On The Future Prospects Of Manufactures As Connected With Science

453. In reviewing the various processes offered as

illustrations of those general principles which it has been the

main object of the present volume to support and establish, it is

impossible not to perceive that the arts and manufactures of the

country are intimately connected with the progress of the severer

sciences; and that, as we advance in the career of improvement,

every step requires, for its success, that thi
connection should

be rendered more intimate.

The applied sciences derive their facts from experiment; but

the reasonings, on which their chief utility depends, are the

province of what is called abstract science. It has been shown,

that the division of labour is no less applicable to mental

productions than to those in which material bodies are concerned;

and it follows, that the efforts for the improvement of its

manufactures which any country can make with the greatest

probability of success, must arise from the combined exertions of

all those most skilled in the theory, as well as in the practice

of the arts; each labouring in that department for which his

natural capacity and acquired habits have rendered him most fit.

454. The profit arising from the successful application to

practice of theoretical principles, will, in most cases, amply

reward, in a pecuniary sense, those by whom they are first

employed; yet even here, what has been stated with respect to

patents, will prove that there is room for considerable amendment

in our legislative enactments: but the discovery of the great

principles of nature demands a mind almost exclusively devoted to

such investigations; and these, in the present state of science,

frequently require costly apparatus, and exact an expense of time

quite incompatible with professional avocations. It becomes,

therefore, a fit subject for consideration, whether it would not

be politic in the State to compensate for some of those

privations, to which the cultivators of the higher departments of

science are exposed; and the best mode of effecting this

compensation, is a question which interests both the philosopher

and the statesman. Such considerations appear to have had their

just influence in other countries, where the pursuit of science

is regarded as a profession, and where those who are successful

in its cultivation are not shut out from almost every object of

honourable ambition to which their fellow countrymen may aspire.

Having, however, already expressed some opinion upon these

subjects in another publication,(1*) I shall here content myself

with referring to that work.

455. There was, indeed, in our own country, one single

position to which science, when concurring with independent

fortune, might aspire, as conferring rank and station, an office

deriving, in the estimation of the public, more than half its

value from the commanding knowledge of its possessor; and it is

extraordinary, that even that solitary dignity--that barony by

tenure in the world of British science--the chair of the Royal

Society, should have been coveted for adventitious rank. It is

more extraordinary, that a Prince, distinguished by the liberal

views he has invariably taken of public affairs--and eminent for

his patronage of every institution calculated to alleviate those

miseries from which, by his rank, he is himself exempted--who is

stated by his friends to be the warm admirer of knowledge, and

most anxious for its advancement, should have been so imperfectly

informed by those friends, as to have wrested from the head of

science, the only civic wreath which could adorn its brow.(2*)

In the meanwhile the President may learn, through the only

medium by which his elevated station admits approach, that those

evils which were anticipated from his election, have not proved

to be imaginary, and that the advantages by some expected to

result from it, have not yet become apparent. It may be right

also to state, that whilst many of the inconveniences, which have

been experienced by the President of the Royal Society, have

resulted from the conduct of his own supporters, those who were

compelled to differ from him, have subsequently offered no

vexatious opposition: they wait in patience, convinced that the

force of truth must ultimately work its certain, though silent

course; not doubting that when His Royal Highness is correctly

informed, he will himself be amongst the first to be influenced

by its power.

456. But younger institutions have arisen to supply the

deficiencies of the old; and very recently a new combination,

differing entirely from the older societies, promises to give

additional steadiness to the future march of science. The British

Association for the Advancement of Science, which held its first

meeting at York(3*) in the year 1831, would have acted as a

powerful ally, even if the Royal Society were all that it might

be: but in the present state of that body such an association is

almost necessary for the purposes of science. The periodical

assemblage of persons, pursuing the same or different branches of

knowledge, always produces an excitement which is favourable to

the development of new ideas; whilst the long period of repose

which succeeds, is advantageous for the prosecution of the

reasonings or the experiments then suggested; and the recurrence

of the meeting in the succeeding year, will stimulate the

activity of the enquirer, by the hope of being then enabled to

produce the successful result of his labours. Another advantage

is, that such meetings bring together a much larger number of

persons actively engaged in science, or placed in positions in

which they can contribute to it, than can ever be found at the

ordinary meetings of other institutions, even in the most

populous capitals; and combined effort towards any particular

object can thus be more easily arranged.

