Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  7 (1883–84), 647–51.

Editor's Historical Record



Regular Feature, News-Digest

[1] The British Empire


Specimen Trading, Collecting, Zoological Gardens

    Reports that on 15 January the port of Liverpool saw the arrival of 'Mr. Barnum's Sacred White Elephant from Siam; the first of its kind ever brought to Europe', and notes that the animal was received at the Zoological Society Gardens in London two days later (647).

[2] Science and Progress


Telegraphy, Railways, Electricity, Dynamics, Invention, Health, Exhibitions, Engineering, Expertise, Error, Exploration, Ethnography

    Records the commencement of the 'work of laying the new Transatlantic cable for Messrs Mackay, Bennett, and others' [of the Commercial Cable Company], which will 'connect Cape Ann, Massachusetts, with the Irish coast' and will 'eventually [...] extend' as far as 'Japan, China, and Australia'. In London, a 'working model of a novel electrical railway' that 'consists of a car running upon one rail only' with 'another rail overhead [...] serving to keep [it] upright' has been exhibited. The 'rails serve also as conductors of electricity from a dynamo-machine, and as the friction is very slight, the inventor hopes to develop a speed of 150 miles per hour in his car'. Again in London, preparations are underway for the 'forthcoming International Health Exhibition', while in France an 'experiment has been successfully tried in communicating by telephone between vessels in motion. Conversation was carried on distinctly through a wire hawser by which one vessel was towing the other, the circuit being completed through the water'. Reports that the work of regulating the River Danube by building 'inundation dikes below Vienna' has actually caused floods near the city which in the 'opinion of experts [...] are entirely owing to the works not having been carried out to a sufficient distance down stream'. Also notes that the 'German traveller' Gottlob A Krause 'started on New Year's Day for the west coast of Africa', where he intends to study the 'language and ethnography of the inhabitants of the banks of the Niger'. (650)

[3] Obituary


Mathematics, Education, Mechanics, Christianity, Invention, Agriculture, Steam-power, Discovery, Intellectual Property, Machinery

    Records the death of the mathematician Charles W Merrifield, who, as well as writing 'one or two treatises on pure mathematics', served 'for many years on the staff of the Education Department' and was 'recently one of its senior examiners'. Also notes the passing of the 'Rev. William Fisken, Presbyterian minister of Stamfordham, Northumberland', who 'pursued the study of mechanics simultaneously with that of theology and made several valuable inventions'. Suggests that Fisken will be 'remembered especially by agriculturists as one of the two inventors of the steam-plough, the other being his brother Thomas', although in the 1850s 'an important trial came off at Westminster upon the merits of the invention, the parties being the Messrs. Fisken and the Messrs. Fowler [i.e. John Fowler and his brother Robert], the implement-makers at Leeds, and the finding of the jury was that' the Fiskens 'were the original discoverers'. In addition, Fisken 'also invented a potato-sowing machine, an apparatus for heating churches, and the "steam-tackle", which has brought the steam-plough into practical use'. (651)

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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