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Decline of Science in England by Charles Babbage

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29th April, 1830.


Of the causes which have induced me to print this volume I have
little to say; my own opinion is, that it will ultimately do some
service to science, and without that belief I would not have
undertaken so thankless a task. That it is too true not to make
enemies, is an opinion in which I concur with several of my
friends, although I should hope that what I have written will not
give just reason for the permanence of such feelings. On one
point I shall speak decidedly, it is not connected in any degree
with the calculating machine on which I have been engaged; the
causes which have led to it have been long operating, and would
have produced this result whether I had ever speculated on that
subject, and whatever might have been the fate of my

If any one shall endeavour to account for the opinions stated in
these pages by ascribing them to any imagined circumstance
peculiar to myself, I think he will be mistaken. That science
has long been neglected and declining in England, is not an
opinion originating with me, but is shared by many, and has been
expressed by higher authority than mine. I shall offer a few
notices on this subject, which, from their scattered position,
are unlikely to have met the reader's attention, and which, when
combined with the facts I have detailed in subsequent pages, will
be admitted to deserve considerable attention. The following
extract from the article Chemistry, in the Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana, is from the pen of a gentleman equally qualified
by his extensive reading, and from his acquaintance with foreign
nations, to form an opinion entitled to respect. Differing from
him widely as to the cause, I may be permitted to cite him as
high authority for the fact.

"In concluding this most circumscribed outline of the History of
Chemistry, we may perhaps be allowed to express a faint shade of
regret, which, nevertheless, has frequently passed over our minds
within the space of the last five or six years. Admiring, as we
most sincerely do, the electro-magnetic discoveries of Professor
Oersted and his followers, we still, as chemists, fear that our
science has suffered some degree of neglect in consequence of
them. At least, we remark that, during this period, good
chemical analyses and researches have been rare in England; and
yet, it must be confessed, there is an ample field for chemical
discovery. How scanty is our knowledge of the suspected
fluorine! Are we sure that we understand the nature of nitrogen?
And yet these are amongst our elements. Much has been done by
Wollaston, Berzelius, Guy-Lussac, Thenard, Thomson, Prout, and
others, with regard to the doctrine of definite proportions; but
there yet remains the Atomic Theory. Is it a representation of
the laws of nature, or is it not?"---CHEMISTRY, ENCYC. METROP.

When the present volume was considerably advanced, the public
were informed that the late Sir Humphry Davy had commenced a
work, having the same title as the present, and that his
sentiments were expressed in the language of feeling and of
eloquence. It is to be hoped that it may be allowed by his
friends to convey his opinions to posterity, and that the
writings of the philosopher may enable his contemporaries to
forget some of the deeds of the President of the Royal Society.

Whatever may be the fate of that highly interesting document, we
may infer his opinions upon this subject from a sentiment
expressed in his last work:--

"--But we may in vain search the aristocracy now for
philosophers."----"There are very few persons who pursue science
with true dignity; it is followed more as connected with objects
of profit than those of fame."--SIR H. DAVY'S CONSOLATIONS IN

The last authority which I shall adduce is more valuable, from
the varied acquirements of its author, and from the greater
detail into which he enters. "We have drawn largely, both in the
present Essay, and in our article on LIGHT, from the ANNALES DE
CHEMIE, and we take this ONLY opportunity distinctly to
acknowledge our obligations to that most admirably conducted
work. Unlike the crude and undigested scientific matter which
suffices, (we are ashamed to say it) for the monthly and
quarterly amusement of our own countrymen, whatever is admitted
into ITS pages, has at least been taken pains with, and, with few
exceptions, has sterling merit. Indeed, among the original
communications which abound in it, there are few which would
misbecome the first academical collections; and if any thing
could diminish our regret at the long suppression of those noble
memoirs, which are destined to adorn future volumes of that of
the Institute, it would be the masterly abstracts of them which
from time to time appear in the ANNALES, either from the hands of
the authors, or from the reports rendered by the committees
appointed to examine them; which latter, indeed, are universally
models of their kind, and have contributed, perhaps more than any
thing, to the high scientific tone of the French SAVANS. What
author, indeed, but will write his best, when he knows that his
work, if it have merit, will immediately be reported on by a
committee, who will enter into all its meaning; understand it,
however profound: and, not content with MERELY understanding it,
pursue the trains of thought to which it leads; place its
discoveries and principles in new and unexpected lights; and
bring the whole of their knowledge of collateral subjects to bear
upon it. Nor ought we to omit our acknowledgement to the very
valuable Journals of Poggendorff and Schweigger. Less
exclusively national than their Gallic compeer, they present a
picture of the actual progress of physical science throughout
Europe. Indeed, we have been often astonished to see with what
celerity every thing, even moderately valuable in the scientific
publications of this country, finds its way into their pages.
This ought to encourage our men of science. They have a larger
audience, and a wider sympathy than they are perhaps aware of;
and however disheartening the general diffusion of smatterings of
a number of subjects, and the almost equally general indifference
to profound knowledge in any, among their own countrymen, may be,
they may rest assured that not a fact they may discover, nor a
good experiment they may make, but is instantly repeated,
verified, and commented upon, in Germany, and, we may add too, in
Italy. We wish the obligation were mutual. Here, whole branches
of continental discovery are unstudied, and indeed almost
unknown, even by name. It is in vain to conceal the melancholy
truth. We are fast dropping behind. In mathematics we have long
since drawn the rein, and given over a hopeless race. In
chemistry the case is not much letter. Who can tell us any thing
of the Sulfo-salts? Who will explain to us the laws of
Isomorphism? Nay, who among us has even verified Thenard's
experiments on the oxygenated acids,--Oersted's and Berzelius's
on the radicals of the earths,--Balard's and Serrulas's on the
combinations of Brome,--and a hundred other splendid trains of
research in that fascinating science? Nor need we stop here.
There are, indeed, few sciences which would not furnish matter
for similar remark. The causes are at once obvious and
deep-seated; but this is not the place to discuss them."-- MR.

With such authorities, I need not apprehend much doubt as to the
fact of the decline of science in England: how far I may have
pointed out some of its causes, must be left to others to decide.

Many attacks have lately been made on the conduct of various
scientific bodies, and of their officers, and severe criticism
has been lavished upon some of their productions. Newspapers,
Magazines, Reviews, and Pamphlets, have all been put in
requisition for the purpose. Odium has been cast upon some of
these for being anonymous. If a fact is to be established by
testimony, anonymous assertion is of no value; if it can be
proved, by evidence to which the public have access, it is of no
consequence (for the cause of truth) who produces it. A matter
of opinion derives weight from the name which is attached to it;
but a chain of reasoning is equally conclusive, whoever may be
its author.

Perhaps it would be better for science, that all criticism should
be avowed. It would certainly have the effect of rendering it
more matured, and less severe; but, on the other hand, it would
have the evil of frequently repressing it altogether, because
there exists amongst the lower ranks of science, a "GENUS
IRRITABILE," who are disposed to argue that every criticism is
personal. It is clearly the interest of all who fear inquiries,
to push this principle as far as possible, whilst those whose
sole object is truth, can have no apprehensions from the severest
scrutiny. There are few circumstances which so strongly
distinguish the philosopher, as the calmness with which he can
reply to criticisms he may think undeservedly severe. I have
been led into these reflections, from the circumstance of its
having been stated publicly, that I was the author of several of
those anonymous writings, which were considered amongst the most
severe; and the assertion was the more likely to be credited,
from the fact of my having spoken a few words connected with one
of those subjects at the last anniversary of the Royal Society.
[I merely observed that the agreement made with the British
Museum for exchanging the Arundel MSS. for their duplicates,
(which had just been stated by the President,) was UNWISE;
--because it was not to be expected that many duplicates should
be found in a library like that of the Museum, weak in the
physical and mathematical sciences: that it was IMPROVIDENT and
UNBUSINESSLIKE;--because it neither fixed the TIME when the
difference was to be paid, in case their duplicates should be
insufficient; nor did it appear that there were any FUNDS out of
which the money could be procured: and I added, that it would be
more advantageous to sell the MSS., and purchase the books we
wanted with the produce.] I had hoped in that diminutive world,
the world of science, my character had been sufficiently known to
have escaped being the subject of such a mistake; and, in taking
this opportunity of correcting it, I will add that, in the
present volume, I have thought it more candid to mention
distinctly those whose line of conduct I have disapproved, or
whose works I have criticised, than to leave to the reader
inferences which he might make far more extensive than I have
intended. I hope, therefore, that where I have depicted species,
no person will be so unkind to others and unjust to me, as to
suppose I have described individuals.

With respect to the cry against personality, which has been
lately set up to prevent all inquiry into matters of scientific
misgovernment, a few words will suffice.

I feel as strongly as any one, not merely the impropriety, but
the injustice of introducing private character into such
discussions. There is, however, a maxim too well established to
need any comment of mine. The public character of every public
servant is legitimate subject of discussion, and his fitness or
unfitness for office may be fairly canvassed by any person. Those
whose too sensitive feelings shrink from such an ordeal, have no
right to accept the emoluments of office, for they know that it
is the condition to which all must submit who are paid from the
public purse.

The same principle is equally applicable to Companies, to
Societies, and to Academies. Those from whose pocket the salary
is drawn, and by whose appointment the officer was made, have
always a right to discuss the merits of their officers, and their
modes of exercising the duties they are paid to perform.

