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PROPERTY OF THE
MEN OF INVENTION AND INDUSTRY.
BEGINNINGS OF ENGLISH SHIP-BUILDING.
“A speck in the Northern Ocean, with a rocky coast, an ungenial climate, and a soil scarcely fruitful, this was the material patrimony which descended to the English race-an inheritance that would have been little worth but for the inestimable moral gift that accompanied it. Yes; from Celts, Saxons, Danes, Normans--from some or all of them-have come down with English nationality a talisman that could command sunshine, and plenty, and empire, and fame. The 'go' which they transmitted to us--the national vis—this it is which made the old Angle-land a glorious heritage. Of this we have had a portion above our brethren - good measure, running over. Through this our island-mother has stretched out her arms till they enriched the globe of the earth. ... Britain, without her energy and enterprise, what would she be in Europe ?”—Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (1870).
N one of the few records of Sir Isaac Newton's life
which he left for the benefit of others, the following comprehensive thought occurs :
“It is certainly apparent that the inhabitants of this world are of a short date, seeing that all arts, as letters, ships, printing, the needle, etc., were discovered within the memory of history.”
If this were true in Newton's time, how much truer is it now.
Most of the inventions which are so greatly influencing, as well as advancing, the civilization of the world at the present time, have been discovered within the last hundred or hundred and fifty years. We do not say that man has become so much wiser during that period; for, though he has grown in knowledge, the most fruitful of all things were said by “the heirs of all the ages” thousands of years ago.
But as regards physical science, the progress made during the last hundred years has been very great. Its most recent triumphs have been in connection with the discovery of electric power and electric light. Perhaps the most important invention, however, was that of the working steam-engine, made by Watt, only about a hundred years ago. The most recent application of this form of energy has been in the propulsion of ships, which has already produced so great an effect upon commerce, navigation, and the spread of population over the world.
Equally important has been the influence of the railway, now the principal means of communication in all civilized countries. This invention has started into full life within our own time. The locomotive engine had for some years been employed in the haulage of coals; but it was not until the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, in 1830, that the importance of the invention came to be acknowledged. The locomotive railway has since been everywhere adopted throughout Europe. In America, Canada, and the colonies it has opened up the boundless resources of the soil, bringing the country nearer to the towns, and the towns to the country. It has enhanced the celerity of time, and imparted a new series of conditions to every rank of life.
The importance of steam navigation has been still more recently ascertained. When it was first proposed, Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, said: “It is a pretty plan, but there is just one point over-si
looked—that the steam-engine requires a firm basis on which to work.” Symington, the practical mechanic, put this theory to the test by his successful experiments, first on Dalswinton Lake, and then on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Fulton and Bell afterwards showed the power of steamboats in navigating the rivers of America and Britain.
After various experiments, it was proposed to unite England and America by steam. Dr. Lardner, however, delivered a lecture before the British Association, in 1838,"proving" that steamers could never cross the Atlantic, because they could not carry sufficient coal to raise steam enough during the voyage. But this theory was also tested by experience in the same year, when the Sirius, of London, left Cork for New York, and made the passage in nineteen days. Four days after the departure of the Sirius the Great Western left Bristol for New York, and made the passage in thirteen days five hours.*
The problem was solved, and great ocean steamers have ever since passed in continuous streams between the shores of England and America.
an age of progress, one invention merely paves the way for another. The first steamers were impelled by means of paddle-wheels, but these are now almost entirely superseded by the screw.
And this, too, is an invention almost of yesterday. It was only
* This was not the first voyage of a steamer between England and America. The Savannah made the passage from New York to Liverpool as early as 1819; but steam was only used occasionally during the voyage. In 1825 the Enterprise, with engines by Maudslay, made the voyage from Falmouth to Calcutta in one hundred and thirteen days; and in 1828 the Curaçoa made the voyage between Holland and the Dutch West Indies. But, in all these cases, steam was used as an auxiliary, and not as the one essential means of propulsion, as in the case of the Sirius and the Great Western, which were steam voyages only.