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We may illustrate by a recent case—a case not more than six months old. Mr. Quain, of University College Hospital, is known very advantageously in the profession by a series of very excellent anatomical plates, which could only have been formed by an anatonist who had very complete and very accurate knowledge of his subject. This was admitted on all hands. His ambition and his interest, as well as the interests of his hospital, rendered it an object to become a Fellow of the Royal Society, and he was proposed accordingly in the ordinary manner, and expecting to be received as a matter of course. A large body* of Fellows, of those who do not
instrument makers. Why? A railroad, or other engineering speculation, will now rapidly get its required capital subscribed, if the magic letters F.R.S. be appended to the name of its engineer; an insurance office will be supposed to be more safely managed by an actuary whose name daily figures in the Times,' with the queue of the Royal Society; a chemist will make purer and cheaper extracts, whether gin, bear's grease, or the chlorides, if he be blest with the Society's diploma; and the chronometer will go better, the spectacles will 'see better,' and the trough will.gild better, if the said watch, spectacles, or galvanic apparatus be manufactured by a Fellow of the Royal Society! The necromancer of old did not more effectually bamboozle the world, than some of the scientific personages of our own day contrive to do it! Each of these men can get his income doubled by becoming a Fellow; and hence it is each man's interest to keep his professional brethren out of the Society. These bodies can therefore never become powerful—and for the most part they will distribute their influence amongst the medical factions, as their individual views of their personal interests may suggest.
Whenever an unusually large number of Fellows is seen congregating in the library and vestibule about a quarter past eight o'clock, and conversation becoming clamorous and excited, it is a sure presage of a ' black-ball night,' and it will be found in nine cases out of ten, that the candidate is somehow or other connected with one of the London hospitals. In the case of other candidates the process is more quietly performed, the Council being generally agreed amongst themselves. So much for • keeping out’ an obnoxious candidate. Let Dr. Granville (an eye-witness of what he describes) tell cur readers how an unuorthy candidate may be “ got in.' • Even persons like these are certain of three names to back their pretensions, and will often succeed in getting a member of the Council (as stated quite correctly by Sir James South) to violate the freedom of electing, in distributing letters amongst the Fellows to influence their votes; or they will procure a small body of men, most of them recently elected into the Society, and not a few of them deprived of every scientific character, ready to join, in violation of the bye-laws, in order to consider of the best mode of counteracting the conscientious votes of the majority of the Fellows, when votes are likely to be against their protegé. It has indeed happened, that on some occasions such a small body of Fellows has been found, who not only have conducted themselves as described above, but have ventured to print a report from themselves in favour of a particular candidate, which report, couched in language of defiance, they were permitted by a too good-natured President (Mr. Davies Gilbert] to distribute at the very threshold of the Society's apartments, on the evening of the appointed ballot of t'eir protegé. In this way, and by a measure as objectionable as it was unprecedented, a number of individuals, headed by one, who (however eminent he might be considered in one of the branches of the Fine Arts) bas no more pretension to science than have the few square inches of board on which he sits at the Society, have succeeded in influencing the votes of their co-Fellows, and thereby violated the freedom of election.'—p. 93.
usually honour the Society with a very regular attendance,' assembled on the occasion -and Mr. Quain was black-bulled !or, in official parlance, was not elected.' However, as remarked by Mr. Babbage of fifteen years ago,
in such a case a hope remains :-perseverance will do much; and a gentleman, who values so highly the distinction of admission into the Royal Society, may try again : and even after being twice black-balled, if he will condescend a third time 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 in favour of the candidate possessing great scientific claims ; and the only objection that could then be suggested would arise from his estimating rather too highly a distinction which had become insignificant from its unlimited extension.'— Reflections, pp. 27-28.
Thus it was with Mr. Quain more recently—he was elected on the third ballot! Yet we have not been able to learn that he had made any extraordinary discovery' during the interval between the second and third ballots, as to entitle him to the coveted honour to which the Society had twice before, with equal solemnity, declared he had no pretension ; except, indeed, the one simple discovery of the orthodox mode of being made a Fellow!' We give Mr. Quain joy of his crowned ambition, and can only express our regret that his position in his profession should be such as to require his tame submission to such a succession of personal and professional insults.
