render them eminently successful. It is
not permitted to all to be born, like Archimedes, when a science was to
be created; nor, like Newton, to find the system of the world "without
form and void;" and, by disclosing gravitation, to shed throughout that
system the same irresistible radiance as that with which the Almighty
Creator had illumined its material substance. It can happen to but few
philosophers, and but at distant intervals, to snatch a science, like
Dalton, from the chaos of indefinite combination, and binding it in the
chains of number, to exalt it to rank amongst the exact. Triumphs like
these are necessarily "few and far between;" nor can it be expected that
that portion of encouragement, which a country may think fit to bestow
on science, should be adapted to meet such instances. Too extraordinary
to be frequent, they must be left, if they are to be encouraged at all,
to some direct interference of the government.

The dangers to be apprehended from such a specific interference, would
arise from one, or several, of the following circumstances:--That class
of society, from whom the government is selected, might not possess
sufficient knowledge either to judge themselves, or know upon whose
judgment to rely. Or the number of persons devoting themselves to
science, might not be sufficiently large to have due weight in the
expression of public opinion. Or, supposing this class to be large, it
might not enjoy, in the estimation of the world, a sufficiently high
character for independence. Should these causes concur in any country,
it might become highly injurious to commit the encouragement of science
to any department of the government. This reasoning does not appear to
have escaped the penetration of those who advised the abolition of the
late Board of Longitude.

The question whether it is good policy in the government of a country
to encourage science, is one of which those who cultivate it are not
perhaps the most unbiased judges. In England, those who have hitherto
pursued science, have in general no very reasonable grounds of
complaint; they knew, or should have known, that there was no demand for
it, that it led to little honour, and to less profit.

That blame has been attributed to the government for not fostering
the science of the country is certain; and, as far as regards past
administrations, is, to a great extent, just; with respect to the
present ministers, whose strength essentially depends on public opinion,
it is not necessary that they should precede, and they cannot remain
long insensible to any expression of the general feeling. But supposing
science were thought of some importance by any administration, it would
be difficult in the present state of things to do much in its favour;
because, on the one hand, the higher classes in general have not a
profound knowledge of science, and, on the other, those persons whom
they have usually consulted, seem not to have given such advice as to
deserve the confidence of government. It seems to be forgotten, that the
money allotted by government to purposes of science ought to be expended
with the same regard to prudence and economy as in the disposal of money
in the affairs of private life.

[Who, for instance, could have advised the government to incur the
expense of printing SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY copies of the Astronomical
Observations made at Paramatta, to form a third part of the
Philosophical Transactions for 1829, whilst of the Observations made at
the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, two hundred and fifty copies only
are printed?

Of these seven hundred and fifty copies, seven hundred and ten will be
distributed to members of the Royal Society, to six hundred of whom they
will probably be wholly uninteresting or useless; and thus the country
incurs a constantly recurring annual expense. Nor is it easy to see
on what principle a similar destination could be refused for the
observations made at the Cape of Good Hope.]

To those who measure the question of the national encouragement of
science by its value in pounds, shillings, and pence, I will here state
a fact, which, although pretty generally known, still, I think, deserves
attention. A short time since it was discovered by government that the
terms on which annuities had been granted by them were erroneous, and
new tables were introduced by act of Parliament. It was stated at the
time that the erroneous tables had caused a loss to the country of
between two and three millions sterling. The fact of the sale of
those annuities being a losing concern was long known to many; and the
government appear to have been the last to be informed on the subject.
Half the interest of half that loss, judiciously applied to the
encouragement of mathematical science, would, in a few years, have
rendered utterly impossible such expensive errors.

To those who bow to the authority of great names, one remark may have
its weight. The MECANIQUE COELESTE, [The first volume of the first
translation of this celebrated work into our own language, has just
arrived in England from--America.] and the THEORIE ANALYTIQUE DES
PROBABILITES, were both dedicated, by Laplace, to Napoleon. During the
reign of that extraordinary man, the triumphs of France were as eminent
in Science as they were splendid in arms. May the institutions which
trained and rewarded her philosophers be permanent as the benefits they
have conferred upon mankind!

In other countries it has been found, and is admitted, that a knowledge
of science is a recommendation to public appointments, and that a man
does not make a worse ambassador because he has directed an observatory,
or has added by his discoveries to the extent of our knowledge of
animated nature. Instances even are not wanting of ministers who have
begun their career in the inquiries of pure analysis. As such examples
are perhaps more frequent than is generally imagined, it may be useful
to mention a few of those men of science who have formerly held, or who
now hold, high official stations in the governments of their respective

 Country.      Name.         Department of       Public Office.

 France.. Marquis Laplace(1)  Mathematics       President of the

 France.. M.Carnot            Mathematics       Minister of War.

 France.. Count Chaptal(2)    Chemistry         Minister of the

 France.. Baron Cuvier(3)     Comparative       Minister of
                                Anatomy,           Public
                                History          Instruction

 Prussia.. Baron Humboldt      Oriental          Ambassador
                               Languages         to England

 Prussia.. Baron Alexander     The celebrated    Chamberlain to
               Humboldt        Traveller         the King of

 Modena.  Marquis Rangoni(4)  Mathematics       Minister of
                                                 Finance and
                                                 of Public
                                                 President of
                                                 Italian Academy
                                                 of Forty.

 Tuscany. Count Fossombroni   Mathematics       Prime Minister
               (5)                               of the Grand Duke
                                                 of Tuscany.

 Saxony..  M. Lindenau(6)     Astronomy         Ambassador.

 (1) Author of the MECANIQUE COELESTE.
 FOSSILES &c. &c.
 and of various other memoirs on mathematical subjects.
 (5) Author of several memoirs on mechanics and hydraulics, in the
 Transactions of the Academy of Forty.
 MERCURIO CIRCA SOLEM DESCRIPTAE, Gothae, 1813, and of other

M. Lindenau, the Minister from the King of Saxony to the King of the
Netherlands, commenced his career as astronomer at the observatory of
the Grand Duke of Gotha, by whom he was sent as his representative at
the German Diet. On the death of the late reigning Duke, M. Lindenau
was invited to Dresden, and filled the same situation under the King of
Saxony; after which he was appointed his minister at the court of the
King of the Netherlands. Such occurrences are not to be paralleled in
our own country, at least not in modern times. Newton was, it is true,
more than a century since, appointed Master of the Mint; but let any
person suggest an appointment of a similar kind in the present day, and
he will gather from the smiles of those to whom he proposes it that the
highest knowledge conduces nothing to success, and that political power
is almost the only recommendation.

SECTION 3. Of Encouragement from Learned Societies.

There are several circumstances which concur in inducing persons
pursuing science, to unite together, to form societies or academies. In
former times, when philosophical instruments were more rare, and the art
of making experiments was less perfectly known, it was almost necessary.
More recently, whilst numerous additions are constantly making to
science, it has been found that those who are most capable of extending
human knowledge, are frequently least able to encounter the expense of
printing their investigations. It is therefore convenient, that some
means should be devised for relieving them from this difficulty, and the
volumes of the transactions of academies have accomplished the desired

There is, however, another purpose to which academies contribute.
When they consist of a limited number of persons, eminent for their
knowledge, it becomes an object of ambition to be admitted on their
list. Thus a stimulus is applied to all those who cultivate science,
which urges on their exertions, in order to acquire the wished-for
distinction. It is clear that this envied position will be valued
in proportion to the difficulty of its attainment, and also to the
celebrity of those who enjoy it; and whenever the standard of scientific
knowledge which qualifies for its ranks is lowered, the value of the
distinction itself will be diminished. If, at any time, a multitude of
persons having no sort of knowledge of science are admitted, it must
cease to be sought after as an object of ambition by men of science, and
the class of persons to whom it will become an object of desire will be
less intellectual.

Let us now compare the numbers composing some of the various academies
of Europe.-The Royal Society of London, the Institute of France, the
Italian Academy of Forty, and the Royal Academy of Berlin, are amongst
the most distinguished.

     Name                          Number of      Number
                    Population.    Members          of
     Country.                      of its         Foreign
                                   Academy.       Members

     1. England.     22,299,000      685            50
     2. France.     32,058,000       76       8 Mem. 100 Corr.
     8. Prussia.    12,915,000       38            16
     4. Italy..    12,000,000       40             8

It appears then, that in France, one person out of 427,000 is a member
of the Institute. That in Italy and Prussia, about one out of 300,000
persons is a member of their Academies. That in England, every 32,000
inhabitants produces a Fellow of the Royal Society. Looking merely at
these proportions, the estimation of a seat in the Academy of Berlin,
must be more than nine times as valuable as a similar situation in
England; and a member of the Institute of France will be more than
thirteen times more rare in his country than a Fellow of the Royal
Society is in England.

Favourable as this view is to the dignity of such situations in other
countries, their comparative rarity is by no means the most striking
difference in the circumstances of men of science. If we look at the
station in society occupied by the SAVANS of other countries, in several
of them we shall find it high, and their situations profitable. Perhaps,
at the present moment, Prussia is, of all the countries in Europe, that
which bestows the greatest attention, and most unwearied encouragement
on science. Great as are the merits of many of its philosophers, much of
this support arises from the character of the reigning family, by whose
enlightened policy even the most abstract sciences are fostered.

The maxim that "knowledge is power," can be perfectly comprehended
by those only who are themselves well versed in science; and to the
circumstance of the younger branches of the royal family of Prussia
having acquired considerable knowledge in such subjects, we may
attribute the great force with which that maxim is appreciated.

In France, the situation of its SAVANS is highly respectable, as well as
profitable. If we analyze the list of the Institute, we shall find few
who do not possess titles or decorations; but as the value of such marks
of royal favour must depend, in a great measure, on their frequency, I
shall mention several particulars which are probably not familiar to
the English reader. [This analysis was made by comparing the list of the
Institute, printed for that body in 1827, with the ALMANACH ROYALE for

     Number of the Members of the      Total Number of each Class
     Institute of France who belong    of the Legion of Honour.
     to the Legion of Honour.

     GrandCroix.........  3                    80
     GrandOfficier.....   3                   160
     Commandeur........   4                   400
     Officier..........  17                 2,000
     Chevalier.........  40               Not limited.

     Number of Members of the Institute      Total Number
     decorated with                          of
     the Order of St. Michel.                that Order.

     Grand Croix.......  2
     Chevalier......... 27

     Amongst the members of the Institute there

     Dukes...................  2
     Marquis.................  1
     Counts..................  4
     Viscounts................ 2
     Barons.................. 14

     Of these there are
     Peers of France.......... 5

We might, on turning over the list of the 685 members of the Royal
Society, find a greater number of peers than there are in the Institute
of France; but a fairer mode of instituting the comparison, is to
inquire how many titled members there are amongst those who have
contributed to its Transactions. In 1827, there were one hundred and
nine members who had contributed to the Transactions of the Royal
Society; amongst these were found:--

     Peer........................ 1
     Baronets.................... 5
     Knights..................... 5

It should be observed, that five of these titles were the rewards of
members of the medical profession, and one only, that of Sir H. Davy,
could be attributed exclusively to science.

It must not be inferred that the titles of nobility in the French list,
were all of them the rewards of scientific eminence; many are known to
have been such; but it would be quite sufficient for the argument to
mention the names of Lagrange, Laplace, Berthollet, and Chaptal.

The estimation in which the public hold literary claims in France and
England, was curiously illustrated by an incidental expression in the
translation of the debates in the House of Lords, on the occasion of His
Majesty's speech at the commencement of the session of 1830. The Gazette
de France stated, that the address was moved by the Duc de Buccleugh,
"CHEF DE LA MAISON DE WALTER SCOTT." Had an English editor wished to
particularize that nobleman, he would undoubtedly have employed the term
WEALTHY, or some other of the epithets characteristic of that quality
most esteemed amongst his countrymen.

If we turn, on the other hand, to the emoluments of science in France,
we shall find them far exceed those in our own country. I regret much
that I have mislaid a most interesting memorandum on this subject, which
I made several years since: but I believe my memory on the point will
not be found widely incorrect. A foreign gentleman, himself possessing
no inconsiderable acquaintance with science, called on me a few years
since, to present a letter of introduction. He had been but a short time
in London; and, in the course of our conversation, it appeared to me
that he had imbibed very inaccurate ideas respecting our encouragement
of science.

Thinking this a good opportunity of instituting a fair comparison
between the emoluments of science in the two countries, I placed a sheet
of paper before him, and requested him to write down the names of six
Englishmen, in his opinion, best known in France for their scientific
reputation. Taking another sheet of paper, I wrote upon it the names of
six Frenchmen, best known in England for their scientific discoveries.
We exchanged these lists, and I then requested him to place against each
name (as far as he knew) the annual income of the different appointments
held by that person. In the mean time, I performed the same operation on
his list, against some names of which I was obliged to place a ZERO. The
result of the comparison was an average of nearly 1200L. per annum for
the six French SAVANS whom I had named. Of the average amount of the
sums received by the English, I only remember that it was very much
smaller. When we consider what a command over the necessaries and
luxuries of life 1200L. will give in France, it is underrating it to say
it is equal to 2000L. in this country.

Let us now look at the prospects of a young man at his entrance into
life, who, impelled by an almost irresistible desire to devote himself
to the abstruser sciences, or who, confident in the energy of youthful
power, feels that the career of science is that in which his mental
faculties are most fitted to achieve the reputation for which he pants.
What are his prospects? Can even the glowing pencil of enthusiasm add
colour to the blank before him? There are no situations in the state;
there is no position in society to which hope can point, to cheer him
in his laborious path. If, indeed, he belong to one of our universities,
there are some few chairs in his OWN Alma Mater to which he may at some
distant day pretend; but these are not numerous; and whilst the salaries
attached are seldom sufficient for the sole support of the individual,
they are very rarely enough for that of a family. What then can he reply
to the entreaties of his friends, to betake himself to some business
in which perhaps they have power to assist him, or to choose some
profession in which his talents may produce for him their fair reward?
If he have no fortune, the choice is taken away: he MUST give up that
line of life in which his habits of thought and his ambition qualify
him to succeed eminently, and he MUST choose the bar, or some other
profession, in which, amongst so many competitors, in spite of his great
talents, he can be but moderately successful. The loss to him is
great, but to the country it is greater. We thus, by a destructive
misapplication of talent which our institutions create, exchange a
profound philosopher for but a tolerable lawyer.

If, on the other hand, he possess some moderate fortune of his own; and,
intent on the glory of an immortal name, yet not blindly ignorant of the
state of science in this country, he resolve to make for that aspiration
a sacrifice the greater, because he is fully aware of its extent;--if,
so circumstanced, he give up a business or a profession on which he
might have entered with advantage, with the hope that, when he shall
have won a station high in the ranks of European science, he may a
little augment his resources by some of those few employments to which
science leads;--if he hope to obtain some situation, (at the Board of
Longitude, for example,) [This body is now dissolved] where he may
be permitted to exercise the talents of a philosopher for the paltry
remuneration of a clerk, he will find that other qualifications than
knowledge and a love of science are necessary for its attainment. He
will also find that the high and independent spirit, which usually
dwells in the breast of those who are deeply versed in these pursuits,
is ill adapted for such appointments; and that even if successful, he
must hear many things he disapproves, and raise no voice AGAINST them.

Thus, then, it appears that scarcely any man can be expected to pursue
abstract science unless he possess a private fortune, and unless he
can resolve to give up all intention of improving it. Yet, how few thus
situated are likely to undergo the labour of the acquisition; and if
they do from some irresistible impulse, what inducement is there for
them to deviate one step from those inquiries in which they find the
greatest delight, into those which might be more immediately useful to
the public?


The progress of knowledge convinced the world that the system of the
division of labour and of cooperation was as applicable to science, as
it had been found available for the improvement of manufactures. The
want of competition in science produced effects similar to those which
the same cause gives birth to in the arts. The cultivators of botany
were the first to feel that the range of knowledge embraced by the Royal
Society was too comprehensive to admit of sufficient attention to their
favourite subject, and they established the Linnean Society. After many
years, a new science arose, and the Geological Society was produced. At
an another and more recent epoch, the friends of astronomy, urged by the
wants of their science, united to establish the Astronomical Society.
Each of these bodies found, that the attention devoted to their science
by the parent establishment was insufficient for their wants, and each
in succession experienced from the Royal Society the most determined

Instituted by the most enlightened philosophers, solely for the
promotion of the natural sciences, that learned body justly conceived
that nothing could be more likely to render these young institutions
permanently successful, than discouragement and opposition at their
commencement. Finding their first attempts so eminently successful,
they redoubled the severity of their persecution, and the result was
commensurate with their exertions, and surpassed even their wildest
anticipations. The Astronomical Society became in six years known and
respected throughout Europe, not from the halo of reputation which
the glory of its vigourous youth had thrown around the weakness of its
declining years; but from the sterling merit of "its unpretending
deeds, from the sympathy it claimed and received from every practical
astronomer, whose labours it relieved, and whose calculations it

But the system which worked so well is now changed, and the Zoological
and Medico-Botanical Societies were established without opposition:
perhaps, indeed, the total failure of the latter society is the best
proof of the wisdom which guided the councils of the Royal. At present,
the various societies exist with no feelings of rivalry or hostility,
each pursuing its separate objects, and all uniting in deploring with
filial regret, the second childhood of their common parent, and the evil
councils by which that sad event has been anticipated.

It is the custom to attach certain letters to the names of those who
belong to different societies, and these marks of ownership are by
many considered the only valuable part of their purchase on entry. The
following is a list of some of these societies. The second column gives
the ready-money prices of the tail-pieces indicated in the third.

     SOCIETIES.               Fees on Admission         Appended
                              including Composition     Letters
                              for Annual Payments.

                                   L. s. d.
     Royal Society.............  50  0  0               F.R.S.
     Royal Society of Edinburgh. 25  4  0*              F.R.S.E.
     Royal Academy of Dublin...  26  5  0               M.R.I.A.
     Royal Society of Literature 36 15  0               F.R.S.Lit.
     Antiquarian...............  50  8  0               F.A.S.
     Linnean...................  36  0  0               F.L.S.
     Geological................  34 15  0               F.G.S.
     Astronomical..............  25  4  0               M.A.S.
     Zoological................  26  5  0               F.Z.S.
     Royal Institution.........  50  0  0               M.R.I.
     Royal Asiatic..............  31 10  0               F.R.A.S.
     Horticultural.............  43  6  0               F.H.S.
     Medico-Botanical..........  21  0  0               F.M.B.S.

[* The Royal Society of Edinburgh now requires, for composition in lieu
of annual contributions, a sum dependent on the value of the life of the

Thus, those who are ambitious of scientific distinction, may, according
to their fancy, render their name a kind of comet, carrying with it a
tail of upwards of forty letters, at the average cost of 10L. 9s. 9d.
per letter.

Perhaps the reader will remark, that science cannot be declining in a
country which supports so many institutions for its cultivation. It is
indeed creditable to us, that the greater part of these societies are
maintained by the voluntary contributions of their members. But, unless
the inquiries which have recently taken place in some of them should
rectify the SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT by which several have been oppressed,
it is not difficult to predict that their duration will be short. Full
and inquiries at GENERAL MEETINGS, are the only safeguards; and a due
degree of VIGILANCE should be exercised on those who DISCOURAGE these
principles. Of the Royal Society, I shall speak in a succeeding page;
and I regret to add, that I might have said more. My object is to amend
it; but, like all deeply-rooted complaints, the operation which alone
can contribute to its cure, is necessarily painful. Had the words of
remonstrance or reproof found utterance through other channels, I had
gladly been silent, content to support by my vote the reasonings of the
friend of science and of the Society. But this has not been the case,
and after frustrated efforts to introduce improvements, I shall now
endeavour, by the force of plain, but perhaps painful truths, to direct
public opinion in calling for such a reform, as shall rescue the Royal
Society from contempt in our own country, from ridicule in others.

On the next five societies in the list, I shall offer no remarks. Of the
Geological, I shall say a few words. It possesses all the freshness, the
vigour, and the ardour of youth in the pursuit of a youthful science,
and has succeeded in a most difficult experiment, that of having an oral
discussion on the subject of each paper read at its meetings. To say of
these discussions, that they are very entertaining, is the least part
of the praise which is due to them. They are generally very instructive,
and sometimes bring together isolated facts in the science which,
though insignificant when separate, mutually illustrate each other,
and ultimately lead to important conclusions. The continuance of these
discussions evidently depends on the taste, the temper, and the good
sense of the speakers. The things to be avoided are chiefly verbal
criticisms--praise of each other beyond its reasonable limits, and
contest for victory. This latter is, perhaps, the most important of the
three, both for the interests of the Society and of truth. With regard
to the published volumes of their Transactions, it may be remarked,
that if members were in the habit of communicating their papers to the
Society in a more finished state, it would be attended with several
advantages; amongst others, with that of lightening the heavy duties of
the officers, which are perhaps more laborious in this Society than in
most others. To court publicity in their accounts and proceedings,
and to endeavour to represent all the feelings of the Society in the
Council, and to avoid permanent Presidents, is a recommendation not
peculiarly addressed to this Society, but would contribute to the
well-being of all.

Of the Astronomical Society, which, from the nature of its pursuits,
could scarcely admit of the discussions similar to those of the
Geological, I shall merely observe, that I know of no secret which has
caused its great success, unless it be attention to the maxims which
have just been stated.

On the Zoological Society, which affords much rational amusement to the
public, a few hints may at present suffice. The largeness of its income
is a frightful consideration. It is too tempting as the subject for
jobs, and it is too fluctuating and uncertain in its amount, not to
render embarrassment in the affairs of the Society a circumstance likely
to occur, without the greatest circumspection. It is most probable, from
the very recent formation of this Institution, that its Officers and
Council are at present all that its best friends could wish; but it
is still right to mention, that in such a Society, it is essentially
necessary to have men of business on the Council, as well as persons
possessing extensive knowledge of its pursuits. It is more dangerous
in such a Society than in any other, to pay compliments, by placing
gentlemen on the Council who have not the qualifications which are
requisite; a frequent change in the members of the Council is desirable,
in order to find out who are the most regular attendants, and most
qualified to conduct its business. Publicity in its accounts and
proceedings is, from the magnitude of its funds, more essential to the
Zoological than to any other society; and it is rather a fearful omen,
that a check was attempted to be given to such inquiries at the last
anniversary meeting. If it is to be a scientific body, the friends of
science should not for an instant tolerate such attempts.

It frequently happens, that gentlemen take an active part in more
than one scientific society: in that case, it may be useful to derive
instruction as to their merits, by observing the success of their
measures in other societies.

The Asiatic Society has, amongst other benefits, caused many valuable
works to be translated, which could not have otherwise been published.

The Horticultural Society has been ridden almost to death, and is
now rousing itself; but its constitution seems to have been somewhat
impaired. There are hopes of its purgation, and ultimate restoration,
notwithstanding a debt of 19,000L., which the Committee of Inquiry have
ascertained to exist. This, after all, will not be without its advantage
to science, if it puts a stop to HOUSE-LISTS, NAMED BY ONE OR TWO
PERSONS,--to making COMPLIMENTARY councillors,--and to auditing the
accounts WITHOUT EXAMINING EVERY ITEM, or to omitting even that form

The Medico-Botanical Society suddenly claimed the attention of the
public; its pretensions were great--its assurance unbounded. It speedily
became distinguished, not by its publications or discoveries, but by the
number of princes it enrolled in its list. It is needless now to expose
the extent of its short-lived quackery; but the evil deeds of that
institution will long remain in the impression they have contributed
to confirm throughout Europe, of the character of our scientific
establishments. It would be at once a judicious and a dignified course,
if those lovers of science, who have been so grievously deceived in this
Society, were to enrol upon the latest page of its history its highest
claim to public approbation, and by signing its dissolution, offer the
only atonement in their power to the insulted science of their country.
As with a singular inversion of principle, the society contrived to
render EXPULSION* the highest HONOUR it could confer; so it remains
for it to exemplify, in suicide, the sublimest virtue of which it is
capable. [* They expelled from amongst them a gentleman, of whom it is
but slight praise to say, that he is the first and most philosophical
botanist of our own country, and who is admired abroad as he is
respected at home. The circumstance which surprised the world was not
his exit from, but his previous entrance into that Society.]