This principle is equally applicable to the conduct of a
Secretary of State, or to that of a constable; to that of a
Secretary of the Royal Society, or of an adviser to the

With respect to honorary officers, the case is in some measure
different. But the President of a society, although not
recompensed by any pecuniary remuneration, enjoys a station, when
the body over which he presides possesses a high character, to
which many will aspire, who will esteem themselves amply repaid
for the time they devote to the office, by the consequence
attached to it in public estimation. He, therefore, is
answerable to the Society for his conduct in their chair.

There are several societies in which the secretaries, and other
officers, have very laborious duties, and where they are unaided
by a train of clerks, and yet no pecuniary remuneration is given
to them. Science is much indebted to such men, by whose quiet and
unostentatious labours the routine of its institutions is carried
on. It would be unwise, as well as ungrateful, to judge severely
of the inadvertencies, or even of the negligence of such persons:
nothing but weighty causes should justify such a course.

Whilst, however, I contend for the principle of discussion and
inquiry in its widest sense, because I consider it equally the
safeguard of our scientific as of our political institutions, I
shall use it, I hope, temperately; and having no personal
feelings myself, but living in terms of intercourse with almost
all, and of intimacy with several of those from whom I most
widely differ, I shall not attempt to heap together all the
causes of complaint; but, by selecting a few in different
departments, endeavour to convince them that some alteration is
essentially necessary for the promotion of that very object which
we both by such different roads pursue.

I have found it necessary, in the course of this volume, to speak
of the departed; for the misgovernment of the Royal Society has
not been wholly the result of even the present race. It is said,
and I think with justice, in the life of Young, inserted amongst
Dr. Johnson's, that the famous maxim, "DE MORTUIS NIL NISI
BONUM," "appears to savour more of female weakness than of manly
reason." The foibles and the follies of those who are gone, may,
without injury to society, repose in oblivion. But, whoever
would claim the admiration of mankind for their good actions,
must prove his impartiality by fearlessly condemning their evil
deeds. Adopt the maxim, and praise to the dead becomes
worthless, from its universality; and history, a greater fable
than it has been hitherto deemed.

Perhaps I ought to apologize for the large space I have devoted
to the Royal Society. Certainly its present state gives it no
claim to that attention; and I do it partly from respect for its
former services, and partly from the hope that, if such an
Institution can be of use to science in the present day, the
attention of its members may be excited to take steps for its
restoration. Perhaps I may be blamed for having published
extracts from the minutes of its proceedings without the
permission of its Council. To have asked permission of the
present Council would have been useless. I might, however, have
given the substance of what I have extracted without the words,
and no one could then have reproached me with any infringement of
our rules: but there were two objections to that course. In the
first place, it is impossible, even for the most candid, in all
cases, to convey precisely the same sentiment in different
language; and I thought it therefore more fair towards those from
whom I differed, as well as to the public, to give the precise
words. Again: had it been possible to make so accurate a
paraphrase, I should yet have preferred the risk of incurring the
reproach of the Royal Society for the offence, to escaping their
censure by an evasion. What I have done rests on my own head;
and I shrink not from the responsibility attaching to it.

If those, whose mismanagement of that Society I condemn, should
accuse me of hostility to the Royal Society; my answer is, that
the party which governs it is not the Royal Society; and that I
will only admit the justice of the accusation, when the whole
body, becoming acquainted with the system I have exposed, shall,
by ratifying it with their approbation, appropriate it to
themselves: an event of which I need scarcely add I have not the
slightest anticipation.



Introductory Remarks
CHAP. I. On the Reciprocal Influence of Science and Education.
CHAP. II. Of the Inducements to Individuals to cultivate Science.
--Sect. 1. Professional Impulses.
------ 2. Of National Encouragement.
------ 3. Of Encouragement from learned Societies.
CHAP. III. General State of learned Societies in England.
CHAP. IV. State of the Royal Society in particular.
--Sect. 1. Mode of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society.
------ 2. Of the Presidency and Vice-Presidencies.
------ 3. Of the Secretariships
------ 4. Of the Scientific Advisers.
------ 5. Of the Union of several Offices in one person.
------ 6. Of the Funds of the Society.
------ 7. Of the Royal Medals.
------ 8. Of the Copley Medals.
------ 9. Of the Fairchild Lecture.
------ 10. Of the Croonian Lecture.
------ 11. Of the Causes of the Present State of the Royal Society.
------ 12. Of the Plan for Reforming the Society.
CHAP. V. Of Observations.
--Sect. 1. Of Minute Precision.
------ 2. On the Art of Observing.
------ 3. On the Frauds of Observers.
CHAP. VI. Suggestions for the Advancement of Science in England.
--Sect. 1. Of the Necessity that Members of the Royal Society
--------- should express their Opinions.
------ 2. Of Biennial Presidents.
------ 3. Of the Influence of the Colleges of Physicians and
--------- Surgeons in the Royal Society.
------ 4. Of the Influence of the Royal Institution on the Royal
--------- Society.
------ 5. Of the Transactions of the Royal Society.
------ 6. Order of Merit.
------ 7. Of the Union of Scientific Societies.
------- NO. 2.
------- NO. 3.




It cannot have escaped the attention of those, whose acquirements
enable them to judge, and who have had opportunities of examining
the state of science in other countries, that in England,
particularly with respect to the more difficult and abstract
sciences, we are much below other nations, not merely of equal
rank, but below several even of inferior power. That a country,
eminently distinguished for its mechanical and manufacturing
ingenuity, should be indifferent to the progress of inquiries
which form the highest departments of that knowledge on whose
more elementary truths its wealth and rank depend, is a fact
which is well deserving the attention of those who shall inquire
into the causes that influence the progress of nations.

To trace the gradual decline of mathematical, and with it of the
highest departments of physical science, from the days of Newton
to the present, must be left to the historian. It is not within
the province of one who, having mixed sufficiently with
scientific society in England to see and regret the weakness of
some of its greatest ornaments, and to see through and deplore
the conduct of its pretended friends, offers these remarks, with
the hope that they may excite discussion,--with the conviction
that discussion is the firmest ally of truth,--and with the
confidence that nothing but the full expression of public opinion
can remove the evils that chill the enthusiasm, and cramp the
energies of the science of England.

The causes which have produced, and some of the effects which
have resulted from, the present state of science in England, are
so mixed, that it is difficult to distinguish accurately between
them. I shall, therefore, in this volume, not attempt any minute
discrimination, but rather present the result of my reflections
on the concomitant circumstances which have attended the decay,
and at the conclusion of it, shall examine some of the
suggestions which have been offered for the advancement of
British science.



That the state of knowledge in any country will exert a directive
influence on the general system of instruction adopted in it, is
a principle too obvious to require investigation. And it is
equally certain that the tastes and pursuits of our manhood will
bear on them the traces of the earlier impressions of our
education. It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that some
portion of the neglect of science in England, may be attributed
to the system of education we pursue. A young man passes from
our public schools to the universities, ignorant almost of the
elements of every branch of useful knowledge; and at these latter
establishments, formed originally for instructing those who are
intended for the clerical profession, classical and mathematical
pursuits are nearly the sole objects proposed to the student's

Much has been done at one of our universities during the last
fifteen years, to improve the system of study; and I am confident
that there is no one connected with that body, who will not do me
the justice to believe that, whatever suggestions I may venture
to offer, are prompted by the warmest feelings for the honour and
the increasing prosperity of its institutions. The ties which
connect me with Cambridge are indeed of no ordinary kind.

Taking it then for granted that our system of academical
education ought to be adapted to nearly the whole of the
aristocracy of the country, I am inclined to believe that whilst
the modifications I should propose would not be great innovations
on the spirit of our institutions, they would contribute
materially to that important object.

It will be readily admitted, that a degree conferred by an
university, ought to be a pledge to the public that he who holds
it possesses a certain quantity of knowledge. The progress of
society has rendered knowledge far more various in its kinds than
it used to be; and to meet this variety in the tastes and
inclinations of those who come to us for instruction, we have,
besides the regular lectures to which all must attend, other
sources of information from whence the students may acquire sound
and varied knowledge in the numerous lectures on chemistry,
geology, botany, history, &c. It is at present a matter of
option with the student, which, and how many of these courses he
shall attend, and such it should still remain. All that it would
be necessary to add would be, that previously to taking his
degree, each person should be examined by those Professors, whose
lectures he had attended. The pupils should then be arranged in
two classes, according to their merits, and the names included in
these classes should be printed. I would then propose that no
young man, except his name was found amongst the "List of
Honours," should be allowed to take his degree, unless he had
been placed in the first class of some one at least of the
courses given by the professors. But it should still be
imperative upon the student to possess such mathematical
knowledge as we usually require. If he had attained the first
rank in several of these examinations, it is obvious that we
should run no hazard in a little relaxing: the strictness of his
mathematical trial.

If it should be thought preferable, the sciences might be
grouped, and the following subjects be taken together:--

Modern History.
Laws of England.
Civil Law.

Political Economy.
Applications of Science to Arts and Manufactures.


Zoology, including Physiology and Comparative Anatomy.
Botany, including Vegetable Physiology and Anatomy.

One of the great advantages of such a system would be, that no
young person would have an excuse for not studying, by stating,
as is most frequently done, that the only pursuits followed at
Cambridge, classics and mathematics, are not adapted either to
his taste, or to the wants of his after life. His friends and
relatives would then reasonably expect every student to have
acquired distinction in SOME pursuit. If it should be feared
that this plan would lead to too great a diversity of pursuits in
the same individual, a limitation might be placed upon the number
of examinations into which the same person might be permitted to
enter. It might also be desirable not to restrict the whole of
these examinations to the third year, but to allow the student to
enter on some portion of them in the first or second year, if he
should prefer it.

