Page images

professors and lecturers in experimental and mechanical philosophy. No political subject is to be even mentioned, and no themes introduced which are disconnected with the objects of the Institution.

On the 10th of March, 1800, the Count was residing in the house of the Institution, and he was requested, as long as he did so, to superintend all the works, the servants, and the workmen. He continued in the house until July 6, 1801, when it was

Resolved, That Count Rumford be requested to continue his general superin-. tendence of the works going on at the house of the Institution, agreeably to the several resolutions of the managers in that respect, in the same manner as if he had continued to reside in the house.

Count Rumford reported, that, at the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks, he had had a conversation with Dr. Young respecting his engagement as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution and editor of the journals, together with a general superintendence of the house. And it appearing from his report that Dr. Young is a man of abilities equal to these undertakings, it was

Resolved, That Count Rumford be authorized to engage Dr. Young in the aforesaid capacities, at a salary of £300 per annum.'

Dr. John Davy, in his memoirs of the life of his brother, Sir Humphry, gives a sketch of his connection with the Royal Institu- , tion as assistant lecturer on chemistry and director of the laboratory. While recognizing very fully the promising inauguration of the new Institution, and the signal services which have been performed through it, this biographer hardly does justice to the claims of Count Rumford as its master-spirit, or to his agency in bringing Sir Humphry upon the scene where he won his first eminent distinctions.

The laboratory of the Institution was constructed and equipped after plans drawn by the Count; and when his attention bad been drawn to Davy's investigations on heat, he at once wrote to the young chemist, inviting him to London, and having become satisfied with his talents and eminent qualifications as a lecturer proposed for his consideration the management of the laboratory and the post of assistant professor. He then, February 16, 1801, writes :

In consequence of the conversations I have had with you respecting your en. gaging in the service of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, I this day laid the matter before the Managers of the Institution, at their Meeting: (Present, Sir Joseph Banks, Earl of Morton, Count Rumford, and Richard Clark, Esq.) and I have the pleasure to acquaint you that the Proposal I made to them was approved, and the following Resolution unanimously taken by them:

* Resolved, That Mr. Davy be engaged in the service of the Royal Institution in the capacity of Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry, Director of the Chemical Laboratory, and assistant Editor of the Journals of the Institution.

On the 16th of March following the Managers' minutes add:

Count Rumford reported that Mr. Davy arrived at the Institution on Wednes. day, the 11th of March, 1801, and took possession of his situation.

Under these auspices the Royal Institution of Great Britain entered on its career of beneficent action. Dr. Young gave his first lecture on the 20th of January, 1802, and in 1807 published in two volumes, quarto, bis lectures and studies for the same under the title of 'A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts,' 1570 pages and 58 plates. He was followed in this line by Dr. John Dalton, who was succeeded in 1853 by Prof. John Tyndall. Prof. Davy gave his first course of lectures in 1802, of which a Syllabus was published in the same year. He gave his last lecture April 9, 1812, the day after he was knighted by the Prince Regent and the eve of his nuptials with Mrs. Apreece, a union which made him master of a large fortune. He was succeeded by Michael Faraday, who became Davy's assistant in 1815, and lectured before the Institution annually for a period of thirtyeight years, living on the premises for more than a half century.

In 1833, two chairs, one of chemistry and the other of physiology were founded by Mr. John Fuller; and in 1838, Mrs. Acton invested the sum of 1,000l. from the income of which the Royal Institution awards once in seven years 100 guincas to the author of the best essay on the benevolence of the Almighty as manifested by scientific discoveries.

The Royal Institution at the present time embraces the following objects: (1) To stimulate to scientific and literary researches; (2) to teach the principles of inductive and experimental science; (3) to show the application of these principles to the different arts of life; (4) to afford opportunities for study. It comprises :

1. Public Lectures, designed to supply what books or private instruction can rarely give, namely, experimental exhibitions, comprehensive designs or detailed descriptions of objects connected with science or art. They usually embrace a short course at Christmas, and at least six courses, before and after Easter, the season extending from the middle of January to the middle of June. The usual subjects of these courses are some of the branches of the science of in.' duction, such as mechanics, chemistry, heat, light, electricity, astronomy, geol. ogy, botany, and physiology. There are also, on occasion, courses upon subjects of general interest, such as literature, the fine arts, and music.*

2. Weekly meetings of the members of the Institution. These meetings take place every Friday evening during the season. They were established in 1826, the members having each the privilege of introducing two of his friends by ticket. The object of these reunions is to bring into contact men of letters and savants, and to furnish the opportunity of communicating, by discourses in the amphitheater, either new views or new applications of known truths, or of demonstrating experimentally and of rendering familiar by description new re.