As the venerable first parent of English, and I might perhaps say, of
European scientific societies; as a body in the welfare of which, in
the opinions of many, the interests of British science are materially
involved, I may be permitted to feel anxiously, and to speak more in


I have no intention of stating what ought to be the qualifications of
a Fellow of the Royal Society; but, for years, the practical mode of
arriving at that honour, has been as follows:--

A. B. gets any three Fellows to sign a certificate, stating that he
(A. B.) is desirous of becoming a member, and likely to be a useful and
valuable one. This is handed in to the Secretary, and suspended in the
meeting-room. At the end of ten weeks, if A. B. has the good fortune to
be perfectly unknown by any literary or scientific achievement, however
small, he is quite sure of being elected as a matter of course. If, on
the other hand, he has unfortunately written on any subject connected
with science, or is supposed to be acquainted with any branch of it, the
members begin to inquire what he has done to deserve the honour;
and, unless he has powerful friends, he has a fair chance of being
black-balled. [I understand that certificates are now read at the
Council, previously to their being hung up in the meeting-room; but I am
not aware that this has in the slightest degree diminished their number,
which was, at the time of writing this note, TWENTY-FOUR.]

In fourteen years' experience, the few whom I have seen rejected,
have all been known persons; but even in such cases a hope
remains;--perseverance will do much, and a gentleman who values so
highly the distinction of admission to the Royal Society, may try
again; and even after being twice black-balled, if he will a third time
condescend to express his desire to become a member, he may perhaps
succeed, by the aid of a hard canvass. In such circumstances, the odds
are much in favour of the candidate possessing great scientific claims;
and the only objection that could then reasonably be suggested, would
arise from his estimating rather too highly a distinction which had
become insignificant from its unlimited extension.

It should be observed, that all members contribute equally, and that
the sum now required is fifty pounds. It used, until lately, to be
ten pounds on entrance, and four pounds annually. The amount of this
subscription is so large, that it is calculated to prevent many men
of real science from entering the Society, and is a very severe tax on
those who do so; for very few indeed of the cultivators of science
rank amongst the wealthy classes. Several times, whilst I have been
consulting books or papers at Somerset House, persons have called to
ask the Assistant-secretary the mode of becoming a member of the Royal
Society. I should conjecture, from some of these applications, that it
is not very unusual for gentlemen in the country to order their agents
in London to take measures for putting them up at the Royal Society.


Why Mr. Davies Gilbert became President of the Royal Society I cannot
precisely say. Let him who penned, and those who supported this
resolution solve the enigma:

"It was Resolved,

"That it is the opinion of the Council that Davies Gilbert, Esq. is by
far the most fit person to be proposed to the Society at the approaching
anniversary as President, and that he be recommended accordingly."

To resolve that he was a FIT person might have been sufficiently
flattering: to state that he was the most fit, was a little hard upon
the rest of the Society; but to resolve that he was "BY FAR THE MOST
FIT" was only consistent with that strain of compliment in which his
supporters indulge, and was a eulogy, by no means unique in its kind, I
believe, even at that very Council.

That Mr. Gilbert is a most amiable and kind-hearted man will be
instantly admitted by all who are, in the least degree, acquainted with
him: that he is fit for the chair of the Royal Society, will be allowed
by few, except those who have committed themselves to the above-quoted

Possessed of knowledge and of fortune more than sufficient for it, he
might have been the restorer of its lustre. He might have called round
him, at the council board, those most actively engaged in the pursuits
of science, most anxious for the improvement of the Royal Society.
Instead of himself proposing resolutions, he might have been, what a
chairman ought to be, the organ of the body over which he presides. By
the firmness of his own conduct he might have taught the subordinate
officers of the Society the duties of their station. Instead of paying
compliments to Ministers, who must have smiled at his simplicity, he
might have maintained the dignity of his Council by the dignity of

But he has chosen a different path; with no motives of interest
to allure, or of ambition to betray him, instead of making himself
respected as the powerful chief of a united republic,--that of
science,--he has grasped at despotic power, and stands the feeble
occupant of its desolated kingdom, trembling at the force of opinions
he might have directed, and refused even the patronage of their names by
those whose energies he might have commanded.

Mr. Gilbert told the Society he accepted the situation for a year; and
this circumstance caused a difficulty in finding a Treasurer: an office
which he had long held, and to which he wished to return.

Another difficulty might have arisen, from the fact of the late Board
of Longitude comprising amongst its Members the PRESIDENT of the Royal
Society, and three of its Fellows, appointed by the President and
Council. Of course, when Mr. Gilbert accepted the higher situation, he
became, EX OFFICIO, a Member of the Board of Longitude; and a vacancy
occurred, which ought to have been filled up by the President and
Council. But when this subject was brought before them, in defiance of
common sense, and the plain meaning of the act of parliament, which had
enacted that the Board of Longitude should have the assistance of four
persons belonging to the Royal Society, Mr. Gilbert refused to allow
it to be filled up, on the ground that he should not be President next
year, and had made no vacancy.

Next year Mr. Gilbert wished again to be President one other year; but
the Board of Longitude was dissolved, otherwise we might have had some
LOCUM TENENS to retire at Mr. Gilbert's pleasure.

These circumstances are in themselves of trifling importance, but they
illustrate the character of the proceedings: and it is not becoming
the dignity of science or of the Society that its officers should be so
circumstanced as to have an apparent and direct interest in supporting
the existing President, in order to retain their own places; and if
such a system is once discovered, doubt immediately arises as to the
frequency of such arrangements.


Whether the present Secretaries are the best qualified to aid in
reforming the Society, is a question I shall not discuss. With regard
to the senior Secretary, the time of his holding office is perhaps more
unfortunate than the circumstance. If I might be permitted to allude
for a moment to his personal character, I should say that the mild
excellencies of his heart have prevented the Royal Society from deriving
the whole of that advantage from his varied knowledge and liberal
sentiments which some might perhaps have anticipated; and many will
agree with me in regretting that his judgment has not directed a larger
portion of the past deeds of the Councils of the Royal Society. Of the
junior Secretary I shall only observe, that whilst I admit his industry,
his perseverance, and his talents, I regret to see such valuable
qualities exerted at a disadvantage, and that I sincerely wish them
all the success they merit in situations more adapted for their

There are, however, some general principles which it may be important to
investigate, which relate to the future as well as to the past state of
the office of Secretary of the Royal Society. Inconvenience has already
arisen from having had at a former period one of our Secretaries the
conductor of a scientific journal; and this is one of the points in
which I can agree with those who now manage the affairs of the Society.
[These observations were written previous to the late appointment, to
which I now devote Section 6. Experience seems to be lost on the Council
of the Royal Society.] Perhaps it might be advantageous to extend the
same understanding to the other officers of the Society at least, if not
to the members of its Council.

Another circumstance worthy of the attention of the Society is, to
consider whether it is desirable, except in special cases, to have
military persons appointed to any of its offices. There are several
peculiarities in the military character, which, though they do not
absolutely unfit their possessors for the individual prosecution of
science, may in some degree disqualify such persons from holding offices
in scientific institutions. The habits both of obedience and command,
which are essential in military life, are little fitted for that perfect
freedom which should reign in the councils of science. If a military
chief commit an oversight or an error, it is necessary, in order to
retain the confidence of those he commands, to conceal or mask it as
much as possible. If an experimentalist make a mistake, his only course
to win the confidence of his fellow-labourers in science, and to render
his future observations of any use, is to acknowledge it in the most
full and explicit manner. The very qualifications which contribute to
the professional excellence of the soldier, constitute his defects when
he enters the paths of science; and it is only in those rare cases where
the force of genius is able to control and surmount these habits,
that his admission to the offices of science can be attended with any
advantage to it.

Another objection deserving notice, although not applying exclusively to
the military profession, is, that persons not imbued with the feelings
of men of science, when they have published their observations, are too
apt to view every criticism upon them as a personal question, and
to consider that it is as offensive to doubt the accuracy of their
observations as it is to doubt their word. Nothing can be more injurious
to science than that such an opinion should be tolerated. The most
unreserved criticism is necessary for truth; and those suspicions
respecting his own accuracy, which every philosophical experimenter will
entertain concerning his own researches, ought never to be considered as
a reproach, when they are kept in view in examining the experiments of
others. The minute circumstances and apparently trivial causes which
lend their influence towards error, even in persons of the most candid
judgment, are amongst the most curious phenomena of the human mind.

The importance of affording every aid to enable others to try the merits
of observations, has been so well expressed by Mayer, that I shall
conclude these remarks with an extract from the Preface to his

"Officii enim cujusque observatoris ease reor, de habitu instrumenti
sui, de cura ac precautione, qua usus est, ad illud recte tractandum,
deque mediis in errores ejus inquirendi rationem reddere publice, ut
aliis quoque copia sit judicandi, quanta fides habenda conclusionibus ex
nostris observationibus deductis aut deducendis. Hoc cum minus fecissent
precedentis saeculi astronomi, praxin nimis secure, nimisque theoretice
tractantes, factum inde potissimum est, ut illorum observationes tot
vigiliis tantoque labore comparatae tam cito obsoleverint." P. viii.

There are certain duties which the Royal Society owes to its own
character as well as to the public, which, having been on some occasions
apparently neglected, it may be here the proper place to mention,
since it is reasonable to suppose that attention to them is within the
province of its Secretaries.

The first to which I shall allude is the singular circumstances
attending the fact of the Royal Society having printed a volume
of Astronomical Observations which were made at the Observatory of
Paramatta (New South Wales), bearing the title of "The Third Part of the
Philosophical Transactions for the Year 1829."

Now this Observatory was founded at the private expense of a British
officer; the instruments were paid for out of his purse; two observers
were brought from Europe, to be employed in making use of those
instruments, at salaries defrayed by him. A considerable portion of
the observations so printed were made by these astronomers during their
employment in his service, and some of them are personally his own. Yet
has the Royal Society, in adopting them as part of its Transactions,
omitted all mention, either in their title-page, preface, or in any
part of the volume, of the FACT that the world owed these valuable
observations to the enlightened munificence of Lieutenant-General Sir
Thomas Brisbane; whose ardent zeal in the pursuit of science induced him
to found, at his own private expense, an establishment which it has
been creditable to the British Government to continue as a national
institution. Had any kindred feelings existed in the Council, instead
of endeavouring to shift the responsibility, they would have hastened to
rectify an omission, less unjust to the individual than it was injurious
to English science.

Another topic, which concerns most vitally the character and integrity
of the Royal Society, I hardly know how to approach. It has been
publicly stated that confidence cannot be placed in the written minutes
of the Society; and an instance has been adduced, in which an entry
has been asserted to have been made, which could not have been the true
statement of what actually passed at the Council.

The facts on which the specific instance rests are not difficult to
verify by members of the Royal Society. I have examined them, and shall
state them before I enter on the reasoning which may be founded upon
them. In the minutes of the Council, 26th November, 1829, we find--

"Resolved, that the following gentlemen be recommended to be put upon
the Council for the ensuing year." [Here follows a list of persons,
amongst whom the name of Sir John Franklin occurs [Sir John Franklin was
absent from London, and altogether unacquainted with this transaction,
until he saw it stated in the newspapers some months after it had
taken place. That his name was the one substituted for that of Captain
Beaufort I know, from other evidence which need not be produced here, as
the omission of the latter name is the charge that has been made.],
and that of Captain Beaufort is not found. [Any gentleman may satisfy
himself that this is not a mistake of the Assistant Secretary's, in
copying, by consulting the rough minutes of that meeting of the Council,
which it might perhaps be as well to write in a rough minute-book,
instead of upon loose sheets of paper; nor can it be attributed to any
error arising from accidentally mislaying the real minutes, for in that
case the error would have been rectified immediately it was detected;
and this has remained uncorrected, although publicly spoken of for
months. As there is no erasure in the list, one is reluctantly
compelled to conjecture that the real minutes of that meeting have been

Now this could not be the list actually recommended by the Council on
the morning of the 26th of November, because the President himself, on
the evening of that day, informed Capt. Beaufort that he was placed on
the house list; and that officer, with the characteristic openness of
his profession, wrote on the next or the following day to the President,
declining that situation, and stating his reasons for the step.

Upon the fact, therefore, of the suppression of part of a resolution
of the Council, on the 26th of November, there can be no doubt; but
in order to understand the whole nature of the transaction, other
information is necessary. It has been the wish of many members of the
Society, that the President should not absolutely name his own Council,
but that the subject should be discussed fairly at the meeting previous
to the Anniversary--this has always been opposed by Mr. Gilbert, and
those who support him. Now, it has been stated, that, at the meeting
of the Council on the 26th of November, the President took out of his
pocket a bit of paper, from which he read the names of several persons
as fit to be on the Council for the ensuing year;--that it was not
understood that any motion was made, and it is certain that none was
seconded, nor was any ballot taken on such an important question; and
it was a matter of considerable surprise to some of those present, to
discover afterwards that it was entered on the minutes as a resolution.
This statement I have endeavoured to verify, and I believe it to be
substantially correct; if it was a resolution, it was dictated, not
discussed. It is also important to observe, that no similar resolution
stands on the council-books for any previous year.

On examining the minutes of the succeeding Council, no notice of
the letter of Captain Beaufort to the President is found. Why was it
omitted? If the first entry had been truly made, there would have been
no necessity for the omission; and after the insertion of that letter,
a resolution would naturally have followed, recommending another name
instead of the one withdrawn. Such was the natural and open course; but
this would have exposed to the Society the weakness of those who manage
it. If the rough minutes of each meeting of the Council were read over
before it separated, and were copied previously to the next meeting,
such a substitution could hardly have occurred; but, unfortunately, this
is not the case, and the delay is in some cases considerable. Thus, the
minutes of the three Councils, held on February 4, on February 11, and
on March 11, were not entered on the minute-books of the Council
on Tuesday, the 16th March; nor was this the fault of the
Assistant-secretary, for up to that day the rough minutes of no one of
those Councils had been transmitted to him.

Deeply as every friend to the Royal Society must regret such an
occurrence, one slight advantage may accrue. Should that resolution be
ever quoted hereafter to prove that the Council of 1829 really discussed
the persons to be recommended as their successors, the detection of
this suppression of one portion of it, will furnish better means of
estimating the confidence due to the whole.


Whether it was feared by the PARTY who govern the Royal Society,
that its Council would not be sufficiently tractable, or whether the
Admiralty determined to render that body completely subservient to them,
or whether both these motives concurred, I know not; but, low as has
been for years its character for independence, and fallen as the Royal
Society is in public estimation, it could scarcely be prepared for
this last insult. In order to inform the public and the Society, (for I
believe the fact is known to few of the members,) it will be necessary
to trace the history of those circumstances which led to the institution
of the offices of Scientific Advisers, from the time of the existence of
the late Board of Longitude.

That body consisted, according to the act of parliament which
established it, of certain official members, who usually possessed no
knowledge of the subjects it was the duty of the Board to discuss--of
certain professors of the two universities, and the Astronomer Royal,
who had some knowledge, and who were paid 100L. a year for their
attendance;--of three honorary members of the Royal Society, who
combined the qualifications of the two preceding classes; and, lastly,
of "three other persons," named Resident Commissioners, who were
OR NAVIGATION," and who were paid a hundred a year to do the work of the

The first three classes were permanent members, but the "three other
persons" only held the appointment for ONE YEAR, and were renewable at
the pleasure of the Admiralty. This Board was abolished by another act
of parliament, on the ground that it was useless. Shortly after, the
Secretary of the Admiralty communicated to the Council of the Royal
Society, the copy of an Order in Council:


November 1, 1828.

SIR, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to send
herewith, for the information of the President and Council of the Royal
Society, a copy of His Majesty's Order in Council of the 27th of last
month; explaining that the salaries heretofore allowed to the Resident
Commissioners of the Board of Longitude, and to the Superintendents of
the Nautical Almanac, and of Chronometers, shall be continued to them,
notwithstanding the abolition of the Board of Longitude. And I am to
acquaint you, that the necessary orders have been given to the Navy
Board for the payment of the said salaries.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant,



27th October, 1828.


The King's most Excellent Majesty in Council,

Whereas, there was this day read at the Board a Memorial from the Right
Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated 4th of this
instant, in the words following, viz.--

Whereas, by an Act of the 58th of his late Majesty's reign, cap. 20,
instituted "An Act for the more effectually discovering the Longitude
at sea, and encouraging attempts to find a Northern passage between
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and to approach the North Pole,"
three persons well versed in the sciences of Mathematics, Astronomy,
or Navigation, were appointed as a Resident Committee of the Board
of Commissioners for discovery of the Longitude at sea, and a
Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac and of Chronometers was also
appointed, with such salaries for the execution of those services as
his Majesty might, by any Order in Council, be pleased to direct; and,
whereas, your Majesty was in consequence, by your Order in Council of
the 27th of May, 1828, most graciously pleased to direct, that the three
said Resident Commissioners should be paid at the rate of 100L. a year
each; and by your further Order in Council, of the 31st October, 1818,
that the Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac should be allowed a
salary of 300L., and the Superintendent of Chronometers 100L. a year;
and, whereas, the act above mentioned has been repealed, and the Board
of Longitude abolished; and doubts have therefore arisen, whether the
said Orders in Council shall still continue in force; and whereas it
is expedient that the said appointments be continued; We beg leave most
humbly to submit to your Majesty, that your Majesty may be graciously
pleased, by your Order in Council, to direct that the said offices
of Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, and of Superintendent of
Chronometers; and also the three persons before-mentioned as a Resident
Committee, to advise with the Commissioners for executing the Office
of Lord High Admiral, on all questions of discoveries, inventions,
calculations, and other scientific subjects, be continued, with the same
duties and salaries, and under the same regulations as heretofore; and
further beg most humbly to propose, that such three persons to form
the Resident Committee, be chosen annually by the Commissioners for
executing the office of Lord High Admiral, from among the Council of the
Royal Society.

His Majesty, having taken the said Memorial into consideration, was
pleased, by and with the advice of his Privy Council, to approve thereof
and the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are to
give the necessary directions herein accordingly.


Thus, it appeared that the Admiralty were to choose three persons from
among the Council of the Royal Society, who were to have a hundred a
year each during the pleasure of the Admiralty.

Such an open attack on the independence of the Council could not escape
the remarks of some of the members, and a kind of mild remonstrance was
made, in which the real ground of complaint was omitted.


RESOLVED, That in acknowledging the communication of the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty, made to the Council of the Royal
Society, on the 20th of November last, it be represented to them that
inconvenience may arise from the plan therein specified, from the
circumstance of all the members of the Council being annually elected
by the Society at large; and that body being consequently subject to
continual changes from year to year.

This was answered by the following letter from the Secretary of the


SIR, Having submitted to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your
Letter of the 18th instant, subjoining an extract from the Minutes of
the proceedings of the Council of the Royal Society, arising out of the
communication made to them by their Lordships, on the subject of his
Majesty's Order in Council, of the fifth of October last, I have their
Lordships' command to acquaint you, for the information of the President
and Council, and with reference to what they have stated as to the
inconvenience which may arise from the intended plan of limiting their
Lordships' choice of members of the Resident Committee of Scientific
Advice to the Council of the Royal Society, that their Lordships were
induced to recommend this plan to his Majesty as a mark of respect to
the Society, and as a pledge to the public of the qualification of the
persons chosen. Nor did their Lordships apprehend any inconvenience from
the circumstance stated in the Minute of the Council, of the Members
being annually elected, as the Resident Committee is also annually
appointed; and, in point of fact, no practical inconvenience has been
felt during the ten years that the Committee has been in existence,
as four of the distinguished gentlemen whom their Lordships have
successively appointed to this office, have continued during the whole
period to be members of the Council; and if any such difficulty or
inconvenience should hereafter arise, their Lordships will be ready to
take proper measures for remedying it.

Their Lordships' intention therefore is, to propose to Captain Kater and
Mr. Herschel, to continue to fill this office; and to Dr. Young, who had
resigned it, on receiving the appointment of Secretary to the late Board
of Longitude, to be appointed.

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,


The representation made by the Council was not calculated to produce
much effect; but the Secretary of the Admiralty, who knew well the stuff
of which Councils of the Royal Society are composed, might have spared
the bitter irony of making their Lordships say, that they recommended
delicately hints to them their dependent situation, by observing, that

The Secretary knew that, PRACTICALLY speaking, it had been the custom
for years for the President of the Royal Society to nominate the
Council, and consequently he knew that every scientific adviser must
first be indebted to the President for being qualified to advise, and
then to the Admiralty for deriving profit from his counsel. Thus then
their Lordships, as a "MARK OF RESPECT FOR THE SOCIETY" confirm the
dependence of the Council on the President, by making his nomination
a qualification for place, and establish a new dependence of the same
Council on themselves, by giving a hundred pounds each year to such
three members of that Council as they may select. "THE PLEDGE" they
that Mr. Davies Gilbert had previously thought they would do for his

What the Society, when they are acquainted with it, may think of this
mark of respect, or what value the public may put upon this pledge, must
be left to themselves to express.

In looking over the list of officers and Council of the Royal Society
the weakest perhaps (for purposes of science) which was ever made, a
consolation arises from the possibility of some of those who were placed
there by way of compliment, occasionally attending. In that contracted
field Lord Melville's penetration may not be uselessly employed; and the
soldier who presides over our colonies may judge whether the principles
which pervade it are open and liberal as his own.

The inconvenience to the public service from such an arrangement is,
that the number out of which the advisers are selected must, in
any case, be very small; and may, from several circumstances, be
considerably reduced. In a council fairly selected, to judge of
the merits of the various subjects likely to be brought under the
consideration of the Society, anatomy, chemistry, and the different
branches of natural history, will share with the numerous departments of
physical science, in claiming to be represented by persons competently
skilled in those subjects. These claims being satisfied, but few places
will be left to fill up with mathematicians, astronomers, and persons
conversant with nautical astronomy.

Let us look at the present Council. Is there a single mathematician
amongst them, if we except Mr Barlow, whose deservedly high reputation
rests chiefly on his physical and experimental inquiries, and whom the
President and the Admiralty have clearly shown they do not look upon as
a mathematician, by not appointing him an adviser?

Small as the number of those persons on the Council, who are conversant
with the three subjects named in the Act of Parliament, must usually
be, it may be still further diminished. The President, when he forms
his Council, may decline naming those members who are most fit for such
situations. Or, on the other hand, some of those members who are best
qualified for them, from their knowledge, may decline the honour of
being the nominees of Mr. Gilbert, as Vice Presidents, Treasurers, or
Councillors, and thus lending their names to support a system of which
they disapprove.

Whether the first of these causes has ever operated can be best
explained by those gentlemen who have been on the Council. The refusals
are, notwithstanding the President's taciturnity on the subject, better
known than he is willing that they should be.

Having discussed the general policy of the measure, with reference both
to the Society and to the public, and without the slightest reference
to the individuals who may have refused or accepted those situations, I
shall now examine the propriety of the appointments that have been made.

Doubtless the gentlemen who now hold those situations either have never
considered the influence such a mode of selection would have on the
character of the Council; or, having considered it, they must have
arrived at a different conclusion from mine. There may, however,
be arguments which I have overlooked, and a discussion of them must
ultimately lead to truth: but I confess that it appears to me the
objections which have been stated rest on principles of human nature,
too deeply seated to be easily removed.

That I am not singular in the view I have taken of this subject, appears
from several circumstances. A question was asked respecting these
appointments at the Anniversary before the last; and, from the nature of
the answer, many of the members of the Society have been led to believe
the objections have been removed. Several Fellows of the Society, who
knew these facts, thought it inexpedient ever to vote for placing any
gentleman on the Council who had accepted these situations; and,
having myself the same view of the case, I applied to the Council to be
informed of the names of the present Scientific Advisers. But although
they remonstrated against the PRINCIPLE, they replied that they had "NO
COGNIZANCE" of the fact.

The two first members of the Council, Mr. Herschel and Captain
Kater, who were so appointed, and who had previously been Resident
Commissioners under the Act, immediately refused the situations. Dr.
Young became one of the Advisers; and Captain Sabine and Mr. Faraday
were appointed by the Admiralty as the two remaining ones. Of Dr. Young,
who died shortly after, I shall only observe that he possessed knowledge
which qualified him for the situation.

