Cornhill Magazine,  6 (1862), 103–20.

Our Survey of Literature, Science, and Art

[George H Lewes] and [Frederick Greenwood]


Regular Feature, Review-Essay


Periodicals, Popularization, Anti-Scientism, Spectroscopy, Light, Discovery, Imagination, Astronomy, Chemistry, Instruments, Natural History, Observation, Animal Development, Meteorology, Amateurism, Mesmerism

People mentioned:

Pierre L M de Maupertuis , Joseph Fraunhofer , Gustav R Kirchhoff , Robert W E Bunsen , John F W Herschel

Publications cited:

Higginbottom 1862

    Begins by assuring readers that there is 'no intention of competing with the critical journals, either in fullness of information or in elaborateness of criticism. Our object is, with the aid of "eminent hands", to touch lightly, yet firmly, on the chief topics of the day; to indicate the quality of the most notable works, and to record the glories of scientific progress' (103). Complains that in the latest volume of Thomas Carlyle's Frederick the Great, the 'serious labour of science [is] treated as if it were the paltriest of futilities' instead of being 'a very noble effort' (108). Reports that 'Professor Roscoe has been delighting the audience at the Royal Institution by a course of lectures on the most thrilling discovery of modern times—namely, the spectrum analysis'. The 'discovery of a process by which man can accurately ascertain the composition of the atmosphere of the sun and the stars' is 'thrilling to the imagination' and 'resemble[s] the marvels of the conjuror', but it will also be 'eminently useful' as a 'most delicate method of chemical analysis'. (109) In the artificial spectrum, a 'new and potent Instrument of research is thus placed at the service of science. No imagination can prefigure its mighty results' (112). Making one of the 'long stride[s]' and 'contrasts' of which 'the progress of science is full', Lewes goes on to defend the close study of tadpoles, which, although they are 'unimposing; trivial beasts, to be found in every roadside pond', yields 'infinitely more valuable material than the study of elephants'. Indeed, the tadpole 'is the naturalist's friend. The Royal Society welcomes him, cherishes him, encourages "memoirs" about him, and is ready to-morrow, if need be, to make a "lion" of him'. Also records some of Lewes's own experiments on the development of tadpoles under various conditions which support the findings of John Higginbottom. While the 'observant agricultural mind has long convinced itself that the moon, with her changes, brings change of weather', the 'philosophic mind' too is slowly becoming convinced of the truth of this (114), although the matter 'must still be considered sub judice' (115). Remarks that it is 'pleasant to find a scientific truth hidden under a popular prejudice' (114). Suggests in the section on art that by being too concerned with the technical effect of a painting, we 'presently find ourselves in the dread state of the unfortunates, who look for ten minutes on a bit of metal for the purposes of an electro-biological lecturer' (116).

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