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MAGAZINE OF POPULAR SCIENCE,
JOURNAL OF THE USEFUL ARTS:
EDITED UNDER THE
DIRECTION OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE ILLUSTRATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF PRACTICAL SCIENCE, AT
THE LOWTHER-ARCADE, LONDON.
In offering to the public a new Scientific Periodical, when several productions, somewhat similar in design, are already in circulation, it may be necessary to offer a few words in explanation of the general nature of our plan, and of the particular characteristics by which it is entitled to claim a distinction from other works of the same class.
The Periodical Scientific Literature of this country consists, in the first place, of the Transactions of Philosophical Societies; in the second, of several Journals, devoted to communications on General Science, or limited to its particular branches. With the former it is superfluous to say, we are not likely to come into collision; they are the standard receptacles of valuable and profound memoirs, in which are record :! the details of elaborate and original researches. Our Journal has no aim whatever at becoming the vehicle of such communications. On the contrary, it is a distinctive character of our plan to exclude all papers of this description; and for this obvious reason, that, great as the merit of such papers may be, -(nay, absolutely in proportion to the depth of their scientific character,)—they are not, and never can be, of a popular nature. They are as a sealed book to the general reader.
The second class of periodicals to which we have alluded, are generally conducted with reference to the wants and tastes of the scientific reader only, and are chiefly occupied with original communications; in which the details of experimental research, or mathematical analysis, are developed at length. It is doubtless from such memoirs, and the means by which they are permanently recorded, that the science of this country derives its main support; but such information, however valuable, is conveyed in a shape little attractive to the general reader, and not calculated to inspire an interest in scientific pursuits, or to explain the mutual bearings and relations of philosophic researches. Vol. I.
In making these remarks, it is neither our wish nor our object to speak in terms of disparagement of existing Journals; but merely to explain that, great as are their merits, our scheme is essentially distinct from theirs. We think it cannot be controverted, that a general, connected, and, at the same time, popular view, of the actual progress and condition of the Physical Sciences, in a form accessible to the general reader, is still a desideratum in our periodical literature.
In the numerous and valuable publications to which we have referred, we find (for example) detailed and minute statements of researches in Astronomy. Now these may be thought extremely abstruse, perhaps unintelligible, by the Chemist or the Naturalist; yet the Chemist and the Naturalist may both be very desirous to know, in a compendious abstract, what is doing in the Astronomical World. Again, the minute details of the laboratory may appear repulsive to the Mathematician or to the Geologist; yet they might be glad to be in possession of an accurate outline of the progress of Chemistry. Again, although complicated details of processes and results, valuable in themselves, and to those occupied in the respective departments, may be very uninteresting, perhaps incomprehensible, to the ordinary reader, yet the man of general information, though not devoted to this or that branch of Science, may be highly desirous to know what is going on throughout the region of research and discovery.
But, above all, the youthful disciple is naturally anxious to understand something of the advances which science is making around him; and in the benefit of which he looks forward with the sanguine expectation of one day participating. Hence the importance of providing an intelligible, and, at the same time, correct guide; one that shall place in its true light the progress and prospects of Discovery, divested of all false pretension, and check delusive and visionary anticipation,-thus pointing out the right track to which the aspirant after real philosophical reputa-. tion must confine himself, and opening to his view that promising field of research accessible only to the sober and well-trained follower of the principles of the Inductive Philosophy.
We have hitherto spoken of Science in an abstract point of view; but we beg it may be distinctly understood, that we mean to comprehend also its Practical Application to the Arts of Civilization and Daily Life. This indeed will be, to the larger class of readers, probably the most interesting portion of the information we are desirous of communicating; and will consequently, form a prominent feature in our plan. Indeed, emanating as this Magazine does, from a Gallery in which are daily deposited, and introduced to the public eye an immense number of practical inventions, it will be naturally directed largely to the elucidation of the principles on which they depend; our Exhibition and
our Publication will go hand in hand, and each will be a reciprocal comment on the other.
We have already said that our main distinctive rule is the exclusion of all elaborate original memoirs of scientific researches. In their place, what we propose to do is, from time to time, to condense, into brief Essays, or Abstracts, such Accounts of the Progress of Discovery in the several branches of physical inquiry, as shall place, in a connected point of view, the labours of the different eminent individuals engaged in these inquiries. We shall endeavour to assign to each their relative importance; and, as opportunity may arise, shall comment freely on their merits, or faults, as they may present themselves, in the exercise of an impartial critical judgment. In doing this, it will be our especial aim to divest every subject, as far as possible, of all technicality of language. This, of course, cannot always be entirely accomplished; but we are persuaded that it may often be done to a great extent, with the aid of a few familiar and elementary illustrations, which, though not new in themselves, may yet be highly useful in rendering what is new generally intelligible.
There is also, we are persuaded, from what we observe of the present state of public opinion, great room for elucidation of the real claims which Science has upon public attention ; considerable need for a due maintenance of its just pretensions; and for a powerful call upon its real advocates to vindicate its fame from unworthy and unjust aspersions. Its connexion with the general advance of mankind in Improvement, Civilization, and Rational Happiness, is a topic well worthy of more prominent discussion than it has yet received ; and the importance of a due attention to Science in Elementary Education, ought to be insisted on to a far greater extent than has hitherto been the case: above all, the higher claims of Physical, as connected with Divine Truth, must be paramountly enforced.
