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It is not contended that Fulton is the first individual who conceived the idea of steam navigation, or sought by experiments to accomplish it. Rumsey is known to have attempted it in Virginia as early as 1787 ; Fitch made experiments in 1783; Oliver Evans in 1785; and Jouffray, in France, in 1792. Indeed, the idea had been suggested by Jonathan Hulls, in England, even so far back as the year 1736. But it was reserved for Fulton to perfect and bring into operation what had been conceived by others, but which had baffled all human attempts to reduce it to practice.
The life of this remarkable man suggests various interesting reflections. While he was pursuing his labors, which were to result in one of the most stupendous blessings ever conferred on mankind, he was the incessant theme of ridicule and contempt. Many a pert editor of a paper, many an habitual satirist, many a man wise in his own conceit, amused himself in dilating upon the folly of attempting so impossible a thing as steam navigation. He was as truly an object of persecution by the bigotry of ignorance, as was Faust, whose improvements in printing subjected him, in a darkened age; to the charge of sorcery; or Galileo, who was imprisoned for discovering the revolutions of the earth. Yet Fulton, with a calmness which beautifully displays the dignity of genius, unmoved by scoffs and sneers, pursued the even tenor of his way, and, unabashed by ridicule, undismayed by difficulties, persevered till his triumph was acknowledged by the world.
Another reflection suggested by the life of Fulton is, as to the mighty influence which one individual may exert on the destinies of his fellow-men. It is impossible to estimate, in their full extent, the beneficial results of his labors. There are, at least, cight hundred steamboats in the United States, and probably as many in England. A large part of the navigation of our rivers in performed by steamboats, as well as a considerable portion of the travel from one section of the country to another. It is the chenport, and probably the safest mode of travel yet devised. The following statistics of team navigation will not only show that the risk of travel on steamboats is almost nothing, but it will suggest the amazing extent of steamboat travel.
During the five years ending on the 31 December, 1838, the estimated number of miles run by steambonts connected with the single port of New York, was 6,467,160); the number of accidents, two; lives lost, cight; the number of passengers, 16,486,300; and the proportion of lives lost, to the passengers, about one in two millions! If we compare this stato of things with what existed prior to Fulton's operations in 1807; if we extend our views over the whole country ; il we cro# the Atlantic, and see the mighty movement in respect to this subject, thero; if we take into account the recent navigation of the Atlantic by steam, and its incalculable consequences; if we look to the navies of the great powers of the world, and remark that Fulton's discoveries are being applied to the art of maritime warfaro.-- then we may begin to ferl, in some faint yet inadequate degree, the effects which one man of genius, hy one great invention, may produce on the interests of mankind.
Nicholas COPERNICUS was born at Thorn, on the Vistula, on the 19th of February, 1473, where his father, who was a Westphalian, had become a citizen ten years before. In his youth, Copernicus was a studious scholar, and at the age of twenty-three went to Italy, where the arts and sciences were beginning to flourish. At Bologna, he was instructed in astronomy; and he afterwards visited Rome, where he taught mathematics with great success.
From Rome he returned to his own country, where his uncle made him a canon in the cathedral of Frauenburg. It does not appear that he made any figure as a churchman; instead of attempting to rise in the clerical profession, he began to apply his whole mental energies to the contemplation of the sublime objects of nature.
Among the many theories with regard to our planetary system, which had been advanced during the previous two thousand years, one had at last prevailed, the most ingenious and artificial, and the most wonderful mixture of wisdom and error, which the human mind had ever conceived. The ancient philosophers, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, and others, had all adopted it; and from being powerfully supported by the reasoning of Aristotle, it came to be called the Aristotelian system. The leading principle in this ancient theory of the universe, and which had been originally propounded by Ptolemy, was, that the earth we inhabit was stationary or immovable, and that the sun and planets revolved round it. One reason for the popularity of Aristotle's theory among the learned, was, its apparent harmony with what was recognised by the senses. The earth was not felt to move; it seemed to stand still—therefore it stood still; the sun was seen to revolve from east to west-therefore it revolved. Such was the kind of reasoning in these ignorant times. Another cause for the acceptability of the theory was, that it appeared to be countenanced by the Scriptures, although it is very certain that the inspired writers are silent with regard to these scientific matters, the Bible being bestowed on man for very
Nevertheless, such was not the opinion of the church previous to the Reformation; and the immovability of the earth, strange to say, was reckoned a point of Bible faith.
The Aristotelian planetary system thus continued unopposed by any other till the sixteenth century, when it was doomed to be completely overturned by the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo. Studying diligently this difficult subject, Copernicus made the signal discovery that the sun was the centre of our planetary system; that the earth was a planet like Mars and Venus ; and that all the planets revolve round the sun in the following order :-Mercury, in 87 days; Venus, in 224; the Earth, in 365; Mars, in 1 year and 321 days; Jupiter, in 11 years; and Saturn, in 29 years. Thus was discovered the true system of the universe, and thus Copernicus stands, as it
But the very
were, upon the boundary line of a new era. All that he accomplished was done, moreover, a hundred years before the invention of telescopes, with iniserable wooden instruments, on which the lines were often only marked with ink.
As the system of Copernicus was calculated to be of immense benefit to mankind, one would naturally suppose that such a great man would have been duly rewarded for his beneficent labors. reverse was the case. Though very modest in his assumptions, he drew upon himself the vengeance of the church, which looked with horror on the idea of the earth being a moving body. The Vatican, or court of the Pope at Rome, issued a sentence of excommunication against him; and he died in the seventy-first year of his age, worn out with the labors of constantly examining the heavenly bodies, and depressed by the persecution which had visited his innocent and useful pursuits. In the year 1821, the church of Rome had the good sense to obliterate from its records the sentence against Copernicus, after a lapse of two hundred and seventy-eight years from the period of its being issued.