By such an arrangement, which would scarcely interfere seriously
with our other examinations, we should, I think, be enabled
effectually to keep pace with the wants of society, and retaining
fully our power and our right to direct the studies of those who
are intended for the church, as well as of those who aspire to
the various offices connected with our academical institutions;
we should, at the same time, open a field of honourable ambition
to multitudes, who, from the exclusive nature of our present
studies, leave us with but a very limited addition to their stock
of knowledge.

Much more might be said on a subject so important to the
interests of the country, as well as of our university, but my
wish is merely to open it for our own consideration and
discussion. We have already done so much for the improvement of
our system of instruction, that public opinion will not reproach
us for any unwillingness to alter. It is our first duty to be
well satisfied that we can improve: such alterations ought only
to be the result of a most mature consideration, and of a free
interchange of sentiments on the subject, in order that we may
condense upon the question the accumulated judgment of many

It is in some measure to be attributed to the defects of our
system of education, that scientific knowledge scarcely exists
amongst the higher classes of society. The discussions in the
Houses of Lords or of Commons, which arise on the occurrence of
any subjects connected with science, sufficiently prove this
fact, which, if I had consulted the extremely limited nature of
my personal experience, I should, perhaps, have doubted.



Interest or inclination form the primary and ruling motives in
this matter: and both these exert greater or less proportionate
influence in each of the respective cases to be examined.



A large portion of those who are impelled by ambition or
necessity to advance themselves in the world, make choice of some
profession in which they imagine their talents likely to be
rewarded with success; and there are peculiar advantages
resulting to each from this classification of society into
professions. The ESPRIT DE CORPS frequently overpowers the
jealousy which exists between individuals, and pushes on to
advantageous situations some of the more fortunate of the
profession; whilst, on the other hand, any injury or insult
offered to the weakest, is redressed or resented by the whole
body. There are other advantages which are perhaps of more
importance to the public. The numbers which compose the learned
professions in England are so considerable, that a kind of public
opinion is generated amongst them, which powerfully tends to
repress conduct that is injurious either to the profession or to
the public. Again, the mutual jealousy and rivalry excited
amongst the whole body is so considerable, that although the rank
and estimation which an individual holds in the profession may be
most unfairly appreciated, by taking the opinion of his rival;
yet few estimations will be found generally more correct than the
opinion of a whole profession on the merits of any one of its
body. This test is of great value to the public, and becomes the
more so, in proportion to the difficulty of the study to which
the profession is devoted. It is by availing themselves of it
that men of sense and judgment, who have occasion for the
services of professional persons, are, in a great measure, guided
in their choice.

The pursuit of science does not, in England, constitute a
distinct profession, as it does in many other countries. It is
therefore, on that ground alone, deprived of many of the
advantages which attach to professions. One of its greatest
misfortunes arises from this circumstance; for the subjects on
which it is conversant are so difficult, and require such
unremitted devotion of time, that few who have not spent years in
their study can judge of the relative knowledge of those who
pursue them. It follows, therefore, that the public, and even
that men of sound sense and discernment, can scarcely find means
to distinguish between the possessors of knowledge, in the
present day, merely elementary, and those whose acquirements are
of the highest order. This remark applies with peculiar force to
all the more difficult applications of mathematics; and the fact
is calculated to check the energies of those who only look to
reputation in England.

As there exists with us no peculiar class professedly devoted to
science, it frequently happens that when a situation, requiring
for the proper fulfilment of its duties considerable scientific
attainments, is vacant, it becomes necessary to select from among
amateurs, or rather from among persons whose chief attention has
been bestowed on other subjects, and to whom science has been
only an occasional pursuit. A certain quantity of scientific
knowledge is of course possessed by individuals in many
professions; and when added to the professional acquirements of
the army, the navy, or to the knowledge of the merchant, is
highly meritorious: but it is obvious that this may become, when
separated from the profession, quite insignificant as the basis
of a scientific reputation.

To those who have chosen the profession of medicine, a knowledge
of chemistry, and of some branches of natural history, and,
indeed, of several other departments of science, affords useful
assistance. Some of the most valuable names which adorn the
history of English science have been connected with this

The causes which induce the selection of the clerical profession
are not often connected with science; and it is, perhaps, a
question of considerable doubt whether it is desirable to hold
out to its members hopes of advancement from such acquirements.
As a source of recreation, nothing can be more fit to occupy the
attention of a divine; and our church may boast, in the present
as in past times, that the domain of science has been extended by
some of its brightest ornaments.

In England, the profession of the law is that which seems to hold
out the strongest attraction to talent, from the circumstance,
that in it ability, coupled with exertion, even though unaided by
patronage, cannot fail of obtaining reward. It is frequently
chosen as an introduction to public life. It also presents great
advantages, from its being a qualification for many situations
more or less remotely connected with it, as well as from the
circumstance that several of the highest officers of the state
must necessarily have sprung from its ranks.

A powerful attraction exists, therefore, to the promotion of a
study and of duties of all others engrossing the time most
completely, and which is less benefited than most others by any
acquaintance with science. This is one amongst the causes why it
so very rarely happens that men in public situations are at all
conversant even with the commonest branches of scientific
knowledge, and why scarcely an instance can be cited of such
persons acquiring a reputation by any discoveries of their own.

But, however consistent other sciences may be with professional
avocations, there is one which, from its extreme difficulty, and
the overwhelming attention which it demands, can only be pursued
with success by those whose leisure is undisturbed by other
claims. To be well acquainted with the present state of
mathematics, is no easy task; but to add to the powers which that
science possesses, is likely to be the lot of but few English



The little encouragement which at all previous periods has been
afforded by the English Government to the authors of useful
discoveries, or of new and valuable inventions, is justified on
the following grounds:

1. The public, who consume the new commodity or profit by the
new invention, are much better judges of its merit than the
government can be.

2. The reward which arises from the sale of the commodity is
usually much larger than that which government would be justified
in bestowing; and it is exactly proportioned to the consumption,
that is, to the want which the public feel for the new article.

It must be admitted that, as general principles, these are
correct: there are, however, exceptions which flow necessarily
from the very reasoning from which they were deduced. Without
entering minutely into these exceptions, it will be sufficient to
show that all abstract truth is entirely excluded from reward
under this system. It is only the application of principles to
common life which can be thus rewarded. A few instances may
perhaps render this position more evident. The principle of the
hydrostatic paradox was known as a speculative truth in the time
of Stevinus; [About the year 1600] and its application to raising
heavy weights has long been stated in elementary treatises on
natural philosophy, as well as constantly exhibited in lectures.
Yet, it may fairly be regarded as a mere abstract principle,
until the late Mr. Bramah, by substituting a pump instead of the
smaller column, converted it into a most valuable and powerful
engine.--The principle of the convertibility of the centres of
oscillation and suspension in the pendulum, discovered by Huygens
more than a century and a half ago, remained, until within these
few years, a sterile, though most elegant proposition; when,
after being hinted at by Prony, and distinctly pointed out by
Bonenberger, it was employed by Captain Kater as the foundation
of a most convenient practical method of determining the length
of the pendulum.--The interval which separated the discovery, by
Dr. Black, of latent heat, from the beautiful and successful
application of it to the steam engine, was comparatively short;
but it required the efforts of two minds; and both were of the
highest order.--The influence of electricity in producing
decompositions, although of inestimable value as an instrument of
discovery in chemical inquiries, can hardly be said to have been
applied to the practical purposes of life, until the same
powerful genius which detected the principle, applied it, by a
singular felicity of reasoning, to arrest the corrosion of the
copper-sheathing of vessels. That admirably connected chain of
reasoning, the truth of which is confirmed by its very failure as
a remedy, will probably at some future day supply, by its
successful application, a new proof of the position we are
endeavouring to establish.

[I am authorised in stating, that this was regarded by Laplace as
the greatest of Sir Humphry Davy's discoveries. It did not fail
in producing the effect foreseen by Sir H. Davy,--the preventing
the corrosion of the copper; but it failed as a cure of the evil,
by producing one of an OPPOSITE character; either by preserving
too perfectly from decay the surface of the copper, or by
rendering it negative, it allowed marine animals and vegetables
to accumulate on its surface, and thus impede the progress of the

Other instances might, if necessary, be adduced, to show that
long intervals frequently elapse between the discovery of new
principles in science and their practical application: nor ought
this at all to surprise us. Those intellectual qualifications,
which give birth to new principles or to new methods, are of
quite a different order from those which are necessary for their
practical application.

At the time of the discovery of the beautiful theorem of Huygens,
it required in its author not merely a complete knowledge of the
mathematical science of his age, but a genius to enlarge its
boundaries by new creations of his own. Such talents are not
always united with a quick perception of the details, and of the
practical applications of the principles they have developed,
nor is it for the interest of mankind that minds of this high
order should lavish their powers on subjects unsuited to their

In mathematical science, more than in all others, it happens that
truths which are at one period the most abstract, and apparently
the most remote from all useful application, become in the next
age the bases of profound physical inquiries, and in the
succeeding one, perhaps, by proper simplification and reduction
to tables, furnish their ready and daily aid to the artist and
the sailor.

It may also happen that at the time of the discovery of such
principles, the mechanical arts may be too imperfect to render
their application likely to be attended with success. Such was
the case with the principle of the hydrostatic paradox; and it
was not, I believe, until the expiration of Mr. Bramah's patent,
that the press which bears his name received that mechanical
perfection in its execution, which has deservedly brought it into
such general use.

