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- The British Association's visit to Montreal, 1884: Letters - 1/20 -



Printed for Private Circulation.



(Reprinted from The Times, 1884)

It seems early to begin to speak of the arrangements for the next meeting of the British Association, but it is a far cry to Montreal, and a proportionately long start must be made before the final leap is taken. So heartily have the Dominion Government and the Canadian _savants_ entered into the preparations that everything is ready; all the presidents, vice-presidents and secretaries of sections have been selected; all arrangements made with steamship companies and American railways; all excursions have been planned, and all possible routes provided for; instructions of the most detailed kind have been drawn up for the guidance of members; nothing has been left, indeed, except what depends on contingencies of time and place, so that Professor Bonney and his legion of officials may at any moment take up their portmanteaus and walk on shipboard. All this forwardness and completeness are largely due to the zeal of the High Commissioner, Sir Charles Tupper, and his energetic and obliging secretary, Mr. Colmer. When the decision was come to at Southampton to hold the meeting of 1884 in Canada there was widely expressed disapproval of the step, and doubt as to its legitimacy; but the prospect of entertaining the upper thousand of English science has evidently so greatly gratified our Canadian brothers that even the most stiff-necked opponent of the migration must be compelled to give in if he has a shred of good nature and brotherly feeling left. There are doubtless a few grumblers who will maintain that the Montreal assembly will not be a meeting of the _British_ Association; but after all this Imperial Parliament of Science could not be better occupied than in doing something to promote science in one of the most important sections of the British dominions. Indeed, since some maintain that so far as this country is concerned it has almost ceased to have a _raison d'etre_, might it not extend its functions and endeavour to exercise the same effective influence on the promotion of science in other parts of the Empire as it has undoubtedly done in the past in the Mother Country? It can scarcely hope ever to hold a meeting either in Australia or India, nor even, we fear, in South Africa; but there are other means Which it might adopt more appropriately than any other body to encourage the progress of science in these parts of the Empire, and make accessible to the public interested in it the good work which is being done, at least in some of the Australian colonies. In Canada itself there are several important scientific societies; but so far as we know, they have no common bond of union. Seeing that there is already an efficient American Association, we should not advocate the formation of a separate Canadian body; but possibly the Montreal meeting might be able to do something to federalise the separate Canadian societies. We suggested some years ago that the Association might do such a service to the numerous local societies in this country, and we are glad to know that the suggestion has borne fruit, and that already a real advance has been made in this direction.

But whatever may be the results of the Montreal meeting, it is clear from the programme which has been drawn up that everything possible is being done to render the occasion one of genuine enjoyment to all who are fortunate enough to be present. The Canadian Parliament has voted so handsome a sum for the entertainment of the Association that its expenses are likely to be less than at an ordinary meeting. Provision has been made for free passages and free living for fifty of the officials, who need not spend a penny from the time they set foot upon the steamer until they step ashore again upon their native land. Not only so, but a sum of $14,000 has been allotted for the reduction of members' passages to Canada in addition to any abatement of fares allowed by the steamship companies. The most important of these companies, sailing not only to Quebec and Montreal, but to New York and Newport, offer reductions averaging about 10 per, cent, on the ordinary fares. The companies who offer these advantages are the Allan, the Dominion, the Beaver, White Star, Cunard, National, Anchor, Guion, Inman, Monarch, and Union lines; so that intending visitors have ample choice of route. On the other side, again, all the railway companies have shown the greatest liberality. The Government railways are free to all who produce members' vouchers. The Canada Pacific Line will from July 1 up to the date of the departure of the special free excursion to the Rocky Mountains, grant to visiting members free passes over its lines to the northward (Rocky Mountains, Lake Superior, &c.) and intermediate points. This company also offers to one hundred and fifty members of the Association a free special excursion to the Rocky Mountains, by way of Georgian Bay, Thursday Bay, and Winnipeg, providing that those places passed during the night on the outward journey will be repassed during the day on the return. The only thing members will have to pay for will be meals, which will be provided at a rate not exceeding 2s. Arrangements, moreover, will be made for trips and excursions from Toronto, across Lake Ontario to Niagara, under the direction of local committees to be formed in both places, giving to all members an opportunity of visiting the Falls. Various other excursions have been liberally arranged for by the company, so that visitors will have ample opportunity of seeing most that is worth seeing in Canada for practically nothing. The Canada Atlantic Railway has also arranged for several free excursions, while the Grand Trunk, the North Shore, the Central Vermont, and other railways in the States offer tickets to members at something like half the usual rates; thus those who proceed to New York may visit various parts of the States before proceeding northwards to Canada at extremely cheap rates. At all the Canadian cities to be visited local committees will be organized to receive the excursionists and to care for them during their stay. The circular prepared for the members gives every information as to routes, distances, fares, &c., so that they may make all their arrangements before leaving England. The telegraph companies, not to be behindhand, undertake to transmit messages during the meeting for members from Montreal to all parts of Canada and the United States free of charge.