Whether those who at present fill these offices can be said to belong
to that class of persons which the Order in Council and the Act of
Parliament point out, is a matter on which doubt may reasonably be
entertained. The Order in Council speaks of these three persons as being
the same, and having the "SAME DUTIES" as those mentioned in the Act;
and it recites the words of the Act, that they shall be persons "WELL
the fitness of the gentlemen who now hold those situations to pronounce
judgment on mathematical questions, the public will be better able to
form an opinion when they shall have communicated to the world any
of their own mathematical inquiries. Although it is the practice to
consider that acceptance of office is alone necessary to qualify a man
for a statesman, a similar doctrine has not yet prevailed in the world
of science. One of these gentlemen, who has established his reputation
as a chemist, stands in the same predicament with respect to the other
two sciences. It remains then to consider Captain Sabine's claims, which
must rest on his skill in "PRACTICAL ASTRONOMY AND NAVIGATION,"--a claim
which can only be allowed when the scientific world are set at rest
respecting the extraordinary nature of those observations contained in
his work on the Pendulum.

That volume, printed under the authority of the Board of Longitude,
excited at its appearance considerable attention. The circumstance of
the Government providing instruments and means of transport for the
purpose of these inquiries, placed at Captain Sabine's disposal means
superior to those which amateurs can generally afford, whilst the
industry with which he availed himself of these opportunities, enabled
him to bring home multitudes of observations from situations rarely
visited with such instruments, and for such purposes.

The remarkable agreement with each other, which was found to exist
amongst each class of observations, was as unexpected by those most
conversant with the respective processes, as it was creditable to one
who had devoted but a few years to the subject, and who, in the course
of those voyages, used some of the instruments for the first time in his

This accordance amongst the results was such, that naval officers of the
greatest experience, confessed themselves unable to take such
lunars; whilst other observers, long versed in the use of the transit
instrument, avowed their inability to take such transits. Those who were
conversant with pendulums, were at a loss how to make, even under more
favourable circumstances, similarly concordant observations. The same
opinion prevailed on the continent as well as in England. On whatever
subject Captain Sabine touched, the observations he published seemed by
their accuracy to leave former observers at a distance. The methods
of using the instruments scarcely differed in any important point from
those before adopted; and, but for a fortunate discovery, which I shall
presently relate, the world must have concluded that Captain Sabine
possessed some keenness of vision, or acuteness of touch, which it would
be hopeless for any to expect to rival.

The Council of the Royal Society spared no pains to stamp the accuracy
of these observations with their testimony. They seem to have thrust
Captain Sabine's name perpetually on their minutes, and in a manner
which must have been almost distressing: they recommend him in a letter
to the Admiralty, then in another to the Ordnance; and several of
the same persons, in their other capacity, as members of the Board of
Longitude, after voting him a THOUSAND POUNDS for these observations,
are said to have again recommended him to the Master-General of the
Ordnance. That an officer, commencing his scientific career, should be
misled by such praises, was both natural and pardonable; but that the
Council of the Royal Society should adopt their opinion so heedlessly,
and maintain it so pertinaciously, was as cruel to the observer as it
was injurious to the interests of science.

It might have been imagined that such praises, together with the Copley
medal, presented to Captain Sabine by the Royal Society, and the medal
of Lalande, given to him by the Institute of France, had arisen from
such a complete investigation of his observations, as should place them
beyond the reach even of criticism. But, alas! the Royal Society may
write, and nobody will attend; its medals have lost their lustre;
and even the Institute of France may find that theirs cannot confer
immortality. That learned body is in the habit of making most
interesting and profound reports on any memoirs communicated to it;
nothing escapes the penetration of their committees appointed for such
purposes. Surely, when they enter on the much more important subject
of the award of a medal, unusual pains must be taken with the previous
report, and it might, perhaps, be of some advantage to science, and
might furnish their admirers with arguments in their defence, if they
would publish that on which the decree of their Lalande's medal to
Captain Sabine was founded.

It is far from necessary to my present object, to state all that has
been written and said respecting these pendulum experiments: I shall
confine myself merely to two points; one, the transit observations, I
shall allude to, because I may perhaps show the kind of feeling that
exists respecting them, and possibly enable Captain Sabine to explain
them. The other point, the error in the estimation of the division of
the level, I shall discuss, because it is an admitted fact.

Some opinion may be formed of transit observations, by taking the
difference of times of the passage of any star between the several
wires; supposing the distances of those wires equal, the intervals of
time occupied by the star in passing from one to the other, ought to be
precisely the same. As those times of passing from one wire to another
are usually given to seconds and tenths of seconds, it rarely happens
that the accordance is perfect.

The transit instrument used by Captain Sabine was thirty inches in
length, and the wires are stated to be equi-distant. Out of about 370
transits, there are eighty-seven, or nearly one-fourth, which have the
intervals between all the wires agreeing to the same, the tenth of
a second. At Sierra Leone, nineteen out of seventy-two have the same
accordance; and of the moon culminating stars, p. 409, twelve out of
twenty-four are equally exact. With larger instruments, and in great
observatories, this is not always the case.

Captain Kater has given, in the Philosophical Transactions, 1819, p.
427, a series of transits, with a three and a half foot transit, in
which about one-eleventh part of them only have this degree of accuracy;
and it should be observed that not merely the instrument, but the stars
selected, have, in this instance, an advantage over Captain Sabine's.

The transit of M. Bessel is five feet in length, made by Frauenhofer,
and the magnifying power employed is 182; yet, out of some observations
of his in January, 1826, only one-eleventh have this degree of
accordance. In thirty-three of the Greenwich observations of January,
1828, fifteen have this agreement, or five-elevenths; but this is with
a ten-feet transit. Now in none of these instances do the times agree
within a tenth of a second between all the wires; but I have accounted
those as agreeing in all the wires in which there is not more than
four-tenths of a second between the greatest and least.

This superior accuracy of the small instrument requires some
explanation. One which has been suggested is, that Captain Sabine
employs a chronometer to observe transits with; and that since it beats
five times in two seconds, each beat will give four-tenths of a second;
and this being the smallest quantity registered, the agreement becomes
more probable than if tenths were the smallest quantities noticed. In
general, the larger the lowest unity employed the greater will be the
apparent agreement amongst the differences. Thus, if, in the transit of
stars near the pole, the times of passing the wires were only registered
to the nearest minute, the intervals would almost certainly be equal.
There is another circumstance, about which there is some difficulty. It
is understood that the same instrument,--the thirty-inch transit, was
employed by Lieutenant Foster; and it has not been stated that the wires
were changed, although this has most probably been the case. Now, in the
transits which the later observer has given, he has found it necessary
to correct for a considerable inequality between the first and second
wires (See Phil. Trans. 1827). If an erroneous impression has gone
abroad on this subject, it is doing a service to science to insure its
correction, by drawing attention to it.

Should these observations be confirmed by other observers, it would seem
to follow that the use of a chronometer renders a transit more exact,
and therefore that it ought to be used in observatories.

Among the instruments employed by Captain Sabine, was a repeating circle
of six inches diameter, made by order of the Board of Longitude, for the
express purpose of ascertaining how far repeating instruments might be
diminished in size:--a most important subject, on which the Board seem
to have entertained a very commendable degree of anxiety.

The following extract from the "Pendulum Experiments" is important:

"The repeating circle was made by the direction, and at the expense of
the Board of Longitude, for the purpose of exemplifying the principle
of repetition when applied to a circle of so small a diameter as six
inches, carrying a telescope of seven inches focal length, and one inch
aperture; and of practically ascertaining the degree of accuracy which
might be retained, whilst the portability of the instrument should be
increased, by a reduction in the size to half the amount which had been
previously regarded by the most eminent artists as the extreme limit
of diminution to which repeating circles, designed for astronomical
purposes, ought to be carried.

"The practical value of the six-inch repeating circle may be estimated,
by comparing the differences of the partial results from the mean at
each station, with the correspondence of any similar collection of
observations made with a circle, on the original construction, and of
large dimensions; such, for instance, as the latitudes of the stations
of the French are, recorded in the Base du Systeme Metrique: when, if
due allowance be made for the extensive experience and great skill of
the distinguished persons who conducted the French observations, the
comparison will scarcely appear to the disadvantage of the smaller
circle, even if extended generally through all the stations of the
present volume; but if it be particularly directed to Maranham and
Spitzbergen,--at which stations the partial results were more numerous
than elsewhere, and obtained with especial regard to every circumstance
by which their accuracy might be affected, the performance of the
six-inch circle will appear fully equal to that of circles of the larger
dimension. The comparison with the two stations, at which a more than
usual attention was bestowed, is the more appropriate, because it was
essential to the purposes for which the latitudes of the French stations
were required, that the observations should always be conducted with the
utmost possible regard to accuracy.

"It would appear, therefore, that in a repeating circle of six inches,
the disadvantages of a smaller image enabling a less precise contact
or bisection, and of an arch of less radius admitting of a less minute
subdivision, may be compensated by the principle of repetition."

Captain Sabine has pointed out Maranham and Spitzbergen as places most
favourable to the comparison. Let us take the former of these places,
and compare the observations made there with the small repeating
instrument of six inches diameter, with those made by the French
astronomers at Formentera, with a repeating circle of forty-one
centi-metres, or about sixteen inches in diameter, made by Fortin. It
is singular that this instrument was directed, by the French Board
of Longitude, to be made expressly for this survey, and the French
astronomers paid particular attention to it, from the circumstance
of some doubts having been entertained respecting the value of the
principle of repetition.

The following series of observations were made with the two instruments.
[I have chosen the inferior meridian altitude of Polaris, merely because
the number of sets of observations are rather fewer. The difference
between the extremes of the altitude of Polaris, deduced from sets taken
above the pole by the same observers, amounts to seven seconds and a

Latitude deduced from Polaris, with a repeating circle, 16 inches
diameter.--BASE DU SYSTEME METRIQUE, tom. iv. p. 376. 1807.

     Number of           Latitude              Names of Observers.
     Observations.       of Formentera.

                         deg. min. sec.
      64                  38  39  55.3         Biot
     100                          54.7         Arago
      10                          56.2         Biot
      88                          56.9         Biot
     120                          56.7         Arago
      84                          54.9         Biot
     100                          56.5         Arago
     102                          57.1         Arago
      80                          54.5         Biot
      88                          53.3         Arago
      90                          53.6         Arago
      88                          53.8         Arago
      92                          53.7         Arago
      42                          55.6         Chaix
      90                          54.1         Chaix
      80                          53.9         Arago

     Mean of 1318 Observations, 38deg. 39min. 54.93sec.

Sets of Observations made with a six-inch repeating circle, at Maranham.

   Star.               Number of         Latitude       Observer.
                       Observations.     deduced.

                                      deg. min. sec.
   alpha Lyrae             8           2    31  42.4    Capt. Sabine
   alpha Lyrae            12                    43.8     Ditto
   alpha Pavonis          10                    44.5     Ditto
   alpha Lyrae            12                    44.6     Ditto
   alpha Cygni            12                    42.1     Ditto
   alpha Gruris           12                    42.2     Ditto

   Mean latitude deduced from 66 observations 2deg. 31min 43.3sec.

In comparing these results, although the French observations were more
than twenty times as numerous as the English, yet the deviations of the
individual sets from the mean are greater. One second and three-tenths
is the greatest deviation from the mean of the Maranham observations;
whilst the greatest deviation of those of Formentera, is two seconds
and two-tenths. If this mode of comparison should be thought unfair, on
account of the greater number of the sets in the French observations,
let any six, in succession, of those sets be taken, and compared with
the six English sets; and it will be found that in no one instance is
the greatest deviation from the mean of the whole of the observations
less than in those of Maranham. It must also be borne in mind, that
by the latitude deduced by the mean of 1250 superior culminations of
Polaris by the same observers, the latitude of Formentera was found to
be 38deg. 39min 57.07sec., a result differing by 2.14sec. from the mean
of the 1318 inferior culminations given above. [This difference cannot
be accounted for by any difference in the tables of refraction, as
neither the employment of those of Bradley, of Piazzi, of the French, of
Groombridge, of Young, of Ivory, of Bessel, or of Carlini, would make a
difference of two-tenths of a second.]

These facts alone ought to have awakened the attention of Captain
Sabine, and of those who examined and officially pronounced on the
merits of his observations; for, supposing the skill of the observers
equal, it seems a necessary consequence that "the performance of the
six-inch circle is" not merely "fully equal to that of circles of larger
dimensions," but that it is decidedly SUPERIOR to one of sixteen inches
in diameter.

This opinion did indeed gain ground for a time; but, fortunately for
astronomy, long after these observations were made, published, and
rewarded, Captain Kater, having borrowed the same instrument, discovered
that the divisions of its level, which Captain Sabine had considered to
be equal to one second each, were, in fact, more nearly equal to eleven
seconds, each one being 10.9sec. This circumstance rendered necessary
a recalculation of all the observations made with that instrument: a
re-calculation which I am not aware Captain Sabine has ever thought it
necessary to publish. [Above two hundred sets of observations with this
instrument are given in the work alluded to. It can never be esteemed
satisfactory merely to state the mean results of the corrections arising
from this error: for the confidence to be attached to that mean will
depend on the nature of the deviations from it.]

This is the more to be regretted, as it bears upon a point of
considerable importance to navigation; and if it should have caused
any alteration in his opinion as to the comparative merits of great and
small instruments, it might have been expected from a gentleman, who was
expressly directed by the Board of Longitude, to try the question with
an instrument constructed for that especial purpose.

Finding that this has not been done by the person best qualified for
the task, perhaps a few remarks from one who has no pretensions to
familiarity with the instrument, may tend towards elucidating this
interesting question.

The following table gives the latitudes as corrected for the error of

 Station.       Star              Latitude      Latitude        Diffe-
                                   by Capt.    corrected for     rence
                                   Sabine      error of level.

                                 deg.min.sec.   deg.min.sec.    sec.

 Sierra Leone  Sirius             8  29  27.9    8  29  34.7    6.8

 Ascension     Alph.Centuri       7  55  46.7    7  55  40.1    6.6

 Bahia         Alph.Lyrae        12  59  19.4   12  59  21.4    2.0
               Alph.Lyrae                21.2       58  49.8   31.4
               Alph.Pavonis              22.4       59   5.1   17.3

 Maranham      Alph.Lyrae         2  31  42.4    2  31  22     20.4
               Alph.Lyrae                43.8           31.8   12.0
               Alph.Pavonis              44.5           44      .5
               Alph.Lyrae                44.6           42.6    2.0
               Alph.Cygni                42.1           39.2    2.9
               Alph.Gruris               42.2           27.4   14.8

 Trinidad      Achernar          10  38  56.1   10  38  58.2    2.1
               Alph.Gruris               52.2           50.8    1.4
               Achernar                  59.3           56.6    2.7

 Jamaica       Polaris           17  56   8.6   17  56   4.6    4.0
                                          6.6            3.3    3.3

 New York      Sun               40  42  40.1   40  42  44.6    4.5
               Polaris                   48.9           38.2   10.7
               Sun                       41.4           47.2    5.8
               Beta Urs.Min.             42.3           58.4   16.1

 Hammerfest    Sun               70  40   5.3   70  40   7.2    1.9

 Spitzbergen   Sun               79  49  56.1   79  49  58.6    2.5
               Sun                       55.9           44.8   11.1
               Sun                       58.6           52.7    5.9
               Sun                       59.3           51.6    7.7
               Sun                       55.8           51.6    4.2
               Sun                   50   1.5           57.0    4.5

 Greenland     Sun               74  32  19.9   74  32  32.4   12.4
               Sun                       17.9           18.7    0.8

 Drontheim     Sun               63  25  51.3   63  26   6.1   14.8
               Alph.Urs.Min.             57.2           49.4    7.8

This presents a very different view of the latitudes as determined by
the small repeating circle, from that in Captain Sabine's book; and
confining ourselves still to Maranham, where the latitudes "WERE
WAS BESTOWED," it appears, that if we take Captain Sabine's own test,
namely, "the differences of the partial results from the mean at each
station," the deviations become nearly ten times as large as they were
before; a circumstance which might be expected to have some influence in
the decision of the question.

There is, however, another light in which it is impossible to avoid
looking at this singular oversight. The second column of the table of
latitudes must now be considered the true one, as that which really
resulted from the observations. Now, on examining the column of true
latitudes, the differences between the different sets of observations is
so considerable as naturally to excite some fear of latent error, more
especially as nearly the greatest discordance arises from the same star,
Alph.Lyrae, observed after an interval of only three days. It becomes
interesting to every person engaged in making astronomical observations,
to know what is the probability of his being exposed to an error so
little to be guarded against, and so calculated to lull the suspicions
of the unfortunate astronomer to whom it may happen.

In fact, the question resolves itself into this: the true latitude of
a place being determined by sets of observations as in the first of the
following columns--

                                                     Latitudes as
     True latitudes observed.                    computed by a mistake
                                                   of Capt. Sabine's.

                                 deg.min.sec.       deg.min.sec.
     Alph.Lyrae, 28th Aug....  2  31  22.0        2  31  42.4
     Alph.Lyrae, 29th Aug....         31.8               43.8
     Alph.Pavonis, 29th Aug...         44,0               44.5
     Alph.Lyrae, 31st Aug....         42.6               44.6
     Alph.Cygni, 31st Aug....         39.2               42.0
     Alph.Gruris, 2d Sept....         27.4               42.2

what are the chances that, by one error all the latitudes in the first
column should be brought so nearly to an agreement as they are in the
second column? The circumstance of the number of divisions of the
level being almost arbitrary within limits, might perhaps be alleged as
diminishing this extraordinary improbability: but let any one consider,
if he choose the error of each set, as independent of the others, still
he will find the odds against it enormous.

When it is considered that an error, almost arbitrary in its law, has
thus had the effect of bringing discordant observations into an almost
unprecedented accordance, as at Maranham; and not merely so, but that
at eight of the nine stations it has uniformly tended to diminish the
differences between the partial results, and that at the ninth station
it only increased it by a small fraction of a second, I cannot help
feeling that it is more probable even that Captain Kater, with all his
admitted skill, and that Captain Sabine himself, should have been both
mistaken in their measures of the divisions of the level, than that so
singular an effect should have been produced by one error; and I cannot
bring myself to believe that such an anticipation is entirely without

Whatever may be the result of a re-examination, it was a singular
oversight NOT TO MEASURE the divisions of a level intended to be used
for determining so important a question; more particularly as, in the
very work to which reference was made by Captain Sabine for the purpose
of comparing the observations, it was the very first circumstance which
occupied the French philosophers, and several pages [See pages 265
ARAGO, which forms the fourth volume of the BASE DU SYSTEME METRIQUE.]
are filled with the details relative to the determination of the value
of the divisions of the level. It would also have been satisfactory,
with such an important object in view, to have read off some of the sets
after each pair of observations, in order to see how far the system of
repetition made the results gradually converge to a limit, and in order
to know how many repetitions were sufficient. Such a course would almost
certainly have led to a knowledge of the true value of the divisions of
the level; for the differences in the altitude of the same star, after a
few minutes of time, must, in many instances, have been far too great to
have arisen from the change of its altitude: and had these been noticed,
they must have been referred to some error in the instrument, which
could scarcely, in such circumstances, have escaped detection.

I have now mentioned a few of the difficulties which attend Captain
Sabine's book on the pendulum, difficulties which I am far from saying
are inexplicable. He would be bold indeed who, after so wonderful an
instance of the effect of chance as I have been just discussing, should
venture to pronounce another such accident impossible; but I think
enough has been said to show, that the feeling which so generally
prevails relative to it, is neither captious nor unreasonable.

Enough also has appeared to prove, that the conduct of the Admiralty in
appointing that gentleman one of their scientific advisers, was, under
the peculiar circumstances, at least, unadvised. They have thus lent, as
far as they could, the weight of their authority to support observations
which are now found to be erroneous. They have thus held up for
imitation observations which may induce hundreds of meritorious officers
to throw aside their instruments, in the despair of ever approaching a
standard which is since admitted to be imaginary; and they have ratified
the doctrine, for I am not aware their official adviser has ever
even modified it, that diminutive instruments are equal almost to the

To what extent this doctrine is correct, may perhaps yet admit of doubt.
It cannot, however, admit of a doubt, that it is unwise to crown it with
official authority, and thus expose the officers of their service to
depend on means which may be quite insufficient for their purpose.

TO BE MADE AND TRIED, could come to the decision at which they arrived,
appears inexplicable. The known difference of opinion amongst the best
observers respecting the repeating principle, ought to have rendered
them peculiarly cautious, nor ought the opinion of a Troughton, that
instruments of less than one foot in diameter may be considered,
Astronomical Society, Vol.I. p.53.] to have been rejected without the
most carefully detailed experiments. There were amongst that body,
persons who must have examined minutely the work on the Pendulum.
Captain Kater must have felt those difficulties in the perusal of it
which other observers have experienced; and he who was placed in the
Board of Longitude especially for his knowledge of instruments, might,
in a few hours, have arrived at more decisive facts. But perhaps I am
unjust. Captain Kater's knowledge rendered it impossible for him to have
been ignorant of the difficulties, and his candour would have prevented
him from concealing them: he must, therefore, after examining the
subject, have been outvoted by his lay-brethren who had dispensed with
that preliminary.

It would be unjust, before quitting this subject, not to mention with
respect the acknowledgment made by an officer of the naval service of
the errors into which he also fell from this same level. Lieutenant
Foster, aware of the many occasions on which Captain Sabine had employed
this instrument, and knowing that he considered each division as equal
to one second, never thought that a doubt could exist on the subject,
and made all his calculations accordingly. When Captain Kater made him
acquainted with the mistake, Lieutenant Foster immediately communicated
a paper [The paper of Lieutenant Foster is printed in the Philosophical
Transactions, 1827, p.122, and is worth consulting.] to the Royal
Society, in which he states the circumstance most fully, and recomputed
all the observations in which that instrument was used. Unfortunately,
from the original observations of Mr. Ross being left on board the Fury
at the time of her loss, the transcripts of his results could not be
recomputed like the rest, and were consequently useless.


Although the number of situations to which persons conversant with
science may hope to be appointed, is small, yet it has somewhat
singularly happened, that instances of one individual, holding more than
one such appointment, are frequent. Not to speak of those held by the
late Dr. Young, we have at present:--

MR. POND--Astronomer Royal, Inspector of Chronometers, and
Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac.

CAPTAIN SABINE--An officer of artillery on leave of absence from his
regiment; Secretary of the Royal Society; and Scientific Adviser of the

MR. BRANDE--Clerk of the Irons at the Royal Mint; Professor of Chemistry
at the Royal Institution; Analyser of Rough Nitre, &c. to the East-India
Company; Lecturer on Materia Medica, Apothecaries' Hall; Superintending
Chemical Operator at ditto; Lecturer on Chemistry at ditto; Editor
of the Royal Institution Journal; and Foreign Secretary to the Royal

One should be led to imagine, from these unions of scientific offices,
either that science is too little paid, and that gentlemen cannot be
found to execute the offices separately at the salaries offered;
or else, that it is too well paid, since each requires such little
attention, that almost any number can be executed by one person.

The Director of the Royal Observatory has a larger and better collection
of instruments, and more assistants to superintend, than any other
astronomer in the world; and, to do it properly, would require the
almost undivided attention of a man in the vigour of youth. Nor would
a superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, if he made a point of being
acquainted with every thing connected with his subject, find his
situation at all a sinecure. Slight as are the duties of the Foreign
Secretary of the Royal Society, it might have been supposed that Mr.
Brande would scarcely, amongst his multifarious avocations, have found
time even for them. But it may be a consolation to him to know, that
from the progress the Society is making, those duties must become
shortly, if they are not already, almost extinct.

Doubtless the President, in making that appointment, looked most
anxiously over the list of the Royal Society. He doubtless knew that the
Academics of Sweden, of Denmark, of Scotland, of Prussia, of
Hanover, and of France, derived honour from the discoveries of their
Secretaries;--that they prided themselves in the names of Berzelius, of
Oersted, of Brewster, of Encke, of Gauss, and of Cuvier. Doubtless the
President must have been ambitious that England should contribute to
this galaxy of glory, that the Royal Society should restore the lost
Pleiad [Pleiades, an assemblage of seven stars in the neck of the
constellation Taurus. There are now only six of them visible to the
naked eye.--HUTTON'S DICTIONARY--Art. Pleiades.] to the admiring science
of Europe. But he could discover no kindred name amongst the ranks of
his supporters, and forgot, for a moment, the interest of the Society,
in an amiable consideration for the feelings of his surrounding friends.
For had the President chosen a brighter star, the lustre of his other
officers might have been overpowered by its splendour: but relieved
from the pain of such a contrast, he may still retain the hope, that,
by their united brightness, these suns of his little system shall yet
afford sufficient light to be together visible to distant nations, as a
faint NEBULA in the obscure horizon of English science.


