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TO THE READER.
SIR HUMPHRY DAVY, in his last work of charming philosophy, remarks: "The beginning of civilisation is the discovery of some useful arts, by which men acquire property, comforts, or luxuries. The necessity or desire of preserving them leads to laws and social institutions. The discovery of peculiar arts gives superiority to particular nations; and the love of power induces them to employ this superiority to subjugate other nations, who learn their arts, and ultimately adopt their manners; so that in reality the origin as well as the progress and improvement of civil society is founded in mechanical and chemical inventions."* This remark was made thirty years ago; and the foresight of the author is proved by his words having since become still stronger evidence of his position than at the time they were written. You will not, therefore, be surprised to find the majority of these "Stories of Inventors and Discoverers" selected from the recorded triumphs of Mechanics and Chemistry.
Although the Sixty Narratives which are the staple of the present volume range through ages,—from Archimedes to Isambard Kingdom Brunel,—they, for the most part, consist of modern instances. The earlier records have, however, proved rich in what may be termed the Curiosities of Invention, among which it is not difficult to find many a germ of later success. In many cases, too, the moderns have repaid what they owed to their predecessors by throwing new light upon some of the boasted wonders of ancient ingenuity; and this mode of illustration has been specially attended to in the present work. In each instance also it has been sought, *Consolations in Travel; or, the Last Days of a Philosopher. By Sir Humphry Davy, Bart.
as far as practicable, to bring the narrative down to the science of our own time.
The antiquities of such subjects are curious, and interesting to a large class of readers: as in the cases of Printing and Gunpowder; the Art of Navigating the Air and Living under Water; the marvels of Automata ; and a host of "Secret Inventions" besides those of John Napier.
Occasionally it has been but justice to set in their proper light the merits of old workers—as in "The True History of Friar Bacon," who was a reformer of science centuries before his more illustrious namesake, Francis Lord Bacon. In the "Story of Paracelsus" too, a proper estimate is attempted of his discoveries, which have been, in some instances, obscured by his quackery.
To the next group of Inventors-of the times of the Civil War and the Restoration-a sort of romantic interest attaches: whether in the philosophical pursuits of Prince Rupert beside his forge in the keep of Windsor Castle, or in importing "Rupert's Drops;" in the recreations of Sir Samuel Morland, "Master of Mechanics" to Charles II.; or in the Century of Inventions by the Marquis of Worcester, who by this rational means beguiled the captivity in the Tower of London to which his loyalty had consigned him. His "Water-commanding Engine" is believed to have been one of the results of that period.
In "the separate, simultaneous, and yet mutually dependent progress of industry" in the latter half of last century, several instances have been gathered; at the head of which is that of "Watt, who, poor in worldly wealth, but possessed of mental riches vouchsafed to few, was then wishing to realise an idea destined to effect more surprising results in the history of Britain than the wars, alliances, and legislation of centuries." Then, what a series of sufferings and
James Sime, M.A.
conflicts with jealousy and ignorance can be traced in the progress of the Cotton Manufacture, consummated by Watt's great invention !
To a somewhat earlier period belong the perils of John Lombe in his furtive journey to Piedmont, to bring over Silk-throwing machinery; and the story of Lee's invention of the Stocking-frame, traceable to the tenderest feeling of man-his sympathy for "the sole part of all his joys."
In another group of narratives we see how brilliant was the success of Davy's Safety-Lamp, and how miserable the fate of poor Carcel; and how hard was the battle which the projectors of Gas-lighting had to fight with parliament-men and men of science, ere the new light broke forth upon the world.
Next we have the Era of Engineering, in which our country was improved by Canals, Lighthouses, and Harbours, Bridges, Breakwaters, and Docks,-by Brindley, Smeaton, Telford, and Rennie, whose fortunes, as here narrated, are so many cheering lessons to striving genius.
The Steam-boat yields a long and interesting chapter,from the records of nearly four centuries since to the fate of Symington, whose invention led to the earlier accomplishment of Steam Navigation in another country.
The Railway proved, however, a more secure success through the genius of George Stephenson, " once a locomotive stoker in the north of England, and afterwards one of the most distinguished engineers of modern times," succeeded by his not less distinguished son, Robert Stephenson, whose genius matured the System which his father had originated. To this group also belong the Brunels, father and son, the latter famed for his Railway Works and Iron Shipbuilding.
The arch-chemic art of Photography, aided by the science of the Stereoscope, forms the next chapter; and the work concludes with an account of the Electric Telegraph, its anticipation and consummation, which is crowded with incident.
Throughout the following pages acknowledgment is made of the respective authorities for the facts and statements in the several narratives, the choice of which has been dictated by impartiality and anxiety to be just. From the Museum. of the Commissioners of Patents at South Kensington special service has been derived; the machines, models, and other records in this valuable Collection of Inventions rendering it one of the most valuable institutions in the country.
In tracing the fortunes of Inventors and Discoverers, it is painful to note how many have become "Martyrs of Science ;" a phrase sometimes misapplied, and which, there is reason to hope, will at no very distant time be inapplicable. A brighter era is at hand. Thirty years ago, there was not a single literary or scientific man who enjoyed a pension from the Crown, or (with one exception) was distinguished by any mark of honour from the Sovereign. This is happily no longer the case; for since 1830 there have been conferred for intellectual services thirty titles of honour, and we now find on the Civil List the names of nearly fifty distinguished persons. These liberal reforms naturally led to others; institutions as well as individuals now share in the generosity of the State:" and that scientific men may long continue to receive such honours from a country which so largely owes its preeminence to the applied sciences, is the fervent hope of THE AUTHOR.
• Originally made by Mr. Bennet Woodcroft, in the Great-Seal Patent Office, with a view to the formation of a National Gallery of Portraits of Inventors, Discoverers, and Introducers of Useful Arts.
+ Address of Sir David Brewster, Principal of Edinburgh University, 1859.