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Much benefit might also be prevented, were a knowledge of the means of restoring suspended animation, in cases of drowning, strangulation, &c., generally disseminated. As prompt measures in such cases are absolutely necessary, many fatal effects have happened from the delay occasioned by medical assistance having been at a distance; which might have been prevented, had the proper means of resuscitation been known and immediately resorted to by the persons present at such a juncture. Were the nature and importance of the function of perspiration generally known and attended to, it might likewise be the means of preventing those diseases and disasters which flow from making sudden transitions from heat to cold, which are the origin of many fatal disorders among the labouring classes. If a man is thoroughly convinced that more than the one-half of what he eats and drinks is thrown off by insensible perspiration, he will at once see the importance of avoiding every practice and every circumstance which has a tendency to obstruct the operations of this important function.
The last example I shall mention, though not of the least importance, is the fatal effects produced by ignorance of the proper mode of treating children during the first stages of infancy. It is a fact deduced from the annual registers of the dead, that one-half the number of children born, die under seven years of age. This extraordinary mortality is universally imputed, by medical writers, to wrong management during the first and second years of their infancy, and the practice of giving anodyne aromatic medicines. Instead of clothing infants in such a manner as to give free scope for the exercise of all the vital functions, as soon as they are ushered into the world, the midwives and officious matrons frequently vie with each other to improve upon nature, by attempting to model the head and to strengthen the limbs by the application of fillets, rollers, and swaddling-bands, of several yards in length; thus loading and binding them with clothes equal to their own weight, to the manifest injury of the motions of their bowels, lungs, limbs, and other animal functions. Instead of covering the head with a thin single cap, and keeping the extremities in a moderate degree of
in hospital of Dublin, two thousand nine hundred and forty-four infants, out of seven thousand six hundred and fifty, died in the year 1782, within the first fortnight from their birth. They almost all expired in convulsions; many foamed at the mouth ; their thumbs were drawn into the palms of their hands; thcir jaws were locked ; their faces swelled; and they presented, in a greater or less degree, every appearance of suffocation. This last circumstance at last produced an inquiry whether the rooms were not too close and insufficiently ventilated. The apartments of the hospital were rendered more airy ; and the consequence has been, that the proportion of deaths, according to the re. gisters of succeeding years, is diminished from three so one.”
GN THE GENERAL DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.
warmth, an opposite course is most frequentov pursued, which is supposed to be one among the many existing causes of hydrocephalus or water in the brain. Instead of allowing the first milk that is secreted, which nature has endowed with a purgative quality, to stimulate the bowels, it is a common practice, immediately on the birth of a child, to administer a variety of purgative medicines in close succession, “as if,” says a modern writer, “to prove that it has arrived in a world of physic and of evils.” Instead of being exposed to the invigorating effects of pure air, and kept in a moderate degree of temperature, they are too frequently confined to a hot contaminated atmosphere, which relaxes their solids, impedes their respiration, and frequently induces fatal convulsions.” These are but a few examples out of many which could be produced of the improper treatment of children, from which multitudes of painful complaints and dangerous disorders derive their origin. It is therefore reasonable to believe, that were general information on such topics extensively disseminated, and a more rational mode of nurture during the first years of infancy adopted, not only fatal disorders, but many subsequent diseases in life, might either be wholly prevented, or at least greatly mitigated. We have likewise reason to conclude, that a general dissemination of knowledge, by directing the mind to intellectual enjoyments, and lessening the desire for sensual pleasures, would lead to habits of sobriety and temperance. Intemperance has perhaps been productive of more diseases, misery, and fatal accidents, than all the other causes I have now specified. It has benumbed the intellectual faculties, debased the affections, perverted the moral powers, degraded man below the level of the brutes, and has carried along with it a train of evils destructive to the happiness of families, and to the harmony and order of social life. Wherever intemperance prevails, a barrier is interposed to every attempt for raising man from the state of moral and intellectual degradation into which he has sunk, and for irradiating his mind with substantial knowledge. But were the mind in early life imbued with a relish for knowledge and mental enjoyments, it would tend to withdraw it from those degrading associations and pursuits which lead to gluttony, debauchery, and drunkenness, and consequently prevent those diseases, accidents, and miseries, which invariably follow in their train. As the human mind is continually in quest of happiness of one description or another, so multitudes of the young and inexperienced have been led to devote themselves to the pursuit of sensual pleasures as their chief and ultimate object, because they have no conception of enjoyment from any
* See the preceding note.
