Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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distinguished for wit and originality in conversation,
and for a cultivated taste in the fine arts. Voltaire
particularly delighted in his company, on account of
the freshness and brilliancy of his mind, and his skill
in music. He excelled in painting pictures of game,
and wrote an interesting work on the flight of birds
of prey. His son inherited his taste and talent.

Study by day, and romance reading during Xhe
night, impaired the health of young Huber, and
weakened his sight. When he was fifteen years old,
the physicians advised entire freedom from all literary
occupation. For this purpose, he went to reside in a
village near Paris, where he followed the plough, and
was for the time a real farmer. Here he acquired a
great fondness for rural life, and became strongly
attached to the kind and worthy peasants among
whom he resided. His health was restored, but with
the prospect of approaching blindness. He had,
however, sufficiently good eyes to see and become
attached to Maria Aimee Lullin, a young lady who
had been his companion at a dancing-school. They
loved, as warm young hearts will love, and dreamed
of no possibility of separation. M. Lullin regarded
the increasing probability of Huber's blindness as a
T 20*

306 HUBER.

sufficient reason for breaking up the connection ; but
the more this misfortune became certain, the more
Maria determined not to abandon hpr lover. She
made no present resistance to the will of her father,
but quietly waited until she had attained a lawful age
to act for herself.

Poor Huber, fearful of losing his precious prize,
tried to conceal from the world, and even from him-
self, that an entire deprivation of sight was his inevi-
table lot ; but total darkness came upon him, and he
could no longer deny that the case was hopeless.
The affliction was made doubly keen by fears that
Maria would desert him. But he might have trusted
the strength of a woman's heart ; as soon as Miss
bullin was twenty-five years old, she led to the altar
the blind object of her youthful affections. The gene-
rous girl had loved him in his brilliant days of youth
and gaiety, and she would not forsake him when a
thick veil fell forever between him and the glories of
the external world. There is something exceedingly
beautiful and affecting in this union. Those who
witnessed it, at once felt a strong internal conviction
that the blessing of God would rest on that gentle and
heroic wife.

Voltaire often alluded to the circumstance in his
correspondence, and it forms an episode in Madame
de Stael's Delphine. Mrs. Huber had no reason to
regret the disinterested step she had taken. Huber's
active and brilliant mind overcame the impediments
occasioned by loss of vision. His attention was
drawn to the history of bees ; and by the assistance
of his wife and son, he observed their habits so


closely, that he soon became one of the most distin-
guished naturalists in Europe. His very blindness
added to his celebrity; for men naturally admire intel-
lectual strength overcoming physical obstructions.
The musical talents which in youth had made Huber
a favorite guest, now enlivened his domestic fireside.
He enjoyed exercise in the open air ; and when his
beloved wife was unable to accompany him, he took
a solitary ramble, guided by threads, which he had
caused to be stretched in the neighboring walks. He
was amiable and benevohnit, and all who approached
him were inspired with love and respect. Even
great success came to him unattended by its usual
evils ; for the most envious did not venture to detract
from the merits of a kind-hearted man, suffering
under one of the greatest of human deprivations.

Notwithstanding the loss of his eyes, Huber's coun-
tenance was the very sun-dial of his soul — expressing
every ray of thought and every shade of feeling.
During forty years of happy union, ]\Irs. Huber
proved herself worthy of such a husband's attach-
ment. He was the object of her kindest and most
unremitting attention. She read to him, she wrote
for him, she walked with him, she watched his bees
for him; in a word, her eyes and her heart were
wholly devoted to his service. Huber's affection for
her was only equalled by his respect. He used to
say,—" While she lived, I was not sensible of the
misfortune of being blind." His children, inspired
by their mother's example, attended upon him with
the most devoted affection. His son, Pierre Huber,
who himself became famous for the history of the


economy of ants, was a valuable assistant and be-
loved companion. He made a set of types, with
which his father could amuse himself, by printing
letters to his friends.