457. But perhaps the greatest benefit which will accrue from

these assemblies, is the intercourse which they cannot fail to

promote between the different classes of society. The man of

science will derive practical information from the great

manufacturers the chemist will be indebted to the same source for

substances which exist in such minute quantity, as only to become

visible in most extensive operations--and persons of wealth and

property, resident in each neighbourhood visited by these

migratory assemblies, will derive greater advantages than either

of those classes, from the real instruction they may procure

respecting the produce and manufactures of their country, and the

enlightened gratification which is ever attendant on the

acquisition of knowledge.(4*)

458. Thus it may be hoped that public opinion shall be

brought to bear upon the world of science; and that by this

intercourse light will be thrown upon the characters of men, and

the pretender and the charlatan be driven into merited obscurity.

Without the action of public opinion, any administration, however

anxious to countenance the pursuits of science, and however ready

toreward, by wealth or honours, those whom they might think most

eminent, would run the risk of acting like the blind man recently

couched, who, having no mode of estimating degrees of distance,

mistook the nearest and most insignificant for the largest

objects in nature: it becomes, therefore, doubly important, that

the man of science should mix with the world.

459. It is highly probable that in the next generation, the

race of scientific men in England will spring from a class of

persons altogether different from that which has hitherto

scantily supplied them. Requiring, for the success of their

pursuits, previous education, leisure, and fortune, few are so

likely to unite these essentials as the sons of our wealthy

manufacturers, who, having been enriched by their own exertions,

in a field connected with science, will be ambitious of having

their children distinguished in its ranks. It must, however, be

admitted, that this desire in the parents would acquire great

additional intensity, if worldly honours occasionally followed

successful efforts; and that the country would thus gain for

science, talents which are frequently rendered useless by the

unsuitable situations in which they are placed.

460. The discoverers of iodine and bromine, two substances

hitherto undecompounded, were both amongst the class of

manufacturers, one being a maker of saltpetre at Paris, the other

a manufacturing chemist at Marseilles; and the inventor of

balloons filled with rarefied air, was a paper manufacturer near

Lyons. The descendants of Mongolfier, the first aerial traveller,

still carry onthe establishment of their progenitor, and combine

great scientific knowledge with skill in various departments of

the arts, to which the different branches of the family have

applied themselves.

461. Chemical science may, in many instances, be of great

importance to the manufacturer, as well as to the merchant. The

quantity of Peruvian bark which is imported into Europe is very

considerable; but chemistry has recently proved that a large

portion of the bark itself is useless. The alkali Quinia which

has been extracted from it, possesses all the properties for

which the bark is valuable, and only forty ounces of this

substance, when in combination with sulphuric acid, can be

extracted from a hundred pounds of the bark. In this instance

then, with every ton of useful matter, thirty-nine tons of

rubbish are transported across the Atlantic.

The greatest part of the sulphate of quinia now used in this

country is imported from France, where the low price of the

alcohol, by which it is extracted from the bark, renders the

process cheap; but it cannot be doubted, that when more settled

forms of government shall have given security to capital, and

when advancing civilization shall have spread itself over the

states of Southern America, the alkaline medicine will be

extracted from the woody matter by which its efficacy is

impaired, and that it will be exported in its most condensed


462. The aid of chemistry, in extracting and in concentrating

substances used for human food, is of great use in distant

voyages, where the space occupied by the stores must be

economized with the greatest care. Thus the essential oils supply

the voyager with flavour; the concentrated and crystallized

vegetable acids preserve his health; and alcohol, when

sufficiently diluted, supplies the spirit necessary for his daily


463. When we reflect on the very small number of species of

plants, compared with the multitude that are known to exist,

which have hitherto been cultivated, and rendered useful to man;

