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THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES AND IMPROVEMENTS
OF THE PAST YEAR;
IN MECHANICS AND THE USEFUL ARTS ; NATURAL PHILOSOPHY ;
AND MINERALOGY ; METEOROLOGY AND ASTRONOMY.
BY JOHN TIMES, F.S.A.
“ Were I to enlarge on the relation of the achievements of science to the comforts
Building for the International Exhibition, 1862.-(See page 13.)
(With a Portrait.) The characterization of the Ages of the World by association with its Metals was a favourite myth of the Greek and Roman poets. They had their Age of Iron, deemed to have commenced long before the day of Hesiod, who lived, probably, at least twenty-six hundred years ago ; but this was merely a general; name for the existing order of things, as distinguished from some imaginary previous state. This poetic painting, however, consisted but in slight varieties of sbade, and had little or nothing to do with the history of the actual world. Tubal Cain was, ages before the time of Moses, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” The art of smelting iron was known in England during the time of the Roman occupation; in the Middle Ages, and down even to a late date, the forges of Kent and Sussex were all aglow with smelting and hammering the iron of their soil ; then came the smelting with coal, and the blast-furnace; the mighty power of the steam-engine superseded the descendants of Tubal Cain in working the metal, and thus the Iron Age became applied to the stupendous realities of our own time instead of being borrowed from the poetic myth of the antique world.
Among the thinkers and workers in our Iron Age, William Fair. bairn is entitled to high rank,-presenting a combination of the theoretical and practical man, such as is rarely to be met with. He was born at Kelso, on the north margin of the Tweed, in 1789, and was brought up as a mechanic at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1817, he commenced business in Manchester, in partnership with Mr. Lillie, and the firm soon rose into the very foremost position in the trade of that city; and when this partnership was dissolved, Mr. Fairbairn continued the business.
About the year 1830 or 1831, he commenced various trials as to the forms of vessels, and employed a small iron vessel for that purpose. The success of his experiment emboldened him to proceed, and by 1836, he ventured on the construction of iron vessels of considerable tonnage.
Mr. Fairbairn was one of the earliest members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, to whose Proceedings he has contributed some valuable papers on engineering, his great subject being “Iron.” In 1837, he read to the Association an elaborate Report on the Comparative Strength and other Properties of Cast-iron, manufactured by the Hot and Cold Blast respectively; in which were employed irons of fifty sorts.*
In 1840, Mr. Fairbairn read to the Association a paper on Iron Shipbuilding, wherein he went into the extent to which the strength of iron plates was affected by the rivet-holes ; and the general deduc
* See Arcana of Science and Art, 1838, pp. 93-97. Also, Year-Book of Facts, 1840, p. 85.