After the death of his wife, Huber lived with a
married daughter at Lausanne. Loving and beloved,
he closed his calm and useful life, at the age of


The science of astronomy, which, from the time of
Copernicus and Galileo, had been gradually improv-
ing through the laborious exertions of Tycho Brahe,
Kepler, Huygens, Newton, Halley, De'.sle, Lalande,
and other eminent observers of the starry firmament,
was considerably advanced by the discoveries of
Herschel, whose biography now comes under our

William Herschel was born at Hanover, in Ger-
many, on the 15th of November, 173S. He was the
second of four sons, all of whom were brought up to
their father's profession, which was that of a musi-
cian. Having at an early age shown a peculiar taste
for intellectual pursuits, his father provided him with
a tutor, who instructed him in the rudiments of logic,
ethics, and metaphysics, in which abstract studies he
made considerable progress. Owing, however, to the
circumscribed means of his parents, and certain unto-
ward circumstances, these intellectual pursuits were
soon interrupted, and at the age of fourteen he was
placed in the band of the Hanoverian regiment of
guards, a detachment of which he accompanied to
England about the year 1757 or 1759. His father
came with him to England, but, after the lapse of a
few months, he returned home, leaving his son, in
confonnily with his own wish, to try his fortune in
Great Britain. How or when he left the regimental


band in which he had been engaged, we are not

After struggling with innumerable difficulties, and
no doubt embarrassed by his comparative ignorance
of the English tongue, he had the good fortune to
attract the notice of the Earl of Darlington, who
engaged him to superintend and instruct a military-
band at the time forming for the Durham militia.
After fulfilling this engagement, he passed several
years in Yorkshire, in the capacity of teacher of
music. He gave lessons to pupils in the principal
towns, and officiated as leader in oratorios or concerts
of sacred music- -a kind of employment in which the
Germans are eminently skilled, from their love of
musical performances.

Herschel, however, while thus engaged in earning
a livelihood, did not allow his professional pursuits to
engross all his thoughts. He sedulously devoted his
leisure hours in improving his knowledge of the
English and Italian languages, and in instructing
himself in Latin, as well as a little Greek. At this
period he probably looked to these attainments princi-
pally with a view to the advantage he might derive
from them in the prosecution of his professional
studios ; and it Avas no doubt with this view also that
he afterwards applied himself to the perusal of Dr.
Robert Smith's "Treatise on Harmonics" — one of the
most profound works on the science of music which
then existed in the English language. But the
acquaintance he formed \vith this work was destined
ere long to change altogether the character of his
pursuits. He soon found that it was necessary to


make himself a mathematician before he could make
much progress in following Dr. Smith's demonstra-
tions. He now, therefore, turned, with his charac-
teristic alacrity and resolution, to the new study to
which his attention was thus directed ; anrl it was not
long before he became so attached to it, that almost
all the other pursuits of his leisure hours were laid
aside for its sake.

Through the interest and good offices of a Mr.
Bates, to whom the merits of Herschel had become
known, he was, about the close of 1765, appointed to
the situation of church organist at Halifax. Next
year, having gone, Avith his elder brother, to fulfil a
short engagement at Bath, he gave so much satis-
faction by his performances, that he was appointed
organist in the Octagon Chapel of that city, upon
which he went to reside there. The place which he
now held was one of some value ; and from the
opportunities which he enjoyed, besides, of adding to
its emoluments by engagements at the rooms, the
theatre, and private concerts, as well as by taking
pupils, he had the certain prospect of deriving a good
income from his profession, if he had made that his
only or his chief object.

This accession of employment did not by any
means abate his propensity to study for mental im-
provement. Frequently, after the fatigue of twelve
or fourteen hours occupied in musical performances,
he sought relaxation, as he considered it, in extend-
ing his knowledge of the pure and mixed mathemat-
ics. In this manner he attained a competent knowl-
edge of geometry, and found himself in a condition


to procGcd to the study of the different branches of
physical science which depend upon the mathematics.
Among the first of these latter that attracted his atten-
tion, were the kindred departments of astronomy and
optics. Some discoveries, about this time made in
astronomy, awakened his curiosity, and to this science
he now directed his investigations, at his intervals of