and when we apply the same observation to the animal world, and

even to the mineral kingdom, the field that natural science opens

to our view seems to be indeed unlimited. These productions of

nature, varied and innumerable as they are, may each, in some

future day, become the basis of extensive manufactures, and give

life, employment, and wealth, to millions of human beings. But

the crude treasures perpetually exposed before our eyes, contain

within them other and more valuable principles. All these,

likewise, in their numberless combinations, which ages of labour

and research can never exhaust, may be destined to furnish, in

perpetual succession, new sources of our wealth and of our

happiness. Science and knowledge are subject, in their extension

and increase, to laws quite opposite to those which regulate the

material world. Unlike the forces of molecular attraction, which

cease at sensible distances; or that of gravity, which decreases

rapidly with the increasing distance from the point of its

origin; the further we advance from the origin of our knowledge,

the larger it becomes, and the greater power it bestows upon its

cultivators, to add new fields to its dominions. Yet, does this

continually and rapidly increasing power, instead of giving us

any reason to anticipate the exhaustion of so fertile a field,

place us at each advance, on some higher eminence, from which the

mind contemplates the past, and feels irresistibly convinced,

that the whole, already gained, bears a constantly diminishing

ratio to that which is contained within the still more rapidly

expanding horizon of our knowledge.

464. But, if the knowledge of the chemical and physical

properties of the bodies which surround us, as well as our

imperfect acquaintance with the less tangible elements, light,

electricity, and heat, which mysteriously modify or change their

combinations, concur to convince us of the same fact; we must

remember that another and a higher science, itself still more

boundless, is also advancing with a giant's stride, and having

grasped the mightier masses of the universe, and reduced their

wanderings to laws, has given to us in its own condensed

language, expressions, which are to the past as history, to the

future as prophecy. It is the same science which is now preparing

its fetters for the minutest atoms that nature has created:

already it has nearly chained the ethereal fluid, and bound in

one harmonious system all the intricate and splendid phenomena of

light. It is the science of calculation--which becomes

continually more necessary at each step of our progress, and

which must ultimately govern the whole of the applications of

science to the arts of life.

465. But perhaps a doubt may arise in the mind, whilst

contemplating the continually increasing field of human

knowledge, that the weak arm of man may want the physical force

required to render that knowledge available. The experience of

the past, has stamped with the indelible character of truth, the

maxim, that knowledge is power. It not merely gives to its

votaries control over the mental faculties of their species, but

is itself the generator of physical force. The discovery of the

expansive power of steam, its condensation, and the doctrine of

latent heat, has already added to the population of this small

island, millions of hands. But the source of this power is not

without limit, and the coal-mines of the world may ultimately be

exhausted. Without adverting to the theory, that new deposits of

that mineral are not accumulating under the sea, at the estuaries

of some of our larger rivers; without anticipating the

application of other fluids requiring a less supply of caloric

than water--we may remark that the sea itself offers a perennial

source of power hitherto almost unapplied. The tides, twice in

each day, raise a vast mass of water, which might be made

available for driving machinery. But supposing heat still to

remain necessary, when the exhausted state of our coal fields

renders it expensive: long before that period arrives, other

methods will probably have been invented for producing it. In

some districts, there are springs of hot water, which have flowed

for centuries unchanged in temperature. In many parts of the

island of Ischia, by deepening the sources of the hot springs

only a few feet, the water boils; and there can be little doubt

that, by boring a short distance, steam of high pressure would

issue from the orifice.(5*)

In Iceland, the sources of heat are still more plentiful; and

their proximity to large masses of ice, seems almost to point out

the future destiny of that island. The ice of its glaciers may

enable its inhabitants to liquefy the gases with the least

expenditure of mechanical force; and the heat of its volcanoes

may supply the power necessary for their condensation. Thus, in a

future age, power may become the staple commodity of the

Icelanders, and of the inhabitants of other volcanic

districts;(6*) and possibly the very process by which they will

procure this article of exchange for the luxuries of happier

climates may, in some measure, tame the tremendous element which

occasionally devastates their provinces.

466. Perhaps to the sober eye of inductive philosophy, these

anticipations of the future may appear too faintly connected with

the history of the past. When time shall have revealed the future

progress of our race, those laws which are now obscurely

indicated, will then become distinctly apparent; and it may

possibly be found that the dominion of mind over the material

world advances with an everaccelerating force.

Even now, the imprisoned winds which the earliest poet made

the Grecian warrior bear for the protection of his fragile bark;

or those which, in more modern times, the Lapland wizards sold to

the deluded sailors--these, the unreal creations of fancy or of

fraud, called at the command of science, from their shadowy

existence, obey a holier spell: and the unruly masters of the

poet and the seer become the obedient slaves of civilized man.

