Punch,  47 (1864), 139.

The Royal British Association Under Hydrothermal Influence



News-Commentary, Drollery


Geology, Progress, Heat, Zoology, Palaeontology, Physiology, Archaeology, Experiment, Crime, Politics

    Discusses Charles Lyell's presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science on the 'mysteries of geology and the hydrothermal blessings of Bath' (a version of which was published as Lyell 1865). Focuses on Lyell's claim that 'The inhabitants of sea and land [...] before and after the grand development of ice and snow, were nearly the same'. Punch notes that the 'grand development' to which Lyell refered was the 'discovery' by Dr Grusselback that a snake 'which had been frozen to torpidity for ten years' was 'restored to activity'. However, wonders why, in the 'interests of science', Grusselback was not brought into the lecture theatre in a box of ice, and then 'vivified by the President with hydrothermal applications' and thus 'evidence that he was like "other creatures" before and after this grand development of ice and snow'. Ponders the practicallity of Grusselback's plan to try his freezing/revivification process on criminals, and then turns to several examples of the 'grand development of ice and snow'. These include the 'discovery of a number of people who had been frozen up in an Alpine Pass for a period of some eighteen years', some of whom 'were subjected to Sir Charles Lyell's "hydrothermal influence" and were likely to be brought to life when the director of the experiment discovered the body of an uncle whose estate he had inherited, and consequently gave up the experiment as a bad job'. Punch also notes Lyell's claim that hydrothermal influence has 'transformed bits of Roman bricks into opals' and how the discovery, by Aleksander F Middendorf, of a carcase 'preserved in a frozen mass for perhaps ten thousand years', shows 'nature anticipating' Grusselback: had the latter been present at the site of the mammoth, he would have resuscitated it by 'hydrothermal influence'. Praises Grusselback's proposed experiments on criminals as 'novel, economical and humane'. With a burgeoning prison population, the plan to 'Freeze them up' and then subject them to '"hydrothermal" treatment' at the end of their sentences, is welcomed. Punch then considers the benefits of freezing and later heating 'great men' of the day. For example, asks 'Why should we not take Mr Gladstone, and freeze him up till another generation be fit for democratic reform and philosophical finance'.

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