Being anxious to observe some of those wonders in
the planetary system of which he had read, he bor-
rowed from a neighbor a two-feet Gregorian tele-
scope, which delighted him so much that he forthwith
ordered one of larger dimensions from London. But
finding that the cost was beyond his means, he gave
it up, and immediately resolved to attempt with his
own hands the construction of a telescope, equally
powerful with that which he was unable to purchase ;
and in tliis, after repeated disappointments, which
served only to stimulate his exertions, he finally suc-

Herschel'was now in the path in which his genius
was calculated to shine. In the year 1774, he had
the inexpressible pleasure of beholding the planet
Saturn through a five-feet Newtonian reflector, made
by his own hands. This was the beginning of a long
and brilliant course of triumphs in the same line of
art, and also in that of astronomical discovery.

Herschel now became so much more ardently
attached to his philosophical pursuits, that, regardless
of the sacrifice of emolument he was making, he
began gradually to limit his professional engage-
ments and the number of his pupils. Meanwhile, he


continued to employ his leisure in the fabrication of
still more powerful instruments than the one he had
first constructed ; and in a short time he produced
telescopes of seven, ten, and even twenty feet focal
distance. In fashioning- the mirrors for these instru-
ments, his perseverance was indefatigable. For his
seven-feet reflector, it is asserted that he actually fin-
ished and made trial of no fewer than two hundred
mirrors before he found one that satisfied him.
When he sat down to prepare a mirror, his practice
was to work at it for twelve or fourteen hours, with-
out quitting his occupation for a moment. He would
not even take his hand from what he was about, to
help himself to food ; and the little that he ate on such
occasions was put into his mouth by his sister. He
gave the mirror its proper shape, more by a certain
natural tact than by rule ; and when his hand Avas
once in, as the phrase is, he was afraid that the per-
fection of the finish might be impaired by the least
intermission of his labors.

It was on the 13th of March, 1781, t'bat Herschel
made the discovery to which he owes, perhaps, most
of hi*-: popular reputation. He had been engaged for
nearly a year and a half in making a regular survey
of the heavens, when, on the evening of the day that
has been mentioned, having turned his telescope — an
excellent seven-feet reflector, of his own constructing
— to a particular part of the sky, he observed, among
the other stars, one Avhich seemed to shine with a
more steady radiance than those around it ; and, on
account of that, and some other peculiarities in its
appearance, which excited his suspicions, he deter-
VI.— 27


.Tiined to observe it more narrowly. On reverting to
it, after some hours, he was a good deal surprised to
find that it had perceptibly changed its place, — a fact
which, the next day, became still more indisputable.
At first he was somewhat in doubt whether or not it
was the same star w'hich he had seen on these diflTer-
ent occasions ; but, after continuing his observations
for a few days longer, all uncertainty upon that head
vanished. He now communicated what he had ob-
served to the astronomer royal. Dr. Maskelyne, who
concluded that the luminary could be nothing else
than a new comet. Continued observation of it,
however, for a few months, dissipated this error ; and
it became evident that it was, in reality, a hitherto
undiscovered planet. This new world, so unexpect-
edly found to form a part of the system to which our
own belongs, received from Herschel the name of
Georgium Sidus, or Georgian Star, in honor of the
king of England ; but by astronomers it has been
."nore generally called either Herschel, after its dis-
coverer, or Uranus. He afterwards discovered, suc-
cessively, no fewer than six satellites or moons,
belonging to his new planet.

The announcement of the discovery of the Geor-
gium Sidus at once made Herschel's name univer-
sally known. In the course of a few months the
king bestowed upon him a pension of three hundred
pounds a year, that he might be enabled entirely to
relinquish his engagements at Bath ; and upon this
he came to reside at Slough, near Windsor. He
now devoted himself entirely to science ; and the
constructing of telescopes, and observations of the


heavens, continued to form the occupations of the
remainder of his life. Astronomy is indebted to
him for many other most interesting discoveries be-
sides the celebrated one of which we have given an
account, as well as for a variety of speculations of
the most ingeiiious, original, and profound character.
But of these we cannot here attempt any detail.
He also introduced some important improvements
into the construction of the reflecting telescope,
besides continuing to fabricate that instrument of
dimensions greatly exceeding any that had been for-
merly attempted, with powers surpassing, in nearly
a corresponding degree, what had ever been before