Nor have the wild imaginings of the satirist been quite

unrivalled by the realities of after years: as if in mockery of

the College of Laputa, light almost solar has been extracted from

the refuse of fish; fire has been sifted by the lamp of Davy, and

machinery has been taught arithmetic instead of poetry.

467. In whatever light we examine the triumphs and

achievements of our species over the creation submitted to its

power, we explore new sources of wonder. But if science has

called into real existence the visions of the poet--if the

accumulating knowledge of ages has blunted the sharpest and

distanced the loftiest of the shafts of the satirist, the

philosopher has conferred on the moralist an obligation of

surpassing weight. In unveiling to him the living miracles which

teem in rich exuberance around the minutest atom, as well as

throughout the largest masses of ever-active matter, he has

placed before him resistless evidence of immeasurable design.

Surrounded by every form of animate and inanimate existence, the

sun of science has yet penetrated but through the outer fold of

nature's majestic robe; but if the philosopher were required to

separate, from amongst those countless evidences of creative

power, one being, the masterpiece of its skill; and from that

being to select one gift, the choicest of all the attributes of

life; turning within his own breast, and conscious of those

powers which have subjugated to his race the external world, and

of those higher powers by which he has subjugated to himself that

creative faculty which aids his faltering conceptions of a deity,

the humble worshipper at the altar of truth would pronounce that

being, man; that endowment, human reason.

But however large the interval that separates the lowest from

the highest of those sentient beings which inhabit our planet,

all the results of observation, enlightened by all the reasonings

of the philosopher, combine to render it probable that, in the

vast extent of creation, the proudest attribute of our race is

but, perchance, the lowest step in the gradation of intellectual

existence. For, since every portion of our own material globe,

and every animated being it supports, afford, on more

scrutinizing enquiry, more perfect evidence of design, it would

indeed be most unphilosophical to believe that those sister

spheres, obedient to the same law, and glowing with light and

heat radiant from the same central source--and that the members

of those kindred systems, almost lost in the remoteness of space,

and perceptible only from the countless multitude of their

congregated globes should each be no more than a floating chaos

of unformed matter; or, being all the work of the same Almighty

Architect, that no living eye should be gladdened by their forms

of beauty, that no intellectual being should expand its faculties

in decyphering their laws.


1. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on some

of its Causes. 8vo. 1830. Fellowes.

2. The Duke of Sussex was proposed as President of the Royal

Society in opposition to the wish of the Council in opposition to

the public declaration of a body of Fellows, comprising the

largest portion of those by whose labours the character of

English science had been maintained The aristocracy of rank and

of power, aided by such allies as it can always command, set

itself in array against the prouder aristocracy of science. Out

of about seven hundred members, only two hundred and thirty

balloted; and the Duke of Sussex had a majority of eight. Under

such circumstances, it was indeed extraordinary, that His Royal

Highness should have condescended to accept the fruits of that

doubtful and inauspicious victory.

The circumstances preceding and attending this singular

contest have been most ably detailed in a pamphlet entitled A

Statement of the Circumstances connected with the late Election

for the, Presidency of the Royal Society, 1831, printed by R.

Taylor, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. The whole tone of the tract

is strikingly contrasted with that of the productions of some of

those persons by whom it was His Royal Highness's misfortune to

be supported.

3. The second meeting took place at Oxford in June, 1932, and

surpassed even the sanguine anticipations of its friends. The

third annual meeting will take place at Cambridge in June 1833.

4 The advantages likely to arise from such an association, have

been so clearly stated in the address delivered by the Rev. Mr

Vernon Harcourt, at its first meeting, that I would strongly

recommend its perusal by all those who feel interested in the

success of English science. Vide First Report of the British

Association for the Advancement of Science, York. 1832.

5 In 1828, the author of these pages visited Ischia, with a

committee of the Royal Academy of Naples, deputed to examine the

temperature and chrmical constitution of the springs in that

island. During the few first days, several springs which had been

represented in the instructions as under the boiling temperature,

were found, on deepening the excavations, to rise to the boiling