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home the torrid plains of the tropics. It was placing the king of Babylon sufficiently out of the rank of human beings, though he carried all his reasoning faculties with him, when he was sent away, to eat grass like an ox. And this may properly suggest to our consideration, what is undeniably true, that there is hardly a greater blessing conferred on man than his natural wants. If he had wanted no more than the beasts, who can say how much more than they, he would have attained? Does he associate, does he cultivate, does he build, does he navigate? The original impulse to all these, lies in his wants. It proceeds from the necessities of his condition, and from the efforts of unsatisfied desire. Every want not of a low kind, physical as well as moral, which the human breast feels, and which brutes do not feel and cannot feel, raises man, by so much, in the scale of existence, and is a clear proof, and a direct instance, of the favor of God towards his so much favored human offspring. If man had been so made as to have desired nothing, he would have wanted almost everything worth possessing.
But doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, he arrives at the knowledge of the properties of natural bodies. is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the true sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserve that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing world against world, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those, who pursue their studies at once so high, so vast and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day, on the works of God, as if a second fiat for light had gone forth from his own mouth;-when, further, we attempt to follow those, who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting place, and proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds, and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that "in form and moving he is express and admirable," it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, " in apprehension how like a God!" The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this, has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
It has already been said that the general and well known agents, usually regarded as the principal sources of mechanical powers, are, gravity, acting on solid bodies, the fall of water, which is but gravity acting on fluids, air, heat, and animal strength. For the
useful direction and application of the four first of these, that is, of all of them which belong to inanimate nature, some intermediate apparatus, or contrivance, becomes necessary; and this apparatus, whatever its form, is a machine. A machine is an invention for the application of motion, either by changing the direction of the moving power, or by rendering a body in motion capable of communicating a motion greater or less than its own to other bodies, or by enabling it to overcome a power of greater intensity or force than its own. And it is usually said that every machine, however apparently complex, is capable of being resolved into some one or more of those single machines, of which, according to one mode of description, there are six, and according to another, three, called the mechanical powers. But because machinery, or all mechanical contrivance, is thus capable of resolution into a few elementary forms, it is not to be inferred that science, or art, or both together, though pressed with the utmost force of human genius, and cultivated by the last degree of human assiduity, will ever exhaust the combinations into which these elementary forms may be thrown. An indefinite, though not an infinite reach of invention may be expected; but indefinite, also, if not infinite, are the possible combinations of elementary principles. The field, then, is vast and unbounded. We know not, to what yet unthought of heights the power of man over the agencies of nature may be carried. We only know, that the last half century has witnessed an amazingly accelerated progress in useful discoveries, and that at the present moment, science and art are acting together, with a new companionship, and with the most happy and striking results. The history of mechanical philosophy, is, of itself, a very interesting subject, and will doubtless be treated in this place fully, and methodically, by stated lecturers.
It is a part of the history of man, which, like that of his domestic habits and daily occupations, has been too unfrequently the subject of research; having been thrust aside by the more dazzling topics of war and political revolutions. We are not often conducted by historians within the houses or huts of our ancestors, as they were centuries ago, and made acquainted with their domestic utensils and domestic arrangements. We see too little, both of the conveniences and inconveniences of their daily and ordinary life. There are, indeed, rich materials for interesting details on these particulars, to be collected from the labors of Goguet and Beckmann, Henry and Turner; but, still, a thorough and well written history of those inventions in the mechanic arts, which are now commonly known, is a desideratum in literature.
Human sagacity, stimulated by human wants, seizes first on the nearest natural assistant. The power of his own arm, is an early lesson, among the studies of primitive man. This is animal strength; and from this he rises to the conception of employing, for his own use, the strength of other animals. A stone, impelled by the power of his arm, he finds will produce a greater effect, than the arm itself; this is a species of mechanical power. The effect results from a combination of the moving force with the gravity of a heavy body. The limb of a tree is a rude, but powerful instrument;
it is a lever. And the mechanical powers being all discovered, like other natural qualities, by induction, (I use the word as Bacon used it,) or experience, and not by any reasoning a priori, their progress has kept pace with the general civilisation and education of nations. The history of mechanical philosophy, while it strongly illustrates, in its general results, the force of the human mind, exhibits, in its details, most interesting pictures of ingenuity struggling with the conception of new combinations, and of deep, intense, and powerful thought, stretched to its utmost to find out, or deduce, the general principle from the indications of particular facts. We are now so far advanced beyond the age when the principal, leading, important mathematical discoveries were made, and they have become so much matter of common knowledge, that it is not easy to feel their importance, or be justly sensible what an epoch in the history of science each constituted. The half frantic exultation of Archimedes, when he had solved the problem respecting the crown of Hiero, was on an occasion and for a cause certainly well allowing very high joy. And so also was the duplication of the cube.
The altar of Apollo at Athens was a square block, or cube, and to double it required the duplication of the cube. This was a process involving an unascertained mathematical principle. It was quite natural, therefore, that it should be a traditional story, that by way of atoning for some affront to that god, the oracle commanded the Athenians to double his altar; an injunction, we know, which occupied the keen sagacity of the Greek geometricians for more than half a century, before they were able to obey it. It is to the great honor, however, of this inimitable people, the Greeks, a people whose genius seems to have been equally fitted for the investigations of science and the works of imagination, that the immortal Euclid, centuries before our era, composed his Elements of Geometry; a work which, for two thousand years, has been, and still continues to be, a text book for instruction in that science.
