Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

it depends on Science. This order of knowledge, which is in great part ignored in our school courses, is the order of knowledge underlying the right performance of all those processes by which civilized life is made possible.

Mathematics. For all the higher arts of construction, some acquaintance with Mathematics is indispensable. The village carpenter, who, lacking rational instruction, lays out his work by empirical rules learnt in his apprenticeship, equally with the builder of a Britannia Bridge, makes hourly reference to the laws of quantitative relations. The surveyor on whose survey the land is purchased; the architect in designing a mansion to be built on it; the builder in preparing his estimates; his foreman in laying out the foundations; the masons in cutting the stones; and the various artisans who put up the fittings; are all guided by geometrical truths. Railway-making is regulated from beginning to end by mathematics: alike in the preparation of plans and sections ; in staking out the line; in the mensuration of cuttings and embankments; in the designing, estimating, and building of bridges, culverts, viaducts, tunnels, stations. And similarly with the harbors, docks, piers, and various engineering and architectural works that fringe the coasts and overspread the face of the country; as well as the mines that run underneath it. Out of geometry, too, as applied to astronomy, the art of navigation has grown; and so, by this science, has been made possible that enormous foreign conimerce which supports a large part of our population, and supplies us with many necessaries and most of our luxuries. And now-a-days even the farmer, for the correct laying out of his drains, has recourse to the level—that is, to geometrical principles. When from those divisions of mathematics which deal with space, and number, some small smattering of which is given in schools, we turn to that other division which deals with force, of which even a smattering is scarcely ever given, we meet with another large class of activities wbich this science presides over. On the application of rational mechanics depends the success of nearly all modern manufacture. The properties of the lever, the wheel and axle, &c., are involved in every machine every machine is a solidified mechanical theorem; and to machinery in these . times we owe nearly all production. Trace the history of the breakfast-roll. The soil out of which it came was drained with machine-made tiles; the surface was turned over by a machine; the seed was put in by a machine; the wheat was reaped, thrashed, and winnowed by machines; by machinery it was ground and bolted; and had the flour been sent to Gosport, it might have been made into biscuits by a machine. Look round the room in which you sit. If modern, probably the bricks in its walls were machine-made; by machinery the flooring was sawn and planed, the mantel-shelf sawn and polished, the paperhangings made and printed; the veneer on the table, the turned legs of the chairs, the carpet, the curtains, are all products of machinery. And your · clothing-plain, figured, or printed—is it not wholly woven, nay, perhaps even sewed, by machinery? And the volume you are reading-are not its leaves fabricated by one machine and covered with these words by another? Add to which that for the means of distribution over both land and sea, we are similarly indebted. And then let it be remembered that according as the principles of mechanics are well or ill used to these ends, comes success or failure-individual and national. The engineer who misapplies his formulæ for the strength of materials, builds a bridge that breaks down. The manufacturer whose apparatus

is badly devised, can not compete with another whose apparatus wastes less in friction and inertia. The ship-builder adhering to the old model, is outsailed by one who builds on the mechanically-justified wave-line principle. And as the ability of a nation to hold its own against other nations depends on the skilled activity of its units, we see that on such knowledge may turn the national fate. Judge then the worth of mathematics.

Physics. Pass next to Physics. Joined with mathematics, it has given us the steamengine, which does the work of millions of laborers. That section of physics which deals with the laws of heat, has taught us how to economize fuel in our various industries; how to increase the produce of our smelting furnaces by substituting the hot for the cold blast; how to ventilate our mines; how to prevent explosions by using the safety-lamp; and, through the thermometer, how to regulate innumerable processes. That division which has the phenomenn of light for its subject, gives eyes to the old and the myopic; aids through the microscope in detecting diseases and adulterations; and by improved lighthouses prevents shipwrecks. Researches in electricity and magnetism have saved in. calculable life and property by the compass; have subserved sundry arts by the electrotype; and now, in the telegraph, have supplied us with the agency by which for the future all mercantile transactions will be regulated, political intercourse carried on, and perhaps national quarrels often avoided. While in the details of in-door life, from the improved kitchen-range up to the stereoscope on the drawing-room table, the applications of advanced physics underlie our comforts and gratifications.