On the other hand, for one person who is blessed with the power
of invention, many will always be found who have the capacity of
applying principles; and much of the merit ascribed to these
applications will always depend on the care and labour bestowed
in the practical detail.

If, therefore, it is important to the country that abstract
principles should be applied to practical use, it is clear that
it is also important that encouragement should be held out to the
few who are capable of adding to the number of those truths on
which such applications are founded. Unless there exist peculiar
institutions for the support of such inquirers, or unless the
Government directly interfere, the contriver of a thaumatrope may
derive profit from his ingenuity, whilst he who unravels the laws
of light and vision, on which multitudes of phenomena depend,
shall descend unrewarded to the tomb.

Perhaps it may be urged, that sufficient encouragement is already
afforded to abstract science in our different universities, by
the professorships established at them. It is not however in the
power of such institutions to create; they may foster and aid the
development of genius; and, when rightly applied, such stations
ought to be its fair and honourable rewards. In many instances
their emolument is small; and when otherwise, the lectures which
are required from the professor are not perhaps in all cases the
best mode of employing the energies of those who are capable of

I cannot resist the opportunity of supporting these opinions by
the authority of one of the greatest philosophers of a past age,
and of expressing my acknowledgments to the author of a most
interesting piece of scientific biography. In the correspondence
which terminated in the return of Galileo to a professorship in
his native country, he remarks, "But, because my private lectures
and domestic pupils are a great hinderance and interruption of my
studies, I wish to live entirely exempt from the former, and in
great measure from the latter."--LIFE OF GALILEO, p.18. And, in
another letter to Kepler, he speaks with gratitude of Cosmo, the
Grand Duke of Tuscany, who "has now invited me to attach myself
to him with the annual salary of 1000 florins, and with the title
of Philosopher and principal Mathematician to his Highness,
without the duties of any office to perform, but with most
complete leisure; so that I can complete my treatise on
Mechanics, &c."--p.31." [Life of Galileo, published by the
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.]

Surely, if knowledge is valuable, it can never be good policy in
a country far wealthier than Tuscany, to allow a genius like Mr.
Dalton's, to be employed in the drudgery of elementary
instruction. [I utter these sentiments from no feelings of
private friendship to that estimable philosopher, to whom it is
my regret to be almost unknown, and whose modest and retiring
merit, I may, perhaps, have the misfortune to offend by these
remarks. But Mr. Dalton was of no party; had he ever moved in
that vortex which has brought discredit, and almost ruin, on the
Royal Society of England;--had he taken part with those who vote
to each other medals, and, affecting to be tired of the fatigues
of office, make to each other requisitions to retain places they
would be most reluctant to quit; his great and splendid discovery
would long since have been represented to government. Expectant
mediocrity would have urged on his claims to remuneration, and
those who covered their selfish purposes with the cloak of
science, would have hastened to shelter themselves in the mantle
of his glory.--But the philosopher may find consolation for the
tardy approbation of that Society, in the applause of Europe. If
he was insulted by their medal, he escaped the pain of seeing his
name connected with their proceedings.] Where would have been
the military renown of England, if, with an equally improvident
waste of mental power, its institutions had forced the Duke of
Wellington to employ his life in drilling recruits, instead of
planning campaigns?

If we look at the fact, we shall find that the great inventions
of the age are not, with us at least, always produced in
universities. The doctrines of "definite proportions," and of
the "chemical agency of electricity,"-- principles of a high
order, which have immortalized the names of their discoverers,
--were not produced by the meditations of the cloister: nor is
it in the least a reproach to those valuable institutions to
mention truths like these. Fortunate circumstances must concur,
even to the greatest, to render them eminently successful. It is
not permitted to all to be born, like Archimedes, when a science
was to be created; nor, like Newton, to find the system of the
world "without form and void;" and, by disclosing gravitation, to
shed throughout that system the same irresistible radiance as
that with which the Almighty Creator had illumined its material
substance. It can happen to but few philosophers, and but at
distant intervals, to snatch a science, like Dalton, from the
chaos of indefinite combination, and binding it in the chains of
number, to exalt it to rank amongst the exact. Triumphs like
these are necessarily "few and far between;" nor can it be
expected that that portion of encouragement, which a country may
think fit to bestow on science, should be adapted to meet such
instances. Too extraordinary to be frequent, they must be left,
if they are to be encouraged at all, to some direct interference
of the government.

The dangers to be apprehended from such a specific interference,
would arise from one, or several, of the following
circumstances:--That class of society, from whom the government
is selected, might not possess sufficient knowledge either to
judge themselves, or know upon whose judgment to rely. Or the
number of persons devoting themselves to science, might not be
sufficiently large to have due weight in the expression of public
opinion. Or, supposing this class to be large, it might not
enjoy, in the estimation of the world, a sufficiently high
character for independence. Should these causes concur in any
country, it might become highly injurious to commit the
encouragement of science to any department of the government.
This reasoning does not appear to have escaped the penetration of
those who advised the abolition of the late Board of Longitude.

The question whether it is good policy in the government of a
country to encourage science, is one of which those who cultivate
it are not perhaps the most unbiassed judges. In England, those
who have hitherto pursued science, have in general no very
reasonable grounds of complaint; they knew, or should have known,
that there was no demand for it, that it led to little honour,
and to less profit.

That blame has been attributed to the government for not
fostering the science of the country is certain; and, as far as
regards past administrations, is, to a great extent, just; with
respect to the present ministers, whose strength essentially
depends on public opinion, it is not necessary that they should
precede, and they cannot remain long insensible to any expression
of the general feeling. But supposing science were thought of
some importance by any administration, it would be difficult in
the present state of things to do much in its favour; because, on
the one hand, the higher classes in general have not a profound
knowledge of science, and, on the other, those persons whom they
have usually consulted, seem not to have given such advice as to
deserve the confidence of government. It seems to be forgotten,
that the money allotted by government to purposes of science
ought to be expended with the same regard to prudence and economy
as in the disposal of money in the affairs of private life.

[Who, for instance, could have advised the government to incur
the expense of printing SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY copies of the
Astronomical Observations made at Paramatta, to form a third part
of the Philosophical Transactions for 1829, whilst of the
Observations made at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, two
hundred and fifty copies only are printed?

Of these seven hundred and fifty copies, seven hundred and ten
will be distributed to members of the Royal Society, to six
hundred of whom they will probably be wholly uninteresting or
useless; and thus the country incurs a constantly recurring
annual expense. Nor is it easy to see on what principle a
similar destination could be refused for the observations made at
the Cape of Good Hope.]

To those who measure the question of the national encouragement
of science by its value in pounds, shillings, and pence, I will
here state a fact, which, although pretty generally known, still,
I think, deserves attention. A short time since it was
discovered by government that the terms on which annuities had
been granted by them were erroneous, and new tables were
introduced by act of Parliament. It was stated at the time that
the erroneous tables had caused a loss to the country of between
two and three millions sterling. The fact of the sale of those
annuities being a losing concern was long known to many; and the
government appear to have been the last to be informed on the
subject. Half the interest of half that loss, judiciously applied
to the encouragement of mathematical science, would, in a few
years, have rendered utterly impossible such expensive errors.

To those who bow to the authority of great names, one remark may
have its weight. The MECANIQUE COELESTE, [The first volume of
the first translation of this celebrated work into our own
language, has just arrived in England from--America.] and the
Laplace, to Napoleon. During the reign of that extraordinary
man, the triumphs of France were as eminent in Science as they
were splendid in arms. May the institutions which trained and
rewarded her philosophers be permanent as the benefits they have
conferred upon mankind!

In other countries it has been found, and is admitted, that a
knowledge of science is a recommendation to public appointments,
and that a man does not make a worse ambassador because he has
directed an observatory, or has added by his discoveries to the
extent of our knowledge of animated nature. Instances even are
not wanting of ministers who have begun their career in the
inquiries of pure analysis. As such examples are perhaps more
frequent than is generally imagined, it may be useful to mention
a few of those men of science who have formerly held, or who now
hold, high official stations in the governments of their
respective countries.

Country. Name. Department of Public Office.

France .. Marquis Laplace[1] Mathematics President of the

France .. M.Carnot Mathematics Minister of War.

France .. Count Chaptal[2] Chemistry Minister of the

France .. Baron Cuvier[3] Comparative Minister of
Anatomy, Public
History Instruction

Prussia.. Baron Humboldt Oriental Ambassador
Languages to England

Prussia.. Baron Alexander The celebrated Chamberlain to
Humboldt Traveller the King of

Modena . Marquis Rangoni[4] Mathematics Minister of
Finance and
of Public
President of
Italian Academy
of Forty.

Tuscany . Count Fossombroni Mathematics Prime Minister
[5] of the Grand Duke
of Tuscany.

Saxony .. M. Lindenau[6] Astronomy Ambassador.

[1] Author of the MECANIQUE COELESTE.
FOSSILES &c. &c.
and of various other memoirs on mathematical subjects.
[5] Author of several memoirs on mechanics and hydraulics, in the
Transactions of the Academy of Forty.
MERCURIO CIRCA SOLEM DESCRIPTAE, Gothae, 1813, and of other

M. Lindenau, the Minister from the King of Saxony to the King of
the Netherlands, commenced his career as astronomer at the
observatory of the Grand Duke of Gotha, by whom he was sent as
his representative at the German Diet. On the death of the late
reigning Duke, M. Lindenau was invited to Dresden, and filled the
same situation under the King of Saxony; after which he was
appointed his minister at the court of the King of the
Netherlands. Such occurrences are not to be paralleled in our
own country, at least not in modern times. Newton was, it is
true, more than a century since, appointed Master of the Mint;
but let any person suggest an appointment of a similar kind in
the present day, and he will gather from the smiles of those to
whom he proposes it that the highest knowledge conduces nothing
to success, and that political power is almost the only


Of Encouragement from Learned Societies.