• of these courses we notice .- Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy, by Rev. Sydney Smith, 1805–9 (published in 1850); Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man, 1868, by Sir John Lubbock; Architecture of the Human Body, by Prof. Humphrey; Chemistry of Vegetable Products, by Prof. Odling, 1870; Science of Language, by Max Muller, 1861; Italy in the Middle Ages, M. Lacaita, 1858; Courses of Lectures on Education, by Whewell, Faraday, Paget, and other eminent men, in 1853-4.

sults which have been recently recorded in the scientific memoirs of philosophic societies. Extracts from these discourses, prepared by the speakers, are printed in the Proceedings of the Royal Institution, a copy of which is sent to each member. The Proceedings began to appear in 1851; they constitute a sequel to the Journals of the Institution, which began to be published in 1802.

3. A laboratory, for the cultivation and advancement of the chemical and electrical sciences, by means of original investigations and experiments. It is in this laboratory that the researches of Davy and of Faraday were made, embracing a period of more than half a century.

4. A library of about 50,000 volumes, comprising the best editions of the Greek and Latin writers and of the fathers of the Church; histories of the English counties; works of science and literature, of art and archæology; memoirs of the principal scientific academies and institutions of the world, &c.

5. A reading hall for study. Here are to be found various series of memoirs and scientific publications, wbether English, French, German, or Italian, and a great number of works relating to the natural, medical

, and mathematical sciences. 6. A reading-room for journals

, furnished with the principal reviews, magazines, and journals of England, France, and Germany. The Institution subscribes to a circulating library with the view of giving the members an opportunity of seeing the newest works as soon as published.

7. A museum, containing a large selection of specimens of mineralogy and geology, collected by Davy, Hatchett, Wollaston, &c., and much of the original apparatus employed by Cavendish, Davy, Faraday, and others who have been professors of the establishment; together with many other objects, given in great part by the members. The collection of minerals dates from the year 1804. Connected with this collection, it was proposed to establish an office or bureau of assay for the advancement of mineralogy and metalology, and virtually a School of Mines.

It is to be regretted that Count Rumford could not have witnessed the successive discoveries of Davy and Faraday, but in inaugurating the work of the Institution a difference sprung up between him and Dr. Garnett, which in a short time involved some of the managers, and led to the resignation of Dr. Garnett on the 15th of June, 1801, and the withdrawal of Count Rumford from all active participation in its affairs after he returned to the continent in May, 1802, the date of his last report to the managers. His plans were largely in advance of his co-workers, and required his own fertility of resources and the power of enforcing the coöperation of others, for their execution.

Count Rumford before seaving England in 1802, had erected at Brompton a residence for himself full of novel and convenient devices of his own design, for the health, comfort, and economy of the occupants, which was for several years one of the show-houses for curious sight-seers. This house he gave to his daughter. After his marriage to the widow of the eminent chemist, Lavoisier, he resided in Paris four years; and after their separation (by mutual consent) in 1808, he retired to Auteuil in the neighborhood of Paris, where he continued his studies and experiments in heat--the subject of his earliest and his latest communications to the scientific world, and in which he achieved results absolutely new and valuable, both to science and art.

Proposed Return to America in 1799. The revival and circulation in America of the report that Count Rumford, supposed to have finally left the service of Bavaria, intended to return to his native country, met here a hearty interest with his many friends. He had already begun to receive in America marks of public regard. Judge Tudor, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the oldest in the country, having nominated Count Rumford as a corresponding member, he was elected as such at a meeting of the Society on January 30, 1798. The following cordial letter was received from him in response, and having been read at a meeting of the Society on July 19, 1798, by the Corresponding Secretary, it was voted that it be published in one of the Boston papers, and that a set of the Collections of the Society, handsomely bound in four volumes, be sent to the Count. In acknowledgment of this attention, the Count addressed a letter to the Secretary, in which he writes:

There are few things which could afford me such heartfelt satisfaction as to be able to avail myself of the kind invitation of the Society to come and take my place among them. I have ever loved my native country with the fondest affection; and the liberality I have experienced from my countrymen-their moderation in success, and their consummate prudence in the use of their Independence, have attached me to them by all the ties of Gratitude, Esteem, and Admiration.

