Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of observations of the greatest importance to science might surely be collected in this very way. Nay, in subjects which have their phenomena spread far and wide over the world (like winds, seasons, and oceanic or atmospheric currents), it is in the gradual accumulation of observations so made that our only hope lies of ever coming to understand their laws at all; and if we cannot cause them to be collected under direction and design, we must wait till they accumulate by accident. For it is manifestly impossible that in such subjects as these, philosophers should provide themselves with all the facts which they want unless they can use the help of those who are not philosophers. What science deals with phenomena more subtle and delicate than meteorology ? Yet hear Sir John Herschel. “It happens fortunately that almost every datum which the scientific meteorologist can require is furnished in its best and most available state by that definite systematic process known as the “ keeping a meteorological register,” which consists in noting at stated hours of every day the readings of all the meteorological instruments at command, as well as all such facts or indications of wind and weather as are susceptible of being definitely described and estimated without instrumental aid. Occasional observations apply to occasional and remarkable phenomena, and are by no means to be neglected ; but it is to the regular meteorological register, steadily and perseveringly kept throughout the whole of every voyage, that we must look for the development of the great laws of this science.” 1

1 Manual of Scientific Inquiry, prepared for the use of officers in Her Majesty's

's navy and travellers in general. Edited by Sir John F. W. Herschel, Bt., p. 281.

Between the officers of Her Majesty's navy registering the readings of their instruments in all latitudes and longitudes, and the man of science in his study deducing the laws of meteorology from a comparison of the results, the division of labour is surely as complete as Bacon would have desired. Nor would the scientific directions previously furnished to the officers for their guidance, directions when, where, wliat, and how to observe and record, — though containing “ many results of theory bearing upon observation,” — have seemed to him either objectionable or superfluous: on the contrary, such directions form part of his own design as explained by himself. In the concluding paragraph of the tract which has suggested these remarks he distinctly announces his intention to draw up certain heads of inquiry showing what points with reference to each subject were more particularly to be observed. And though he did not live to execute this part of his design, a few fragments remaining among his papers show in what manner he proposed to proceed. And (if an idle looker-on who can offer no help in the work may presume to offer an opinion) I could wish that men of science would apply themselves earnestly to the solution of this practical problem: What measures are to be taken in order that the greatest variety of judicious observations of nature all over the world may be carried on in concert upon a scientific plan, and brought to a common centre ? With reference to some particular subjects, such measures have been of late years taken on a scale of Baconian magnitude. The system of observations instituted by the Great British Association with respect to Terrestrial Magnetism, if I am rightly informed as to the nature and scale of it, is one which Bacon would have welcomed as he welcomed the first tidings from Galileo's telescope; he would have accepted it as an enterprise “ dignum humano genere.” A similar system of concerted observations is now in contemplation with regard to oceanic currents. As a specimen of the same thing in a more general character, take the "Admiralty Manual of Scientific Inquiry,” to which I have already referred ; a book of practical directions drawn up by some of the most eminent scientific men of our day with special reference to the progress of science in several of its most important departments; directions addressed not to men who are themselves engaged in the theoretical investigation of the subjects, or guided by any “marshalling idea," but to officers of the navy and travellers in general,” telling them what things to observe, in order that their observations may be available for the purposes of scientific inquiry. These are exactly what Bacon would have called "

Topicæ Inquisitionis,” — instructions for the examination of Nature “super articulos ;” and the whole scheme is in perfect accordance, so far as it goes, with Bacon's notion of the way in which men might be set on work for the completing of a natural and experimental history. Why should it not go further? Who can believe that the subjects contained in

? this little volume are the only subjects to which this method of collecting observations can be applied ? who venture to fix the limit beyond which, under such a system sagaciously devised, wisely administered, energetically carried out, and extended to all the departments of nature which admit of it, human discovery may not go ? J. S.

PARASCEVE

AD

HISTORIAM NATURALEM ET EXPERIMENTALEM.

« AnteriorContinuar »