Chemistry. Still more numerous are the bearings of Chemistry on those activities by which men obtain the means of living. The bleacher, the dyer, the calicoprinter, are severally occupied in processes that are well or ill done according as they do or do not conform to chemical laws. The economical reduction from their ores of copper, tin, zinc, lead, silver, iron, are in a great measure questions of chemistry. Sugar-refining, gas-making, soap-boiling, gunpowder manufacture, are operations all partly chemical; as are also those by which are produced glass and porcelain. Whether the distiller's wort stops at the alcoholic fermentation or passes into the acetous, is a chemical question on which hangs his profit or loss; and the brewer, if his business is sufficiently large, finds it pay to keep a chemist on his premises. Glance through a work on technolgy, and it becomes at once apparent that there is now scarcely any process in the arts or manufactures over some part of which chemistry does not preside. And then, lastly, we come to the fact that in these times, agriculture, to be profitably carried on, must have like guidance. The analysis of manures and soils; their adaptations to each other; the use of gypsum or other substance for fixing ammonia; the utilization of coprolites; the production of artificial manures--all these are boons of chemistry which it behooves the farmer to acquaint himself with. Be it in the lucifer match, or in disinfected sewage, or in photograhps-in bread made without fermentation, or perfumes extracted from refuse, we may perceive that chemistry affects all our industries; and that, by consequence, knowledge of it concerns every one who is directly or indirectly connected with our industries.

Biology. And then the science of life-Biology: does not this, too, bear- fundamentally upon these processes of indirect self-preservation ? With what we ordinarily call manufactures, it has, indeed, little connection; but with the all-essential manufacture that of food—it is inseparably connected. As agriculture must conform its methods to the phenomena of vegetable and animal life, it follows necessarily that the science of these phenomena is the rational basis of agriculture. Various biological truths have indeed been empirically established and acted upon by farmers while yet there has been no conception of them as science: such as that particular manures are suited to particular plants; that crops of certain kinds unfit the soil for other crops; that horses can not do good work on poor food; that such and such diseases of cattle and sheep are caused by such and such conditions. These, and the everyday knowledge which the agriculturist gains by experience respecting the right management of plants and animals, constitute his stock of biological facts; on the largeness of which greatly depends his success. And as these biological facts, scanty, indefinite, rudimentary, though they are, aid him so essentially; judge what must be the value to him of such facts when they become positive, definite, and exhaustive. Indeed, even now we may see the benefits that rational biology is conferring on him. The truth that the production of animal heat implies waste of substance, and that, therefore, preventing loss of heat prevents the need for extra food -a purely theoretical conclusion-now guides the fattening of cattle: it is found that by keeping cattle warm, fodder is saved. Similarly with respect to variety of food. The experiments of physiologists have shown that not only is change of diet beneficial, but that digestion is facilitated by a mixture of in. gredients in each meal: both which truths are now influencing cattle-feeding. The discovery that a disorder known as “the staggers," of which many thousands of sheep have died annually, is caused by an entozoon which presses on the brain; and that if the creature is extracted through the softened place in the skull which marks its position, the sheep usually recovers; is another debt which agriculture owes to biology. When we observe the marked contrast between our farming and farming on the Continent, and remember that this contrast is mainly due to the far greater influence science has had upon farming here than there; and when we see how, daily, competition is making the adoption of scientific methods more general and necessary; we shall rightly infer that very soon, agricultural success in England will be impossible without a competent knowledge of animal and vegetable physiology.

Science of Society. Yet one more science have we to note as bearing directly on industrial success—the Science of Society. Without knowing it, men who daily look at the state of the money-market, glance over prices current, discuss the probable crops of corn, cotton, sugar, wool, silk, weigh the chances of war, and from all those data decide on their mercantile operations, are students of social science: empirical and blundering students it may be; but still, students who gain the prizes or are plucked of their profits, according as they do or do not reach the right conclusion. Not only the manufacturer and the merchant must guide their transactions by calculations of supply and demand, based on numerous facts, and tacitly recognizing sundry general principles of social action; but even the retailer must do the like: his prosperity very greatly depending upon the correctness of his judgments respecting the future wholesale prices and the future rates of consumption. Manifestly, all who take part in the entangled commercial activities of a community, are vitally interested in understanding the laws according to which those activities vary.

Thus, to all such as are occupied in the production, exchange, or distribution of commodities, acquaintance with science in some of its departments, is of fundamental importance.

KNOWLEDGE REQUISITE TO THE REARING AND DISCIPLINE OF THE FAMILY

OFFSPRING. 4. Is it not an astonishing fact, that though on the treatment of offspring depend their lives or deaths, and their moral welfare or ruin; yet not one word of instruction on the treatment of offspring is ever given to those who will hereafter be parents? Is it not monstrous that the fate of a new generation should be left to the chances of unreasoning custom, impulse, fancy-joined with the suggestions of ignorant nurses and the prejudiced counsel of grandmothers ? If a mercha" t commenced business without any knowledge of arithmetic and book-keeping, we should exclaim at his folly, and look for disastrous consequences. Or if, before studying anatomy, a man set up as a surgical operator, we should wonder at his audacity and pity his patients. But that parents should begin the difficult task of rearing children without ever having given a thought to the principles—physical, moral, or intellectual—which ought to guide them, excites neither surprise at the actors nor pity for their victims.