Although the Society is not in a state approaching to poverty, it may be
useful to offer a few remarks respecting the distribution of its money.

of the engravings which adorn the volumes of the Philosophical
Transactions, is not sufficiently known. That many of those engravings
are quite essential for the papers they illustrate, and that those
papers are fit for the Transactions, I do not doubt; but, some inquiry
is necessary, when such large sums are expended. I shall endeavour,
therefore, to approximate to the sum these engravings have cost the
Royal Society.

Previous to 1810, there are upwards of seventy plates to papers of
Sir E. Home's; in many of these, which I have purposely separated, the
workmanship is not so minute as in the succeeding ones. Since 1810,
there have occurred 187 plates attached to papers of the same author.
Many of these have cost from twelve to twenty guineas each plate; but
I shall take five pounds as the average cost of the first portion, and
twelve as that of the latter. This would produce,

      70 X  5 =  350
     187 X 12 = 2244
     ......    -----......    L2594

As this is only proposed as a rough approximation, let us omit the odd
hundreds, and we have two thousand pounds expended in plates only on ONE
branch of science, and for one person! Without calling in question
the importance of the discoveries contained in those papers, it may be
permitted to doubt whether such a large sum might not have been expended
in a manner more beneficial to science. Not being myself conversant with
those subjects, I can only form an opinion of the value from extraneous
circumstances. Had their importance been at all equal to their number,
I should have expected to have heard amongst the learned of other
countries much more frequent mention of them than I have done, and even
the Council of the Royal Society would scarcely have excluded from
their Transactions one of those productions which they had paid for as a

It might also have been more delicate not to have placed on the Council
so repeatedly a gentleman, for whose engravings they were annually
expending, during the last twenty years, about an hundred pounds. On
the other hand, when the Council lent Sir E. Home the whole of
those valuable plates to take off impressions for his large work on
Comparative Anatomy, of which they constitute almost the whole, it might
have been as well not to have obliterated from each plate all indication
of the source to which he was indebted for them.

THE PRESIDENT'S DISCOURSES.--I shall mention this circumstance, because
it fell under my own observation.

Observing in the annual accounts a charge of 381L 5s. for the
President's Speeches, I thought it right to inquire into the nature
of this item. Happening to be on the Council the next year, I took an
opportunity, at an early meeting of that Council, to ask publicly for
an explanation of the following resolution, which stands in the
Council-books for Dec. 21, 1828.

"Resolved, That 500 copies of the President's Discourses, about to be
printed by Mr. Murray, be purchased by the Society, at the usual trade

The answer given to that question was, "THAT THE COUNCIL HAD AGREED TO

I remarked at the time that such an answer was quite unsatisfactory, as
the following statement will prove.

The volume consists of 160 pages, or twenty sheets, and the following
prices are very liberal:

                                                   L  s. d.
     To composing and printing twenty sheets, at
          3L. per sheet...............             60  0  0
     Twenty reams of paper, at 3L. per ream.....   60  0  0
     Corrections, alterations, &c..........        30  0  0

     Total cost of 500 copies......               150  0  0

Now upon the subject of the expense of printing, the Council could not
plead ignorance. The Society are engaged in printing, and in paying
printers' bills, too frequently to admit of such an excuse; and several
of the individual members must have known, from their own private
experience, that the cost of printing such a volume was widely different
from that they were about to pay, as an inducement to a bookseller to
print it on his own account. Here, then, was a sum of above two hundred
pounds beyond what was necessary for the object, taken from the funds
of the Royal Society; and for what purpose? Did the President and his
officers ever condescend to explain this transaction to the Council;
or were they expected, as a matter of course, to sanction any thing
proposed to them? Could they have been so weak, or so obedient, as to
order the payment of above three hundred and eighty pounds, to induce a
bookseller to do what they might have done themselves for less than half
the sum? Or did they wish to make Mr. Murray a present of two hundred
pounds? If so, he must have had powerful friends in the Council, and it
is fit the Society should know who they were; for they were not friends,
either to its interests or to its honour.

The copies, so purchased, were ordered by the Council to be sold to
members of the Society at 15s. each: (the trade price is 15s. 3d.) and
out of the five hundred copies twenty-seven only have been sold: the
remainder encumber our shelves. Thus, after four years, the Society are
still losers of three hundred and sixty Pounds on this transaction.

PASTEBOARD.--Although the printing of these observations is not paid for
out of the funds of the Royal Society, yet as the Council of that body
are the visitors of the Royal Observatory, it may not be misplaced to
introduce the subject here.

Some years since, a member of the Royal Society accidentally learned,
that there was, at an old store-shop in Thames Street, a large quantity
of the volumes of the Greenwich Observations on sale as waste paper. On
making inquiry, he ascertained that there were two tons and a half to be
disposed of, and that an equal quantity had already been sold, for the
purpose of converting it into pasteboard. The vendor said he could get
fourpence a pound for the whole, and that it made capital Bristol board.
The fact was mentioned by a member of the Council of the Royal Society,
and they thought it necessary to inquire into the circumstances.

Now, the Observations made at the Royal Observatory are printed with
every regard to typographical luxury, with large margins, on thick
paper, hotpressed, and with no sort of regard to economy. This
magnificence is advocated by some who maintain, that the volumes ought
to be worthy of a great nation; whilst others, seeing how little that
nation spends on science, regret that the sums allotted to it should not
be applied with the strictest economy. If the Astronomer Royal really
has a right to these volumes, printed by the government at a large
expense, it is, perhaps, the most extravagant mode which was ever
yet invented of paying a public servant. When that right was given to
him,--let us suppose somebody had suggested the impolicy of it, lest he
should sell the costly volumes for waste paper,--who would have listened
for one moment to such a supposition? He would have been told that
it was impossible to suppose a person in that high and responsible
situation, could be so indifferent to his own reputation.

A short time since, I applied to the President and Council of the Royal
Society, for copies of the Greenwich Observations, which were necessary
for an inquiry on which I was at that time engaged. Being naturally
anxious to economize the small funds I can devote to science, the
request appeared to me a reasonable one. It was, however, refused; and
I was at the same time informed that the Observations could be purchased
at the bookseller's. [This was a mistake; Mr. Murray has not copies
of the Greenwich Observations prior to 1823.] When I consider that
practical astronomy has not occupied a very prominent place in my
pursuits, I feel disposed, on that ground, to acquiesce in the propriety
of the refusal. This excuse can, however, be of no avail for similar
refusals to other gentlemen, who applied nearly at the same time with
myself, and whose time had been successfully devoted to the cultivation
of that science. [M. Bessel, at the wish of the Royal Academy of Berlin,
projected a plan for making a very extensive map of the heavens. Too
vast for any individual to attempt, it was proposed that a portion
should be executed by the astronomers of various countries, and
invitations to this effect were widely circulated. One only of the
divisions of this map was applied for by any English astronomer; and,
after completing the portion of the map assigned to him, he undertook
another, which had remained unprovided for. This gentleman, the Rev.
Mr. Hussey, was one of the rejected applicants for the Greenwich

There was, however, another ground on which I had weakly anticipated a
different result;--but those who occupy official situations, rendered
remarkable by the illustrious names of their predecessors, are placed
in no enviable station; and, if their own acquirements are confessedly
insufficient to keep up the high authority of their office, they
must submit to the mortifications of their false position. I am sure,
therefore, that the President and officers of the Royal Society must
have sympathized MOST DEEPLY with me, when they felt it their duty to
propose that the Society over which Newton once presided, should refuse
so trifling an assistance to the unworthy possessor of the chair he once

In reply to my application to the President and Council, to be allowed a
copy of the Greenwich Observations, I was informed that, "The number of
copies placed by government at the disposal of the Royal Society, was
insufficient to supply the demands made on them by various learned
bodies in Europe; and, consequently, they were unable, however great
their inclination, to satisfy the wishes of individual applicants."
Now I have spent some time in searching the numerous proceedings in the
council-books of the Royal Society, and I believe the following is the
real state of the case:--

In 1785, Lord Sidney, one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of
State, wrote to the Council a letter, dated Whitehall, March 8, 1785,
from which the following is extracted:--

"The King has been pleased to consent, that any copies of the
Astronomical Observations, made at the Observatory of Greenwich, (and
paid for by the Board of Ordnance, pursuant to His Majesty's command,
of July 21, 1767,) which may at any time remain in the hands of the
printer, shall, after you have reserved such copies as you may
think proper as presents, be given to the said Nevil Maskelyne, in
consideration of his trouble in the superintending the printing thereof.
I am to signify His Majesty's pleasure, that you do, from time to time,
give the necessary orders for that purpose, until His Majesty's further
commands shall be communicated to you.

Soon after this letter, I find on the council-books:--

"Ordered, That sixty copies of the Greenwich Observations, last
published, be retained as presents, and that the rest be delivered to
the Astronomer Royal."

It is difficult to be sure of a negative fact, but in searching many
volumes of the Proceedings of the Council, I have not discovered any
revocation of this order, and I believe none exists. This is confirmed
by the circumstance of the Council at the present day receiving
precisely the same number of copies as their predecessors, and I believe
that in fact they do not know the authority on which the right to those
sixty rests.

Supposing this order unrevoked, it was clearly meant to be left to the
discretion of the Council, to order such a number to be reserved, "from
time to time," as the demands of science might require. When, therefore,
they found that the number of sixty copies was insufficient, they ought
to have directed the printer to send them a larger number; but when they
found out the purpose to which the Astronomer Royal applied them, they
ought immediately to have ordered nearly the whole impression, in order
to prevent this destruction of public property. If, on the other hand,
the above order is revoked, and we really have no right to more than
sixty copies; then, on discovering the Observations in their progress
towards pasteboard, it was the duty of the Council of the Royal Society,
as visitors of the Royal Observatory, immediately to have represented to
Government the evil of the arrangement, and to have suggested, that if
the Astronomer Royal have the right, it would be expedient to commute it
for a liberal compensation.

Whichever be the true view of the case, they have taken no steps on the
subject; and I cannot help expressing my belief, that the President and
Council were induced to be thus negligent of the interests of science,
from the fear of interfering with the perquisites of the Astronomer

It is, however, but justice to observe, that the injury already done to
science, by the conversion of these Observations into pasteboard, is not
so great as the public might have feared. Mr. Pond, than whom no one can
be supposed better acquainted with their value, and whose right to
judge no man can question, has shown his own opinion to be, that his
reputation will be best consulted by diminishing the extent of their

Before I quit the subject of the Royal Observatory, on which much might
be said, I will just refer to the report by a Committee of the Royal
Society that was made relative to it, some years since, and which, it is
imagined, is a subject by no means grateful to the memory of any of
the parties concerned in it. My object is to ascertain, whether any
amendments have taken place in consequence. To one fact of considerable
importance, I was myself a witness, when I was present officially at a
visitation. At that time, no original observations made at the transit
instrument were ever preserved. Had I not been an eye witness of the
process of an observation, I should not have credited the fact.


At a period when the attention of Government to science had not
undergone any marked change, a most unexpected occurrence took place.
His Majesty intimated to the Royal Society, through his Secretary of
State, his intention to found two gold medals, of the value of fifty
guineas each, to be awarded annually by the Council of the Royal
Society, according to the rules they were desired to frame for that

The following is the copy of Mr. Peel's letter:--

WHITEHALL, December 3d, 1825.


I am commanded by the King to acquaint you, that His Majesty proposes to
found two gold medals, of the value of fifty guineas each, to be awarded
as honorary premiums, under the direction of the President and Council
of the Royal Society, in such a manner as shall, by the excitement of
competition among men of science, seem best calculated to promote the
object for which the Royal Society was instituted.

His Majesty desires to receive from the President and Council of
the Royal Society their opinion upon the subject generally of the
regulations which it may be convenient to establish with regard to the
appropriation of the medals; and I have, therefore, to request that
you will make the necessary communication to the Council of the Royal
Society, in order that His Majesty's wishes may be carried into effect.

I have the honour to be, &c. &c. (Signed) R. PEEL.

Nothing could be more important for the interests of science, than this
gracious manifestation of His Majesty's concern for its advancement. It
was hailed by all who were made acquainted with it, as the commencement
of a new era, and the energies which it might have awakened were
immense. The unfettered nature of the gift excited admiration, whilst
the confidence reposed in the Council was calculated to have insured
the wavering faith of any less-gifted body. Even those who, either from
knowing the MANAGEMENT of the Society, or from other grounds, doubted
the policy of establishing medals, saw much to admire in the tone and
spirit in which they were offered.

The Council immediately came to the resolution of gratefully accepting
them: and it appears that the President communicated that resolution, on
the 26th, to Mr. Peel, in a letter, which is found on the minutes of the
Council-book of the 26th of January.

At the same Council, the rules for the award of the Royal medals were
decided upon; they were as follow:--

26th January, 1826.


That it is the opinion of the Council, that the medals be awarded for
the most important discoveries or series of investigations, completed
and made known to the Royal Society in the year preceding the day of
their award.

That it is the opinion of the Council, that the presentation of the
medals should not be limited to British subjects. And they propose, if
it should be His Majesty's pleasure, that his effigy should form the
obverse of the medal.

That two medals from the same die should be struck upon each foundation;
one in gold, one in silver.

If these rules are not the wisest which might have been formed, yet
they are tolerably explicit; and it might have been imagined that even a
councillor of the Royal Society, prepared for office by the education
of a pleader, could not have mystified his brethren so completely, as
to have made them doubt on the point of time. The rules fixed precisely,
that the discoveries or experiments rewarded, must be completed and made
known to the Royal Society, within the YEAR PRECEDING THE DAY of the

Perhaps it might have been a proper mark of respect to this
communication, to have convened a special general meeting of the
Society, to have made known to the whole body the munificent endowment
of their Patron: and when his approbation of the laws which were to
govern the distribution of these medals had been intimated to the
Council, such a course would have been in complete accordance with the
wish expressed in Mr. Peel's letter, "TO EXCITE COMPETITION AMONGST MEN
OF SCIENCE" by making them generally known.

Let us now examine the first award of these medals: it is recorded in
the following words:--

November 16, 1826.

ONE of the medals of His Majesty's donation for the present year was
awarded to John Dalton, Esq. President of the Philosophical and Literary
Society, Manchester, for his development of the Atomic Theory, and his
other important labours and discoveries in physical science.

The other medal for the present year was awarded to James Ivory,
Esq. for his paper on Astronomical Refractions, published in the
Philosophical Transactions for the year 1823, and his other valuable
papers on mathematical subjects.

The Copley medal was awarded to James South, Esq. for his observations
of double stars, and his paper on the discordances between the sun's
observed and computed right ascensions, published in the Transactions.

It is difficult to believe that the same Council, which, in January,
formed the laws for the distribution of these medals, should meet
together in November, and in direct violation of these laws, award them
to two philosophers, one of whom had made, and fully established, his
great discovery almost twenty years before; and the other of whom (to
stultify themselves still more effectually) they expressly rewarded for
a paper made known to them three years before.

Were the rules for the award of these medals read previous to their
decision? Or were the obedient Council only used to register the edict
of their President? Or were they mocked, as they have been in other
instances, with the semblance of a free discussion?

Has it never occurred to gentlemen who have been thus situated, that
although they have in truth had no part in the decision, yet the Society
and the public will justly attribute a portion of the merit or demerit
of their award, to those to whom that trust was confided?

Did no one member of the Council venture, with the most submissive
deference, to suggest to the President, that the public eye would watch
with interest this first decision on the Royal medals, and that it
might perhaps be more discreet to adjudge them, for the first time, in
accordance with the laws which had been made for their distribution? Or
was public opinion then held in supreme contempt? Was it scouted, as I
have myself heard it scouted, in the councils of the Royal Society?

Or was the President exempt, on this occasion, from the responsibility
of dictating an award in direct violation of the faith which had been
pledged to the Society and to the public? and, did the Council, intent
on exercising a power so rarely committed to them; and, perhaps,
urged by the near approach of their hour of dinner, dispense with the
formality of reading the laws on which they were about to act?

Whatever may have been the cause, the result was most calamitous to the
Society. Its decision was attacked on other grounds; for, with a strange
neglect, the Council had taken no pains to make known, either to the
Society, or to the public, the rules they had made for the adjudication
of these medals.

The evils resulting from this decision were many. In the first place, it
was most indecorous and ungrateful to treat with such neglect the rules
which had been approved by our Royal Patron. In the next place, the
medals themselves became almost worthless from this original taint: and
they ceased to excite "competition amongst men of science," because no
man could feel the least security that he should get them, even though
his discoveries should fulfil all the conditions on which they were

The great injury which accrued to science from this proceeding, induced
me, in the succeeding session, when I found myself on the Council of
the Royal Society, to endeavour to remove the stigma which rested on
our character. Whether I took the best means to remedy the evil is now
a matter of comparatively little consequence: had I found any serious
disposition to set it right, I should readily have aided in any plans
for doing that which I felt myself bound to attempt, even though I
should stand alone, as I had the misfortune of doing on that occasion.
[It is but justice to Mr. South, who was a member of that Council, to
state, that the circumstance of his having had the Copley medal of the
same year awarded to him, prevented him from taking any part in the

The impression which the whole of that discussion made on my mind
will never be effaced. Regarding the original rules formed for the
distribution of the Royal medals, when approved by his Majesty, as
equally binding in honour and in justice, I viewed the decision of the
Council, which assigned those medals to Mr. Dalton and Mr. Ivory, as
void, IPSO FACTO, on the ground that it was directly at variance with
that part which CONFINES the medals to discoveries made known to the
moved the following resolutions:

"1st, That the award of the Royal medals, made on the 16th of November,
1826, being contrary to the conditions under which they were offered, is

"2dly, That the sum of fifty guineas each be presented to J. Dalton,
Esq. and James Ivory, Esq. from the funds of the Society; and that
letters be written to each of those gentlemen, expressing the hope
of the Council that this, the only method which is open to them of
honourably fulfilling their pledges, will be received by those gentlemen
as a mark of the high sense entertained by the Council of the importance
and value of their discoveries, which require not the aid of medals
to convey their reputation to posterity, as amongst the greatest which
distinguished the age in which they lived."

It may be curious to give the public a specimen of the reasoning
employed in so select a body of philosophers as the Council of the Royal
Society. It was contended, on the one hand, that although the award was
SOMEWHAT IRREGULAR, yet nothing was more easy than to set it right. As
the original rules for giving the medals were merely an order of the
Council,--it would only be necessary to alter them, and then the
award would agree perfectly with the laws. On the other hand, it was
contended, that the original rules were unknown to the public and to the
Society; and that, in fact, they were only known to the members of
the Council and a few of their friends; and therefore the award was no
breach of faith.

All comment on such reasoning is needless. That such propositions could
not merely be offered, but could pass unreproved, is sufficient to show
that the feelings of that body do not harmonize with those of the age;
and furnishes some explanation why several of the most active members of
the Royal Society have declined connecting their names with the Council
as long as the present system of management is pursued.

The little interest taken by the body of the Society, either in its
peculiar pursuits, or in the proceedings of the Council, and the little
communication which exists between them, is an evil. Thus it happens
that the deeds of the Council are rarely known to the body of the
Society, and, indeed, scarcely extend beyond that small portion who
frequent the weekly meetings. These pages will perhaps afford the first
notice to the great majority of the Society of a breach of faith by
their Council, which it is impossible to suppose a body, consisting of
more than six hundred gentlemen, could have sanctioned.


An important distinction exists between scientific communications, which
seems to have escaped the notice of the Councils of the Royal Society.
They may contain discoveries of new principles,--of laws of nature
hitherto unobserved; or they may consist of a register of observations
of known phenomena, made under new circumstances, or in new and peculiar
situations on the face of our planet. Both these species of additions to
our knowledge are important; but their value and their rarity are very
different in degree. To make and to repeat observations, even with those
trifling alterations, which it is the fashion in our country (in the
present day) to dignify with the name of discoveries, requires merely
inflexible candour in recording precisely the facts which nature has
presented, and a power of fixing the attention on the instruments
employed, or phenomena examined,--a talent, which can be much improved
by proper Instruction, and which is possessed by most persons of
tolerable abilities and education.* To discover new principles, and to
detect the undiscovered laws by which nature operates, is another and
a higher task, and requires intellectual qualifications of a very
different order: the labour of the one is like that of the computer of
an almanac; the inquiries of the other resemble more the researches of
the accomplished analyst, who has invented the formula: by which those
computations are performed.

[*That the use even of the large astronomical instruments in a national
observatory, does not require any very profound acquirements, is not
an opinion which I should have put forth without authority. The
Astronomer-Royal ought to be the best judge.

On the minutes of the Council of the Royal Society, for April 6, 1826,
with reference to the Assistants necessary for the two mural circles,
we find a letter from Mr. Pond on the subject, from which the following
passage is extracted:

"But to carry on such investigations, I want indefatigable,
hard-working, and above all, obedient drudges (for so I must call
them, although they are drudges of a superior order), men who will be
contented to pass half their day in using their hands and eyes in the
mechanical act of observing, and the remainder of it in the dull process
of calculation."]

Such being the distinction between the merits of these inquiries, some
difference ought to exist in the nature of any rewards that may be
proposed for their encouragement. The Royal Society have never marked
this difference, and consequently those: honorary medals which are given
to observations, gain a value which is due to those that are given for
discoveries; whilst these latter are diminished in their estimation by
such an association.

I have stated this distinction, because I think it a just one; but the
public would have little cause of complaint if this were the only ground
of objection to the mode of appropriating the Society's medals. The
first objection to be noticed, is the indistinct manner in which the
object for which the medals are awarded is sometimes specified. A medal
is given to A. B. "for his various papers."

There are cases, few perhaps in number, where such a reason may be
admissible; but it is impossible not to perceive the weakness of those
who judge these matters legibly written in the phrase, "and for his
various other communications," which comes in as the frequent tail-piece
to these awards. With a diffidence in their own powers, which might be
more admired if it were more frequently expressed, the Council think to
escape through this loop-hole, should the propriety of their judgment
on the main point be called in question. Thus, even the discovery which
made chemistry a science, has attached to it in their award this feeble

It has been objected to the Royal Society, that their medals have been
too much confined to a certain set. When the Royal medals were added to
their patronage, the past distribution of the Copley medals, furnished
grounds to some of the journals to predict the future possessors of
the new ones. I shall, doubtless, be told that the Council of the Royal
Society are persons of such high feeling, that it is impossible to
suppose their decision could be influenced by any personal motives. As I
may not have had sufficient opportunities, during the short time I was
a member of that Council, to enable me to form a fair estimate, I shall
avail myself of the judgment of one, from whom no one will be inclined
to appeal, who knew it long and intimately, and who expressed his
opinion deliberately and solemnly.

The late Dr. Wollaston attached, as a condition to be observed in the
distribution of the interest of his munificent gift of 2,000L. to the
Royal Society, the following clause:--"And I hereby empower the said
President, Council, and Fellows, after my decease, in furtherance of the
above declared objects of the trust, to apply the said dividends to aid
or reward any individual or individuals of any country, SAVING ONLY

Another improvement which might be suggested, is, that it is generally
inexpedient to vote a medal until the paper which contains the discovery
is at least read to the Society; perhaps even it might not be quite
unreasonable to wish that it should have been printed, and consequently
have been perused by some few of those who have to decide on its merits.
These trifles have not always been attended to; and even so lately as
the last year, they escaped the notice of the President and his Council.
The Society was, however, indebted to the good sense of Mr. Faraday, who
declined the proffered medal; and thus relieved us from one additional
charge of precipitancy. [When this hasty adjudication was thus put
a stop to, one of the members of the Council inquired, whether, as a
Copley medal must by the will he annually given, some other person might
not be found deserving of it. To which the Secretary replied, "We do
not intend to give any this year." All further discussion was thus

Perhaps, also, as the Council are on some occasions apt to be oblivious,
it might be convenient that the President should read, previously to the
award of any medals or to the decision of any other important subjects,
the statutes relating to them. He might perhaps propitiate their
attention to them, by stating, HOW MUCH IT IMPORTETH TO THE CONSISTENCY

If those who have been conversant with the internal management of the
Council, would communicate their information, something curious might
perhaps be learned respecting a few of these medals. Concerning those
of which I have had good means of information, I shall merely state--of
three of them--that whatever may have been the official reasons for
their award, I had ample reasons to convince me of the following being
the true causes:--

First.--A medal was given to A, at a peculiarly inappropriate

Second.--Subsequently a medal was given to B, in order TO DESTROY THE

Third.--A medal was given to C, "BECAUSE WE THINK HE HAS BEEN ILL USED."