Of course, it is not to be expected that all those advantages will be given indiscriminately to all who may apply, and doubtless the great accession of members at the Southport meeting was partly due to the prospective visit to Canada. But only those members elected at or before the Southampton meeting will share in the benefit of the $14,000 allotted for reduction of passage money, and until further notice no new members or associates can be elected except by special vote of the Council. This is as it should be, otherwise the meeting would be largely one of mere "trippers," instead of genuine representatives of British science. The Council have taken every precaution to render the Montreal Meeting one of real work, and no mere holiday; from respect to itself as well as to its hosts, the Association is bound to show itself at its best. At the same time, the Council have extended all the privileges of associates to the near relatives of members to the number of three for each, so that members will have no excuse for doing Canada _en garcon_. Of course those applying for the privileges mentioned must produce satisfactory evidence of their identity, and in return will receive vouchers which will serve as passports on the other side. Those desirous of obtaining information as to hotels and other local matters, must apply to the local secretary, care of Mr. S. C. Stevenson, 181, St. James's Street, Montreal.

Already somewhere about six hundred applications nave been received, and it is quite probable that at least one thousand members and associates may be crowding across next August. Those members who wish to share in the subsidy of $14,000 must apply before March 25, and no voucher will be issued after July 20. We may say that the reduced railway fares mainly extend from August 1 to the end of September. The active and courteous secretary, Professor Bonney, on whom so much depends, will arrive in Montreal three weeks before the opening of the meeting, August 27, for the purpose of securing that everything is in train. It is expected that all the addresses will be printed here in time for transmission to Montreal. So far at least as the officials are concerned, the Canada Meeting will be a representative one. The President elect, Lord Rayleigh, one of the most solid exponents of British science, will certainly prove equal to the occasion. The vice-presidents show a large Transatlantic contingent; they are, his Excellency the Governor-General, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Lyon Playfair, Sir Alexander Gait, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir Narcisse Dorion, Hon. Dr. Chauveau, Principal Dawson, Professor Frankland, Dr. L. H. Hingston, and Professor Sterry Hunt. Sir Joseph Hooker, we may say, has also been nominated by the Council a vice-president, in place of the late Sir C. W. Siemens. Perhaps it is scarcely necessary to state that the general treasurer, Professor A W. Williamson, and the general secretaries, Captain Douglas Galton and Mr. A. G. Vernon Harcourt, will be present. There are five local secretaries and a local treasurer. The presidents of the sections are all men of the highest standing in their particular departments; it would be difficult, indeed, to suggest a better selection. In Section A, Mathematical and Physical Science, it is a great thing that Professor Sir William Thomson has been persuaded to preside. No more representative chemist than Professor Roscoe could have been obtained for Section B; in C, Geology; Mr. W. T. Blanford, the head of the Indian Geological Survey, is sure to do honour to his subject; in Section D, Biology, Professor Moseley, a man of thoroughly Darwinian type of mind, will preside; in F, Economic Science, Sir Richard Temple will be a host in himself; while in G, Mechanical Science, Sir F J. Bramwell is sure to be vigorous and original; finally, in the new section H, Anthropology, Dr. E. B. Tylor is the very man that ought to have been selected. Lord Aberdare, we regret to say, has been compelled to retire from the presidency of the Geographical Section; but for a Canadian meeting no more suitable president could be obtained than the veteran Arctic explorer, Sir Leopold McClintock, who, we trust, will be persuaded to take the place of Lord Aberdare. All the vice-presidents and secretaries of sections have been chosen with equal care; and thus the Association has taken the very best means of proving to the Canadians how highly they, appreciate the honour of the invitation, and in what respect they hold their prospective audiences. For the public lectures, the popular feature of the meetings, it is hoped to secure the services of Professor W. G. Adams, the able Professor of Physics in King's College, London, who it is hoped will be able to go; Dr. Dallinger, the well-known-biologist, and Professor Ball, the witty and eloquent Astronomer Royal for Ireland, who will deliver the popular lecture _par excellence_.

Thus it will be seen that every possible arrangement has been made that could be made beforehand to insure complete success, and there can be little doubt that neither the Association nor the Canadians will be disappointed. Section A is following the example set last year in Section D by Professor Ray Lankester. The Committee, as we have already announced, are sending out a circular inviting mathematicians and physicists to co-operate with them in sustaining discussions and contributing papers; one of the special subjects for discussion in this section on September 1st will be the vexed one of the connection between sun spots and terrestrial phenomena. In conclusion we may say that the American Association will meet in Philadelphia on September 3rd, and

The British Association's visit to Montreal, 1884: Letters - 1/20

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