To tens of thousands that are killed, add hundreds of thousands that survive with feeble constitutions, and millions that grow up with constitutions not so strong as they should be; and you will have some idea of the curse inflicted on their offspring by parents ignorant of the laws of life. Do but consider for a moment that the regimen to which children are subject is hourly telling upon them to their life-long injury or benefit; and that there are twenty ways of going wrong to one way of going right; and you will get some idea of the enormous mischief that is almost everywhere inflicted by the thoughtless, hap. hazard system in common use. Is it decided that a boy shall be clothed in some flimsy short dress, and be allowed to go playing about with limbs reddened by cold? The decision will tell on his whole future existence either in illnesses; or in stunted growth; or in deficient energy; or in a maturity less vigorous than it ought to have been, and consequent hindrances to success and happiness. Are children doomed to a monotonous dietary, or a dietary that is deficient in nutritiveness? Their ultimate physical power and their efficiency as men and women, will inevitably be more or less diminished by it. Are they forbidden vociferous play, or (being too ill-clothed to bear exposure,) are they kept in-doors in cold weather? They are certain to fall below that measure of health and strength to wbich they would else have attained. When sons and daughters grow up sickly and feeble, parents commonly regard the event as a misfortune-as a visitation of Providence. Thinking after the prevalent chaotic fashion, they assume that these evils come without causes; or that the causes are supernatural. Nothing of the kind. In some cases the causes are doubtlegs inherited; but in most cases foolish regulations are the causes. Very generally parents themselves are responsible for all this pain, this debility, this depression, this misery. They have undertaken to control the lives of their offspring from hour to hour; with cruel carelessness they have neglected to learn anything about these vital processes which they are unceasingly affecting by their commands and prohibitions; in utter ignorance of the simplest physiologic laws, they have been year by year undermining the constitutions of their chil. dren; and have so inflicted disease and premature death, not only on them but on their descendants.

Equally great are the ignorance and the consequent injury, when we turn from physical training to moral training. Consider the young mother and her nursery legislation. But a few years ago she was at school, where her memory was crammed with words, and names, and dates, and her reflective faculties scarcely in the slightest degree exercised—where not ono idea was given her respecting the methods of dealing with the opening mind of childhood; and where her discipline did not in the least fit her for thinking out methods of her own. The intervening years have been passed in practicing music, in fancy. work, in novel-reading, and in party-going: no thought having yet been given to the grave responsibilities of maternity; and scarcely any of that solid intellectual culture obtained which would be some preparation for such responsibilities. And now see her with an unfolding human character committed to her charge---see her profoundly ignorant of the phenomena with which she has to deal, undertaking to do that which can be done but imperfectly even with the aid of the profoundest knowledge. She knows nothing about the nature of the emotions, their order of evolution, their functions, or where use ends and abuse beging. She is under the impression that some of the feelings are wholly bad, which is not true of any one of them; and that others are good, however far they may be carried, which is also not true of any one of them. And then, ignorant as she is of that with which she has to deal, she is equally ignorant of the effects that will be produced on it by this or that treatment. What can be more inevitable than the disastrous results we see hourly arising ? Lacking knowledge of mental phenomena, with their causes and consequences, her in- ' terference is frequently more mischievous than absolute passivity would have been. This and that kind of action, which are quite normal and beneficial, she perpetually thwarts; and so diminishes the child's happiness and profit, injures its temper and her own, and produces estrangement. Deeds which she thinks it desirable to encourage, she gets performed by threats and bribes, or by exciting a desire for applause: considering little what the inward motive may be, so long as the outward conduct conforms; and thus cultivating hypocrisy, and fear, and selfishness, in place of good feeling. While insisting on truthfulness, she constantly sets an example of untruth, by' threatening penalties which she does not inflict. While inculcating self-control, she hourly visits on her little ones angry scoldings for acts that do not call for them. She has not the remotest idea that in the nursery, as in the world, that alone is the truly salutary discipline which visits on all conduct, good and bad, the natural consequences, pleasurable or painful, which in the nature of things such conduct tends to bring. Being thus without theoretic guidance, and quite incapable of guiding herself by tracing the mental processes going on her children, her rule is impulsive, inconsistent, mischievous, often, in the highest degree; and would indeed be generally ruinous, were it not that the overwhelming tendency of the growing mind to assume the moral type of the race, usually subordinates all minor influences.

And then the culture of the intellect—is not this, too, mismanaged in a

« AnteriorContinua »