I will now enter on an examination of one of their awards, which
was peculiarly injudicious. I allude to that concerning the mode of
rendering platina malleable. Respecting, as I did, the illustrious
philosopher who invented the art, and who has left many other claims
to the gratitude of mankind, I esteem it no disrespect to his memory to
place that subject in its proper light.

An invention in science or in art, may justly be considered as
possessing the rights of property in the highest degree. The lands
we inherit from our fathers, were cultivated ere they were born, and
yielded produce before they were cultivated. The products of genius are
the actual creations of the individual; and, after yielding profit or
honour to him, they remain the permanent endowments of the human race.
If the institutions of our country, and the opinions of society, support
us fully in the absolute disposal of our fields, of which we can, by
the laws of nature, be only the transitory possessors, who shall justly
restrict our discretion in the disposal of those richer possessions, the
products of intellectual exertion?

Two courses are open to those individuals who are thus endowed with
Nature's wealth. They may lock up in their own bosoms the mysteries they
have penetrated, and by applying their knowledge to the production of
some substance in demand in commerce, thus minister to the wants or
comforts of their species, whilst they reap in pecuniary profit the
legitimate reward of their exertions.

It is open to them, on the other hand, to disclose the secret they have
torn from Nature, and by allowing mankind to participate with them, to
claim at once that splendid reputation which is rarely refused to the
inventors of valuable discoveries in the arts of life.

The two courses are rarely compatible, only indeed when the discoverer,
having published his process, enters into equal competition with other

If an individual adopt the first of these courses, and retaining his
secret, it perish with him, the world have no right to complain. During
his life, they profited by his knowledge, and are better off than if the
philosopher had not existed.

Monopolies, under the name of patents, have been devised to assist and
reward those who have chosen the line of pecuniary profit. Honorary
rewards and medals have been the feeble expressions of the sentiments
of mankind towards those who have preferred the other course. But these
have been, and should always be, kept completely distinct. [It is a
condition with the Society of Arts, never to give a reward to any thing
for which a patent has been, or is to be, taken out.]

Let us now consider the case of platina. A new process was discovered of
rendering it malleable, and the mere circumstance of so large a quantity
having been sent into the market, was a positive benefit, of no ordinary
magnitude, to many of the arts. The discoverer of this valuable process
selected that course for which no reasonable man could blame him;
and from some circumstance, or perhaps from accident, he preserved no
written record of the manipulations. Had Providence appointed for that
disorder, which terminated too fatally, a more rapid career, all the
knowledge he had acquired from the long attention he had devoted to the
subject, would have been lost to mankind. The hand of a friend recorded
the directions of the expiring philosopher, whose anxiety to render
useful even his unfinished speculations, proves that the previous
omission was most probably accidental.

Under such circumstances it was published to the world in the
Transactions of the Royal Society. But what could induce that body
to bestow on it their medal? To talk of adding lustre to the name of
Wollaston by their medal, is to talk idly. They must have done it then
as an example, as a stimulus to urge future inquiries in the career of
discovery. But did they wish discoveries to be so endangered?

The discoveries of Professor Mitscherlick, of Berlin, had long been
considered, by a few members of the Society, as having strong claims on
one of its honorary rewards; but difficulties had arisen, from so few
members of the Council having any knowledge of discoveries which had
long been familiar to Europe. The Council were just on the point of
doing justice to the merits of the Prussian philosopher, when it was
suggested that its medal should be given to Dr. Wollaston, and they
immediately altered their intention, and thus enabled themselves to
reserve their medal to Professor Mitscherlick for another year; at
which period, for aught they knew, his discoveries might possess the
additional merit of having been made prior to the limit allowed by their
regulations. That medal was, in fact, voted at a meeting, at which no
one member present was at all conversant with the subjects rewarded. I
shall, however, say no more on this subject. They erred from feeling,
an error so very rare with them, that it might be pardoned even for its

I will, however, add one word to those whose censures have been unjustly
dealt, to those who have reproached the philosopher for receiving
pecuniary advantage from his inventions.

Amongst the many and varied contrivances for the demands of science,
or the arts of life, with which we were enriched by the genius of
Wollaston, was it too much to allow him to retain, during his fleeting
career, one out of the multitude, to furnish that: pecuniary supply,
without which, the man will want food for his body, and the philosopher
be destitute of tools for his inventions? Had he been, as, from the rank
he held in science, he certainly would have been in other kingdoms, rich
in the honours his country could bestow, and receiving from her a reward
in some measure commensurate with his deserts,--then, indeed, there
might have been reason for that reproach; but I am convinced that,
in such circumstances, the philosopher would have balanced, with no
"niggard" hand, the claims of his country, and would have given to it,
unreservedly, the produce of his powerful mind.


Mr. Fairchild left by will twenty-five pounds to the Royal Society. This
was increased by several subscriptions, and 100L. 3 per cent. South
Sea Annuities was purchased, the interest of which was to be devoted
annually to pay for a sermon to be preached at St.Leonard's, Shoreditch.

Few members of the Society, perhaps, are aware, either of the bequest or
of its annual payment. I shall merely observe, that for five years,
from 1800 to 1804, it was regularly given to Mr. Ascough; and that for
twenty-six years past, it has been as regularly given to the Rev. Mr.

The annual amount is too trifling to stimulate to any extraordinary
exertions; yet, small as it is, it might, if properly applied, be
productive of much advantage to religion, and of great honour to the
Society. For this purpose, it would be desirable that it should be
delivered at some church or chapel, more likely to be attended by
members of the Royal Society. Notice of it should be given at the place
of worship appointed, at least a week previous to its delivery, and at
the two preceding weekly meetings of the Royal Society. The name of the
gentleman nominated for that year, and the church at which the sermon is
to be preached, should be stated.

With this publicity attending it, and by a judicious selection of the
first two or three gentlemen appointed to deliver it, it would soon
be esteemed an honour to be invited to compose such a lecture, and the
Society might always find in its numerous list of members or aspirants,
persons well qualified to fulfil a task as beneficial for the promotion
of true religion, as it ever must be for the interest of science. I am
tempted to believe that such a course would call forth exertions of the
most valuable character, as well as give additional circulation to what
is already done on that subject.

The geological speculations which have been adduced, perhaps with too
much haste by some, as according with the Mosaic history, and by
others, as inconsistent with its truth, would, if this subject had been
attentively considered, have been allowed to remain until the fullest
and freest inquiry had irrevocably fixed their claim to the character
of indisputable facts. But, I will not press this subject further on
my reader's attention, lest he should think I am myself delivering the
lecture. All that I could have said on this point has been so much more
ably stated by one whose enlightened view of geological science has
taken away some difficulties from its cultivators, and, I hope, removed
a stumbling-block from many respectable individuals, that I should only
weaken by adding to the argument. [I allude to the critique of Dr. Ure's
Geology in the British Review, for July, 1829; an Essay, equally worthy
of a philosopher and a Christian.]


The payment [Three pounds.] for this Lecture, like that of the
preceding, is small. It was instituted by Dr. Croone, for an annual
essay on the subject of Muscular Motion. It is a little to be regretted,
that it should have been so restricted; and perhaps its founder, had he
foreseen the routine into which it has dwindled, might have endeavoured
to preserve it, by affording it a wider range.

By giving it to a variety of individuals, competition might have been
created, and many young anatomists have been induced to direct their
attention to the favourite inquiry of the founder of the Lecture;
but from causes which need not here be traced, this has not been the
custom--one individual has monopolized it year after year, and it seems,
like the Fairchild Lecture, rather to have been regarded as a pension.
There have, however, been some intervals; and we are still under
obligations to those who have supported THE SYSTEM, for not appointing
Sir Everard Home to read the Croonian Lecture twenty years in
SUCCESSION. Had it been otherwise, we might have heard of vested rights.


The best friends of the Royal Society have long admitted, whilst they
regretted, its declining fame; and even those who support whatever
exists, begin a little to doubt whether it might not possibly be

The great and leading cause of the present state to which the Royal
Society is reduced, may be traced to years of misrule to which it has
been submitted. In order to understand this, it will be necessary
to explain the nature of that misrule, and the means employed in
perpetuating it.

It is known, that by the statutes, the body of the Society have the
power of electing, annually, their President, Officers, and Council;
and it is also well known, that this is a merely nominal power, and
that printed lists are prepared and put into the hands of the members
on their entering the room, and thus passed into the balloting box. If
these lists were, as in other scientific societies, openly discussed in
the Council, and then offered by them as recommendations to the Society,
little inconvenience would arise; but the fact is, that they are private
nominations by the President, usually without notice, to the Council,
and all the supporters of the system which I am criticizing, endeavour
to uphold the right of this nomination in the President, and prevent or
discourage any alteration.

The Society has, for years, been managed by a PARTY, or COTERIE, or
by whatever other name may be most fit to designate a combination of
persons, united by no expressed compact or written regulations, but who
act together from a community of principles. That each individual has
invariably supported all the measures of the party, is by no means the
case; and whilst instances of opposition amongst them have been very
rare, a silent resignation to circumstances has been the most usual mode
of meeting measures they disapproved. The great object of this, as of
all other parties, has been to maintain itself in power, and to divide,
as far as it could, all the good things amongst its members. It has
usually consisted of persons of very moderate talent, who have had
the prudence, whenever they could, to associate with themselves other
members of greater ability, provided these latter would not oppose the
system, and would thus lend to it the sanction of their name. The party
have always praised each other most highly--have invariably opposed all
improvements in the Society, all change in the mode of management;
and have maintained, that all those who wished for any alteration were
factious; and, when they discovered any symptoms of independence and
inquiry breaking out in any member of the Council, they have displaced
him as soon as they decently could.

Of the arguments employed by those who support the SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT
by which the Royal Society is governed, I shall give a few samples:
refutation is rendered quite unnecessary--juxta-position is
alone requisite. If any member, seeing an improper appointment in
contemplation, or any abuse in the management of the affairs of the
Society continued, raise a voice against it, the ready answer is, Why
should you interfere? it may not be quite the thing you approve; but it
is no affair of yours.--If, on the other hand, it do relate to himself,
the reply is equally ready. It is immediately urged: The question is
of a personal nature; you are the last person who ought to bring it
forward; you are yourself interested. If any member of the Society,
feeling annoyed at the neglect, or hurt by the injuries or insults of
the Council, show signs of remonstrance, it is immediately suggested to
him that he is irritated, and ought to wait until his feelings subside,
and he can judge more coolly on the subject; whilst with becoming
candour they admit the ill-treatment, but urge forbearance. If, after
an interval, when reflection has had ample time to operate, the offence
seems great as at first, or the insult appears unmitigated by any
circumstances on which memory can dwell,--if it is then brought forward,
the immediate answer is, The affair is out of date--the thing is gone
by--it is too late to call in question a transaction so long past. Thus,
if a man is interested personally, he is unfit to question an abuse;
if he is not, is it probable that he will question it? and if,
notwithstanding this, he do so, then he is to be accounted a meddler. If
he is insulted, and complain, he is told to wait until he is cool;
and when that period arrives, he is then told he is too late. If his
remonstrance relates to the alteration of laws which are never referred
to, or only known by their repeated breach, he is told that any
alteration is useless; it is perfectly well known that they are never
adhered to. If it relate to the impolicy of any regulations attaching to
an office, he is immediately answered, that that is a personal question,
in which it is impossible to interfere--the officer, it seems, is
considered to have not merely a vested right to the continuance of every
abuse, but an interest in transmitting it unimpaired to his successors.

In the same spirit I have heard errors of calculation or observation
defended. If small errors occur, it is said that they are too trifling
to be of any importance. If larger errors are pointed out, it is
immediately contended that they can deceive nobody, because of their
magnitude. Perhaps it might be of some use, if the Council would oblige
the world with their SCALE of ERROR, with illustrations from some of the
most RECENT and APPROVED works, and would favour the uninformed with
the orthodox creed upon all grades, from that which baffles the human
faculties to detect, up to that which becomes innocuous from its size.

The offices connected with the Royal Society are few in number, and
their emolument small in amount; but the proper disposition of them
is, nevertheless, of great importance to the Society, and was so to the
science of England.

In the first place, the President, having in effect the absolute
nomination of the whole Council, could each year introduce a few
gentlemen, whose only qualification to sit on it would be the high
opinion they must necessarily entertain of the penetration of him who
could discover their scientific merits. He might also place in the list
a few nobles or officials, just to gild it. Neither of these classes
would put any troublesome questions, and one of them might be employed,
from its station in society, to check any that might be proposed by

With these ingredients, added to the regular train of the party, and a
star or two of science to shed lustre over the whole, a very manageable
Council might be formed; and such has been its frequent composition.

The duties of the Secretaries, when well executed, are laborious,
although not in this respect equal to those of the same officers who, in
several societies, give their gratuitous aid; and their labours are much
lightened by the Assistant Secretary and his clerk. The following are
their salaries:--

     The Senior Secretary ........... 105L.
     The Junior Secretary, 105L........ )
       5L. for making Indexto Phil. Trans... ) 110L.
     The Foreign Secretary...........  20L.

Now it is not customary to change these annually; and as these offices
are amongst the "loaves and fishes" they are generally given by the
President to some staunch supporters of the system. They have frequently
been bestowed, with very little consideration for the interest, or even
for the dignity of the Society. To notice only one instance: the late
Sir Joseph Banks appointed a gentleman who remained for years in
that situation, although he was confessedly ignorant of every subject
connected with the pursuits of the Society. I will, however, do justice
to his memory, by saying that his respectability was preserved
under such circumstances, by the most candid admission of the fact,
accompanied by a store of other knowledge unfortunately quite foreign to
the pursuits of the Society; and I will add, that I regretted to see him
insulted by one President in a situation improperly given to him by a

Next in order come the Vice-Presidents, who are appointed by the
President; and in this respect the present practice is not inconvenient.

The case, however, is widely different with the office of Treasurer. The
President ought not to usurp the power of his appointment, which ought,
after serious discussion by the Council, to be made by the Society at

Besides the three Secretaries, there is an Assistant Secretary,
and recently another has been added, who may perhaps be called a,
Sub-assistant Secretary. All these places furnish patronage to the

Let us now look at the occasional patronage of the President, arising
from offices not belonging to the Society. He is, EX OFFICIO, a Trustee
of the British Museum; and it may seem harsh to maintain that he is not
a fit person to hold such a situation. It is no theoretical view, but it
is the EXPERIENCE of the past which justifies the assertion; and I
fear that unless he has the sole responsibility for some specific
appointments, and unless his judgment is sharpened by the fear of public
discussion, a President of the Royal Society, in the Board-room of the
British Museum, is quite as likely as another person to sacrifice his
public duty to the influence of power, or to private friendship. With
respect to the merits of that Institution, I have no inclination at
present to inquire: but when it is considered that there is at this
moment attached to it no one whose observations or whose writings have
placed him even in the second rank amongst the naturalists of Europe,
the President of the Royal Society has given some grounds for the remark
made by several members of the Society, that he is a little too much
surrounded by the officers of a body who may reasonably be supposed to
entertain towards him feelings either of gratitude or expectation.
[It will be remembered that the name of Mr. Robert Brown has been but
recently attached to the British Museum, and that it is to be attributed
to his possessing a life interest in the valuable collection of the late
Sir Joseph Banks.]

The late Board of Longitude was another source of patronage, which,
although now abolished, it may be useful to hint at.

There were three members to be appointed by the Royal Society: these
were honorary, and, as no salary was attached, it might have been
expected that this limited number of appointments would have been given
in all cases to persons qualified for them. But no: it was convenient
to pay compliments; and Lord Colchester, whose talents and knowledge
insured him respect as Speaker of the House of Commons, or as a
British nobleman, was placed for years in the situation as one of the
Commissioners of the Board of Longitude, for which every competent judge
knew him to be wholly unfit. What was the return which he made for this
indulgence? Little informed respecting the feelings of the Society, and
probably misinformed by the party whose influence had placed him there,
he saved them in the day of their peril.

When the state of the Society had reached such a point that many of
the more scientific members felt that some amendment was absolutely
necessary to its respectability, a committee was formed to suggest to
the Council such improvements as they might consider it expedient to
discuss. [Amongst the names of the persons composing this Committee,
which was proposed by Mr. South, were those of Dr. Wollaston and
Mr. Herschel.] The Council received their report at the close of the
session; and in recording it on the journals, they made an appeal to the
Council for the ensuing year to bestow on it "THEIR EARLIEST AND MOST

Now when the party, to whose government some of these improvements would
have been a death-warrant, found that the subject was likely to be taken
up in the Council, they were in dismay: but the learned and grateful
peer came to their assistance, and aided Mr. Davies Gilbert in getting
rid of these improvements completely.

It has been the fashion to maintain that all classes of the Royal
Society should be represented in the Council, and consequently that a
peer or two should find a place amongst them. Those who are most adverse
to this doctrine would perhaps be the most anxious to render this
tribute to any one really employing his time, his talents, or his rank
in advancing the cause of science. But when a nobleman, unversed in our
pursuits, will condescend to use the influence of his station in aiding
a President to stifle, WITHOUT DISCUSSION, propositions recommended
for consideration by some of the most highly gifted members of the
Society,--those who doubt the propriety of the principle may reasonably
be pardoned for the disgust they must necessarily entertain for the
practical abuse to which it leads.

Of the other three Commissioners, who received each a hundred a-year,
although the nomination was, in point of form, in the Admiralty, yet
it was well known that the President of the Royal Society did, in fact,
always name them. Of these I will only mention one fact. The late Sir
Joseph Banks assigned to me as a reason why I need not expect to be
appointed, (as he had held out to me at a former period when I had
spoken to him on the subject) that I had taken a prominent part in the
formation of the ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY. I am proud of the part I did take
in establishing that Society, although an undue share of its honour was
assigned to me by the President.

It may, perhaps, be inquired, why I publish this fact at this distance
of time? I answer, that I stated it publicly at the Council of the
Astronomical Society;--that I always talked of it publicly and openly at
the time;--that I purposely communicated it to each succeeding President
of the Royal Society; and that, although some may have forgotten the
communications I made at the time, there are others who remember them

The Secretary of the late Board of Longitude received 300L., and 200L.
more, as Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac.

Another situation, in the patronage of which the President is known to
have considerable influence, is that of Astronomer Royal; and it is
to be observed, that he is kept in the Council as much as possible,
notwithstanding the nature of his duties.

Of the three appointments of 100L. a-year each, which have been
instituted since the abolition of the Board of Longitude, the President
is supposed to have the control, thus making him quite sure of the
obedience of his Council.

Besides these sources of patronage, there are other incidental occasions
on which Government apply to the Royal Society to recommend proper
persons to make particular experiments or observations; and, although I
am far from supposing that these are in many instances given to persons
the second or third best qualified for them, yet they deserve to be


The indiscriminate admission of every candidate became at last so
notorious, even beyond the pale of the Society, that some of the members
began to perceive the inconveniences to which it led. This feeling,
together with a conviction that other improvements were necessary to
re-establish the Society in public opinion, induced several of the most
active members to wish for some reform in its laws and proceedings;
and a Committee was appointed to consider the subject. It was perfectly
understood, that the object of this Committee was to inquire,--First, as
to the means and propriety of limiting the numbers of this Society; and
then, as to other changes which they might think beneficial. The names
of the gentlemen composing this Committee were:--

     Dr. Wollaston,           Mr. Herschel,
     Dr. Young,               Mr. Babbage,
     Mr. Davies Gilbert,      Captain Beaufort,
     Mr. South,               Captain Kater.

The importance of the various improvements suggested was different in
the eyes of different members. The idea of rendering the Society so
select as to make it an object of ambition to men of science to be
elected into it, was by no means new, as the following extract from the
Minutes of the Council will prove:--

"MINUTES OF COUNCIL. August 27, 1674 Present,

   Sir W. Petty, Vice-President,
   Sir John Lowther,
   Sir John Cutler,
   Sir Christopher Wren,
   Mr. Oldenburgh,
   Sir Paul Neile.

"It was considered by this Council, that to make the Society prosper,
good experiments must be in the first place provided to make the
weekly meetings considerable, and that the expenses for making these
experiments must be secured by legal subscriptions for paying the
contributors; which done, the Council might then with confidence proceed

The reformers of modern times were less energetic in the measures they
recommended. Dr. Wollaston and some others thought the limitation of
the numbers of the Society to be the most essential point, and 400 was
suggested as a proper number to be recommended, in case a limitation
should be ultimately resolved upon. I confess, such a limit did not
appear to me to bring great advantages, especially when I reflected
how long a time must have elapsed before the 714 members of the Society
could be reduced by death to that number. And I also thought that as
long as those who alone sustained the reputation of the Society by their
writings and discoveries should be admitted into it on precisely
the same terms, and on the payment of the same sum of money as other
gentlemen who contributed only with their purse, it could never be an
object of ambition to any man of science to be enrolled on its list.

With this view, and also to assist those who wished for a limitation, I
suggested a plan extremely simple in its nature, and which would become
effective immediately. I proposed that, in the printed list of the Royal
Society, a star should be placed against the name of each Fellow who
had contributed two or more papers which had been printed in the
Transactions, or that such a list should be printed separately at the

At that period there were 109 living members who had contributed papers
to the Transactions, and they were thus arranged:

     37 Contributors of.. 1 paper
     21.......... 2 papers
     19.......... 3 ditto
     5 .......... 4 ditto
     3 .......... 5 ditto
     3 .......... 6 ditto
     ]2....  from 7 to 12 ditto
     14... of more than 12 papers.

100 Contributing Fellows of the Royal Society. 589 Papers contributed by

Now the immediate effect of printing such a list would be the division
of the Society into two classes. Supposing two or more papers necessary
for placing a Fellow in the first class, that class would only consist
of seventy-two members, which is nearly the same as the number of those
of the Institute of France. If only those who had contributed three or
more were admitted, then this class would be reduced to fifty-one. In
either of these cases it would obviously become a matter of ambition
to belong to the first class; and a more minute investigation into the
value of each paper would naturally take place before it was admitted
into the Transactions. Or it might be established that such papers only
should be allowed to count, as the Committee, who reported them as fit
to be printed, should also certify. The great objection made to such
an arrangement was, that it would be displeasing to the rest of the
Society, and that they had a vested right (having entered the Society
when no distinction was made in the lists) to have them always continued
without one.

Without replying to this shadow of an argument of vested rights, I will
only remark that he who maintains this view pays a very ill compliment
to the remaining 600 members of the Royal Society; since he does,
in truth, maintain that those gentlemen who, from their position,
accidentally derive reputation which does not belong to them, are
unwilling, when the circumstance is pointed out, to allow the world
to assign it to those who have fairly won it; or else that they
are incapable of producing any thing worthy of being printed in the
Transactions of the Royal Society. Lightly as the conduct of the
Society, as a body, has compelled me to think of it, I do not think so
ill of the personal character of its members as to believe that if the
question were fairly stated to them, many would object to it.

Amongst the alterations which I considered most necessary to the
renovation of the Society, was the recommendation, by the expiring
Council, of those whom they thought most eligible for that of the
ensuing year.

The system which had got into practice was radically bad: it is
impossible to have an INDEPENDENT Council if it is named by ONE PERSON.
Our statutes were framed with especial regard to securing the fitness
of the members elected to serve in the Council; and the President is
directed, by those statutes, at the two ordinary meetings previous to
the anniversary, to give notice of the elections, and "to declare how
much it importeth the good of the Society that such persons may be
chosen into the Council as are most likely to attend the meetings and
business of the Council, and out of whom may be made the best choice of
a President and other officers." This is regularly done; and, in mockery
of the wisdom of our ancestors, the President has perhaps in his pocket
the list of the future Council he has already fixed upon.