other quarter, and are altogether ignorant of the refined gratification which flows from intellectual pursuits. In the prosecution of knowledge. the rational faculties are brought into exercise. and sharpened and invigorated ; and when reason begins to hold the ascendancy over the desires and affections, there is less danger to be apprehended that the mind will ever be completely subjected to the control of the sensitive appetites of our nature. I might also have stated, that many physical evils might be prevented, were mankind at large acquainted with the characteristics of poisonous plants:–the means of detecting mineral poisons, and the mode of counteracting their effects;–the proper mode of extinguishing fires, and of effecting an escape, in cases of danger, from that element;-the precautions requisite to be attended to in the management of steamengines,” &c. &c. But, as a minute acquaintance with some of these subjects supposes a greater degree of knowledge than could reasonably be expected in the general mass of society, I shall not further enlarge. The few examples I have selected will, it is presumed, be sufficient to prove and illustrate the position stated in the beginning of this section, “that knowledge would, in many cases, prevent dangers, diseases, and fatal accidents.” If it be admitted, that several hundreds of persons are annually destroyed by noxious gases, by the explosions of fire-damp in coal-mines, by the stroke of lightning, by their clothes catching fire, and other accidents; and that several thousands are, during the same period, carried off by infectious diseases, and by those diseases which are the effects of contaminated air, and an improper mode of treatment during the first stages of infancy; and if a general diffusion of knowledge respecting the principles and facts adverted to above would have a tendency to prevent one-half the number of such physical evils as now happen, it will follow, that several hundreds, if not thousands, of useful lives might annually be preserved to the community, and a great proportion of human suffering prevented; and if so, the cause of humanity, as well as of science, is deeply interested in the general diffusion of useful knowledge among persons of every nation, and of every rank. In the conclusion of this topic, it may be remarked, that the knowledge requisite for the purpose now specified is of easy acquisition. It requires no peculiar strength or superiority of genius, nor long and intricate trains of abstract reasoning; but is capable of being acquired by any person possessed of common sense, when his attention is once thoroughly directed to its acquisition. As the food of the body which is the most salutary and nourishing
* See Appendix No. VIII.
is the most easily procured, so that kind of knowledge which is the most beneficial to mankind at large, is in general the most easily acquired. Its acquisition would not in the least interfere with the performance of their regular avocations, as it could all be acquired at leisure hours. It would habituate them to rational reflections and trains of thought, and gradually unfold to their view new and interesting objects of contemplation. It would have a tendency to prevent them from spending their hours of leisure in folly or dissipation, and would form an agreeable relaxation from the severer duties of active life.
ON THE IN FLUENCE which A GENERAL DIPFUsion of kNow LEDGE wou LD HAve ox THE PROGRESS or GENERAL scik NCE.
