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- The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley Volume 3 - 1/102 -


LIFE AND LETTERS OF THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY

BY HIS SON

LEONARD HUXLEY.

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOLUME 3.

(PLATE: PORTRAIT OF T.H. HUXLEY, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY DOWNEY, 1890. MCQUEEN, SC.)

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER 3.1. 1887.

CHAPTER 3.2. 1887.

CHAPTER 3.3. 1888.

CHAPTER 3.4. 1888.

CHAPTER 3.5. 1889.

CHAPTER 3.6. 1889-1890.

CHAPTER 3.7. 1890-1891.

CHAPTER 3.8. 1890-1891.

CHAPTER 3.9. 1892.

CHAPTER 3.10. 1892.

CHAPTER 3.11. 1892.

CHAPTER 3.12. 1893.

CHAPTER 3.13. 1894.

CHAPTER 3.14. 1895.

CHAPTER 3.15.

CHAPTER 3.16. 1895.

APPENDIX 1.

APPENDIX 2.

APPENDIX 3.

APPENDIX 4.

INDEX.

CHAPTER 3.1.

1887.

[The first half of 1887, like that of the preceding year, was chequered by constant returns of ill-health.] "As one gets older," [he writes in a New Year's letter to Sir J. Donnelly, "hopes for oneself get more moderate, and I shall be content if next year is no worse than the last. Blessed are the poor in spirit!" [The good effects of the visit to Arolla had not outlasted the winter, and from the end of February he was obliged to alternate between London and the Isle of Wight.

Nevertheless, he managed to attend to a good deal of business in the intervals between his periodic flights to the country, for he continued to serve on the Royal Society Council, to do some of the examining work at South Kensington, and to fight for the establishment of adequate Technical Education in England. He attended the Senate and various committees of the London University and of the Marine Biological Association.

Several letters refer to the proposal--it was the Jubilee year--to commemorate the occasion by the establishment of the Imperial Institute. To this he gladly gave his support; not indeed to the merely social side; but in the opportunity of organising the practical applications of science to industry he saw the key to success in the industrial war of the future. Seconding the resolution proposed by Lord Rothschild at the Mansion House meeting on January 12, he spoke of the relation of industry to science--the two great developments of this century. Formerly practical men looked askance at science, "but within the last thirty years, more particularly," continues the report in "Nature" (volume 33 page 265) "that state of things had entirely changed. There began in the first place a slight flirtation between science and industry, and that flirtation had grown into an intimacy, he must almost say courtship, until those who watched the signs of the times saw that it was high time that the young people married and set up an establishment for themselves. This great scheme, from his point of view, was the public and ceremonial marriage of science and industry."

Proceeding to speak of the contrast between militarism and industrialism, he asked whether, after all, modern industry was not war under the forms of peace. The difference was the difference between modern and ancient war, consisting in the use of scientific weapons, of organisation and information. The country, he concluded, had dropped astern in the race for want of special education which was obtained elsewhere by the artisan. The only possible chance for keeping the industry of England at the head of the world was through organisation.

Writing on January 18, to Mr. Herbert Spencer, who had sent him some proofs of his Autobiography to look through, he says:--]

I see that your proofs have been in my hands longer than I thought for. But you may have seen that I have been "starring" at the Mansion House.

This was not exactly one of those bits of over-easiness to pressure with which you reproach me--but the resultant of a composition of pressures, one of which was the conviction that the "Institute" might be made into something very useful and greatly wanted--if only the projectors could be made to believe that they had always intended to do that which your humble servant wants done--that is the establishment of a sort of Royal Society for the improvement of industrial knowledge and an industrial university--by voluntary association.

I hope my virtue may be its own reward. For except being knocked up for a day or two by the unwonted effort, I doubt whether there will be any other. The thing has fallen flat as a pancake, and I greatly doubt whether any good will come of it. Except a fine in the shape of a subscription, I hope to escape further punishment for my efforts to be of use.

[However, this was only the beginning of his campaign.

On January 27, a letter from him appeared in the "Times," guarding against a wrong interpretation of his speech, in the general uncertainty as to the intentions of the proposers of the scheme.]

I had no intention [he writes] of expressing any enthusiasm on behalf of the establishment of a vast permanent bazaar. I am not competent to estimate the real utility of these great shows. What I do see very clearly is that they involve difficulties of site, huge working expenses, the potentiality of endless squabbles, and apparently the cheapening of knighthood.

[As for the site proposed at South Kensington,] "the arguments used in its favour in the report would be conclusive if the dry light of reason were the sole guide of human action." [But it would alienate other powerful and wealthy bodies, which were interested in the Central Institute of the City and Guilds Technical Institute,] "which looks so portly outside and is so very much starved inside."

[He wrote again to the "Times" on March 21:--]

The Central Institute is undoubtedly a splendid monument of the munificence of the city. But munificence without method may arrive at results indistinguishably similar to those of stinginess. I have been blamed for saying that the Central Institute is "starved." Yet a man who has only half as much food as he needs is indubitably starved, even though his short rations consist of ortolans and are served upon gold plate.

[Only half the plan of operations as drawn up by the Committee was, or could be, carried out on existing funds.

The later part of his letter was printed by the Committee as defining the functions of the new Institute:--]

That with which I did intend to express my strong sympathy was the intention which I thought I discerned to establish something which should play the same part in regard to the advancement of industrial knowledge which has been played in regard to science and learning in general, in these realms, by the Royal Society and the Universities...I pictured the Imperial Institute to myself as a house of call for all those who are concerned in the advancement of industry; as a place in which the home-keeping industrial could find out all he wants to know about colonial industry and the colonist about home industry; as a sort of neutral ground on which the capitalist and the artisan would be equally welcome; as a centre of intercommunication in which they might enter into friendly discussion of the problems at issue between them, and, perchance, arrive at a friendly solution of them. I imagined it a place in which the fullest stores of industrial knowledge would be made accessible to the public; in which the higher questions of commerce and industry would be systematically studied and elucidated; and where, as in an industrial university, the whole technical education of the country might find its centre and crown. If I earnestly desire to see such an institution created, it is not because I think that or anything else will put an end to pauperism and want--as somebody has absurdly suggested,--but because I believe it will supply a foundation for that scientific organisation of our industries which the changed conditions of the times render indispensable to their prosperity. I do not think I am far wrong in assuming that we are entering, indeed, have already entered, upon the most serious struggle for existence to which this country has ever been committed. The latter years of the century promise to see us embarked in an industrial war of far more serious


The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley Volume 3 - 1/102

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