Imágenes de páginas

to the same purpose are brought together from whatever country, and of whatever age. Articles of dress, ornament, or food, implements for their preparation, utensils for domestic use, nets, weapons, and the like thus illustrate each other.

Among the special collections, newly put together, we were much interested in the very full one of the food, especially the vegetable food of the different tribes of the North American Indians; in the collection of their cradles or analogous appliances for the care of infants; in the collection of musical instruments, or what was intended to answer the purpose of music; and in the fine pottery of the Arizonian and other tribes.

The museum is especially rich in stone implements of the North American continent, mainly prehistoric; also in specimens of the survival of the art of working stone weapons of the finest kind, in some of our native tribes.

In the further development of the museum it may be thought best to arrange the archæological specimens in a separate series, but, as to America, it is not easy to draw a line between what is prehistoric, and what belongs essentially to the present era.

A great number of duplicates will soon be ready for exchange. Be. sides proper duplicates, freely available for exchange, there is, wherever the materials and the subject admit of it, a selected series carefully packed away in the lower part of the cases, or directly underneath the typical specimens or specimens selected for exhibition. For public inspection in very large museums it is now a recognized principle that the half is better than the whole; that typical specimens, those that best exemplify the leading forms or plans, should be exhibited in preference to full series of gradations and modifications. But the serious investigator needs all the forms, and this selected students series, which is mostly out of sight, is carefully preserved for, and is accessible to, his use.

A great deal of important ethnological matter has of late years been collected in the form of photographs, and it seems obviously important that such collections should be systematically made and preserved, is not on the large scale, yet in the compact and effective form of stereoscopic views. If the figures, the costumes, and the dwellings of our various tribes still remaining are not perpetuated in this way very promptly, much which is now easy to preserve will be irretrievably lost to the future.

In this connection we would suggest that it might be well to provide a series of figures characteristic of the races of men, and especially of the North American races and tribes. This would require considerable room for exhibition and a great deal of judgment as to the mode of getting up the material to be employed, and the extent to which this kind of illustration should be introduced.

This museum is very rapidly increasing, and it is remarkable that the accessions are made almost without pecuniary cost. Hardly any have been purchased. They came from scientific or curious explorers, whom the Smithsonian Institution is everywhere exciting and furthering, and from Government expeditions commissioned mainly for other important objects; and the facilities in the way of transportation controlled by the Institution are such that even the cost of their delivery in Washington is trifling.

It will be interesting to know to what extent the museums which the Smithsonian Institution has in charge are visited by the public. The committee would suggest the use of a recording turnstile at the entrance, by which the number of visitors might be indicated and preserved with very little trouble. Respectfully submitted.


HENRY COPPÉE. Doctor Parker, in behalf of the Executive Committee, stated that the heating-apparatus now employed was found insufficient in extremely cold weather to warm the building, particularly the new ethnological ball, and suggested the propriety of asking Congress to appropriate $2,500 to increase the means for heating the building.

Mr. Bancroft remarked that this was not asking anything for the benefit of the Smithsonian Institution, but for the comfort of the people of the United States who come here to see the great collections of the Government, and who should certainly be provided with the means of doing this without the danger of taking cold.

On motion of Mr. Bancroft it was

Resolved, That Congress be requested to make an appropriation of $2,500 to increase the heating capacity of the apparatus used to warm the rooms occupied by the Government collections. The reading of the report of the Secretary was then continued.

On motion of Mr. Cox, it was, Resolved, That the report of the Secretary be accepted and transmitted to Congress as usual.

The board then adjourned sine die.




Having been appointed to draw up the report of a committee of the Chamber of Deputies, which was nominated in 1842, for the purpose of taking into consideration the expediency of a proposal submitted to the chamber by the minister of public instruction, relative to the publication of a new edition of the works of Laplace at the public expense, I deemed it to be my duty to embody in the report a concise analysis of the works of our illustrious countryman. Several persons, influenced, perhaps, by too indulgent a feeling toward me, having expressed a wish that this analysis should not remain buried amid a heap of legislative documents, but that it should be published in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes, I took advantage of this circumstance to develop it inore fully, so as to render it less unworthy of public attention. The scientific part of the report presented to the Chamber of Deputies will be found here entire. It has been considered desirable to suppress the remainder. I shall merely retain a few sentences containing an explapation of the object of the proposed law, and an announcement of the resolutions which were adopted by the three powers of the state.

Laplace has endowed France, Europe, the scientific world, with three magnificent compositions, the Traité de Mécanique Céleste, the Exposition du Système du Monde, and the Théorie Analytique des Probabili. tés. In the present day (1842) there is no longer to be found a single copy of this last work at any book-seller's establishment in Paris. The edition of the Mécanique Céleste itself will soon be exhausted. It was painful, then, to reflect that the time was close at hand when persons engaged in the study of the higher mathematics would be compelled, for want of the original work, to inquire at Philadelphia, at New York, or at Boston for the English translation of the chef d'avre of our countryman by the excellent geometer, Bowditch. These fears, let us hasten to state, were not well .founded. To republish the Mécanique Céleste was, on the part of the family of the illustrious geometer, to perform a pious duty. Accordingly, Madame de Laplace, who is so justly, so profoundly attentive to every circumstance calculated to enhance the re

nown of the name which she bears, did not hesitate about pecuniary considerations. A small property near Pont l'Evêque was about to change hands, and the proceeds were to have been applied so that Frenchmen should not be deprived of the satisfaction of exploring the treasures of the Mécanique Céleste through the medium of the vernacaiar tongue.