In some other Societies, great advantage is found to arise from the
discussion of the proper persons to be recommended to the Society for
the Council of the next year. A list is prepared, by the Secretary, of
the old Council, and against each name is placed the number of times
he has attended the meetings of the Council. Those whose attendance has
been least frequent are presumed to be otherwise engaged, unless absence
from London, or engagement in some pursuit connected with the Society,
are known to have interfered. Those members who have been on the Council
the number of years which is usually allowed, added to those who go out
by their own wish, and by non-attendance, are, generally, more in number
than can be spared; and the question is never, who shall retire?--but,
who, out of the rest of the Society, is most likely to work, if placed
on the Council?

If any difference of opinion should exist in a society, it is always of
great importance to its prosperity to have both opinions represented
in the Council. In this age of discussion it is impossible to stifle
opinions; and if they are not represented in the Council, there is some
chance of their being brought before the general body, or, at last, even
before the public. It is certainly an advantage that questions should be
put, and even that debates should take place on the days appropriated
to the anniversaries of societies. This is the best check to the
commencement of irregularities; and a suspicion may reasonably be
entertained of those who endeavour to suppress inquiry.

On the other hand, debates respecting the affairs of the Society should
never be entered on at the ordinary meetings, as they interrupt its
business, and only a partial attendance can be expected. That the
conduct of those who have latterly managed the Royal Society has not
led to such discussions, is to be attributed more to the forbearance of
those who disapprove of the line of conduct they have pursued, than to
the discretion of the party in not giving them cause.

The public is the last tribunal; one to which nothing but strong
necessity should induce an appeal. There are, however, advantages in it
which may, in some cases, render it better than a public discussion at
the anniversary. When the cause of complaint is a system rather than any
one great grievance, it may be necessary to enter more into detail than
a speech will permit; also the printed statement and arguments will
probably come under the consideration of a larger number of the members.
Another and a considerable benefit is, that there is much less danger
of any expression of temper interrupting or injuring the arguments

There were other points suggested, but I shall subjoin the Report of the


Your Committee having maturely considered the resolution of the Council
under which they have been appointed; and having satisfied themselves
that the progressive increase of the Society has been in a much higher
ratio than the progressive increase of population, or the general growth
of knowledge, or the extension of those sciences which it has been
the great object of the Society to promote, they have agreed to the
following Report:--

Your Committee assume as indisputable propositions, that the utility
of the Society is in direct proportion to its respectability. That
its respectability can only be secured by its comprising men of high
philosophical eminence; and that the obvious means of associating
persons of this eminence will be the public conviction, that to belong
to the Society is an honour. Your Committee, therefore, think themselves
fully borne out in the conclusion, that it would be expedient to limit
the Society to such a number as should be a fair representation of the
talent of the country; the consequence of which will be, that every
vacancy would become an object of competition among persons of
acknowledged merit.

From the returns which have been laid on your table, of the Fellows who
have contributed papers, and from the best estimate they can make of the
persons without doors who are engaged in the active pursuit of science,
your Committee feel justified in recommending that those limits should
be fixed at four hundred, exclusive of foreign members, and of such
royal personages as it may be thought proper to admit.

As many years must elapse before the present number of seven hundred and
fourteen can be reduced to those limits by the course of nature, and as
it would be prejudicial to the interests of the Society and of science,
that no fresh accessions should take place during that long period, your
Committee would further recommend, that till that event takes place,
four new members should be annually admitted.

With respect to the manner of admission, your Committee are of opinion,
that there are several inconveniences in the present mode of proceeding
to a single ballot upon each certificate, according to its seniority.
If the above limitation should be adopted, it may be presumed, that for
every vacancy there will be many candidates; from amongst them, it must
be the general wish to select the most distinguished individuals; but to
accomplish this, if the present system were to be continued, it would
be necessary to reject all those candidates whose certificates were of
earlier date than theirs; a process not only extremely irritating,
but probably ineffectual from the want of unanimity. Your Committee,
therefore, most earnestly recommend, that one general election should
take place every year towards the end of the session, and that this
should be conducted on the same principles as the present annual
election of the Council and officers; VIZ. by having lists printed of
all the candidates (whose certificates had been suspended for the usual
time,) in which lists each Fellow would mark the requisite number of

As the charter, however, requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the
Fellows present, your Committee suggest, that after the choice has been
determined by the plurality of votes by ballot in the above manner, the
successful candidates should be again submitted to a general vote, in
accordance with the enactments of the said charter.

In concluding this part of the subject, your Committee beg leave
to remark, that by the method now proposed, the invidious act of
blackballing would cease, and with it all feelings of resentment and
mortification; as the result of such an open competition could only be
construed by the public into a fair preference of the superior claims of
the successful few, and not into a direct and disgraceful rejection of
the others.

Your Committee are fully aware, that such a reduction in the usual
admissions would materially affect the pecuniary resources of the
Society; but they are at the same time convinced, that by a vigorous
economy its present income might be rendered adequate to all its real
wants, and the aggregate expenditure might be considerably diminished by
many small but wholesome retrenchments.

It appears, from the accounts of last year, that although 1200L. was
received for compositions, in addition to the standing income, and usual
contributions, &c., and although no money was invested, yet there was a
balance only of a few pounds at the end of the year. It further appears,
that 500L. was paid for the paper, 370L. for engravings, and nearly
340L. for printing; and from those alarming facts, your Committee submit
to your consideration, whether the expenditure might not be beneficially
controlled by a standing Committee of Finance.

In obedience to the latter part of your resolution, your Committee now
proceed to offer some further suggestions for your consideration.
They conceive that it would afford a beneficial stimulus to individual
exertion, if the Fellows who have received the medals of the Society,
and those who have repeatedly enriched its Transactions, were
distinguished by being collected into a separate and honourable list. It
would also be found, perhaps, not less a future incentive than an act of
retrospective justice, if the names of all those illustrious Fellows who
have formerly obtained the medals, as well as of all those individuals
who have been large benefactors to the Society, were recorded at the end
of the list. It would be a satisfactory addition likewise to the annual
list, if all those Fellows who have died, or had been admitted within
the preceding year, were regularly noticed. And your Committee think,
that these lists should always form part of the Transactions, and be
stitched up with the last part of the volume.

It requires no argument to demonstrate that the well-being of the
Society mainly depends on the activity and integrity of its Council;
and as their selection is unquestionably of paramount importance, your
Committee hope that our excellent President will not consider it any
impeachment of his impartiality, or any doubt of his zeal, if they
venture to suggest, that the usual recommendation to the Society of
proper members for the future Council should henceforth be considered as
a fit subject for the diligent and anxious deliberation of the expiring

There is another point of great moment to the character of the Society,
and to the dignified station it occupies among the learned associations
of Europe; for its character abroad can only be appreciated by the
nature and value of its Transactions. Your Committee allude to the
important task of deciding on what papers should be published; and they
are of opinion that it would be a material improvement on the present
mode, if each paper were referred to a separate Committee, who should
have sufficient time given them to examine it carefully, who should be
empowered to communicate on any doubtful parts with the author; and who
should report, not only their opinion, but the grounds on which that
opinion is formed, for the ultimate decision of the Council.

If it should be thought fit to adopt the suggestions which your
Committee have now had the honour of proposing, they beg leave to move,
that another Committee be appointed, with directions to frame or to
alter the necessary statutes, so that they may be in strict accordance
with the charters.

In concluding the Report, your Committee do not wish to disguise the
magnitude of some of the measures they have thought it their duty
to propose; on the contrary, they would not only urge the fullest
discussion of their expediency; but further, that if you should even be
unanimously disposed to confirm them, your Committee would recommend,
that the several statutes, when they have been drawn up or modified,
should be only entered on your minutes, and not finally enacted.
All innovations in the constitution, or even the habits of the Royal
Society, should be scrutinized with the most jealous circumspection.
It is enough for the present Council to have traced the plan; let the
Council of the ensuing sessions share the credit of carrying that plan
into effect.

This Report was presented to the Council very late in the session of
1827, and on the 25th of June there occurs the following entry on the

"The Report of the Committee for considering the best means of limiting
the number of members, and such other suggestions as they may think
conducive to the good of the Society, was received and read, and ordered
to be entered on the minutes; and the Council, regarding the importance
of the subject, and its bearings on the essential interests of the
Society, in conformity with the concluding paragraph, and considering
also the advanced stage of the session, recommend it to the most serious
and early consideration of the Council for the ensuing year."

Those who advocated these alterations, were in no hurry for their
hasty adoption; they were aware of their magnitude, and anxious for the
fullest investigation before one of them should be tried.

Unfortunately, the concluding recommendation of the Committee did not
coincide with the views of Mr. Gilbert, whom the party had determined to
make their new President. That gentleman made such arrangements for the
Council of the succeeding year, that when the question respecting the
consideration of the Report of that Committee was brought forward, it
was thrown aside in the manner I have stated. Thus a report, sanctioned
by the names of such a committee, and recommended by one Council to
"THE MOST SERIOUS and EARLY consideration of the Council for the ensuing
year," was by that very Council rejected, without even the ceremony of
discussing its merits. Was every individual recommendation it contained,
not merely unfit to be adopted, but so totally deficient in plausibility
as to be utterly unworthy of discussion? Or did the President and his
officers feel, that their power rested on an insecure foundation, and
that they did not possess the confidence of the working members of the


There are several reflections connected with the art of making
observations and experiments, which may be conveniently arranged in this


No person will deny that the highest degree of attainable accuracy is an
object to be desired, and it is generally found that the last advances
towards precision require a greater devotion of time, labour, and
expense, than those which precede them. The first steps in the path of
discovery, and the first approximate measures, are those which add most
to the existing knowledge of mankind.

The extreme accuracy required in some of our modern inquiries has, in
some respects, had an unfortunate influence, by favouring the opinion,
that no experiments are valuable, unless the measures are most minute,
and the accordance amongst them most perfect. It may, perhaps, be of
some use to show, that even with large instruments, and most practised
observers, this is but rarely the case. The following extract is taken
from a representation made by the present Astronomer-Royal, to the
Council of the Royal Society, on the advantages to be derived from the
employment of two mural circles:--

"That by observing, with two instruments, the same objects at the same
time, and in the same manner, we should be able to estimate how much of
MOST CAREFUL OBSERVATIONS, ought to be attributed to irregularity of
refraction, and how much to THE IMPERFECTIONS OF INSTRUMENTS."

In confirmation of this may be adduced the opinion of the late M.
Delambre, which is the more important, from the statement it contains
relative to the necessity of publishing all the observations which have
been made.

"Mais quelque soit le parti que l'on prefere, il me semble qu'on doit
tout publier. Ces irregularites memes sont des faits qu'il importe de
OBSERVATEURS LES PLUS EXERCES, et celui qui ne produiroit que des angles
toujours parfaitment d'accord auroit ete singulierement bien servi
par les circonstances ou ne seroit pas bien sincere."--BASE DU SYSTEME
METRIQUE, Discours Preliminaire, p. 158.

This desire for extreme accuracy has called away the attention of
experimenters from points of far greater importance, and it seems to
have been too much overlooked in the present day, that genius marks its
tract, not by the observation of quantities inappreciable to any but the
acutest senses, but by placing Nature in such circumstances, that she is
forced to record her minutest variations on so magnified a scale, that
an observer, possessing ordinary faculties, shall find them legibly
written. He who can see portions of matter beyond the ken of the rest of
his species, confers an obligation on them, by recording what he sees;
but their knowledge depends both on his testimony and on his judgment.
He who contrives a method of rendering such atoms visible to ordinary
observers, communicates to mankind an instrument of discovery, and
stamps his own observations with a character, alike independent of
testimony or of judgment.


The remarks in this section are not proposed for the assistance of
those who are already observers, but are intended to show to persons not
familiar with the subject, that in observations demanding no unrivalled
accuracy, the principles of common sense may be safely trusted, and that
any gentleman of liberal education may, by perseverance and attention,
ascertain the limits within which he may trust both his instrument and

If the instrument is a divided one, the first thing is to learn to
read the verniers. If the divisions are so fine that the coincidence is
frequently doubtful, the best plan will be for the learner to get some
acquaintance who is skilled in the use of instruments, and having set
the instrument at hazard, to write down the readings of the verniers,
and then request his friend to do the same; whenever there is any
difference, he should carefully examine the doubtful one, and ask his
friend to point out the minute peculiarities on which he founds his
decision. This should be repeated frequently; and after some practice,
he should note how many times in a hundred his reading differs from his
friend's, and also how many divisions they usually differ.

The next point is, to ascertain the precision with which the learner
can bisect an object with the wires of the telescope. This can be done
without assistance. It is not necessary even to adjust the instrument,
but merely to point it to a distant object. When it bisects any
remarkable point, read off the verniers, and write down the result; then
displace the telescope a little, and adjust it again. A series of such
observations will show the confidence which is due to the observer's
eye in bisecting an object, and also in reading the verniers; and as the
first direction gave him some measure of the latter, he may, in a great
measure, appreciate his skill in the former. He should also, when he
finds a deviation in the reading, return to the telescope, and satisfy
himself if he has made the bisection as complete as he can. In general,
the student should practise each adjustment separately, and write down
the results wherever he can measure its deviations.

Having thus practised the adjustments, the next step is to make an
observation; but in order to try both himself and the instrument, let
him take the altitude of some fixed object, a terrestrial one, and
having registered the result, let him derange the adjustment, and repeat
the process fifty or a hundred times. This will not merely afford him
excellent practice, but enable him to judge of his own skill.

The first step in the use of every instrument, is to find the limits
within which its employer can measure the SAME OBJECT UNDER THE SAME
CIRCUMSTANCES. It is only from a knowledge of this, that he can
have confidence in his measures of the SAME OBJECT UNDER DIFFERENT

These principles are applicable to almost all instruments. If a person
is desirous of ascertaining heights by a mountain barometer, let him
begin by adjusting the instrument in his own study; and having made the
upper contact, let him write down the reading of the vernier, and then
let him derange the UPPER adjustment ONLY, re-adjust, and repeat the
reading. When he is satisfied about the limits within which he can make
that adjustment, let him do the same repeatedly with the lower; but
let him not, until he knows his own errors in reading and adjusting,
pronounce upon those of the instrument. In the case of a barometer,
he must also be assured, that the temperature of the mercury does not
change during the interval.

A friend once brought to me a beautifully constructed piece of
mechanism, for marking minute portions of time; the three-hundredth
parts of a second were indicated by it. It was a kind of watch, with
a pin for stopping one of the hands. I proposed that we should each
endeavour to stop it twenty times in succession, at the same point. We
were both equally unpractised, and our first endeavours showed that we
could not be confident of the twentieth part of a second. In fact, both
the time occupied in causing the extremities of the fingers to obey the
volition, as well as the time employed in compressing the flesh before
the fingers acted on the stop, appeared to influence the accuracy of our
observations. From some few experiments I made, I thought I perceived
that the rapidity of the transmission of the effects of the will,
depended on the state of fatigue or health of the body. If any one were
to make experiments on this subject, it might be interesting, to compare
the rapidity of the transmission of volition in different persons,
with the time occupied in obliterating an impression made on one of the
senses of the same persons. For example, by having a mechanism to make
a piece of ignited charcoal revolve with different degrees of velocity,
some persons will perceive a continuous circle of light before others,
whose retina does not retain so long impressions that are made upon it.


Scientific inquiries are more exposed than most others to the inroads of
pretenders; and I feel that I shall deserve the thanks of all who really
value truth, by stating some of the methods of deceiving practised by
unworthy claimants for its honours, whilst the mere circumstance of
their arts being known may deter future offenders.

There are several species of impositions that have been practised in
science, which are but little known, except to the initiated, and which
it may perhaps be possible to render quite intelligible to ordinary
understandings. These may be classed under the heads of hoaxing,
forging, trimming, and cooking.

OF HOAXING. This, perhaps, will be better explained by an example. In
the year 1788, M. Gioeni, a knight of Malta, published at Naples an
account of a new family of Testacea, of which he described, with great
minuteness, one species, the specific name of which has been taken from
its habitat, and the generic he took from his own family, calling it
Gioenia Sicula. It consisted of two rounded triangular valves, united by
the body of the animal to a smaller valve in front. He gave figures
of the animal, and of its parts; described its structure, its mode of
advancing along the sand, the figure of the tract it left, and estimated
the velocity of its course at about two-thirds of an inch per minute. He
then described the structure of the shell, which he treated with nitric
acid, and found it approach nearer to the nature of bone than any other

The editors of the ENCYCLOPEDIE METHODIQUE, have copied this
description, and have given figures of the Gioenia Sicula. The fact,
however, is, that no such animal exists, but that the knight of Malta,
finding on the Sicilian shores the three internal bones of one of the
species of Bulla, of which some are found on the south-western coast
of England, [Bulla lignaria] described and figured these bones most
accurately, and drew the whole of the rest of the description from the
stores of his own imagination.

Such frauds are far from justifiable; the only excuse which has been
made for them is, when they have been practised on scientific academies
which had reached the period of dotage. It should however be remembered,
that the productions of nature are so various, that mere strangeness
is very far from sufficient to render doubtful the existence of any
creature for which there is evidence; [The number of vertebrae in the
neck of the plesiosaurus is a strange but ascertained fact] and that,
unless the memoir itself involves principles so contradictory, as to
outweigh the evidence of a single witness, [The kind of contradiction
which is here alluded to, is that which arises from well ascertained
final causes; for instance, the ruminating stomach of the hoofed
animals, is in no case combined with the claw-shaped form of the
extremities, frequent in many of the carniverous animals, and necessary
to some of them for the purpose of seizing their prey] it can only be
regarded as a deception, without the accompaniment of wit.

FORGING differs from hoaxing, inasmuch as in the latter the deceit is
intended to last for a time, and then be discovered, to the ridicule of
those who have credited it; whereas the forger is one who, wishing to
acquire a reputation for science, records observations which he has
never made. This is sometimes accomplished in astronomical observations
by calculating the time and circumstances of the phenomenon from tables.
The observations of the second comet of 1784, which was only seen by
the Chevalier D'Angos, were long suspected to be a forgery, and were at
length proved to be so by the calculations and reasonings of Encke. The
pretended observations did not accord amongst each other in giving any
possible orbit. But M. Encke detected an orbit, belonging to some of
the observations, from which he found that all the rest might be almost
precisely deduced, provided a mistake of a unity in the index of the
logarithm of the radius vector were supposed to have been made in all
the rest of the calculations. ZACH. CORR. ASTRON. Tom. IV. p. 456.

Fortunately instances of the occurrence of forging are rare.

TRIMMING consists in clipping off little bits here and there from those
observations which differ most in excess from the mean, and in
sticking them on to those which are too small; a species of "equitable
adjustment," as a radical would term it, which cannot be admitted in

This fraud is not perhaps so injurious (except to the character of the
trimmer) as cooking, which the next paragraph will teach, The reason of
this is, that the AVERAGE given by the observations of the trimmer is
the same, whether they are trimmed or untrimmed. His object is to gain a
reputation for extreme accuracy in making observations; but from respect
for truth, or from a prudent foresight, he does not distort the position
of the fact he gets from nature, and it is usually difficult to detect
him. He has more sense or less adventure than the Cook.

OF COOKING. This is an art of various forms, the object of which is to
give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of
the highest degree of accuracy.

One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and
out of these to select those only which agree, or very nearly agree.
If a hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unlucky if he
cannot pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up.

Another approved receipt, when the observations to be used will not
come within the limit of accuracy, which it has been resolved they shall
possess, is to calculate them by two different formulae. The difference
in the constants employed in those formulae has sometimes a most happy
effect in promoting unanimity amongst discordant measures. If still
greater accuracy is required, three or more formulae can be used.

It must be admitted that this receipt is in some instances rather
hazardous: but in cases where the positions of stars, as given in
different catalogues, occur, or different tables of specific gravities,
specific heats, &c. &c., it may safely be employed. As no catalogue
contains all stars, the computer must have recourse to several; and if
he is obliged to use his judgment in the selection, it would be cruel
to deny him any little advantage which might result from it. It may,
however, be necessary to guard against one mistake into which persons
might fall.

If an observer calculate particular stars from a catalogue which makes
them accord precisely with the rest of his results, whereas, had they
been computed from other catalogues the difference would have been
considerable, it is very unfair to accuse him of COOKING; for--those
catalogues may have been notoriously inaccurate; or--they may have
been superseded by others more recent, or made with better instruments;
or--the observer may have been totally ignorant of their existence.

It sometimes happens that the constant quantities in formulae given by
the highest authorities, although they differ amongst themselves, yet
they will not suit the materials. This is precisely the point in which
the skill of the artist is shown; and an accomplished cook will carry
himself triumphantly through it, provided happily some mean value of
such constants will fit his observations. He will discuss the relative
merits of formulae he has just knowledge enough to use; and, with
admirable candour assigning their proper share of applause to Bessel, to
Gauss, and to Laplace, he will take THAT mean value of the constant used
by three such philosophers, which will make his own observations accord
to a miracle.

There are some few reflections which I would venture to suggest to those
who cook, although they may perhaps not receive the attention which, in
my opinion, they deserve, from not coming from the pen of an adept.

In the first place, it must require much time to try different
formulae. In the next place it may happen that, in the progress of human
knowledge, more correct formula: may be discovered, and constants may
be determined with far greater precision. Or it may be found that some
physical circumstance influences the results, (although unsuspected at
the time) the measure of which circumstance may perhaps be recovered
from other contemporary registers of facts. [Imagine, by way of example,
the state of the barometer or thermometer.] Or if the selection of
observations has been made with the view of its agreeing precisely with
the latest determination, there is some little danger that the average
of the whole may differ from that of the chosen ones, owing to some law
of nature, dependent on the interval between the two sets, which
law some future philosopher may discover, and thus the very best
observations may have been thrown aside.

In all these, and in numerous other cases, it would most probably
happen that the cook would procure a temporary reputation for unrivalled
accuracy at the expense of his permanent fame. It might also have the
effect of rendering even all his crude observations of no value; for
that part of the scientific world whose opinion is of most weight, is
generally so unreasonable, as to neglect altogether the observations
of those in whom they have, on any occasion, discovered traces of the
artist. In fact, the character of an observer, as of a woman, if doubted
is destroyed.

The manner in which facts apparently lost are restored to light, even
after considerable intervals of time, is sometimes very unexpected, and
a few examples may not be without their use. The thermometers employed
by the philosophers who composed the Academia Del Cimento, have been
lost; and as they did not use the two fixed points of freezing and
boiling water, the results of a great mass of observations have remained
useless from our ignorance of the value of a degree on their instrument.
M. Libri, of Florence, proposed to regain this knowledge by comparing
their registers of the temperature of the human body and of that of some
warm springs in Tuscany, which have preserved their heat uniform during
a century, as well as of other things similarly circumstanced.

Another illustration was pointed out to me by M. Gazzeri, the Professor
of Chemistry at Florence. A few years ago an important suit in one of
the legal courts of Tuscany depended on ascertaining whether a certain
word had been erased by some chemical process from a deed then before
the court. The party who insisted that an erasure had been made, availed
themselves of the knowledge of M. Gazzeri, who, concluding that those
who committed the fraud would be satisfied by the disappearance of the
colouring matter of the ink, suspected (either from some colourless
matter remaining in the letters, or perhaps from the agency of the
solvent having weakened the fabric of the paper itself beneath the
supposed letters) that the effect of the slow application of heat would
be to render some difference of texture or of applied substance evident,
by some variety in the shade of colour which heat in such circumstances
might be expected to produce. Permission having been given to try the
experiment, on the application of heat the important word reappeared, to
the great satisfaction of the court.



One of the causes which has contributed to the success of the PARTY, is
to be found in the great reluctance with which many of those whose names
added lustre to the Society expressed their opinions, and the little
firmness with which they maintained their objections. How many times
have those whose activity was additionally stimulated by their interest,
proposed measures which a few words might have checked; whilst the
names of those whose culpable silence thus permitted the project to be
matured, were immediately afterwards cited by their grateful coadjutors,
as having sanctioned that which in their hearts they knew to be a job.