A history of mechanical philosophy, however, would not begin with Greece. There is a wonder beyond Greece. Higher up in the annals of mankind, nearer, far nearer, to the origin of our race, out of all reach of letters, beyond the sources of tradition, beyond all history, except what remains in the monuments of her own art, stands Egypt, the mother of nations! Egypt! Thebes! the Labyrinth! the Pyramids! Who shall explain the mysteries, which these names suggest? The Pyramids! Who can inform us, whether it was by mere numbers, and patience, and labor, aided perhaps by the simple lever, or if not, by what forgotten combination of power, by what now unknown machines, mass was thus aggregated to mass, and quarry piled on quarry, till solid granite seemed to cover the earth and reach the skies?
The ancients discovered many things, but they left many things also to be discovered; and this, as a general truth, is what our posterity, a thousand years hence, will be able to say, doubtless, when we and our generation shall be recorded also among the ancients. For, indeed, God seems to have proposed his material universe, as a standing, perpetual study to his intelligent creatures; where, ever
learning, they can yet never learn all; and if that material universe shall last till man shall have discovered all that is unknown, but which, by the progressive improvement of his faculties he is capable of knowing, it will remain through a duration beyond human measurement, and beyond human comprehension.
The ancients knew nothing of our present system of arithmetical notation; nothing of algebra, and of course nothing of the important application of algebra to geometry. They had not learned the use of logarithms, and were ignorant of fluxions. They had not attained to any just mode for the mensuration of the earth; a matter of great moment to astronomy, navigation, and other branches of useful knowledge. It is scarcely necessary to add, that they were ignorant of the great results which have followed the developement of the principle of gravitation.
In the useful and practical arts, many inventions and contrivances, to the production of which the degree of ancient knowledge would appear to us to have been adequate, and which seem quite obvious, are yet of late origin. The application of water, for example, to turn a mill, is a thing not known to have been accomplished at all in Greece, and is not supposed to have been attempted at Rome, till in or near the age of Augustus. The production of the same effect by wind, is a still later invention. It dates only in the seventh century of our era. The propulsion of the saw, by any other power than that of the arm, is treated as a novelty in England, so late as in the middle of the sixteenth century. The Bishop of Ely, Ambassador from the Queen of England to the Pope, says, ❝he saw, at Lyons, a saw-mill driven with an upright wheel, and the water that makes it go is gathered into a narrow trough, which delivereth the same water to the wheels. This wheel hath a piece of timber put to the axletree end, like the handle of a brock, (a hand organ,) and fastened to the end of the saw, which being turned with the force of water, hoisteth up and down the saw, that it continually eateth in, and the handle of the same is kept in a rigall of wood, from severing. Also the timber lieth, as it were upon a ladder, which is brought by little and little to the saw by another vice." From this description of the primitive power-saw, it would seem that it was probably fast only at one end, and that the brock and rigall performed the part of the arm, in the common use of the handsaw.
It must always have been a very considerable object for men to possess, or obtain, the power of raising water, otherwise than by mere manual labor. Yet nothing like the common suction pump has been found among rude nations. It has arrived at its present state only by slow and doubtful steps of improvement; and, indeed, in that present state, however obvious and unattractive, it is something of an abstruse and refined invention. It was unknown in China, until Europeans visited the "Celestial Empire;" and is still unknown in other parts of Asia, beyond the pale of European settlements, or the reach of European communication. The Greeks and Romans are supposed to have been ignorant of it, in the early times of their history; and it is usually said to have come from Alexan
dria, where physical science was much cultivated by the Greek school, under the patronage of the Ptolemies.
These few and scattered historical notices, gentlemen, of important inventions, have been introduced only for the purpose of suggesting that there is much which is both curious and instructive in the history of mechanics; and that many things which to us, in our state of knowledge, seem so obvious as that we should think they would at once force themselves on men's adoption, have, nevertheless, been accomplished slowly and by painful efforts.
But if the history of the progress of the mechanical arts be interesting, still more so, doubtless, would be the exhibition of their present state, and a full display of the extent to which they are now carried. This field is much too wide even to be entered, on this occasion. The briefest outline even, would exceed its limits; and the whole subject will regularly fall to hands much more able to sustain it. The slightest glance, however, must convince us that mechanical power and mechanical skill, as they are now exhibited in Europe and America, mark an epoch in human history, worthy of all admiration. Machinery is made to perform what has formerly been the toil of human hands, to an extent that astonishes the most sanguine, with a degree of power to which no number of human arms is equal, and with such precision and exactness as almost to suggest the notion of reason and intelligence in the machines themselves. Every natural agent is put unrelentingly to the task. The winds work, the waters work, the elasticity of metals work: gravity is solicited into a thousand new forms of action: levers are multiplied upon levers: wheels revolve on the peripheries of other wheels; the saw and the plane are tortured into an accommodation to new uses, and, last of all, with inimitable power, and "with whirlwind sound," comes the potent agency of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised, in the short compass of fifty years! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many hands as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found, in triumphant operation, on the seas; and under the influence of its strong pro pulsion, the gallant ship,
"Against the wind, against the tide
Still steadies, with an upright keel."
It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is in highways, and begins to exert itself along the courses of land conveyance; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans, "Leave off your manual labor, give over your bodily toil; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil,-with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness." What further improvements may still be made in the use of this astonishing power, it is impos