There are several circumstances which concur in inducing persons
pursuing science, to unite together, to form societies or
academies. In former times, when philosophical instruments were
more rare, and the art of making experiments was less perfectly
known, it was almost necessary. More recently, whilst numerous
additions are constantly making to science, it has been found
that those who are most capable of extending human knowledge, are
frequently least able to encounter the expense of printing their
investigations. It is therefore convenient, that some means
should be devised for relieving them from this difficulty, and
the volumes of the transactions of academies have accomplished
the desired end.

There is, however, another purpose to which academies contribute.
When they consist of a limited number of persons, eminent for
their knowledge, it becomes an object of ambition to be admitted
on their list. Thus a stimulus is applied to all those who
cultivate science, which urges on their exertions, in order to
acquire the wished-for distinction. It is clear that this envied
position will be valued in proportion to the difficulty of its
attainment, and also to the celebrity of those who enjoy it; and
whenever the standard of scientific knowledge which qualifies for
its ranks is lowered, the value of the distinction itself will be
diminished. If, at any time, a multitude of persons having no
sort of knowledge of science are admitted, it must cease to be
sought after as an object of ambition by men of science, and the
class of persons to whom it will become an object of desire will
be less intellectual.

Let us now compare the numbers composing some of the various
academies of Europe.-The Royal Society of London, the Institute
of France, the Italian Academy of Forty, and the Royal Academy of
Berlin, are amongst the most distinguished.

Name Number of Number
Population. Members of
Country. of its Foreign
Academy. Members

1. England. 22,299,000 685 50
2. France . 32,058,000 76 8 Mem. 100 Corr.
8. Prussia . 12,915,000 38 16
4. Italy . . 12,000,000 40 8

It appears then, that in France, one person out of 427,000 is a
member of the Institute. That in Italy and Prussia, about one out
of 300,000 persons is a member of their Academies. That in
England, every 32,000 inhabitants produces a Fellow of the Royal
Society. Looking merely at these proportions, the estimation of
a seat in the Academy of Berlin, must be more than nine times as
valuable as a similar situation in England; and a member of the
Institute of France will be more than thirteen times more rare in
his country than a Fellow of the Royal Society is in England.

Favourable as this view is to the dignity of such situations in
other countries, their comparative rarity is by no means the most
striking difference in the circumstances of men of science. If we
look at the station in society occupied by the SAVANS of other
countries, in several of them we shall find it high, and their
situations profitable. Perhaps, at the present moment, Prussia
is, of all the countries in Europe, that which bestows the
greatest attention, and most unwearied encouragement on science.
Great as are the merits of many of its philosophers, much of this
support arises from the character of the reigning family, by
whose enlightened policy even the most abstract sciences are

The maxim that "knowledge is power," can be perfectly
comprehended by those only who are themselves well versed in
science; and to the circumstance of the younger branches of the
royal family of Prussia having acquired considerable knowledge in
such subjects, we may attribute the great force with which that
maxim is appreciated.

In France, the situation of its SAVANS is highly respectable, as
well as profitable. If we analyze the list of the Institute, we
shall find few who do not possess titles or decorations; but as
the value of such marks of royal favour must depend, in a great
measure, on their frequency, I shall mention several particulars
which are probably not familiar to the English reader. [This
analysis was made by comparing the list of the Institute, printed
for that body in 1827, with the ALMANACH ROYALE for 1823.]

Number of the Members of the Total Number of each Class
Institute of France who belong of the Legion of Honour.
to the Legion of Honour.

GrandCroix......... 3 80
GrandOfficier ..... 3 160
Commandeur ........ 4 400
Officier .......... 17 2,000
Chevalier ......... 40 Not limited.

Number of Members of the Institute Total Number
decorated with of
the Order of St. Michel. that Order.

Grand Croix ....... 2
Chevalier ......... 27

Amongst the members of the Institute there
Dukes ................... 2
Marquis ................. 1
Counts .................. 4
Viscounts................ 2
Barons .................. 14

Of these there are
Peers of France .......... 5

We might, on turning over the list of the 685 members of the
Royal Society, find a greater number of peers than there are in
the Institute of France; but a fairer mode of instituting the
comparison, is to inquire how many titled members there are
amongst those who have contributed to its Transactions. In 1827,
there were one hundred and nine members who had contributed to
the Transactions of the Royal Society; amongst these were found:-

Peer ........................ 1
Baronets .................... 5
Knights ..................... 5

It should be observed, that five of these titles were the rewards
of members of the medical profession, and one only, that of Sir
H. Davy, could be attributed exclusively to science.

It must not be inferred that the titles of nobility in the French
list, were all of them the rewards of scientific eminence; many
are known to have been such; but it would be quite sufficient for
the argument to mention the names of Lagrange, Laplace,
Berthollet, and Chaptal.

The estimation in which the public hold literary claims in France
and England, was curiously illustrated by an incidental
expression in the translation of the debates in the House of
Lords, on the occasion of His Majesty's speech at the
commencement of the session of 1830. The Gazette de France
stated, that the address was moved by the Duc de Buccleugh, "CHEF
DE LA MAISON DE WALTER SCOTT." Had an English editor wished to
particularize that nobleman, he would undoubtedly have employed
the term WEALTHY, or some other of the epithets characteristic of
that quality most esteemed amongst his countrymen.

If we turn, on the other hand, to the emoluments of science in
France, we shall find them far exceed those in our own country.
I regret much that I have mislaid a most interesting memorandum
on this subject, which I made several years since: but I believe
my memory on the point will not be found widely incorrect. A
foreign gentleman, himself possessing no inconsiderable
acquaintance with science, called on me a few years since, to
present a letter of introduction. He had been but a short time
in London; and, in the course of our conversation, it appeared to
me that he had imbibed very inaccurate ideas respecting our
encouragement of science.

Thinking this a good opportunity of instituting a fair comparison
between the emoluments of science in the two countries, I placed
a sheet of paper before him, and requested him to write down the
names of six Englishmen, in his opinion, best known in France for
their scientific reputation. Taking another sheet of paper, I
wrote upon it the names of six Frenchmen, best known in England
for their scientific discoveries. We exchanged these lists, and I
then requested him to place against each name (as far as he knew)
the annual income of the different appointments held by that
person. In the mean time, I performed the same operation on his
list, against some names of which I was obliged to place a ZERO.
The result of the comparison was an average of nearly 1200L. per
annum for the six French SAVANS whom I had named. Of the average
amount of the sums received by the English, I only remember that
it was very much smaller. When we consider what a command over
the necessaries and luxuries of life 1200L. will give in France,
it is underrating it to say it is equal to 2000L. in this

Let us now look at the prospects of a young man at his entrance
into life, who, impelled by an almost irresistible desire to
devote himself to the abstruser sciences, or who, confident in
the energy of youthful power, feels that the career of science is
that in which his mental faculties are most fitted to achieve the
reputation for which he pants. What are his prospects? Can even
the glowing pencil of enthusiasm add colour to the blank before
him? There are no situations in the state; there is no position
in society to which hope can point, to cheer him in his laborious
path. If, indeed, he belong to one of our universities, there
are some few chairs in his OWN Alma Mater to which he may at some
distant day pretend; but these are not numerous; and whilst the
salaries attached are seldom sufficient for the sole support of
the individual, they are very rarely enough for that of a family.
What then can he reply to the entreaties of his friends, to
betake himself to some business in which perhaps they have power
to assist him, or to choose some profession in which his talents
may produce for him their fair reward? If he have no fortune, the
choice is taken away: he MUST give up that line of life in which
his habits of thought and his ambition qualify him to succeed
eminently, and he MUST choose the bar, or some other profession,
in which, amongst so many competitors, in spite of his great
talents, he can be but moderately successful. The loss to him is
great, but to the country it is greater. We thus, by a
destructive misapplication of talent which our institutions
create, exchange a profound philosopher for but a tolerable

If, on the other hand, he possess some moderate fortune of his
own; and, intent on the glory of an immortal name, yet not
blindly ignorant of the state of science in this country, he
resolve to make for that aspiration a sacrifice the greater,
because he is fully aware of its extent;--if, so circumstanced,
he give up a business or a profession on which he might have
entered with advantage, with the hope that, when he shall have
won a station high in the ranks of European science, he may a
little augment his resources by some of those few employments to
which science leads;--if he hope to obtain some situation, (at
the Board of Longitude, for example,) [This body is now
dissolved] where he may be permitted to exercise the talents of
a philosopher for the paltry remuneration of a clerk, he will
find that other qualifications than knowledge and a love of
science are necessary for its attainment. He will also find that
the high and independent spirit, which usually dwells in the
breast of those who are deeply versed in these pursuits, is ill
adapted for such appointments; and that even if successful, he
must hear many things he disapproves, and raise no voice AGAINST

Thus, then, it appears that scarcely any man can be expected to
pursue abstract science unless he possess a private fortune, and
unless he can resolve to give up all intention of improving it.
Yet, how few thus situated are likely to undergo the labour of
the acquisition; and if they do from some irresistible impulse,
what inducement is there for them to deviate one step from those
inquiries in which they find the greatest delight, into those
which might be more immediately useful to the public?