As far as other professional men are concerned, the decision of the Royal Society will almost wholly depend upon personal friendship or private pique. Some member of the Council will throw out a hint in his favour or an insinuation against him (his private character will do, if no objection can be urged against his scientific claims) : and it is understood sufficiently well by a few nods and fragmentary sentences that ' he must not be admitted.' The Council can easily manage this, by strewing these hints, these dragon's teeth, amongst the ordinary attendants at the meetings; and there is thus sure to be more
What a picture of the aggregate scientific wisdom of England! We cannot, however, suppress a smile
at the Doctor's simplicity in talking of violating the freedom of election.' Freedom of election in the Royal Society! Our system is that of a scientific ostracism. One might as well talk of freedom of election amongst the serfs of Russia, the slaves of the southern states of America, or the helots of ancient Greece!
than one-third of the number of balls in the 'no' drawer! Yes, even though not one in ten of the members present ever heard the name of the candidate till on that occasion! It may, perhaps, be consolatory to those candidates who have been thus deprived of the distinguished honour, to hear what Mr. Babbage says :-in fourteen years' experience, the few whom I have seen rejected · have all been known persons' in scientific research : and it may not diminish their amour propre to be told that the late good and great Dr. Olinthus Gregory was one of the candidates thus rejected ! It is true that he was afterwards offered (by Sir Humphrey Davy) safe admission and the Secretaryship, but he consulted his own reputation in declining the tardily proffered honour.
No doubt many of our readers have attended an ordinary Thursday night meeting of the Royal Society, but as all have not, it may be as well to lay a description of it before them. We could not give a more accurate, or more graphic, a picture,
to attempt it, than is given by Dr. Granville, (pp. 80–2,) which we here annex:
Nothing can be more monotonous or soporiferous to the Fellows assembled, than the ever-revolving, unchangeable mode of proceedings at the weekly ordinary meetings of the Society. The Fellows having first watched the President and the two Secretaries take their seatsthe former covered, in token of the authority which belongs to the 'primus inter pares'—and having heard the list of the visitors read, who request to be admitted for the evening into the hall of the Society, wait patiently until the latter have rushed in from the adjoining antechamber, and settled themselves respectively on either side of the hall on parallel cross-benches, and then • lend a willing ear' to what is to follow. One of the Secretaries next proceeds to read the minutes of the last meeting, which consist in repeating, in fewer words, every thing that was read by his colleague on a former evening. This done, the President nods to the Secretary on his left hand, who, in his turn, begins with the list of presents and the reading of the certificates for election of all such candidates for the Fellowship who might, at the time, be lying before the Society. The forms will it, that the President should put the question to the Society, whether it be their pleasure that such certificates be either received in the first instance, or balloted for when the proper time is come; but the Society has never ventured, except in one remarkable instance,* to throw any objection in the way of the proceedings, which accordingly begin at once. Another look from the same Secretary to the President, and a nod from the latter to the Secretary, is the signal that the reading of a paper or communication to the Society is about to commence; and then begin also the vari
* We have mentioned a subsequent one previously in a note at page 361, viz. on the presentation of the book from which this passage is taken.
ous attitudes of the Fellows and visitors present, indicative, at first, of the spirit with which they are prepared to receive the communication, the title of which has at once decided that question in their minds ; and, a few minutes later, indicative of the balmy and sedative effect which the paper itself has had upon their senses. These attitudes, and the occasional deep nasal notes by which, at times, they are further illustrated, are interrupted by the assistant Secretary, who presents the balloting-box to the composed and quiescent Fellow for his vote. The same interruption is given to the reading Secretary, who, in the midst of a sentence often interesting, is made to suspend his office, and to lay down the manuscript, until the President has drawn out the nay
and the yea drawer from the box – has exhibited the unoccupied green baize of the former, and that of the latter crowned with friendly balls" and, after having doffed the token of his authority from his head, has proclaimed the name of the successful candidate. The Secretary then resumes the reading of the paper, unless another and another certificate stand for ballot the same evening; in which case the same process and the same interruption take place over and over again; dividing equally
* This is to be understood as the history of a quiet night,' or a night upon which no blighting conspiracy against the hopes of an aspirant to Royal Society honours was to be developed. On a'bluck-ball night,' however, (and especially if on a grand scale,) the case is otherwise. No yawning and snoring then! All the learned Fellows in the secret are in a state of excitement 100 visible to be misunderstood; and the half-subdued commotion-the coughing, littering, whispering, and shuffling of feet-render it impossible to connect two sentences of the paper which the Secretary is reading. All eyes follo:v the ballot-box in its zig-zag travels; not one rests upon the mumbling Secretary, save while he puts his ball, with careful display, into the .urn of fate.'
