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tion to the bulk of the business at the society's meetings; which indeed did not consist much of mere speculation of any kind, but rather of exhibitions and experiments, of details as to the useful arts, accounts of new inventions, communications of remarkable facts, phenomena, and incidents in natural history, chemistry, medicine, and anatomy, of a great deal, indeed, that would now probably be accounted to belong only to the curiosities or popular pastimes of science. A list drawn up 30th March, 1664, presents the members as then distributed into the following seven committees (besides an eighth for correspondence): 1. Mechanical, to consider and improve all mechanical inventions; 2. Astronomical and optical; 3. Anatomical ; 4. Chemical ; 5. Georgical ; 6. For histories of trades; 7. For collecting all the phenomena of nature hitherto observed, and all experiments made and recorded.” Here we have no mention at all of either mathematical or algebraical science; the cultivation of these branches separately, or for their own sake, does not seem to have then been considered as coming within the design of the society. Nor were they extensively applied even in mechanical, astronomical, and optical investigations. If we take up the first volume of Hutton's abridgment of the Philosophical Transactions, which comprises the first seven volumes of the original publication, extending over seven years, from 1665 to 1672 inclusive, we shall find that of about 450 communications (besides nearly 200 reviews of books), only nine come under the heads of algebra and geometry, or pure science; that of about 140 relating to mechanical philosophy, and arranged under the heads of dynamics, astronomy, chrono* Birch, i. 406, 407.
logy, navigation, gunnery, hydraulics, pneumatics, optics, electricity, magnetism, pyrotechny, thermometry, &c., nine in every ten are mere accounts of observations and experiments, or explanations and hypotheses in which there is little or no mathematics; and that the remaining 300, or two-thirds of the whole, belong to the departments of natural history (divided into zoology, botany, mineralogy, geography, and hydrology), of chemical philosophy (divided into chemistry, meteorology, and geology), of physiology (divided into physiology of animals, physiology of plants, medicine, surgery, and anatomy), and of the arts (divided into mechanical, chemical, and the fine arts).” So that at this time only about one paper in fifty was purely mathematical or analytical, and only one in three on subjects to which the science of lines and quantities was applicable—for chemistry was not yet in a condition to be treated otherwise than tentatively, and, if mathematical reasoning had been attempted in medicine, the attempt was a failure and a folly. The history of the Royal Society, however, is very nearly the whole history of English science, both physical and mathematical, from the date of its institution to the end of the seventeenth century. Almost all the scientific discoveries and improvements that originated in this country during that century were made by its members, and a large proportion of them are recorded and were first published in its Transactions. But the Royal Society, it is to be remembered, was, after all, still more an effect than a cause, still more an indication
* In Hutton's table of contents a few papers are repeated
i. different heads, but this cannot much affect the calcuation.
than a power; and, although it no doubt gave an impulse to the progress of science by the communication and union which it helped to maintain among the labourers in that field, by some advantages which it derived from its position, and by the spirit which it excited and diffused, the advance which was made under its auspices, or partly by force of its example, would probably have been accomplished little less rapidly without its assistance; for the time was come, and the men with it, who assuredly would not have been hindered from doing their work, although such an institution had never been called into existence. But it was part of the work they were sent to do to establish such an institution, which, although not the tree on which science grows, is both a convenient and ornamental shelter for the gathered fruit, and may be made serviceable for various subsidiary purposes which even philosophers are entitled to hold in some regard in a refined and luxurious age.
One invention, dating after the Restoration, of which much has been said in recent times, is assigned to an individual whose name does not occur in the roll of the members of the Royal Society—the first steam-engine, which is commonly believed to have been both described and constructed by the Marquess of Worcester—the same whose negociations with the Irish Catholics, when he was Earl of Glamorgan, make so remarkable a passage in the history of the contest between Charles I. and the parliament. The Marquess of Worcester's famous publication entitled ‘A Century of the names and scantlings of such inventions as at present I can call to mind to have tried and perfected (my former notes being lost), &c.," was first printed in 1663. “It is a very small piece,” says Walpole, “containing a dedication to Charles II. ; another to both Houses of Parliament, in which he affirms having in the presence of Charles I. performed many of the feats mentioned in his book; a table of contents; and the work itself, which is but a table of contents neither, being a list of a hundred projects, most of them impossibilities, but all of which he affirms having discovered the art of performing. Some of the easiest seem to be, how to write with a single line; with a point; how to use all the senses indifferently for each other, as, to talk by colours, and to read by the taste; to make an unsinkable ship; how to do and to prevent the same thing; how to sail against wind and tide; how to form an universal character; how to converse by jangling bells out of tune; how to take towns or prevent their being taken; how to write in the dark; how to cheat with dice; and, in short, how to fly.” “Of all these wonderful inventions,” adds Walpole, “the last but one seems the only one of which his lordship has left the secret;” but the wit, who characterises the whole production as “an amazing piece of folly,” has missed the most interesting of all the marquess's projects, the sixtyeighth in the list, which he entitles “An admirable and most forcible way to drive up water by fire,” and which appears from his description to have been, in fact, a species of steam-engine. His language implies, too, that the idea had been actually carried into effect: he speaks of having made use of a cannon for his boiler; and he * Royal and Noble Authors.
says, “I have seen the water run like a constant fountainstream forty feet high; one vessel of water rarefied by fire driveth up forty of cold water.” And Sorbiere, when here in 1663, appears to have seen the engine at work—although the superficial, chattering Frenchman has described it, and probably understood it, so imperfectly as to have taken no note even of the nature of the power by which it was made to act:—“One of the most curious things I had a mind to see,” he writes, “was a water-engine invented by the Marquess of Worcester, of which he had made an experiment. I went on purpose to see it at Fox Hall (Vauxhall), on the other side of the Thames, a little above Lambeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury's palace, standing in sight of London. One man, by the help of this machine, raised four large buckets full of water in an instant forty feet high, and that through a pipe of about eight inches long; which invention will be of greater use to the public than that very ingenious machine already made use of, and raised upon wooden work above Somerset House, that supplies part of the town with water, but with great difficulty, and in less quantity than could be wished.” Forty years before the publication of the Century of Inventions, it is to be observed, a French engineer, Solomon de Caus, in a volume published at Paris entitled “Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes,’ had not only called attention to the power of steam produced in a close vessel, but had proposed a mode of raising water by means of such a force, the principle of which, as far as can be collected, appears to have been the same with that of the Marquess of Worcester's contrivance. It is possible that the marquess may have taken the idea from this book, which * Journey to England, p. 29.