The progress of knowledge convinced the world that the system of
the division of labour and of cooperation was as applicable to
science, as it had been found available for the improvement of
manufactures. The want of competition in science produced
effects similar to those which the same cause gives birth to in
the arts. The cultivators of botany were the first to feel that
the range of knowledge embraced by the Royal Society was too
comprehensive to admit of sufficient attention to their favourite
subject, and they established the Linnean Society. After many
years, a new science arose, and the Geological Society was
produced. At an another and more recent epoch, the friends of
astronomy, urged by the wants of their science, united to
establish the Astronomical Society. Each of these bodies found,
that the attention devoted to their science by the parent
establishment was insufficient for their wants, and each in
succession experienced from the Royal Society the most determined

Instituted by the most enlightened philosophers, solely for the
promotion of the natural sciences, that learned body justly
conceived that nothing could be more likely to render these young
institutions permanently successful, than discouragement and
opposition at their commencement. Finding their first attempts
so eminently successful, they redoubled the severity of their
persecution, and the result was commensurate with their
exertions, and surpassed even their wildest anticipations. The
Astronomical Society became in six years known and respected
throughout Europe, not from the halo of reputation which the
glory of its vigourous youth had thrown around the weakness of
its declining years; but from the sterling merit of "its
unpretending deeds, from the sympathy it claimed and received
from every practical astronomer, whose labours it relieved, and
whose calculations it lightened."

But the system which worked so well is now changed, and the
Zoological and Medico-Botanical Societies were established
without opposition: perhaps, indeed, the total failure of the
latter society is the best proof of the wisdom which guided the
councils of the Royal. At present, the various societies exist
with no feelings of rivalry or hostility, each pursuing its
separate objects, and all uniting in deploring with filial
regret, the second childhood of their common parent, and the evil
councils by which that sad event has been anticipated.

It is the custom to attach certain letters to the names of those
who belong to different societies, and these marks of ownership
are by many considered the only valuable part of their purchase
on entry. The following is a list of some of these societies.
The second column gives the ready-money prices of the tail-pieces
indicated in the third.

SOCIETIES. Fees on Admission Appended
including Composition Letters
for Annual Payments.

L. s. d.
Royal Society ............. 50 0 0 F.R.S.
Royal Society of Edinburgh. 25 4 0* F.R.S.E.
Royal Academy of Dublin ... 26 5 0 M.R.I.A.
Royal Society of Literature 36 15 0 F.R.S.Lit.
Antiquarian ............... 50 8 0 F.A.S.
Linnean ................... 36 0 0 F.L.S.
Geological ................ 34 15 0 F.G.S.
Astronomical .............. 25 4 0 M.A.S.
Zoological ................ 26 5 0 F.Z.S.
Royal Institution ......... 50 0 0 M.R.I.
Royal Asiatic.............. 31 10 0 F.R.A.S.
Horticultural ............. 43 6 0 F.H.S.
Medico-Botanical .......... 21 0 0 F.M.B.S.

[* The Royal Society of Edinburgh now requires, for composition in
lieu of annual contributions, a sum dependent on the value of the
life of the member.]

Thus, those who are ambitious of scientific distinction, may,
according to their fancy, render their name a kind of comet,
carrying with it a tail of upwards of forty letters, at the
average cost of 10L. 9s. 9d. per letter.

Perhaps the reader will remark, that science cannot be declining
in a country which supports so many institutions for its
cultivation. It is indeed creditable to us, that the greater
part of these societies are maintained by the voluntary
contributions of their members. But, unless the inquiries which
have recently taken place in some of them should rectify the
SYSTEM OF MANAGEMENT by which several have been oppressed, it is
not difficult to predict that their duration will be short. Full
DISCUSSIONS and inquiries at GENERAL MEETINGS, are the only
safeguards; and a due degree of VIGILANCE should be exercised on
those who DISCOURAGE these principles. Of the Royal Society, I
shall speak in a succeeding page; and I regret to add, that I
might have said more. My object is to amend it; but, like all
deeply-rooted complaints, the operation which alone can
contribute to its cure, is necessarily painful. Had the words of
remonstrance or reproof found utterance through other channels, I
had gladly been silent, content to support by my vote the
reasonings of the friend of science and of the Society. But this
has not been the case, and after frustrated efforts to introduce
improvements, I shall now endeavour, by the force of plain, but
perhaps painful truths, to direct public opinion in calling for
such a reform, as shall rescue the Royal Society from contempt in
our own country, from ridicule in others.

On the next five societies in the list, I shall offer no remarks.
Of the Geological, I shall say a few words. It possesses all the
freshness, the vigour, and the ardour of youth in the pursuit of
a youthful science, and has succeeded in a most difficult
experiment, that of having an oral discussion on the subject of
each paper read at its meetings. To say of these discussions,
that they are very entertaining, is the least part of the praise
which is due to them. They are generally very instructive, and
sometimes bring together isolated facts in the science which,
though insignificant when separate, mutually illustrate each
other, and ultimately lead to important conclusions. The
continuance of these discussions evidently depends on the taste,
the temper, and the good sense of the speakers. The things to be
avoided are chiefly verbal criticisms--praise of each other
beyond its reasonable limits, and contest for victory. This
latter is, perhaps, the most important of the three, both for the
interests of the Society and of truth. With regard to the
published volumes of their Transactions, it may be remarked, that
if members were in the habit of communicating their papers to the
Society in a more finished state, it would be attended with
several advantages; amongst others, with that of lightening the
heavy duties of the officers, which are perhaps more laborious in
this Society than in most others. To court publicity in their
accounts and proceedings, and to endeavour to represent all the
feelings of the Society in the Council, and to avoid permanent
Presidents, is a recommendation not peculiarly addressed to this
Society, but would contribute to the well-being of all.

Of the Astronomical Society, which, from the nature of its
pursuits, could scarcely admit of the discussions similar to
those of the Geological, I shall merely observe, that I know of
no secret which has caused its great success, unless it be
attention to the maxims which have just been stated.

On the Zoological Society, which affords much rational amusement
to the public, a few hints may at present suffice. The largeness
of its income is a frightful consideration. It is too tempting
as the subject for jobs, and it is too fluctuating and uncertain
in its amount, not to render embarrassment in the affairs of the
Society a circumstance likely to occur, without the greatest
circumspection. It is most probable, from the very recent
formation of this Institution, that its Officers and Council are
at present all that its best friends could wish; but it is still
right to mention, that in such a Society, it is essentially
necessary to have men of business on the Council, as well as
persons possessing extensive knowledge of its pursuits. It is
more dangerous in such a Society than in any other, to pay
compliments, by placing gentlemen on the Council who have not the
qualifications which are requisite; a frequent change in the
members of the Council is desirable, in order to find out who are
the most regular attendants, and most qualified to conduct its
business. Publicity in its accounts and proceedings is, from the
magnitude of its funds, more essential to the Zoological than to
any other society; and it is rather a fearful omen, that a check
was attempted to be given to such inquiries at the last
anniversary meeting. If it is to be a scientific body, the
friends of science should not for an instant tolerate such

It frequently happens, that gentlemen take an active part in more
than one scientific society: in that case, it may be useful to
derive instruction as to their merits, by observing the success
of their measures in other societies.

The Asiatic Society has, amongst other benefits, caused many
valuable works to be translated, which could not have otherwise
been published.

The Horticultural Society has been ridden almost to death, and is
now rousing itself; but its constitution seems to have been
somewhat impaired. There are hopes of its purgation, and
ultimate restoration, notwithstanding a debt of 19,000L., which
the Committee of Inquiry have ascertained to exist. This, after
all, will not be without its advantage to science, if it puts a
COMPLIMENTARY councillors,--and to auditing the accounts WITHOUT
EXAMINING EVERY ITEM, or to omitting even that form altogether.

The Medico-Botanical Society suddenly claimed the attention of
the public; its pretensions were great--its assurance unbounded.
It speedily became distinguished, not by its publications or
discoveries, but by the number of princes it enrolled in its
list. It is needless now to expose the extent of its short-lived
quackery; but the evil deeds of that institution will long remain
in the impression they have contributed to confirm throughout
Europe, of the character of our scientific establishments. It
would be at once a judicious and a dignified course, if those
lovers of science, who have been so grievously deceived in this
Society, were to enrol upon the latest page of its history its
highest claim to public approbation, and by signing its
dissolution, offer the only atonement in their power to the
insulted science of their country. As with a singular inversion
of principle, the society contrived to render EXPULSION* the
highest HONOUR it could confer; so it remains for it to
exemplify, in suicide, the sublimest virtue of which it is
capable. [* They expelled from amongst them a gentleman, of whom
it is but slight praise to say, that he is the first and most
philosophical botanist of our own country, and who is admired
abroad as he is respected at home. The circumstance which
surprised the world was not his exit from, but his previous
entrance into that Society.]



As the venerable first parent of English, and I might perhaps
say, of European scientific societies; as a body in the welfare
of which, in the opinions of many, the interests of British
science are materially involved, I may be permitted to feel
anxiously, and to speak more in detail.