We have seen stiange things of this kind. Little knots of Fellows evidently combined for a lark, black-balling every name sent round for their suffrages! • Oh, Jupiter! what capital fun!' was the more than half-audible remark of one --that one scarcely more than a boy—and that boy a Fellow of the Royal Society!
On one occasion, at a very full meeting, when about a dozen candidates were to be balloted for, there were three or four that were marked out for disgrace. Others there were who were to be admitted as a matter already settled ; and some who had no interests, as far as we could ascertain, operating either for or against them. There was also one candidate, one of the highest scientific names in Christendom, and whom it was the privilege of the Council itself to propose -a distinction purely honorary—as a foreign member. Of course the intended rejections were triumphantly carried; but some of those intended to pass had a very narrow chance of being black-balled also. The excitement produced upon the minds of the Fellows in favour of the nay' compartment, and their newborn zeal for the purity of the Society,' engendered quite a furor; and blackballs poured in like hail, to the discomfiture of the magicians who had raised the storm.
There were uniformly eight blacks, even where the candidate was a favourite; thus showing that there were eight of the Fellows who had conspired to blackball every one. In many cases there were more, but this was the smallest number, and, for nearly half the candidates, uniform. Even the foreign member had eight black-balls, a circumstance which, had it been communicated to him with his diploma, would no doubt have caused him to fling back to the Society, with manly scorn, the half-grudged and unsolicited honour.
into as many sections the paper read to the Society. At length, either the Somerset-House clock, or the more portable time chronicler of the Chairman, gives a welcome warning that this tedious ceremony (I speak under correction) is about to end, and the meeting is dissolved — none of the Fellows present having, of course, the least share in its proceedings. In this picture, we have at once the history of the Society's endeavours to improve natural knowledge in England. For when we add to it the publication to the world at large of some papers, so readso interrupted - and so minuted, which takes place in the course of the same year, I have said all that can be said of its exertions, and there remains not another characteristic feature which I can communicate to my readers.'
The very description is somniferous ! but what must the reality be? The Council has, however, wisely prescribed that a strong dose of bohea shall be administered on the immediate reappearance of the returning consciousness of the philosophers; and they are marched up into the library, where they gradually break up into sundry little knots of talkers-one dealing out scandal-another descanting on some new fossil discovery-a third picking out of a simple earnest scientific enquirer the cream of his discoveries, to be used by himself as occasion may serve--and so on till eleven o'clock.
Our next business will be with the Council and Committees of the Royal Society.
TRAVELS IN ABYSSINIA. BY MAJOR HARRIS AND
Few books have been published within the last few years which have given rise to more discussion in private circles than the two or three which have lately appeared about Abyssinia. Of these, the principal as regards pretension is that of Major (now Sir Cornwallis) Harris. There appears to have been going on for some years past a sort of rivalry in embassies or missions, governmental or private, on the part of both English and French, to endeavour to move to their interest or that of their commerce the mind of the so-called Christian' King of Shoa, or Southern Abyssinia. An embassy with this object in view, as we gather from other sources than Major Harris's book, was despatched from Aden via Tajurah to Shoa in the spring of 1841 by the Anglo-Indian government, under the command of Major Harris, and remained there, principally at the capital, Ankobar, about eighteen months. When we have stated these two facts regarding it, we have said nearly all of a definite nature which is to be gathered from Major Harris's book.