WE have already seen, that the diffusion of knowledge among the general mass of society would eradicate those false and superstitious opinions which have so long degraded the human intellect, would introduce just conceptions of the attributes of the Deity, and of his operations in the system of nature, and would avert, or at least greatly mitigate, many of those physical evils to which the human race has been subjected. Although these were the only advantages to be derived from the general dissemination of knowledge, they would be sufficient to warrant every exertion which the friends of science and of humanity can make to accomplish such an important object. But these are only a few of the many beneficial results which would, doubtless, flow from the progress of rational investigations and scientific pursuits. Knowledge, in its progress through the general mass of society, and among the various tribes of mankind, could not long remain confined within its present boundaries, but would, in all probability, enlarge its circumference nearly in proportion to the extent of its diffusion. The man of erudition and of science, who now exerts his influence and his talents to enlighten the minds of his fellow-men, would be laying a foundation for the expansion of his own intellectual views, and of those of his successors in the same pursuits, in future generations. As a small body of snow, by rolling, gradually accumulates to a large mass, so that portion of knowledge we already possess, in its progress through the various ranks of mankind, would have its volume increased, and its present boundaries extended, so that new scenes of intellectual vision and enjoyment would be continually opening to the view. In accordance with these
views, I shall now proceed to illustrate the 1", sation, That a general diffusion of knowledge would tend to the rapid advancement of universal scierrace. We are placed in the midst of a scene where a vast multiplicity of objects solicits our atten‘ion. Whether we look around on the surface of the earth, or penetrate into its bowels, or turn our eyes upwards to the surrounding atnoosphere and the vault of heaven, we perceive an immease variety of beings, celestial and terrestrial, anima'ed and inanimated, continually varying their aspects and positions, all difsering from each other in certain points of view, yet connected together by various relations and resemblances. Science, in the most general and extensive sense of the term, consists in a perception of the resemblances and differences, or the relations which these objects have to one another, and to us as rational beings. To ascertain the almost infinite number of relations which subsist among the immense variety of objects which compose the material and intellectual universe, requires an immense multitude of observations, coinparisons, and deductions to be made by a vast number of observers placed in various circumstances and positions; or, in other words, the discovery of an immense number of facts. All science may therefore be considered as founded on facts and perhaps there would be few exceptions to the truth of the position, were we to assert, that the most subline truths and deductions, in every science, when stripped of all their adventitious circumstances, simplified, and expressed in the plainest and most perspicuous terms, may be reduced to so many facts. This position might be illustrated, were it necessary, by an induction of particulars from the various branches of mathematical and physical science. That “a whole is greater than any of its parts,”—that “the square described on the hypothenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares described on its remaining sides,” are facts, the one deduced from observation or simple intuition, the other from a series of comparisons. That the sun is the centre, around which the planetary bodies revolve, -that a projectile describes a parabolic curve, that the velocities of falling bodies are in proportion to the spaces run over,-that fluids press in all directions,—that the pressure of the atmosphere will support a column of water to the height of above thirty feet, that the elastic spring of the air is equivalent to the force which compresses it, that the angle of incidence of a ray of light is equal to the angle of reflection,-that the north pole of one magnet will attract the south pole of another,-that the air we breathe is a composition of oxygen and nitrogen; and a variety of similar truths,
are ficts deduced cither from simple observa tion and experiment, or from a comparison of a series of phenomena and experiments with ench other. Now, every comparison we make between two or more objects or ideas, is an act of the mind affirming a resemblance or a disgreement between the objects compared; which affirmation, if deduced from a clear view of the objects presented to the mind or senses, is the declaration of a fact. If the above sentiments are just, it will follow, that every person possessed of an ordinary share of understanding, and whose organs of sensation are in a sound state, is capable of acquiring all the leading truths of the most useful sciences, since he enjoys the senses and faculties requisite for the observation of facts, and for comparing them with one another. And if such a person is capable of receiving into his mind truths already ascertained, he is also, for the same reason, qualified for discovering new truths or facts, provided he be placed in such circumstances as shall have a tendency to present the objects of his pursuit in the clearest point of view; that he have an opportunity of surveying them on all sides, and that his attention be firmly riveted on their several aspects and relations. That one man, therefore, excels another in these respects, is chiefly owing to his mind being more particularly directed to the contemplation of certain objects and relations, and his mental faculties concentrated upon them. When a person, devoted to scientific investigation, discovers a new fact, it is not, in the majority of instances, because he possesses powers of intellect and organs of sensation superior to the ordinary endowments of humanity, but because he was placed in different circumstances, and had his attention directed to different objects, and was thus enabled to perceive rela tions and combinations which had been either unnoticed by others, or which were placed beyond the range of their observation. Genius, then, which is generally attributed to such characters, may be