I have no intention of stating what ought to be the
qualifications of a Fellow of the Royal Society; but, for years,
the practical mode of arriving at that honour, has been as

A. B. gets any three Fellows to sign a certificate, stating that
he (A. B.) is desirous of becoming a member, and likely to be a
useful and valuable one. This is handed in to the Secretary, and
suspended in the meeting-room. At the end of ten weeks, if A. B.
has the good fortune to be perfectly unknown by any literary or
scientific achievement, however small, he is quite sure of being
elected as a matter of course. If, on the other hand, he has
unfortunately written on any subject connected with science, or
is supposed to be acquainted with any branch of it, the members
begin to inquire what he has done to deserve the honour; and,
unless he has powerful friends, he has a fair chance of being
black-balled. [I understand that certificates are now read at the
Council, previously to their being hung up in the meeting-room;
but I am not aware that this has in the slightest degree
diminished their number, which was, at the time of writing this

In fourteen years' experience, the few whom I have seen rejected,
have all been known persons; but even in such cases a hope
remains;-- perseverance will do much, and a gentleman who values
so highly the distinction of admission to the Royal Society, may
try again; and even after being twice black-balled, if he will a
third time condescend to express his desire to become a member,
he may perhaps succeed, by the aid of a hard canvass. In such
circumstances, the odds are much in favour of the candidate
possessing great scientific claims; and the only objection that
could then reasonably be suggested, would arise from his
estimating rather too highly a distinction which had become
insignificant from its unlimited extension.

It should be observed, that all members contribute equally, and
that the sum now required is fifty pounds. It used, until lately,
to be ten pounds on entrance, and four pounds annually. The
amount of this subscription is so large, that it is calculated to
prevent many men of real science from entering the Society, and
is a very severe tax on those who do so; for very few indeed of
the cultivators of science rank amongst the wealthy classes.
Several times, whilst I have been consulting books or papers at
Somerset House, persons have called to ask the Assistant-
secretary the mode of becoming a member of the Royal Society. I
should conjecture, from some of these applications, that it is
not very unusual for gentlemen in the country to order their
agents in London to take measures for putting them up at the
Royal Society.



Why Mr. Davies Gilbert became President of the Royal Society I
cannot precisely say. Let him who penned, and those who
supported this resolution solve the enigma:

"It was Resolved,

"That it is the opinion of the Council that Davies Gilbert, Esq.
is by far the most fit person to be proposed to the Society at
the approaching anniversary as President, and that he be
recommended accordingly."

To resolve that he was a FIT person might have been sufficiently
flattering: to state that he was the most fit, was a little hard
upon the rest of the Society; but to resolve that he was "BY FAR
THE MOST FIT" was only consistent with that strain of compliment
in which his supporters indulge, and was a eulogy, by no means
unique in its kind, I believe, even at that very Council.

That Mr. Gilbert is a most amiable and kind-hearted man will be
instantly admitted by all who are, in the least degree,
acquainted with him: that he is fit for the chair of the Royal
Society, will be allowed by few, except those who have committed
themselves to the above-quoted resolution.

Possessed of knowledge and of fortune more than sufficient for
it, he might have been the restorer of its lustre. He might have
called round him, at the council board, those most actively
engaged in the pursuits of science, most anxious for the
improvement of the Royal Society. Instead of himself proposing
resolutions, he might have been, what a chairman ought to be, the
organ of the body over which he presides. By the firmness of his
own conduct he might have taught the subordinate officers of the
Society the duties of their station. Instead of paying
compliments to Ministers, who must have smiled at his simplicity,
he might have maintained the dignity of his Council by the
dignity of knowledge.

But he has chosen a different path; with no motives of interest
to allure, or of ambition to betray him, instead of making
himself respected as the powerful chief of a united republic,--
that of science,--he has grasped at despotic power, and stands
the feeble occupant of its desolated kingdom, trembling at the
force of opinions he might have directed, and refused even the
patronage of their names by those whose energies he might have

Mr. Gilbert told the Society he accepted the situation for a
year; and this circumstance caused a difficulty in finding a
Treasurer: an office which he had long held, and to which he
wished to return.

Another difficulty might have arisen, from the fact of the late
Board of Longitude comprising amongst its Members the PRESIDENT
of the Royal Society, and three of its Fellows, appointed by the
President and Council. Of course, when Mr. Gilbert accepted the
higher situation, he became, EX OFFICIO, a Member of the Board of
Longitude; and a vacancy occurred, which ought to have been
filled up by the President and Council. But when this subject
was brought before them, in defiance of common sense, and the
plain meaning of the act of parliament, which had enacted that
the Board of Longitude should have the assistance of four persons
belonging to the Royal Society, Mr. Gilbert refused to allow it
to be filled up, on the ground that he should not be President
next year, and had made no vacancy.

Next year Mr. Gilbert wished again to be President one other
year; but the Board of Longitude was dissolved, otherwise we
might have had some LOCUM TENENS to retire at Mr. Gilbert's

These circumstances are in themselves of trifling importance, but
they illustrate the character of the proceedings: and it is not
becoming the dignity of science or of the Society that its
officers should be so circumstanced as to have an apparent and
direct interest in supporting the existing President, in order to
retain their own places; and if such a system is once discovered,
doubt immediately arises as to the frequency of such



Whether the present Secretaries are the best qualified to aid in
reforming the Society, is a question I shall not discuss. With
regard to the senior Secretary, the time of his holding office is
perhaps more unfortunate than the circumstance. If I might be
permitted to allude for a moment to his personal character, I
should say that the mild excellencies of his heart have prevented
the Royal Society from deriving the whole of that advantage from
his varied knowledge and liberal sentiments which some might
perhaps have anticipated; and many will agree with me in
regretting that his judgment has not directed a larger portion of
the past deeds of the Councils of the Royal Society. Of the
junior Secretary I shall only observe, that whilst I admit his
industry, his perseverance, and his talents, I regret to see such
valuable qualities exerted at a disadvantage, and that I
sincerely wish them all the success they merit in situations more
adapted for their developement.

There are, however, some general principles which it may be
important to investigate, which relate to the future as well as
to the past state of the office of Secretary of the Royal
Society. Inconvenience has already arisen from having had at a
former period one of our Secretaries the conductor of a
scientific journal; and this is one of the points in which I can
agree with those who now manage the affairs of the Society.
[These observations were written previous to the late
appointment, to which I now devote Section 6. Experience seems
to be lost on the Council of the Royal Society.] Perhaps it
might be advantageous to extend the same understanding to the
other officers of the Society at least, if not to the members of
its Council.

Another circumstance worthy of the attention of the Society is,
to consider whether it is desirable, except in special cases, to
have military persons appointed to any of its offices. There are
several peculiarities in the military character, which, though
they do not absolutely unfit their possessors for the individual
prosecution of science, may in some degree disqualify such
persons from holding offices in scientific institutions. The
habits both of obedience and command, which are essential in
military life, are little fitted for that perfect freedom which
should reign in the councils of science. If a military chief
commit an oversight or an error, it is necessary, in order to
retain the confidence of those he commands, to conceal or mask it
as much as possible. If an experimentalist make a mistake, his
only course to win the confidence of his fellow-labourers in
science, and to render his future observations of any use, is to
acknowledge it in the most full and explicit manner. The very
qualifications which contribute to the professional excellence of
the soldier, constitute his defects when he enters the paths of
science; and it is only in those rare cases where the force of
genius is able to control and surmount these habits, that his
admission to the offices of science can be attended with any
advantage to it.

Another objection deserving notice, although not applying
exclusively to the military profession, is, that persons not
imbued with the feelings of men of science, when they have
published their observations, are too apt to view every criticism
upon them as a personal question, and to consider that it is as
offensive to doubt the accuracy of their observations as it is to
doubt their word. Nothing can be more injurious to science than
that such an opinion should be tolerated. The most unreserved
criticism is necessary for truth; and those suspicions respecting
his own accuracy, which every philosophical experimenter will
entertain concerning his own researches, ought never to be
considered as a reproach, when they are kept in view in examining
the experiments of others. The minute circumstances and
apparently trivial causes which lend their influence towards
error, even in persons of the most candid judgment, are amongst
the most curious phenomena of the human mind.

The importance of affording every aid to enable others to try the
merits of observations, has been so well expressed by Mayer, that
I shall conclude these remarks with an extract from the Preface
to his Observations:

"Officii enim cujusque observatoris ease reor, de habitu
instrumenti sui, de cura ac precautione, qua usus est, ad illud
recte tractandum, deque mediis in errores ejus inquirendi
rationem reddere publice, ut aliis quoque copia sit judicandi,
quanta fides habenda conclusionibus ex nostris observationibus
deductis aut deducendis. Hoc cum minus fecissent precedentis
saeculi astronomi, praxin nimis secure, nimisque theoretice
tractantes, factum inde potissimum est, ut illorum observationes
tot vigiliis tantoque labore comparatae tam cito obsoleverint."
P. viii.

There are certain duties which the Royal Society owes to its own
character as well as to the public, which, having been on some
occasions apparently neglected, it may be here the proper place
to mention, since it is reasonable to suppose that attention to
them is within the province of its Secretaries.

The first to which I shall allude is the singular circumstances
attending the fact of the Royal Society having printed a volume
of Astronomical Observations which were made at the Observatory
of Paramatta (New South Wales), bearing the title of "The Third
Part of the Philosophical Transactions for the Year 1829."

Now this Observatory was founded at the private expense of a
British officer; the instruments were paid for out of his purse;
two observers were brought from Europe, to be employed in making
use of those instruments, at salaries defrayed by him. A
considerable portion of the observations so printed were made by
these astronomers during their employment in his service, and
some of them are personally his own. Yet has the Royal Society,
in adopting them as part of its Transactions, omitted all
mention, either in their title-page, preface, or in any part of
the volume, of the FACT that the world owed these valuable
observations to the enlightened munificence of Lieutenant-General
Sir Thomas Brisbane; whose ardent zeal in the pursuit of science
induced him to found, at his own private expense, an
establishment which it has been creditable to the British
Government to continue as a national institution. Had any
kindred feelings existed in the Council, instead of endeavouring
to shift the responsibility, they would have hastened to rectify
an omission, less unjust to the individual than it was injurious
to English science.