The largest telescope which he ever made, was his
famous one of forty feet long, which he erected at
Slough, for the king. It was begun about .he end of
the year 1785, and, on the 28th of August, 1789, the
enormous tube was poised on the complicated but
ingeniously contrived mechanism, by which its move-
ments were to be regulated, and ready for use. On
the same day, a new satellite of Saturn was detected
by it, being the sixth which had been observed
attendant upon that planet. A seventh was after-
wards discovered by means of the same instrument.
This telescope has since been taken down, and
replaced by another, of only one-half the length, con-
structed by the distinguished son of the subject of our
present sketch.

So extraordinary was the ardor of this great astron-
omer in the study of his favorite science, that, for
many years. It has been asserted, he never was in


bed at any hour during which the stars were visible ;
and he made ahnost all his observations, whatever
was the season of the year, not under cover, but in
his garden, and in the open air, and generally with-
out an attendant. By these investigations, Herschel
became acquainted with the character of the more
distant stars, upon which he wrote a variety of
papers. In 1802, he presented to the Royal Society
a catalogue of five thousand new nebula;, nebulous
stars, planetary nebulae, and clusters of stars ; thus
unfolding a boundless field of research, and making
the world aware of the sublime fact that there is an
infinitude of heavenly bodies far beyond the reach
of ordinary vision, and performing, in their ap-
pointed places, the offices of suns to unseen systems
of planets.

These discoveries established Herschel's claims to
rank among the most eminent astronomers of the
age, and amply merited the distinctions conferred
upon him by learned bodies and the reigning prince.
In 1816, George IV., then Prince Regent, invested
him with the Hanoverian and Guelphic order of
knighthood. He was now, from being originally a
poor lad in a regimental band, rewarded for his long
course of honorable exertion in the cause of science.
Herschel did not relinquish his astronomical observa-
tions until Avithin a few years of his death, which
took place on the 23d of August, 1822, at the
advanced age of eighty-three. He died full of years
and honors, bequeathing a large fortune, and leaving
a family which has inherited his genius.


Humphry Davy, one of the most laborious and
successful explorers of the science of chemistry in
modern times, was born at Penzance, in Cornwall,
England, on the 17th of December, 1778. His
parents belonged to the humbler order of society, but
were nevertheless respectable. After receiving the
elements of education at Penzance, and being for
some time at the grammar school of Truro, he was
bound apprentice, in 1795, to a surgeon-apothecary in
his native town. When thus entering upon a profes-
sion, he no doubt foresaw that his success in life
would depend on his own exertions. At this time,
his father having died, his mother found herself
under the necessity of becoming a milliner in Pen-
zance, by which she contrived to glean an honorable
subsistence for her family.

Little is known of Davy's early character, beyond
the circumstance of his facility in gathering and
treasuring up the information which books afforded
him, and his predilection for poetry. While acting
in the capacity of apothecary's apprentice, he devoted
his leisure hours to examinations into the productions
of nature, as well as into chemical science. His
instruments were supplied by his own ingenuity.
In the contrivance of apparatus and invention of
expedients, he evinced great proficiency ; and in after


years, it is allowed by scientific men, that in this
respect, as well as in others, he stood unrivaired.

In October, 179S, Davy quitted Penzance for Bris-
tol, to superintend a pneumatic medical institution,
having then scarcely attained his twentieth year.
Kemoved from a small country town to a populous
city offering scope for the exercise of his genius, Davy
now felt as if in a new world. He associated with
men engaged in those philosophical pursuits in which
he found so much delight; was provided with suitable
apparatus, and speedily entered upon that brilliant
career of discovery which has rendered his name so
illustrious. It was not his intention to abandon the
study or practice of medicine ; but after a short time
he found it necessary to do so, and direct his whole
attention to chemistry.

It was at this period of his life that Davy pursued
a series of hazardous experiments upon nitrous oxide
— a gas which, if incautiously used, is destructive of
animal life, and when taken into the lungs produces
highly increased muscular action, and a propensity to
indulge in laughter. He not only inhaled this dan-
gerous fluid, but also carburetted hydrogen and car-
bonic acid gas, with a view to develop facts illustra-
tive of their nature. The fame which followed the
publication of these investigations, extended the repu-
tation of the young chemist. At this period the estab-
lishment of the Royal Institution in London took
place, and Davy was invited to become assistant pro-
fessor in chemistry, and director of the laboratory.
He accepted the offer, and, in the beginning of the
year 1801, entered upon the duties of his situation.

DAVY. 319

Only a few weeks had elapsed in this new sphere
of exertion, when he was appointed by the managers
lecturer in chemistry, instead of assistant. His first
lecture was delivered in 1802, and from this period
we may date the commencement of his splendid
career. He at once succeeded in making a strong
impression upon the public mind, and by a series of
brilliant discoveries was enabled to maintain it till
the hour of his death. His discourses were admira-
bly adapted to fascinate his audience, which was
composed, not of philosophers alone, but the gay and
fashionable of the city, a considerable proportion of
whom were ladies in the higher walks of life. His
experiments, particularly with the voltaic battery — an
instrument with which he was destined to work such
miracles — riveted universal attention ; philosophers
admired and applauded, and the softer sex were
involved in the most agreeable terrors.

His style was highly florid. It largely partook of
that poetical inspiration, of which, as has been already
stated, he so early evinced the possession. Coleridge,
the poet, was a constant attendant on the lectures,
and has himself declared it was to increase the stock
of his metaphors. So great was Davy's popularity,
that even duchesses vied with each other in doing
homage to his genius ; compliments, invitations, and
presents, were showered upon him from all quarters,
and no entertainment was considered complete with-
out the presence of the chemical lecturer. This adu-
lation had its usual effect upon the mind of Davy, and
impaired that simplicity of character which he had
before displayed.

320 DAVY.

In 1803, he commenced his lectures on agriculture,
which were afterwards published, and constitute the
ahlest scientific treatise on the subject, that has ever
appeared. He soon after entered upon the investi-
gation of the laws of voltaic electricity ; and here his
discoveries were of the most brilliant character. He
continued his chemical pursuits with great success,
and at last he held the first rank in Europe, in the
department of science to which his life had been
devoted. In 1812, he was knighted, and the same
year he obtained a large fortune by his marriage with
Miss Apreece.

In 1813, he visited France and Italy, and after his
return, invented the safety-lamp. This consists of a
lamp the blaze of which is encircled by wire gauze,
which prevents it from setting fire to the inflammable
air of mines, and causing explosions, which have
often proved fatal to the miners. His life was a con-
tinued scene of activity and success in chemical
pursuits, and his inventions and investigations have
not only greatly extended the boundaries of science,
but contributed much to the advantage of human
society. In 1829, he died of apoplexy at Geneva,
whither he had travelled for the benefit of his health.

The character of Sir Humphry Davy is not wholly
free from blemishes, yet he must be regarded as a
man of great genius, and it is to be remarked that he
was particularly successful in applying science to the
useful arts. His invention of the safety lamp has
saved thousands of lives, and his work on agriculture
has greatly increased the power of man in making the
soil productive of those things which contribute to his
comforts and his necessities.


from the Boston Post, Jubj 8.

We hardly know when we have been belter pleased with a {ub.ica-
tlon tlian this.

From Hunt's Merchant's Mairaiine, September, 1845.

This work, nuw tomplite, is Ihe most elalnirate of tlie works of the au-
thor for tlie youiij; ; and we think it ((Uite liie bi'st. It is a tihrary uf facts,
and sei'iMs intended to ciillivate a taste for lliis kind of reading. It is said
ihat " truth i.s sininyer than fiction," and no one who lias ptnised these
pages can feel any necessity for seeking excitement in the liigii-wrought
pages of romance. lOveiy subject touched by the author seems invested
with a lively interest; and even dry statistics are made, like steel be-
neath the strokes of the (lint, to yield sjiarks calculated to kindle the mind.

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 20 of 21)