considered as consisting in a concentration of the rays of intellect upon any particular object, art, or science, arising from a lively taste we feel for that particular study. It may be compared to a burning lens, where the scattered rays of light are rendered powerful by being collected into a point. In so far, then, as we are able to direct the faculties of the mind—however moderate a degree of vigour they may possess—to the fixed contemplation of scientific objects, in so far may we expect that new relations will be discovered, and new truths elicited. Sir Isaac Newton was one day asked, “How he had discovered the true system of the universe 7" He replied, “By continually thinking upon it.” He was frequently heard to declare, that “if he had done the world any service, it was due to nothink but industry and patient thought, that he kept the subject under consideration constantly before him, and waited till the first dawning opened gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.” Had this illustrious philosopher been born of barbarous parents in the wilds of Africa, had he been placed in circumstances widely different from those in which he actually existed, or had not his attention, by some casual occurrence, been directed to the grand object which he accomplished, in all probability, his mind would never have ranged through the celestial regions, nor have discovered the laws of the planetary motions. Many inportant scientific facts require only a certain combination of circumstances to bring them to the view of any common observer. To discover the phases of the planet Venus, the satellites of Jupiter, and the elliptical figure of Saturn, after the telescope was invented, required no uncommon powers either of vision or of intellect in Galileo, who first brought these facts to view, however superior the faculties he actually possessed. It only required, that he had a previous knowledge of the existence of these planetary bodies, that his mind was interested in the extension of science, and that he foresaw a probability that new and interesting facts might be discovered by directing his new invented instrument to the starry regions. And when once he had descried from his observatory such new celestial wonders, every other person whose organs of vision were not impaired, with a similar tube, might discover the same objects. Yet, for want of the qualifications which Galileo possessed, the telescope might have long remained in the hands of thousands before such discoveries had been made ; and it is a fact, that though the -->cope was in use a considerable time before Galileo made his discoveries, no person had previously thought of directing it to the planets; at any rate, no discoveries had been made by it in the heavens. The discovery of new truths in the sciences, therefore, is not, in most instances, to be ascribed to the exertions of extraordinary powers of intellect; but, in a great majority of cases, to the peculiar series of events that may occur in the case of certain individuals, to the various circumstances and situations in which they may be placed, to the different aspects in which certain objects may be presented to their view, and sometimes to certain casual hints or occurrences which directed their attention to particular objects. A spectacle-maker's boy, by an accidental experiment, led to the invention of the telescope; the remark of a fountain-player, who observed that water could rise only to thirtytwo feet in the tubes of a forcing engine, led Galileo to calculate the gravity of the air. Newton's attention was first directed to a pro
sound research into the laws of falling bodies,
by the circumstance of an apple falling upon the head, as he was sitting under a tree in his garden, which led to the discovery of the grand principle which unites the great bodies of the universe. The well-known M . James Ferguson, author of several popular treatises on astronomy and mechanical philosophy, invented a system of mechanics, and ascertained the laws of the different mechanical powers, when only eight years of age, and before he knew that any treatise had ever been written on that subject. The accidental circumstance of seeing his father lift up the roof of his cottage, by means of a prop and lever, first directed his mind to these subjects, in which he afterwards made many useful improvements. If then, it be admitted, that an extraordinary degree of intellectual energy and acumen is not necessary, in every instance, for making useful discoveries, that the concentration of the mental faculties on particular objects, and the various circumstances in which individuals may be placed, have led to the discovery of important facts, it will follow, that the exertion of the ordinary powers of intellect possessed by the mass of society is sufficient for the purpose of prosecuting scientific discoveries, and that the more the number of scientific observers and experimenters is increased among the inferior ranks of society, the more extensively will interesting facts and analogies be ascertained, from which new and important principles of science may be deduced. An ample field still remains for the exertion of all the energies of the human mind. The sciences are, as yet, far removed from perfection; some of them have but lately commenced their progress, and some of their elementary principles still require to be established by future observations. The objects of nature which science embraces are almost infinite; the existence of many of these objects has not yet been discovered, and much less their multiplied relations and combinations. The researches of ages are still requisite, in order thoroughly to explore the universe, and bring to view its hidden wonders. In order to bring to light, as speedily as possible, the undiscovered truths of science, we must endeavour to increase the number of those who shall devote themselves, either wholly or in part, to scientific investigation and research. And, were this object attained, in all probability, the number of useful truths and facts which would be discovered, would be nearly in proportion to the number of those whose attention is directed to such researches. This might be illustrated from the history of the past progress of science. In those ages, when only a few solitary individuals, here and there, directed their attention to such pursuits, little or no progress was made in the various
departments of human knowledge; nay, some-
tific investigators now existing, twenty thousand