Count Rumford, after the close of the War of the Revolution, became a warm and faithful friend of his native country, holding correspondence with many of its citizens, to whom he communicated his plans, and sent his works, and generously dividing among its literary and scientific institutions his benevolent endowments. He also, when in England, and afterward when in France, maintained the closest social relations with Americans resident in those countries either as officials of our government or in private life. Among his most intimate friends in London at this time was the American Ambassador, Hon. Rufus King who, in a letter to Colonel Pickering, Secretary of State, under President John Adams, writes :

Count Rumford, late Sir Benjamin Thompson, whose name and history are probably known to you, and whose talents and services have procured the most beneficial establishments and reforms in Bavaria, was lately named by the Elector to be his Minister at this Court. On his arrival he has been informed, that, being a British subject, it was contrary to usage to receive him, and that therefore he could not be acknowledged. The intrigues and opposition against which he had for some years made head in Bavaria probably made him desire the mission to England. The refusal that he has here met with has decided him to return and settle himself in America. He proposes to establish bimself at or near Cambridge, to live there in the character of a German Count, to renounce all political expectations, and devote himself to literary pursuits. His connections in this country are strictly literary, and his knowledge, particularly in the Military Department, may be of great use to us. The Count is well acquainted with and has had much experience in the establishment of Cannon

Foundries; that which he established in Bavaria is spoken of in very high terms, as well as his improvements in the mouuting of flying artillery.

He possesses an extensive Military Library, and assures me that he wishes nothing more than to be useful to our country. I make this communication by his desire, and my wish is that he may be well received, as I am perguaded that his principles are good, and his talents and information uncommonly extensive. It is possible that attempts may be made to misrepresent his political opinions ; from the inquiry that I have made on this head, I am convinced that his political sentiments are correct. Be good enough to communicate this letter to the President.*

In a letter to Mr. King, dated March 13, 1799, the Count writes:

You will recollect that in a conversation we had at your house on the great importance to the United States of the speedy establishment of a Military School or Academy, I took the liberty to say that to assist in the establishment of so useful an institution I should be happy to be permitted to make a present to the Academy, of my collection of Military Books, Plans, Drawings, and Models. I now repeat this offer, and with a request to you that you would make it known to the Executive Government of the United States, and that you would let me know as soon as may be convenient whether this offer will be accepted.

On the 8th of September, 1799, Mr. King communicated to Count Rumford an invitation from the Government to resume his residence in this country, and to enter its Military service.

In the course of the last year we have made provision for the institution of a Military Academy, and we wish to commit its formation to your experience, and its future government to your care. It is not necessary on this occasion to send you a detailed account of our Military establishment, which indeed would be best explained by a reference to the Laws on which it depends; these are in my possession, and shall be put into your hands if you desire it. In addition to the Superintendence of the Military Academy, I am authorized to offer you the appointment of Inspector-General of the Artillery of the United States, and we shall

, moreover, be disposed to give to you such rank and emoluments, consistent with existing provisions, and with what has already been settled upon the former of these heads, as would be likely to afford you satisfaction, and to secure to us the advantages of your service.

It thus appears that the proposition for his return to America originated with Count Rumford himself and was warmly seconded by his friends. No doubt he would have accepted the honorable trusts thus proffered to him had he not found himself most laboriously and hopefully employed in the founding of the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London as already described.

Although we have extended this memoir much beyond our original plan, so deeply have we become interested in the broadly beneficent work of Count Rumford as set forth in the Life by Dr. Ellis, we find in revising the same that we have omitted to mention the legacy of his daughter Sarah, to the town of Concord, New Hampshire, where she died Dec. 2, 1852, of a portion of the Rolfe estate, and $15,000 in money (including the $2,000 given to her by her father for this purpose) for the establishment and support of an institution to be known as 'the Rolfe and Rumford Asylum for the poor and needy, particularly for young females without mothers.' The children received must be natives of Concord. The money bequest in 1875 amounted to over $50,000.

President Adams in a letter (24th June, 1799,) to Secretary McHenry (War Department) remarks : ‘For five or six years past I have been very attentive to the character of this gentleman, and have read some of his essays. From these I have formed an esteem for his genius, talents, enterprise, and benevolence, which will secure him from me, in case he returns to his native country, a reception as kind and civil as it may be in our power to give him. But you know the difficulties which those gentlemen have, who left the country as he did, either to give or receive certain satisfaction.'

« PreviousContinue »