Even in the few cases which have passed the limits of such forbearance,
when the subject has been debated in the Council, more than one, more
than two instances are known, where subsequent circumstances have
occurred, which proved, with the most irresistible moral evidence, that
members have spoken on one side of the question, and have voted on the

This reluctance to oppose that which is disapproved, has been too
extensively and too fatally prevalent for the interests of the Royal
Society. It may partly be attributed to that reserved and retiring
disposition, which frequently marks the man of real knowledge, as
strongly as an officious interference and flippant manner do the
charlatan, or the trader in science. Some portion of it is due to that
improper deference which was long paid to every dictum of the President,
and much of it to that natural indisposition to take trouble on any
point in which a man's own interest is not immediately concerned. It is
to be hoped, for the credit of that learned body, that no anticipation
of the next feast of St. Andrew ever influenced the taciturnity of their
disposition. [It may be necessary to inform those who are not members
of the Royal Society, that this is the day on which those Fellows who
choose, meet at Somerset House, to register the names of the Council and
Officers the President has been pleased to appoint for the ensuing year;
and who afterwards dine together, for the purpose of praising each other
over wine, which, until within these few years, was PAID for out of
the FUNDS of the Society. This abuse was attacked by an enterprising
reformer, and of course defended by the coterie. It was, however,
given up as too bad. The public may form some idea of the feeling which
prevails in the Council, when they are informed that this practice was
defended by one of the officers of the Society, on the ground that,


The days in which the Royal Society can have much influence in science
seem long past; nor does it appear a matter of great importance who
conduct its mismanaged affairs. Perpetual Presidents have been tried
until the Society has become disgusted with dictators. If any reform
should be attempted, it might perhaps be deserving consideration whether
the practice of several of the younger institutions might not be worthy
imitation, and the office of President be continued only during two
sessions. There may be some inconveniences attending this arrangement;
but the advantages are conspicuous, both in the Astronomical and
Geological Societies. Each President is ambitious of rendering the
period of his reign remarkable for some improvement in the Society
over which he presides; and the sacrifice of time which is made by the
officers of those Societies, would become impossible if it were required
to be continued for a much longer period. Another circumstance of
considerable importance is, that the personal character of the President
is less impressed on the Society; and, supposing any injudicious
alterations to be made, it is much less difficult to correct them.


The honour of belonging to the Royal Society is much sought after
by medical men, as contributing to the success of their professional
efforts, and two consequences result from it. In the first place, the
pages of the Transactions of the Royal Society occasionally contain
medical papers of very moderate merit; and, in the second, the
preponderance of the medical interest introduces into the Society some
of the jealousies of that profession. On the other hand, medicine is
intimately connected with many sciences, and its professors are usually
too much occupied in their practice to exert themselves, except upon
great occasions.


The Royal Institution was founded for the cultivation of the more
popular and elementary branches of scientific knowledge, and has risen,
partly from the splendid discoveries of Davy, and partly from the
decline of the Royal Society, to a more prominent station than it would
otherwise have occupied in the science of England. Its general
effects in diffusing knowledge among the more educated classes of the
metropolis, have been, and continue to be, valuable. Its influence,
however, in the government of the Royal Society, is by no means attended
with similar advantages, and has justly been viewed with considerable
jealousy by many of the Fellows of that body. It may be stated,
without disparagement to the Royal Institution, that the scientific
qualifications necessary for its officers, however respectable, are not
quite of that high order which ought to be required for those of the
Royal Society, if the latter body were in a state of vigour.

The Royal Institution interest has always been sufficient to appoint one
of the Secretaries of the Royal Society; and at the present moment they
have appointed two. In a short time, unless some effectual check is put
to this, we shall find them nominating the President and the rest of the
officers. It is certainly not consistent with the dignity of the Royal
Society thus to allow its offices to be given away as the rewards of
services rendered to other institutions. The only effectual way to put a
stop to this increasing interest would be, to declare that no manager
or officer of the Royal Institution should ever, at the same time, hold
office in the Royal Society.

The use the Members of the Royal Institution endeavour to make of their
power in the Council of the Royal Society, is exemplified in the minutes
of the Council of March 11, 1830, which may be consulted with advantage
by those who doubt.


The Transactions of the Royal Society, unlike those of most foreign
academies, contain nothing relating to the history of the Society. The
volumes contain merely those papers communicated to the Society in
the preceding year which the Council have selected for printing, a
meteorological register, and a notice of the award of the annual medals,
without any list of the Council and officers of the Society, by whom
that selection and that award have been made.

Before I proceed to criticise this state of things, I will mention one
point on which I am glad to be able to bestow on the Royal Society the
highest praise. I refer to the extreme regularity with which the volumes
of the Transactions are published. The appearance of the half-volumes at
intervals of six months, insures for any communication almost immediate
publicity; whilst the shortness of the time between its reception and
publication, is a guarantee to the public that the whole of the paper
was really communicated at the time it bears date. To this may also be
added, the rarity of any alterations made previously to the printing,
a circumstance which ought to be imitated, as well as admired, by other
societies. There may, indeed, be some, perhaps the Geological, in which
the task is more difficult, from the nature of the subject. The sooner,
however, all societies can reduce themselves to this rule, of rarely
allowing any thing but a few verbal corrections to papers that are
placed in their hands, the better it will be for their own reputation,
and for the interests of science.

It has been, and continues to be, a subject of deep regret, that the
first scientific academy in Europe, the Institute of France, should be
thus negligent in the regularity of its publications; and it is the
more to be regretted, that it should be years in arrear, from the
circumstance, that the memoirs admitted into their collection are
usually of the highest merit. I know some of their most active members
have wished it were otherwise; I would urge them to put a stop to a
practice, which, whilst it has no advantages to recommend it, is unjust
to those who contribute, and is only calculated to produce conflicting
claims, equally injurious to science, and to the reputation of that
body, whose negligence may have given rise to them. [Mr. Herschel,
speaking of a paper of Fresnel's, observes--"This memoir was read to
the Institute, 7th of October, 1816; a supplement was received, 19th of
January, 1818; M. Arago's report on it was read, 4th of June, 1821: and
while every optical philosopher in Europe has been impatiently expecting
its appearance for seven years, it lies as yet unpublished, and is only
known to us by meagre notices in a periodical journal." MR HERSCHEL'S

One of the inconveniences arising from having no historical portion in
the volumes of the Royal Society is, that not only the public, but our
own members are almost entirely ignorant of all its affairs. With a
means of giving considerable publicity (by the circulation of above 800
copies of the Transactions) to whatever we wish to have made known to
our members or to the world, will it be credited, that no notice was
taken in our volume for 1826, of the foundation of two Royal medals,
nor of the conditions under which they were to be distributed. [That
the Council refrained from having their first award of those medals thus
communicated, is rather creditable to them, and proves that they had a
becoming feeling respecting their former errors.] That in 1828, when
a new fund, called the donation fund, was established, and through the
liberality of Dr. Wollaston and Mr. Davies Gilbert, it was endowed by
them with the respective sums of 2,000L. and 1,000L. 3 per cents;
no notice of such fact appears in our Transactions for 1829. Other
gentlemen have contributed; and if it is desirable to possess such a
fund, it is surely of importance to inform the non-attending, which is
by far the largest part of the Society, that it exists; and that we are
grateful to those by whom it has been founded and augmented. Neither
did the Philosophical Transactions inform our absent members, that they
could purchase the President's Discourses at the trade-price.

The list of the Officers, Council, and Members of the Royal Society is
printed annually; yet, who ever saw it bound up with the Philosophical
Transactions, to which it is intended to be attached? I never met with
a single copy of that work so completed, not even the one in our own
library. It is extremely desirable that the Society should know the
names of their Council; and whilst it would in some measure contribute
to prevent the President from placing incompetent persons upon it, it
would also afford some check, although perhaps but a slight one, on
the distribution of the medals. When I have urged the expediency of the
practice, I have been answered by excuses, that the list could not be
made up in time for the volume. If this is true of the first part, they
might appear with the second; and even if this were impracticable, the
plan of prefixing them to the volume of the succeeding year, would
be preferable to that of omitting them altogether. The true reason,
however, appeared at last. It was objected to the plan, that by the
present arrangement, the porter of the Royal Society took round the
list to those members resident in London, and got from some of them a
remuneration, in the shape of a Christmas-box; and this would be lost,
if the time of printing were changed. [During the printing of this
chapter, a friend, on whom I had called, complained that the porter of
the Royal Society had demanded half-a-crown for leaving the list.] Such
are the paltry interests to which those of the Royal Society are made to

Another point on which information ought to be given in each volume,
is the conditions on which the distribution of the Society's medals
are made. It is true that these are, or ought to be, printed with
the Statutes of the Society; but that volume is only in the hands of
members, and it is for the credit of the medals themselves, that the
laws which regulate their award should be widely known, in order that
persons, not members of the Society, might enter into competition for

Information relative to the admissions and deaths amongst the Society
would also be interesting; a list of the names of those whom the Society
had lost, and of those members who had been added to its ranks each
year, would find a proper place in the historical pages which ought to
be given with each volume of our Transactions.

The want of a distinction between the working members of the Society,
and those who merely honour it with their patronage, renders many
arrangements, which would be advantageous to science, in some cases,
injudicious, and in other instances, almost impossible.

Collections of Observations which are from time to time given to the
Society, may be of such a nature, that but few of the members are
interested in them. In such cases, the expense of printing above 800
copies may reasonably induce the Council to decline printing them
altogether; whereas, if they had any means of discrimination for
distributing them, they might be quite willing to incur the expense
of printing 250. Other cases may occur, in which great advantage
would accrue, if the principle were once admitted. Government, the
Universities, public bodies, and even individuals might, in some cases,
be disposed to present to the Royal Society a limited number of copies
of their works, if they knew that they were likely to be placed in
the hands of persons who would use them. Fifty or a hundred additional
copies might, in some cases, not be objected to on the ground of
expense, when seven or eight hundred would be quite out of the question.

Let us suppose twenty copies of a description of some new chemical
process to be placed at the disposal of the Royal Society by any public
body; it will not surely be contended that they ought all to remain on
the Society's shelves. Yet, with our present rules, that would be the
case. If, however, the list of the Members of the Society were read over
to the Council, and the names of those gentlemen known to be conversant
with chemical science were written down; then, if nineteen copies of
the work were given to those nineteen persons on this list, who had
contributed most to the Transactions of the Society, they would in all
probability be placed in the fittest hands.

Complete sets of the Philosophical Transactions have now become
extremely bulky; it might be well worth our consideration, whether the
knowledge of the many valuable papers they contain would not be much
spread, by publishing the abstracts of them which have been read at the
ordinary meetings of the Society. Perhaps two or three volumes octavo,
would contain all that has been done in this way during the last

Another circumstance, which would contribute much to the order of the
proceedings of the Council, would be to have a distinct list made out of
all the statutes and orders of the Council relating to each particular

Thus the President, by having at one view before him all that had ever
been decreed on the question under consideration, would be much better
able to prevent inconsistent resolutions, and to save the time of the
Council from being wasted by unnecessary discussions.


Amongst the various proposals for encouraging science, the institution
of an order of merit has been suggested. It is somewhat singular, that
whilst in most of the other kingdoms of Europe, such orders exist for
the purpose of rewarding, by honorary distinctions, the improvers of the
arts of life, or successful discoverers in science, nothing of the
kind has been established in England. [At the great meeting of the
philosophers at Berlin, in 1828, of which an account is given in the
Appendix; the respect in which Berzelius, Oersted, Gauss, and Humboldt
were held in their respective countries was apparent in the orders
bestowed on them by the Sovereigns of Sweden, of Denmark, of Hanover,
and of Prussia; and there were present many other philosophers, whose
decorations sufficiently attested the respect in which science was held
in the countries from which they came.]

Our orders of knighthood are favourable only to military distinction.
It has been urged, as an argument for such institutions, that they are a
cheap mode of rewarding science, whilst, on the other hand, it has
been objected, that they would diminish the value of such honorary
distinctions by making them common. The latter objection is of little
weight, because the numbers who pursue science are few, and, probably,
will long continue so. It would also be easily avoided, by restricting
the number of the order or of the class, if it were to form a peculiar
class of another order. Another objection, however, appears to me to
possess far greater weight; and, however strong the disposition of the
Government might be (if such an order existed) to fill it properly, I
do not believe that, in the present state of public opinion respecting
science, it could be done, and, in all probability, it would be filled
up through the channels of patronage, and by mere jobbers in science.

Another proposal, of a similar kind, has also been talked of, one which
it may appear almost ridiculous to suggest in England, but which would
be considered so in no other country. It is, to ennoble some of the
greatest scientific benefactors of their country. Not to mention
political causes, the ranks of the nobility are constantly recruited
from the army, the navy, and the bar; why should not the family of that
man, whose name is imperishably connected with the steam-engine, be
enrolled amongst the nobility of his country? In utility and profit,
not merely to that country, but to the human race, his deeds may proudly
claim comparison even with the most splendid of those achieved by
classes so rich in glorious recollections. An objection, in most cases
fatal to such a course, arises from the impolicy of conferring a title,
unless a considerable fortune exists to support it; a circumstance
very rarely occurring to the philosopher. It might in some measure be
removed, by creating such titles only for life. But here, again, until
there existed some knowledge of science amongst the higher classes, and
a sound state of public opinion relative to science, the execution of
the plan could only be injurious.


This idea has occurred to several persons, as likely to lead to
considerable advantages to science. If the various scientific societies
could unite in the occupation of one large building, considerable
economy would result from the union. By properly arranging their
evenings of meeting, one meeting-room only need be required. The
libraries might either be united, or arranged in adjoining rooms; and
such a system would greatly facilitate the inquiries of scientific

Whether it would be possible to reunite in any way the different
societies to the Royal Society, might be a delicate question; but
although, on some accounts, desirable, that event is not necessary for
the purpose of their having a common residence.

The Medico-Botanical Society might, perhaps, from sympathy, be the first
to which the Royal Society would apply; and by a proper interchange of
diplomas, [A thing well understood by the INITIATED, both at HOME and
ABROAD.] the two societies might be inoculated with each other. But
even here some tact would be required; the Medico-Botanical is a
little particular about the purity of its written documents, and lately
attributed blame to one of its officers for some slight tampering with
them, a degree of illiberality which the Council of the Royal Society
are far from imitating.

The Geological and the Astronomical Societies nourish no feelings of
resentment to the parent institution for their early persecution; and
though they have no inducement to seek, would scarcely refuse any union
which might be generally advantageous to science.


In a work on the Decline of Science, at a period when England has so
recently lost two of its brightest ornaments, I should hardly be excused
if I omitted to devote a few words to the names of Wollaston and of
Davy. Until the warm feelings of surviving kindred and admiring friends
shall be cold as the grave from which remembrance vainly recalls
their cherished forms, invested with all the life and energy of
recent existence, the volumes of their biography must be sealed. Their
contemporaries can expect only to read their eloge.

In habits of intercourse with both those distinguished individuals,
sufficiently frequent to mark the curiously different structure of their
minds, I was yet not on such terms even with him I most esteemed, as to
view his great qualities through that medium which is rarely penetrated
by the eyes of long and very intimate friendship.

Caution and precision were the predominant features of the character
of Wollaston, and those who are disposed to reduce the number of
principles, would perhaps justly trace the precision which adorned
his philosophical, to the extreme caution which pervaded his moral
character. It may indeed be questioned whether the latter quality will
not in all persons of great abilities produce the former.

Ambition constituted a far larger ingredient in the character of
Davy, and with the daring hand of genius he grasped even the remotest
conclusions to which a theory led him. He seemed to think invention a
more common attribute than it really is, and hastened, as soon as he was
in possession of a new fact or a new principle, to communicate it to the
world, doubtful perhaps lest he might not be anticipated; but, confident
in his own powers, he was content to give to others a chance of reaping
some part of that harvest, the largest portion of which he knew must
still fall to his own share.

Dr. Wollaston, on the other hand, appreciated more truly the rarity of
the inventive faculty; and, undeterred by the fear of being anticipated,
when he had contrived a new instrument, or detected a new principle, he
brought all the information that he could collect from others, or which
arose from his own reflection, to bear upon it for years, before he
delivered it to the world.

The most singular characteristic of Wollaston's mind was the plain and
distinct line which separated what he knew from what he did not know;
and this again, arising from his precision, might be traced to caution.

It would, however, have been visible to such an extent in few except
himself, for there were very few so perfectly free from vanity and
affectation. To this circumstance may be attributed a peculiarity of
manner in the mode in which he communicated information to those
who sought it from him, which was to many extremely disagreeable. He
usually, by a few questions, ascertained precisely how much the inquirer
knew upon the subject, or the exact point at which his ignorance
commenced, a process not very agreeable to the vanity of mankind; taking
up the subject at this point, he would then very clearly and shortly
explain it.

His acquaintance with mathematics was very limited. Many years since,
when I was an unsuccessful candidate for a professorship of mathematics,
I applied to Dr. W. for a recommendation; he declined it, on the ground
of its not being his pursuit. I told him I asked it, because I thought
it would have weight, to which he replied, that it ought to have none
whatever. There is no doubt his view was the just one. Yet such is the
state of ignorance which exists on these subjects, that I have several
times heard him mentioned as one of the greatest mathematicians of the
age. [This of course could only have happened in England.] But in this
as in all other points, the precision with which he comprehended
and retained all he had ever learned, especially of the elementary
applications of mathematics to physics, was such, that he possessed
greater command over those subjects than many of far more extensive

In associating with Wollaston, you perceived that the predominant
principle was to avoid error; in the society of Davy, you saw that it
was the desire to see and make known truth. Wollaston never could have
been a poet; Davy might have been a great one.

A question which I put, successively, to each of these distinguished
philosophers, will show how very differently a subject may be viewed by
minds even of the highest order.

About the time Mr. Perkins was making his experiments on the compression
of water, I was much struck with the mechanical means he had brought to
bear on the subject, and was speculating on other applications of it,
which I will presently mention.

Meeting Dr. Wollaston one morning in the shop of a bookseller, I
proposed this question: If two volumes of hydrogen and one of oxygen are
mixed together in a vessel, and if by mechanical pressure they can be so
condensed as to become of the same specific gravity as water, will the
gases under these circumstances unite and form water? "What do you think
they will do?" said Dr. W. I replied, that I should rather expect they
would unite. "I see no reason to suppose it," said he. I then inquired
whether he thought the experiment worth making. He answered, that he did
not, for that he should think it would certainly not succeed.

A few days after, I proposed the same question to Sir Humphry Davy. He
at once said, "they will become water, of course;" and on my inquiring
whether he thought the experiment worth making, he observed that it was
a good experiment, but one which it was hardly necessary to make, as it
must succeed.

These were off-hand answers, which it might perhaps be hardly fair to
have recorded, had they been of persons of less eminent talent: and it
adds to the curiosity of the circumstance to mention, that I believe Dr.
Wollaston's reason for supposing no union would take place, arose
from the nature of the electrical relations of the two gases remaining
unchanged, an objection which did not weigh with the philosopher whose
discoveries had given birth to it.

[The result of the experiment appeared, and still appears to me, to be
of the highest importance; and I will shortly state the views with which
it was connected. The next great discovery in chemistry to definite
proportions, will be to find means of forming all the simple unions of
one atom with one, with two, or with more of say other substance: and it
occurred to me that the gaseous bodies presented the fairest chance of
success; and that if wishing, for instance, to unite four atoms of one
substance with one of another, we could, by mechanical means, reduce the
mixed gases to the same specific gravity as the substance would possess
which resulted from their union, then either that such union would
actually take place, or the particles of the two substances would be
most favourably situated for the action of caloric, electricity, or
other causes, to produce the combination. It would indeed seem to
follow, that if combination should take place under such circumstances,
then the most probable proportion in which the atoms would unite, should
be that which furnished a fluid of the least specific gravity: but
until the experiments are made, it is by no means certain that other
combinations might not be produced.]

The singular minuteness of the particles of bodies submitted by Dr.
Wollaston to chemical analysis, has excited the admiration of all
those who have had the good fortune to witness his experiments; and the
methods he employed deserve to be much more widely known.

It appears to me that a great mistake exists on the subject. It has been
adduced as one of those facts which prove the extraordinary acuteness of
the bodily senses of the individual,--a circumstance which, if it
were true, would add but little to his philosophical character; I am,
however, inclined to view it in a far different light, and to see in it
one of the natural results of the admirable precision of his knowledge.

During the many opportunities I have enjoyed of seeing his minute
experiments, I remember but one instance in which I noticed any
remarkable difference in the acuteness of his bodily faculties, either
of his hearing, his sight, or of his sense of smell, from those of other
persons who possessed them in a good degree. [This was at Mr. South's
observatory, and the object was, the dots on the declination circle of
his equatorial; but, in this instance, Dr. Wollaston did not attempt to

He never showed me an almost microscopic wire, which was visible to his,
and invisible to my own eye: even in the beautiful experiments he made
relative to sounds inaudible to certain ears, he never produced a tone
which was unheard by mine, although sensible to his ear; and I believe
this will be found to have been the case by most of those whose minds
had been much accustomed to experimental inquiries, and who possessed
their faculties unimpaired by illness or by age.

It was a much more valuable property on which the success of such
inquiries depended. It arose from the perfect attention which he could
command, and the minute precision with which he examined every object. A
striking illustration of the fact that an object is frequently not seen,
FROM NOT KNOWING HOW TO SEE IT, rather than from any defect in the organ
of vision, occurred to me some years since, when on a visit at Slough.
Conversing with Mr. Herschel on the dark lines seen in the solar
spectrum by Fraunhofer, he inquired whether I had seen them; and on my
replying in the negative, and expressing a great desire to see them,
he mentioned the extreme difficulty he had had, even with Fraunhofer's
description in his hand and the long time which it had cost him in
detecting them. My friend then added, "I will prepare the apparatus, and
put you in such a position that they shall be visible, and yet you shall
look for them and not find them: after which, while you remain in the
same position, I will instruct you how to see them, and you shall see
them, and not merely wonder you did not see them before, but you shall
find it impossible to look at the spectrum without seeing them."

On looking as I was directed, notwithstanding the previous warning, I
did not see them; and after some time I inquired how they might be seen,
when the prediction of Mr. Herschel was completely fulfilled.

It was this attention to minute phenomena which Dr. Wollaston applied
with such powerful effect to chemistry. In the ordinary cases of
precipitation the cloudiness is visible in a single drop as well as in
a gallon of a solution; and in those cases where the cloudiness is so
slight, as to require a mass of fluid to render it visible, previous
evaporation, quickly performed on slips of window glass, rendered the
solution more concentrated.

The true value of this minute chemistry arises from its cheapness and
the extreme rapidity with which it can be accomplished: it may, in hands
like those of Wollaston, be used for discovery, but not for measure. I
have thought it more necessary to place this subject on what I consider
its true grounds, for two reasons. In the first place, I feel that
injustice has been done to a distinguished philosopher in attributing
to some of his bodily senses that excellence which I think is proved to
have depended on the admirable training of his intellectual faculties.
And, in the next place, if I have established the fact, whilst it
affords us better means of judging of such observations as lay claim to
an accuracy "MORE THAN HUMAN," it also opens, to the patient inquirer
into truth, a path by which he may acquire powers that he would
otherwise have thought were only the gift of nature to a favoured few.


In presenting to my readers the account of the meeting of men of science
at Berlin, in the autumn of 1828, I am happy to be able to state, that
its influence has been most beneficial, and that the annual meeting
to be held in 1831, will take place at Vienna, the Emperor of Austria
having expressed a wish that every facility which his capital affords
should be given to promote its objects.

It is gratifying to find that a country, which has hitherto been
considered adverse to the progress of knowledge, should become convinced
of its value; and it is sincerely to be hoped, that every one of the
numerous members of the Society will show, by his conduct, that the
paths of science are less likely than any others to interfere with those
of politics.


The existence of a large society of cultivators of the natural sciences
meeting annually at some great capital, or some central town of Europe,
is a circumstance almost unknown to us, and deserving of our attention,
from the important advantages which may arise from it.

About eight years ago, Dr. Okens, of Munich, suggested a plan for an
annual meeting of all Germans who cultivated the sciences of medicine
and botany. The first meeting, of about forty members, took place at
Leipsic, in 1822, and it was successively held at Halle, Wurtzburg,
Frankfort on the Maine, Dresden, Munich, and Berlin. All those who had
printed a certain number of sheets of their inquiries on these subjects
were considered members of this academy.

The great advantages which resulted to these sciences from the
communication of observations from all quarters of Germany, soon induced
an extension of the plan, and other departments of natural knowledge
were admitted, until, at the last meeting, the cultivators even of pure
mathematics were found amongst the ranks of this academy.