" The republication of the complete works of Laplace rested upon an equally sure guarantee. Yielding at once to filial affection, to a noble feeling of patriotism, and to the enthusiasm for brilliant discoveries which a course of severe study inspired, General Laplace had long since qualified himself for becoming the editor of the seven volumes which are destined to immortalize his father.

" There are glorious achievements of a character too elevated, of a luster too splendid, that they should continue to exist as objects of prirate property. Upon the state devolves the duty of preserving them from indifference and oblivion, of continually holding them up to attention, of diffusing a knowledge of them through a thousand channels; in a word, of rendering them subservient to the public interests.

“ Doubtless the minister of public instruction was influenced by these considerations when, upon the occasion of a new edition of the works of Laplace having become necessary, he demanded of you to substitute the great French family for the personal family of the illustrious geometer. We give our full and unreserved adhesion to this proposition. It springs from a feeling of patriotism, which will not be gainsaid by any one in this assembly.”

In fact, the Chamber of Deputies had only to examine and solve this single question : "Are the works of Laplace of such transcendent, such exceptional merit that their republication ought to form the subject of deliberation of the great powers of the state? An opinion prevailed that it was not enough merely to appeal to public notoriety, but that it was necessary to give an exact analysis of the brilliant discoveries of Laplace in order to exhibit more fully the importance of the resolution about to be adopted. Who could hereafter propose on any similar occasion that the chamber should declare itself without discussion when a desire was felt, previous to voting in favor of a resolution so honorable to the memory of a great man, to fathom, to measure, to examine minutely and from every point of view monuments such as the Mécanique Céleste and the Exposition du Système du Monde ? It has appeared to me that the report drawn up in the name of a committee of one of the three great powers of the state might worthily close this series of biographical notices of eminent astronomers."*

The Marquis de Laplace, peer of France, one of the forty of the French Academy, member of the Academy of Sciences and of the Bureau des Longitudes, an associate of all the great academies or scientific societies

The author here refers to the series of biographies contained in tome III of the Notices Biographiques.- TRANSLATOR.

of Europe, was born at Beaumonten-Ange, of parents belonging to the class of small farmers, on the 28th day of March, 1749. He died on the 5th of March, 1827.

The first and second volumes of the Mécanique Céleste were pub. lished in 1799; the third volume appeared in 1802; the fourth volume in 1805. As regards the fifth volume, books XI and XII were published in 1823; books XIII, XIV, and XV in 1824, and book XVI in 1825. The Théorie des Probabilités was published in 1812. We shall Row present the reader with the history of the principal astronomical discoveries contained in these immortal works.

Astronomy is the science of which the human mind may most justly boast. It owes this indisputable pre-eminence to the elevated nature of its object, to the grandeur of its means of investigation, to the certainty, the utility, and the unparalleled magnificence of its results.

From the earliest period of the social existence of mankind, the study of the movements of the heavenly bodies has attracted the attention of governments and peoples. To several great captains, illustrious statesmen, philosophers, and eminent orators of Greece and Rome it formed a subject of delight. Yet, let us be permitted to state, astronomy truly worthy of the name is quite a modern science. It dates only from the sixteenth century. Three great, three brilliant phases have marked its progress. In 1543, Copernicus overthrew, with a firm and bold hand, the greater part of the antique and renerable scaffolding with which the illusions of the senses and the pride of successive generations bad filled the universe. The earth ceased to be the center, the pivot of the celestial movements. It henceforward modestly ranged itself among the planets; its material importance, amid the totality of the bodies of which our solar system is composed, found itself reduced almost to that of a grain of sand.

Twenty-eight years had elapsed from the day when the Canon of Thorn expired, while holding in his faltering hands the first copy of the work wbich was to diffuse so bright and pure a flood of glory upon Poland, when Würtemberg witnessed the birth of a man who was destined to achieve a revolution in science not less fertile in consequences, and still more difficult of execution. This man was Kepler. Endowed with two qualities which seemed incompatible with each other, a vol. canic imagination and a pertinacity of intellect which the most tedious numerical calcnlations could not daunt, Kepler conjectured that the movements of the celestial bodies must be connected together by simple laws, or, to use his own expression, by harmonic laws. These laws he andertook to discover. A thousand fruitless attempts, errors of calculation inseparable from a colossal undertaking, did not prevent him a single instant from advancing resolutely toward the goal of which he imagined he had obtained a glimpse. Twenty-two years were employed by him in this investigation, and still he was not weary of it! What,

« AnteriorContinuar »