Our plan, then, is to embody these and similar topics in the shape of what (borrowing a phrase from the Daily Journalists,) we may properly call a Leading Article. One, or more, of such articles (according to circumstances,) will occupy a considerable space in each number; and will be exclusively original productions, in which the writer will avail himself of facts and information from all quarters; but for the combination of his materials, and the remarks upon them, the writer himself will be responsible.
A second portion of our number is devoted to the bare matter of fact of Scientific Intelligence. Under this department we recognise for convenience of arrangement, four main heads. I. Mathematical and Physical Science. II. Chemical and Geological. III, Natural History and Physiology. IV. Practical Arts. Each of these will obviously be understood to embrace a number of subordinate branches: and for each of these branches, we rely upon competent and able assistance for collecting and arranging, in the shape of brief announcements, all such new facts as may appear of sufficient importance to rank either as scientific discoveries, practical inventions, or improvements on existing inventions. Under this head we wish it to be generally known we shall most thankfully receive the contributions of our friends, trusting always that they will bear in mind the necessity of putting their information in such a shape as shall be conformable to the characters just laid down ; brief, general, and popular.
It is a subject of universal complaint, that in this country we are very ill supplied with intelligence of Foreign Science. We have made arrangements by which we hope to do much towards remedying this well-founded complaint. We trust we shall be able, under our second head of intelligence, to give from time to time, short notices of all the most valuable researches of our Continental fellow-labourers; and we shall avail ourselves largely of the information furnished by the Foreign Scientific Journals.
A third department of our Journal will be the Review; that is, brief notices, characterizing in few words those publications of the day which have
any reference to Science; but more especially those of a popular cast; treatises designed for the purposes of elementary instruction : and those on the practical applications of Science. Under a fourth head, entitled Retrospect, we shall present the usual outline of the proceedings of various Scientific bodies. Whenever Science may be deprived, by death, of any of its distinguished ornaments, we shall endeavour to discharge the duty of communicating the particulars of their lives and labours in a Scientific Obituary. And we shall also include notices of a miscellaneous kind, of objects of general interest, as Scientific Exhibitions, &c., especially as referring to any novelties introduced into our Gallery
Such, in few words, is our plan. We are unwilling to enter further into descriptions of what we mean, or hope to do: we would rather let our actual productions speak for themselves. And having merely said what we conceive, absolutely necessary, in the way of preface, to prevent incorrect impressions of our object and plan, we shall now, without running the risk of committing ourselves by further professions, proceed practically to the task of realizing them, as well as we can, under the embarrassments and distractions which unavoidably attend the issuing of a first Number. The candour of our indulgent readers, we feel assured, will be extended to us under these circumstances, and enable us to proceed with renewed energies, and under more favourable auspices, to the fairer trial of our pretensions in subsequent Numbers.
In an age like the present, advancing claims to a peculiarly enlightened character, when we observe institutions of every description devoted to the interests of Science, rising up and flourishing around us,—the press teeming with publications on scientific subjects,—its advocates declaiming in a tone of the highest panegyric on its importance, -and a profession, at least, of taste for philosophical studies, very generally diffused, -it might be a not unnatural question, Where can be the need of further urging the claims of Science on public attention, or devoting a new journal to its service? It is on all hands admitted, that these branches of knowledge have attained to an unprecedented extent of diffusion, and have risen to a higher level in public estimation than has ever been known, or perhaps, than would ever have been anticipated in a past age. Where then can be the necessity for bringing fresh resources into play for the dissemination of scientific information, or for endeavouring to render it more extensively popular ?
On a more close inspection of the case, we shall, we trust, convince our readers that these inquiries may be most satisfactorily answered. It is true a great advance and increase in the diffusion of Science is unquestionably taking place, at least in outward appearance; yet, upon the very circumstances with which the admission of the fact is coupled we will rest our argument, that there needs much to be done to secure its real and substantial promotion.
For let us look at some of the views and opinions which prevail on the subject :
In the first place, there are not wanting those who denounce the diffusion and advance of Science as an evil of the most fearful magnitude, and deprecate the extension of a taste for philosophical knowledge as beset with every species of mischief and danger,-intellectual, social, and moral. They contend, that all serious, improving, and profitable objects of study, are now cast aside for the more dazzling, but superficial theories of flimsy, physical speculation. That these pursuits are calculated only to foster an overweening self-conceit; and in calling forth the independent exercise of the reasoning powers, tend directly to encourage a total disregard of all salutary restraints, to generate intellectual pride, and lead to the rejection of all control from experience and authority. Such, say the opponents, are philosophical studies, when carried on to an unlimited range of abstract speculation. Or, when this is not the case, then they are mere mechanical pursuits, the drudgery of the laboratory or the workshop, utterly unworthy of a being like man, placed here with moral and social qualities, which it would be his more fitting business to cultivate, and which would afford a nobler and more useful field of study.
What, they ask, are the investigation of the minute details of Chemical combinations; what the dull calculation of forces and pressures,
but mere servile employments, suited indeed to the capacity of the artisan, and needful to the processes of the manufacturer, but low and unworthy objects of study to the man of liberal education. What are the “million