Another topic, which concerns most vitally the character and
integrity of the Royal Society, I hardly know how to approach.
It has been publicly stated that confidence cannot be placed in
the written minutes of the Society; and an instance has been
adduced, in which an entry has been asserted to have been made,
which could not have been the true statement of what actually
passed at the Council.

The facts on which the specific instance rests are not difficult
to verify by members of the Royal Society. I have examined them,
and shall state them before I enter on the reasoning which may be
founded upon them. In the minutes of the Council, 26th November,
1829, we find--

"Resolved, that the following gentlemen be recommended to be put
upon the Council for the ensuing year." [Here follows a list of
persons, amongst whom the name of Sir John Franklin occurs [Sir
John Franklin was absent from London, and altogether unacquainted
with this transaction, until he saw it stated in the newspapers
some months after it had taken place. That his name was the one
substituted for that of Captain Beaufort I know, from other
evidence which need not be produced here, as the omission of the
latter name is the charge that has been made.], and that of
Captain Beaufort is not found. [Any gentleman may satisfy
himself that this is not a mistake of the Assistant Secretary's,
in copying, by consulting the rough minutes of that meeting of
the Council, which it might perhaps be as well to write in a
rough minute-book, instead of upon loose sheets of paper; nor can
it be attributed to any error arising from accidentally mislaying
the real minutes, for in that case the error would have been
rectified immediately it was detected; and this has remained
uncorrected, although publicly spoken of for months. As there is
no erasure in the list, one is reluctantly compelled to
conjecture that the real minutes of that meeting have been

Now this could not be the list actually recommended by the
Council on the morning of the 26th of November, because the
President himself, on the evening of that day, informed Capt.
Beaufort that he was placed on the house list; and that officer,
with the characteristic openness of his profession, wrote on the
next or the following day to the President, declining that
situation, and stating his reasons for the step.

Upon the fact, therefore, of the suppression of part of a
resolution of the Council, on the 26th of November, there can be
no doubt; but in order to understand the whole nature of the
transaction, other information is necessary. It has been the
wish of many members of the Society, that the President should
not absolutely name his own Council, but that the subject should
be discussed fairly at the meeting previous to the Anniversary--
this has always been opposed by Mr. Gilbert, and those who
support him. Now, it has been stated, that, at the meeting of the
Council on the 26th of November, the President took out of his
pocket a bit of paper, from which he read the names of several
persons as fit to be on the Council for the ensuing year;--that
it was not understood that any motion was made, and it is certain
that none was seconded, nor was any ballot taken on such an
important question; and it was a matter of considerable surprise
to some of those present, to discover afterwards that it was
entered on the minutes as a resolution. This statement I have
endeavoured to verify, and I believe it to be substantially
correct; if it was a resolution, it was dictated, not discussed.
It is also important to observe, that no similar resolution
stands on the council-books for any previous year.

On examining the minutes of the succeeding Council, no notice of
the letter of Captain Beaufort to the President is found. Why
was it omitted? If the first entry had been truly made, there
would have been no necessity for the omission; and after the
insertion of that letter, a resolution would naturally have
followed, recommending another name instead of the one withdrawn.
Such was the natural and open course; but this would have exposed
to the Society the weakness of those who manage it. If the rough
minutes of each meeting of the Council were read over before it
separated, and were copied previously to the next meeting, such a
substitution could hardly have occurred; but, unfortunately, this
is not the case, and the delay is in some cases considerable.
Thus, the minutes of the three Councils, held on February 4, on
February 11, and on March 11, were not entered on the minute-
books of the Council on Tuesday, the 16th March; nor was this the
fault of the Assistant-secretary, for up to that day the rough
minutes of no one of those Councils had been transmitted to him.

Deeply as every friend to the Royal Society must regret such an
occurrence, one slight advantage may accrue. Should that
resolution be ever quoted hereafter to prove that the Council of
1829 really discussed the persons to be recommended as their
successors, the detection of this suppression of one portion of
it, will furnish better means of estimating the confidence due to
the whole.



Whether it was feared by the PARTY who govern the Royal Society,
that its Council would not be sufficiently tractable, or whether
the Admiralty determined to render that body completely
subservient to them, or whether both these motives concurred, I
know not; but, low as has been for years its character for
independence, and fallen as the Royal Society is in public
estimation, it could scarcely be prepared for this last insult.
In order to inform the public and the Society, (for I believe the
fact is known to few of the members,) it will be necessary to
trace the history of those circumstances which led to the
institution of the offices of Scientific Advisers, from the time
of the existence of the late Board of Longitude.

That body consisted, according to the act of parliament which
established it, of certain official members, who usually
possessed no knowledge of the subjects it was the duty of the
Board to discuss--of certain professors of the two universities,
and the Astronomer Royal, who had some knowledge, and who were
paid 100L. a year for their attendance;--of three honorary
members of the Royal Society, who combined the qualifications of
the two preceding classes; and, lastly, of "three other persons,"
named Resident Commissioners, who were supposed to be "WELL
and who were paid a hundred a year to do the work of the Board.

The first three classes were permanent members, but the "three
other persons" only held the appointment for ONE YEAR, and were
renewable at the pleasure of the Admiralty. This Board was
abolished by another act of parliament, on the ground that it was
useless. Shortly after, the Secretary of the Admiralty
communicated to the Council of the Royal Society, the copy of an
Order in Council:

ADMIRALTY OFFICE, November 1, 1828.

I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to
send herewith, for the information of the President and Council
of the Royal Society, a copy of His Majesty's Order in Council of
the 27th of last month; explaining that the salaries heretofore
allowed to the Resident Commissioners of the Board of Longitude,
and to the Superintendents of the Nautical Almanac, and of
Chronometers, shall be continued to them, notwithstanding the
abolition of the Board of Longitude. And I am to acquaint you,
that the necessary orders have been given to the Navy Board for
the payment of the said salaries.

I am, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,


27th October, 1828.

The King's most Excellent Majesty in Council,

Whereas, there was this day read at the Board a Memorial from the
Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated
4th of this instant, in the words following, viz.--

Whereas, by an Act of the 58th of his late Majesty's reign, cap.
20, instituted "An Act for the more effectually discovering the
Longitude at sea, and encouraging attempts to find a Northern
passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and to approach
the North Pole," three persons well versed in the sciences of
Mathematics, Astronomy, or Navigation, were appointed as a
Resident Committee of the Board of Commissioners for discovery
of the Longitude at sea, and a Superintendent of the Nautical
Almanac and of Chronometers was also appointed, with such
salaries for the execution of those services as his Majesty
might, by any Order in Council, be pleased to direct; and,
whereas, your Majesty was in consequence, by your Order in
Council of the 27th of May, 1828, most graciously pleased to
direct, that the three said Resident Commissioners should be paid
at the rate of 100L. a year each; and by your further Order in
Council, of the 31st October, 1818, that the Superintendent of
the Nautical Almanac should be allowed a salary of 300L., and the
Superintendent of Chronometers 100L. a year; and, whereas, the
act above mentioned has been repealed, and the Board of Longitude
abolished; and doubts have therefore arisen, whether the said
Orders in Council shall still continue in force; and whereas it
is expedient that the said appointments be continued; We beg
leave most humbly to submit to your Majesty, that your Majesty
may be graciously pleased, by your Order in Council, to direct
that the said offices of Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac,
and of Superintendent of Chronometers; and also the three persons
before-mentioned as a Resident Committee, to advise with the
Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral, on
all questions of discoveries, inventions, calculations, and other
scientific subjects, be continued, with the same duties and
salaries, and under the same regulations as heretofore; and
further beg most humbly to propose, that such three persons to
form the Resident Committee, be chosen annually by the
Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, from
among the Council of the Royal Society.

His Majesty, having taken the said Memorial into consideration,
was pleased, by and with the advice of his Privy Council, to
approve thereof and the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners
of the Admiralty are to give the necessary directions herein


Thus, it appeared that the Admiralty were to choose three persons
from among the Council of the Royal Society, who were to have a
hundred a year each during the pleasure of the Admiralty.

Such an open attack on the independence of the Council could not
escape the remarks of some of the members, and a kind of mild
remonstrance was made, in which the real ground of complaint was

December 18, 1823.

RESOLVED, That in acknowledging the communication of the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty, made to the Council of the Royal
Society, on the 20th of November last, it be represented to them
that inconvenience may arise from the plan therein specified,
from the circumstance of all the members of the Council being
annually elected by the Society at large; and that body being
consequently subject to continual changes from year to year.

This was answered by the following letter from the Secretary of
the Admiralty :


Having submitted to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your
Letter of the 18th instant, subjoining an extract from the
Minutes of the proceedings of the Council of the Royal Society,
arising out of the communication made to them by their Lordships,
on the subject of his Majesty's Order in Council, of the fifth of
October last, I have their Lordships' command to acquaint you,
for the information of the President and Council, and with
reference to what they have stated as to the inconvenience which
may arise from the intended plan of limiting their Lordships'
choice of members of the Resident Committee of Scientific Advice
to the Council of the Royal Society, that their Lordships were
induced to recommend this plan to his Majesty as a mark of
respect to the Society, and as a pledge to the public of the
qualification of the persons chosen. Nor did their Lordships

Book of the day: