Page images
PDF
EPUB

in this respect, as they have fully availed themselves of the advanitages of their position. This garden is supported by voluntary contributions, and it cannot therefore be regarded (like those of Kew and Edinburgh) as a perinanent national institution. Yet we believe it contains, at present, a greater number of living plants than either, and is perhaps without a rival in regard to variety and rarity of species, unless we ought to except the garden of Glasgow.

We may take this opportunity of remarking, that the botanic gardens of Great Britain are supposed to contain between 14 and 15,000 living species of plants, and are the richest in the world. The principal foreign establishments are supplied with their rarest plants from this country. The gardens of Lee and Kennedy at Hammersmith, and of Loddiges at Hackney, are on so extensive a scale, that they may be considered as national monuments of the taste of the English people; and they deserve mention, also, aš having been rendered exceedingly useful to science through the liberal spirit of the proprietors. On entering the principal appartment at Mr. Loddiges, the visitor finds himself suddenly transported into a grove of palms, flourishing in all their native luxuriance, many of them of full size, and clothed with foliage unbroken by exposure to the winds and the thunder-shower--in many cases, in fact, more splendid than they are often to be met with in their native climate. So large an assemblage of tropical plants and trees of full growth was never before seen at such a distance from the equinoctial regions.

The institution of the Philosophical Society of Cambridge in '1819, affords a decisive proof of the more enlightened views now entertained by that university respecting scientific pursuits. About twelve years since, we remember a work then just published, entitled · Memoirs of the Analytical Society,' evidently the production of young men, whose enthusiastic attachment to abstract mathematics promised, under skilful guidance, still more valuable fruits. But consisting only of the junior members of the university, the society was neglected, or discouraged, and soon appeared to be forgotten. From this germ, however, sprang the present institution, some of the most active members of the Analytical Society having afterwards acquired sufficient influence to form, on a more enlarged plan, an association which the university itself was at length prevailed upon to support. The first volume of their Transactions, printed at the expense of the University, contains a collection of papers highly creditable to the contributors, and to their Alma Mater.

- The Bristol Institution for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and the Arts,' has prospered greatly in its first efforts. A building was erected in 1820, at the expense of £11,000, and contains a spacious theatre, in which lectures on science and literature are delivered. It is also provided with a laboratory; an apparatus-room in which a considerable number of philosophical instruments are already assembled; reading rooms; and a museum, which, as appears by the last report of February, 1825, has been enriched by many important donations chiefly relating to geology, and can also boast an excellent mineralogical collection purchased by means of a spirited subscription. Antiquities and the fine arts have not been neglected, and Mr. Cockerell, the architect of the building, has presented a complete series of casts of the statues which once ornamented the pediments of the temple of Jupiter Panhellenius at Ægina, of which no duplicates exist at present in London. They are of peculiar interest in the history of sculpture, as illustrating a state of the art intermediate between that of Egypt and the more perfect productions of Greece.

contains cabinets

One measure, adopted by this institution, deserves particular notice, and will, we hope, be extensively imitated. They have devoted their principal room to the exhibition alternately of the productions of artists resident at Bristol, and of paintings by the old masters. The latter are liberally supplied for the time by the proprietors of rich collections in the neighbourhood, and their first exhibitions, in 1824 and 1825, would have done honour to the metropolis : we understand that similar exhibitions have been recently made at Edinburgh and Carlisle with equal success. Although it is somewhat irrelevant to the immediate object of the present Article, we cannot refrain from remarking how much advantage the taste of our native artists, and of the public, would derive from frequent access to such exhibitions, where the treasures of remote mansions, often uninhabited by the proprietors for the greater part of the year, would be brought to light and admired. The innumerable works of art of the highest merit scattered over Great Britain, in the seats of our nobility and gentry, so far exceed those of every other country, except Italy, that foreigners, aware of our wealth in this respect, are accustomed to wonder by what possible means these treasures are so successfully concealed from view. The possessors

of works of art would not be found reluctant to afford this gratification to the public. Those who feel and appreciate their real excellence, are, in the immense majority of cases, men of liberal views; while such as prize them merely as objects of ostentation, would eagerly embrace such opportunities whether of gratifying their vanity, or of acquiring inAuence and popularity.

The Yorkshire Philosophical Society were embodied in 1822. They employ public lecturers in geology, chemistry and natural philosophy; have formed a collection of objects in natural history, and are about to erect a museum. They propose to enrich their

cabinets with a complete series of minerals, rocks, and organic remains of the strata in their own extensive county; and such exact local information on these subjects as may be expected from a district so diversified in its mineral products and structure will furnish important aid to science. The funds already obtained in support of this institution afford a satisfactory proof of what the spirit and power of a British county can effect, when it has once interested itself in the cause of science; and in looking over the list of members and officers, we rejoice to see the auspices

under which they commence their labours.

There are many other institutions in our provinces, such as those of Newcastle, Bath, Leeds, and Exeter, where lectures are delivered, and museums have been constructed; but we feel that we have already gone beyond our limits, and having adverted to some of the principal establishments, wholly or in part devoted to philosophical research, we shall proceed, without referring at present to many distinguished institutions of a similar kind in Scotland and Ireland, to consider generally the advantages derivable from these numerous associations. Our sentiments on several branches of this question have necessarily been in some degree anticipated in the course of our separate examination of the different societies; and we shall endeavour to avoid trespassing on the patience of our readers by repetition.

With respect to students of all ages, the increased facilities of obtaining instruction in every branch of science and natural philosophy, enjoyed in consequence of these establishments, are too obvious to require more than a brief notice. Not only has a new class of lecturers been called forth by the encouragement thus afforded, but libraries and collections of philosophical instruments, and objects of natural history, thrown open to their inspection and study, have enabled them at the same time to give instruction to others and to enlarge and perfect their own knowledge. Adam Smith has observed, that the employment of a teacher of science is the education most likely to render him a man of solid learning;' and that, if we except the poets, a few orators and a few historians, the far greater part of the other eminent men of letters, both of Greece and Rome, appear to have been either public or private teachers, either of philosophy or rhetoric; and this remark,' he adds, ' will be found to hold true from the days of Lysias and Isocrates, of Plato and Aristotle, down to those of Plutarch and Epictetus, of Suetonius and Quintilian.'*

When we are considering, therefore, these institutions in the light of schools, for the improvement of students, we must look * Wealth of Nations, vol. iii. p. 233, 234.

* beyond beyond the benefits reaped by the members of these associations, to the powerful impulse given generally to the cultivation of science and natural history, by the opportunities thus extended to a certain class of the community, to direct their minds and devote their lives professionally to these studies. The effects of such excitement will, at no distant period, be felt throughout the nation, particularly when the rank and importance of these societies have increased sufficiently to render the office of lecturer an object of ambition as well as a source of emolument. There is one class of students, the cultivation of whose minds will be eminently favoured by access to lectures delivered in the provincial institutions; we mean those who belong to the different departments of the faculty of medicine. It is impossible to peruse the Transactions of the Manchester Society, or indeed the scientific publications of the country at large, without feeling that we are indebted to the exertions of the members of this profession, for a very large part of the progress made in science and natural history, particularly in chemistry, anatomy and physiology. Yet few only of the medical practitioners in our provinces are educated at our Universities. A large proportion have never resided in London or Edinburgh, or the other recognized schools of medical instruction, and they who have enjoyed these advantages, have been compelled to apply the short period allotted to such residence, to subjects immediately connected with the practical duties of their profession. The principal benefits of an university education will now, in many of our county towns, be placed within the reach of the followers of this profession. The frequent meetings of the members of the new societies must also be enumerated among their means of contributing to the improvement of students, in which authors equally participate. The active interchange of ideas and discussions on topics of common interest thus promoted, awakens and directs the spirit of inquiry, supplying a constant stimulus and fresh energies to the mind.

We have already expressed our opinion, when treating of the Memoirs of the Manchester Society, of the efficacy of the new institutions in promoting science, by defraying for authors the expenses of publication. We shall now, therefore, merely add, that the gratuitous labours of valuable writers are thus rendered available to the public, and rescued from the obscurity in which they in all likelihood must otherwise have remained. For, in the present age, a taste for philosophic investigation, and ambition of fame, acquired by discoveries in physical science, afford a sufficient excitement to the perseverance and industry of individuals of distinguished ability. As a proof of this gratifying fact, we may state, that at no former period were important communications ever contributed so regularly to the Royal Society, nor has the publication of their Transactions ever proceeded so rapidly;although the new societies that have sprung up in the metropolis and provinces have been co-operating with such activity in the same cause; while the many philosophical magazines and journals, now regularly published, afford new channels for the circulation of scientific intelligence.

The last point of view in which we shall consider the new philosophical institutions, is their instrumentality in augmenting the zeal, number and emulation of patrons. We include in the class, of patrons all those members who enter institutions of this kind, without any expectation of sharing in the benefits conferred on students and authors, whether influenced by motives of disinterested public spirit, or of private friendship or local attachment, or ambition of adding to their personal and political importance. Whatever be the inducement, all contribute in different degrees, if discrimination be exercised in the election of candidates, and due regard paid to respectability of character, to enlarge the power and resources of the society.

With respect to the scientific institutions of London, we have put our readers in possession of so many facts concerning their organization and proceedings, that all further comment on their effect in augmenting the patronage of science is unnecessary. But the Provincial Institutions, particularly if they should continue to multiply and to extend their influence as rapidly as they have done of late years, would lead to consequences of such magnitude, that they deserve a more attentive consideration.

The most natural and desirable of these consequences would be the elevating and directing to nobler objects those provincial partialities and prepossessions which have never been dormant in the breasts of our countrymen, though their force has been too often enfeebled or misdirected. The lectures delivered in the institutions, the libraries, the museums of natural history and the fine arts, are calculated to diffuse amongst the higher and middling classes a taste for liberal studies, and a spirit of philosophical investigation, and to serve as schools, where the talents of native students, whether in science or art, may be cultivated, encouraged and matured. The general attachment of a people to birth-place, like an enthusiastic love of country at large, kindles a sentiment of admiration and gratitude towards those fellowcitizens who, by illustrious actions or works of industry and genius, confer rank and consideration on their native districts. There is the closest affinity between national and provincial feelings; both are naturally prolific sources of excitement, and alike capable of

« PreviousContinue »