Several circumstances, independent of the form and constitution of the
academy, contributed to give unwonted splendour to the last meeting,
which took place at Berlin in the middle of September of the last year.

The capital selected for its temporary residence is scarcely surpassed
by any in Europe in the number and celebrity of its savans.

The taste for knowledge possessed by the reigning family, has made
knowledge itself fashionable; and the severe sufferings of the Prussians
previous to the war, by which themselves and Europe were freed, have
impressed on them so strongly the lesson that "knowledge is power," that
its effects are visible in every department of the government; and there
is no country in Europe in which talents and genius so surely open for
their possessors the road to wealth and distinction.

Another circumstance also contributed its portion to increase the
numbers of the meeting of the past year. The office of president, which
is annually changed, was assigned to M. Alexander de Humboldt. The
universality of his acquirements, which have left no branch within the
wide range of science indifferent or unexplored, has connected him by
friendship with almost all the most celebrated philosophers of the age;
whilst the polished amenity of his manners, and that intense desire of
acquiring and of spreading knowledge, which so peculiarly characterizes
his mind, renders him accessible to all strangers, and insures for them
the assistance of his counsel in their scientific pursuits, and the
advantage of being made known to all those who are interested or
occupied in similar inquiries.

Professor Lichtenstein, (Director of the Museum of Zoology,) as
secretary of the academy, was indefatigable in his attentions, and most
ably seconded the wishes of its distinguished president.

These two gentlemen, assisted by several of the residents at Berlin,
undertook the numerous preliminary arrangements necessary for the
accommodation of the meeting.

On the 18th of September, 1828, there were assembled at Berlin 377
members of the academy, whose names and residences (in Berlin) were
printed in a small pamphlet, and to each name was attached a number,
to indicate his seat in the great concert room, in which the morning
meetings took place. Each member was also provided with an engraved card
of the hall of meeting, on which the numbers of the seats were printed
in black ink, and his own peculiar seat marked in red ink, so that every
person immediately found his own place, and knew where to look for any
friend whom he might wish to find.

At the hour appointed for the opening of the meeting, the members being
assembled, and the galleries and orchestra being filled by an assemblage
of a large part of the rank and beauty of the capital, and the
side-boxes being occupied by several branches of the royal family, and
by the foreign ambassadors, the session of the academy was opened by the
eloquent address of the president.

SPEECH made at the Opening of the Society of German Naturalists and
Natural Philosophers at Berlin, the 18th of September, 1828.--By

Since through your choice, which does me so much honour, I am permitted
to open this meeting, the first duty which I have to discharge is one of
gratitude. The distinction which has been conferred on him who has never
yet been able to attend your excellent society, is not the reward of
scientific efforts, or of feeble and persevering attempts to discover
new phenomena, or to draw the light of knowledge from the unexplored
depths of nature. A finer feeling, however, directed your attention to
me. You have assured me, that while, during an absence of many years,
and in a distant quarter of the globe, I was labouring in the same
cause with yourselves, I was not a stranger in your thoughts. You have
likewise greeted my return home, that, by the sacred tie of gratitude,
you might bind me still longer and closer to our common country.

What, however, can the picture of this, our native land, present more
agreeable to the mind, than the assembly which we receive to-day for
the first time within our walls; from the banks of the Neckar, the
birth-place of Kepler and of Schiller, to the remotest border of the
Baltic plains; from hence to the mouths of the Rhine, where, under the
beneficent influence of commerce, the treasuries of exotic nature have
for centuries been collected and investigated, the friends of nature,
inspired with the same zeal, and, urged by the same passion, flock
together to this assembly. Everywhere, where the German language is
used, and its peculiar structure affects the spirit and disposition
of the people. From the Great European Alps, to the other side of the
Weichsel, where, in the country of Copernicus, astronomy rose to renewed
splendour; everywhere in the extensive dominions of the German nation
we attempt to discover the secret operations of nature, whether in the
heavens, or in the deepest problems of mechanics, or in the interior of
the earth, or in the finely woven tissues of organic structure.

Protected by noble princes, this assembly has annually increased in
interest and extent. Every distinction which difference of religion
or form of government can occasion is here annulled. Germany manifests
itself as it were in its intellectual unity; and since knowledge of
truth and performance of duty are the highest object of morality,
that feeling of unity weakens none of the bonds which the religion,
constitution, and laws of our country, have rendered dear to each of
us. Even this emulation in mental struggles has called forth (as the
glorious history of our country tells us,) the fairest blossoms of
humanity, science, and art.

The assembly of German naturalists and natural philosophers since its
last meeting, when it was so hospitably received at Munich, has, through
the flattering interest of neighbouring states and academies, shone
with peculiar lustre. Allied nations have renewed the ancient alliance
between Germany and the ancient Scandinavian North.

Such an interest deserves acknowledgment the more, because it
unexpectedly increases the mass of facts and opinions which are
here brought into one common and useful union. It also recalls lofty
recollections into the mind of the naturalist. Scarcely half a century
has elapsed since Linne appears, in the boldness of the undertakings
which he has attempted and accomplished, as one of the greatest men of
the last century. His glory, however bright, has not rendered Europe
blind to the merits of Scheele and Bergman. The catalogue of these great
names is not completed; but lest I shall offend noble modesty, I dare
not speak of the light which is still flowing in richest profusion
from the North, nor mention the discoveries in the chemical nature of
substances, in the numerical relation of their elements, or the eddying
streams of electro-magnetic powers. [The philosophers here referred to
are Berzelius and Oersted.] May those excellent persons, who, deterred
neither by perils of sea or land, have hastened to our meeting from
Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, England, and Poland, point our the way
to other strangers in succeeding years, so that by turns every part
of Germany may enjoy the effects of scientific communication with the
different nations of Europe.

But although I must restrain the expression of my personal feelings
in presence of this assembly, I must be permitted at least to name the
patriarchs of our national glory, who are detained from us by a regard
for those lives so dear to their country;--Goethe, whom the great
creations of poetical fancy have not prevented from penetrating the
ARCANA of nature, and who now in rural solitude mourns for his princely
friend, as Germany for one of her greatest ornaments;--Olbers, who has
discovered two bodies where he had already predicted they were to be
found;--the greatest anatomists of our age--Soemmering, who, with equal
zeal, has investigated the wonders of organic structure, and the spots
and FACULAE of the sun, (condensations and openings of the photosphere;)
Blumenbach, whose pupil I have the honour to be, who, by his works and
his immortal eloquence, has inspired everywhere a love of comparative
anatomy, physiology, and the general history of nature, and who
has laboured diligently for half a century. How could I resist the
temptation to adorn my discourse with names which posterity will repeat,
as we are not favoured with their presence?

These observations on the literary wealth of our native country, and the
progressive developement of our institution, lead us naturally to
the obstructions which will arise from the increasing number of our
fellow-labourers, The chief object of this assembly does not consist,
as in other societies whose sphere is more limited, in the mutual
interchange of treatises, or in innumerable memoirs, destined to be
printed in some general collection. The principal object of this Society
is, to bring those personally together who are engaged in the same field
of science. It is the immediate, and therefore more obvious interchange
of ideas, whether they present themselves as facts, opinions, or
doubts. It is the foundation of friendly connexion which throws light
on science, adds cheerfulness to life, and gives patience and amenity to
the manners.

In the most flourishing period of ancient Greece, the distinction
between words and writing first manifested itself most strongly amongst
a race, which had raised itself to the most splendid intellectual
superiority, and to whose latest descendants, as preserved from the
shipwreck of nations, we still consecrate our most anxious wishes. It
was not the difficulty of interchange of ideas alone, nor the want of
German science, which has spread thought as on wings through the world,
and insured it a long continuance, that then induced the friends of
philosophy and natural history in Magna Graecia and Asia Minor to wander
on long journeys. That ancient race knew the inspiring influence of
conversation as it extemporaneously, freely, and prudently penetrates
the tissue of scientific opinions and doubts. The discovery of the truth
without difference of opinion is unattainable, because the truth, in its
greatest extent, can never be recognized by all, and at the same time.
Each step, which seems to bring the explorer of nature nearer to his
object, only carries him to the threshold of new labyrinths. The mass of
doubt does not diminish, but spreads like a moving cloud over other and
new fields; and whoever has called that a golden period, when difference
of opinions, or, as some are accustomed to express it, the disputes
of the learned, will be finished, has as imperfect a conception of the
wants of science, and of its continued advancement, as a person who
expects that the same opinions in geognosy, chemistry, or physiology,
will be maintained for several centuries.

The founders of this society, with a deep sense of the unity of nature,
have combined in the completest manner, all the branches of physical
knowledge, and the historical, geometrical, and experimental philosophy.
The names of natural historian and natural philosopher are here,
therefore, nearly synonymous, chained by a terrestrial link to the type
of the lower animals. Man completes the scale of higher organization. In
his physiological and pathological qualities, he scarcely presents to us
a distinct class of beings. As to what has brought him to this exalted
object of physical study, and has raised him to general scientific
investigation, belongs principally to this society. Important as it
is not to break that link which embraces equally the investigation
of organic and inorganic nature, still the increasing ties and daily
developement of this institution renders it necessary, besides the
general meeting which is destined for these halls, to have specific
meetings for single branches of science. For it is only in such
contracted circles,--it is only among men whom reciprocity of studies
has brought together, that verbal discussions can take place. Without
this sort of communication, would the voluntary association of men in
search of truth be deprived of an inspiring principle.

Among the preparations which are made in this city for the advancement
of the society, attention has been principally paid to the possibility
of such a subdivision into sections. The hope that these preparations
will meet with your approbation, imposes upon me the duty of reminding
you, that, although you had entrusted to two travellers, equally, the
duty of making these arrangements, yet it is to one alone, my noble
friend, M. Lichtenstein, that the merit of careful precaution and
indefatigable activity is due. Out of respect to the scientific spirit
which animates the Society of German Naturalists and Natural Philosophy,
and in acknowledgment of the utility of their efforts, government have
seconded all our wishes with the greatest cheerfulness.

In the vicinity of the place of meeting, which has in this manner been
prepared for our general and special labours, are situated the museums
dedicated to anatomy, zoology, oryctognosy, and geology. They exhibit to
the naturalist a rich mine for observation and critical discussion. The
greater number of these well-arranged collections have existed, like
the University of Berlin, scarcely twenty years. The oldest of them, to
which the Botanical Garden, (one of the richest in Europe) belongs, have
during this period not only been increased, but entirely remodelled. The
amusement and instruction derived from such institutions, call to our
minds, with deep feelings of gratitude, that they are the work of that
great monarch, who modestly and in simple grandeur, adorns every year
this royal city with new treasures of nature and art; and what is of
still greater value than the treasures themselves,--what inspires every
Prussian with youthful strength, and with an enthusiastic love for the
ancient reigning family,--that he graciously attaches to himself every
species of talent, and extends with confidence his royal protection to
the free cultivation of the understanding.

This was followed by a paper on magnetism, by Professor Oersted; and
several other memoirs were then read.

The arrival of so many persons of similar pursuit, (for 464 members were
present,) rendered it convenient to have some ordinary, at which those
who chose might dine, and introduce their friends or families. This had
been foreseen, and his Majesty had condescended to allow the immense
building used for the exercise of his troops, to be employed for this
purpose. One-third of it was floored on the occasion, and tables were
arranged, at which, on one occasion, 850 persons sat down to dinner. On
the evening of the first day, M. de Humboldt gave a large SOIREE in the
concert rooms attached to the theatre. About 1200 persons assembled on
this occasion, and his Majesty the King of Prussia honoured with his
presence the fete of his illustrious chamberlain. The nobility of the
country, foreign princes, and foreign ambassadors, were present. It
was gratifying to observe the princes of the blood mingling with the
cultivators of science, and to see the heir-apparent to the throne,
during the course of the evening, engaged in conversation with those
most celebrated for their talents, of his own, or of other countries.

Nor were the minor arrangements of the evening beneath the consideration
of the President. The words of the music selected for the concert,
were printed and distributed to the visitors. The names of the most
illustrious philosophers which Germany had produced, were inscribed in
letters of gold at the end of the great concert room.

In the first rank amongst these stood a name which, England, too,
enrolls amongst the brightest in her scientific annals; and proud, as
well she may be, of having fostered and brought to maturity the genius
of the first Herschel, she has reaped an ample reward in being able to
claim as entirely her own, the inheritor of his talents and his name.

The six succeeding days were occupied, in the morning, by a meeting
of the academy, at which papers of general interest were read. In
the afternoon, through the arrangement of M. de Humboldt and M.
Lichtenstein, various rooms were appropriated for different sections of
the academy. In one, the chemical philosophers attended to some
chemical memoir, whilst the botanists assembled in another room, the
physiologists in a third, and the natural philosophers in a fourth. Each
attended to the reading of papers connected with their several sciences.
Thus every member was at liberty to choose that section in which he felt
most interest at the moment, and he had at all times power of access to
the others. The evenings were generally spent at some of the SOIREES
of the savans, resident at Berlin, whose hospitality and attentions to
their learned brethren of other countries were unbounded. During the
unoccupied hours of the morning, the collections of natural history,
which are rapidly rising into importance, were open to examination; and
the various professors and directors who assisted the stranger in his
inquiries, left him equally gratified by the knowledge and urbanity of
those who so kindly aided him.

A map of Europe was printed, on which those towns only appeared which
had sent representatives to this scientific congress; and the numbers
sent by different kingdoms appeared by the following table, which was
attached to it;--

     Russia.........  1
     Austria........  0
     England........  1
     Holland........  2
     Denmark........  7
     France ........  1
     Sardinia .......  0
     Prussia........ 95
     Bavaria........ 12
     Hanover........  5
     Saxony ........ 21
     Wirtemburg ......  2
     Sweden ........ 13
     Naples ........  1
     Poland ........  3
     German States..... 43
                            ---                       206
     Berlin .......  172
                            ---                       378

The proportion in which the cultivators of different sciences appeared,
was not easy to ascertain, because there were few amongst the more
eminent who had not added to more than one branch of human knowledge.
The following table, though not professing to be very accurate, will
afford, perhaps, a tolerably fair view:--

     Geometers.............  11
     Astronomers...........   5
     Natural Philosophers .  23
                             -- 39

     Mines............   5
     Mineralogy ......  16
     Geology..........   9
                         -- 30

     Chemistry........... 18
     Geography...........  8
     Anatomy............. 12

     Zoology............  14
     Natural History....   8
     Botany.............. 35
                          -- 57

     Physicians.......   175
     Amateurs  .......     9
     Various .........    35

A medal was struck in commemoration of this meeting, and it was proposed
that it should form the first of a series, which should comprise all
those persons most celebrated for their scientific discoveries in the
past and present age.


An examination into some charges brought against one of the twenty-four
candidates, mentioned in a note as having their names suspended in the
meeting-room of the Royal Society, at one time, has caused a printed
pamphlet to be circulated amongst the members of the Society. Of the
charges themselves I shall offer no opinion, but entreat every member
to judge for himself. I shall, however, make one extract, which tends to
show how the ranks of the Society are recruited.


"When I wished you to Propose me at the Geological Society, you asked me
why you should not propose me also at the Royal Society; and my answer
was, that it was an honour to which I did not think I could aspire; that
my talents were too insignificant to warrant such pretensions. Many days
passed, and still you pressed me on the subject, because your partiality
made you think me deserving of the honour; but I resisted, really
through modesty, not that I did not covet the distinction, until
something was said of my paper on the meteoric mass of iron of Brazil,
which was published some years ago in the Transactions of the Royal
Society; when you insisted on proposing me, and I assented gratefully,
because I was and am desirous of being a Fellow of the Royal Society, if
I can be supposed worthy of having my name so honourably enrolled."


"All that you have said respecting your being a candidate for admission
into the Royal Society, is correct to the letter. I pressed the subject
upon you, and I would do it again to-morrow, were it necessary."

Here, then, we find Mr. Children, who has been on the Council of the
Royal Society, and who was, a few years since, one of its Secretaries,
pressing one of his friends to become, and actually insisting on
proposing him as, a Fellow of the Royal Society, He must have been
well aware of the feelings which prevail amongst the Council as to
the propriety of such a step, and by publishing the fact, seems quite
satisfied that such a course is advantageous to the interests of
the Society. That similar applications were not unfrequently made in
private, is well known; but it remains for the Society to consider
whether, now they are publicly and officially announced to them, it
will sanction this mode of augmenting the already numerous list of its



N. B.--The Numbers are made up to the present year for the Papers, but
only to 1827 for Members of the Council.

     No. of     No. of
     Papers     years on
     printed    Council.
     in Phil.
     Trans.--------        -------
       3                 Aberdeen, Earl of.
       3           3     Abernethy, John.
                   2     Allan, Thomas.
       3                 Allen, William.
                   1     Arden, Lord.
                   1     Atholl, Duke of.
       7           2     Babbage, Charles,
                   1     Babington, William.
       1           2     Baily,Francis.
       9                 Barlow, Peter. (C)
                   2     Barnard, Sir F. Augusta.
                   5     Barrow, John.
       2                 Bauer, Francis.
       1                 Bayley, John.
                   1     Beaufort, Francis.
                   2     Beaufoy, Henry.
       5                 Bell, Charles.
                   1     Bingley, Robert.
                   1     Blackburne, John.
                   3     Blake, William.
       1           3     Blane, Sir Gilbert.
       1           1     Blizard, Sir William.
       1           1     Bostock, John.
      12          10     Brande, Wm. Thos. (C)
      16                 Brewster, David. (C)
       6           1     Brodie, B. Collins. (C)
       1                 Bromhead Sir E. F.
       3                 Brougham, Henry.
                   1     Browne, Henry.
                   1     Brown, Robert.
                   2     Brownlow, Earl.
       1                 Buckland, Rev. W. (C)
                   1     Burney, Rev. C. Parr.
                   1     Canterbury, Archbp. of.
                   1     Carew, Rt. Hon. R. P.
       7                 Carlisle, Sir Anthony.
                   2     Carlisle, Nicholas.
       1                 Carne, Joseph.
                   1     Carrington, Sir C. E.
                   2     Charleville, Earl of.
       7           2     Chenevix, Richard. (C)
       3           4     Children, John George.
      10                 Christie, Sam. Hunter.
                   1     Clerk, Sir George.
       2                 Clift, William.
       9                 Cloyne, Bishop of. (C)
                   2     Colby, Colonel Thomas.
                   1     Colebrooke, Henry T.
       2           2     Cooper, Sir Astley P. (C)
                   1     Crichton, Sir Alex.
                   5     Croker, John Wilson.
                   1     Cullum, Sir T. Gery.
       2                 Dalton, John.
                   2     Darnley, Earl of
       1                 Darwin, Robert Waring.
       1                 Davis, John Francis.
       2                 Davy, Edmund.
      13                 Davy, John.
       3                 Dyllwin, Lewis Weston.
       1                 Dollond, George.
                   1     Dudley and Ward, Visc.
       2                 Earle, Henry.
                   1     Egremont, Earl of.
       1                 Fallows, Rev. Fearon.
       8                 Faraday, Michael.
                   1     Farnborough, Lord.
       1                 Fisher, Rev. George.
                   1     Fly, Rev. Henry.
       2                 Foster, Henry.
       1           1     Frankland, Sir Thomas.
       1                 Gibbes, Sir Geo, Smith.
       2          13     Gilbert, Davies.
                   2     Gillies, John.
       5                 Goldingham, John.
       3           1     Gompertz, Benjamin.
                   1     Goodenough, George T.
                   2     Gordon, Sir James W.
       3                 Granville, Augustus B.
       1                 Greatorex, Thomas.
       1                 Greenough, Geo.Bellas.
       1                 Griffiths, John.
       3           1     Groombridge, Stephen.
                   1     Halford, Sir Henry.
       2                 Hall, Basil.
                   1     Hamilton, Wm. Rich.
                   2     Hardwicke, Earl of.
       2                 Harvey, George.
       1                 Harwood, J.
      16          10     Hatchett, Charles. (C)
                   1     Hawkins, John.
       2           2     Heberden, William.
       9                 Hellins, Rev. John, (C)
                   1     Henley, Morton Lord.
      10                 Henry, William. (C)
      12           6     Herschel, John F.W. (C)
                   1     Hoare, Henry Hugh
                   1     Hoare, Sir Richard Colt.
                   2     Hobhouse, Sir Benj.
       1                 Holland, Henry.
     109          16     Home, Sir Everard. (C)
       2                 Hope, Thomas Charles.
       1                 Hosack, David.
       1           1     Horsburgh, James.
       1                 Howard, Luke.
       2                 Hume, Sir Abraham.
       7           2     Ivory, James.C.
                   1     Jekyll, Joseph.
       4           1     Johnson, Jas. Rawlins.
      13           7     Kater, Capt. Henry. (C)
       2                 Kidd, John.
      24           1     Knight, Thomas A. (C)
       1           1     Konig, Charles.
                   2     Lambert, Aylmer B.
                   1     Lansdowne, Marquis of.
       1           1     Latham, John.
       2                 Lax, Rev. William.
       1                 Leach, William Elford.
                   1     Lowther, Viscount.
       2                 Macartney, James.
       2                 Macdonald, Lieut. Col.
                   1     Mac Grigor, Sir James.
                   2     Mac Leay, Alexander.
                   1     Mansfield, Earl of
       4          11     Marsden, William.
                   1     Mathias, Thomas Jas.
                   3     Maton, William George.
       1                 Miller, Lieut. Col. G.
                   2     Montagu, Matthew.
       7           4     Morgan, William.
                   1     Mount Edgecumbe, Earl of.
                   3     Murdoch, Thomas.
                   2     Nicholl, Rt. Hon. Sir J.
                   1     Norfolk, Duke of.
                   2     Ord, Craven.
       1                 Parry, Charles Henry.
                   1     Pepys, Sir Lucas.
       6           2     Pepys, Wm. Hasledine.
       7                 Philip, A. P. Wilson.
       1                 Phillips, Richard.
                   2     Pitt, William Morton.
       1          29     Planta, Joseph.
      19          17     Pond, John.  (C)
       2                 Powell, Rev. Baden.
       2                 Prinsep, James.
       4           1     Prout William.
                   1     Rackett, Rev. Thomas.
                   1     Redesdale, Lord.
                   2     Reeves, John.
       5           3     Rennell, James  (C)
       1                 Rennie, George.
       4                 Ritchie,
       1                 Robertson, James.
                   1     Rogers, Samuel.
       2           1     Roget, Peter Mark.
                   3     Rudge, Edward.
      12                 Sabine, Edward. (C)
                   2     Sabine, Joseph.
                   1     St. Aubyn, Sir John.
       3                 Scoresby, jun. William.
       2                 Scott, John Corse.
       3           1     Seppings, Sir Robert. (C)
       1                 Sewell, Sir John.
                   3     Somerset, Duke of.
                   3     Sotheby, William.
       3           2     South, James. (C)
                   5     Spencer, Earl.
                   3     Stanley, Sir John Thos.
                   3     Staunton, Sir Geo. Thos.
                   2     Stowell,Lord.
                   1     Sumner, George Holme.
       1                 Thomas, Honoratus L.
       2                 Thomson, Thomas.
       1                 Tiarks, Dr. John Lewis.
       1                 Troughton, Edward. (C)
       2                 Ure, Andrew.
                   2     Warburton, Henry.
       1                 Weaver, Thomas.
       1                 Whewell, William.
       3                 Whidbey, Joseph.
       2           3     Wilkins, Charles.
       3                 Williams, John Lloyd.
       1           1     Wilson, Sir Giffin.
                   2     Wilson, Gloucester.
                   1     Yorke, Rt. Hon. Chas.

I had intended to have printed a list of those persons to whom the Royal
Society had in past years awarded the Copley medals, and the reasons for
which they were given; but having applied to the Council for permission
to employ an amanuensis, to copy those awards, either from the minutes,
or from the volumes of the Philosophical Transactions, I was surprised
at receiving a refusal. I confess it appeared to me, that as a whole,
those adjudications did us credit, although I doubted the propriety
of many individual cases. As, however, the Council seem to have had a
different opinion, and as I had made the application through courtesy,
I shall decline printing a list, every individual portion of which has
been already published in many ways, although the whole has never been
printed in a collected form.

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