Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of his works on social statistics he was made, in 1872, an associate of the section of moral and political sciences of the Institute of France. He bad long been a corresponding member of this academy..

He was a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, as we have said, from 1820, and held the presidency of this learned body from 1832 to 1835, and then succeeded M. Dewez as perpetual secretary of its three divisions, science, literature, and the fine arts. We have been able to notice only a few of the memoirs inserted in the publications of the academy. The bulletins of each séance are, so to speak, crowded with his articles. One can see, by their inspection, with what care he registered all the remarkable phenomena which presented themselves during his long career. Thanks especially to him, they, as well as the Annuaires and Annales of the Observatory, will always be consulted with profit by those who wish closely to study the aurora borealis, shooting-stars, bolides, storms, earthquakes, and such phenomena, upon which attention is drawn so strongly at the present time, and of which, for the most part, a complete theory has not yet been formed. The correspondence which Quetelet had with the official heads of science in different countries contributed greatly to extend the relations of the academy, and to enrich its bulletins.

The revolution of 1848 was not a surprise to Quetelet; he foresaw that the opposition of Louis Philippe to reforms, not in themselves to be feared, would cause some such catastrophe, but he did not anticipate the effect it would produce all over Europe. His attention, of course, at such a time was turned to politics, and in the month of March he presented to the academy a paper upon the nature of constitutional states, and some principles which may be derived from the consideration of them. Ser. eral other articles were also written by him on political subjects. We know that while other governments were falling, Belgium remained intact, and while distress and terror were reigning elsewhere, she prepared to celebrate the anniversary of her independence. The fête in honor of the occasion was organized by Quetelet as head of the artistic and literary circle, and never was a inore brilliant entertainment given in Brussels. It evinced not only the good taste of Quetelet, but the extent of his influence.

As to the private life of Quetelet, we have said that in 1825 he married Mademoiselle Crulet, niece of Professor Van Mons. Two children, a boy and a girl, were the fruit of this union. His mother and a young half-sister, who married an artist, M. Madou, formed the rest of his housebold. The children were educated at home. Madame Quetelet herself taught them to read, and they had a master for writing. Every Sunday a few friends were invited to dinner, and in the evening the house was open to visitors. There were conversation, music, and charades. The latter were in great favor, and Quetelet himself often took part in them. Those who knew Quetelet only through his works, or when enfeebled by age and disease, can have no idea of his gayety, wit, and cordiality. He thoroughly enjoyed a laugh, and Rabelais was

almost as much of a favorite with him as Pascal. His conversation was admirable, bright, merry, witty, condescending to the most trivial as well as embracing the most extended subjects in letters, science, and art. It was marked occasionally by a vein of severity, whichi, however, never wounded any one, and only served to bring into stronger relief the amiable traits of his character. He possessed the very rare faculty of knowing when to listen, and always managed to make his guests feel at ease. As the years passed, he attained more and more a position of distinction. The husband of his sister became a painter of eminence; his daughter married a promising young artist, and his son, one of the best pupils of the inilitary school, quitted the engineer corps of the army, when he had attained the rank of lientenant, to enter the obserratory. Death soon deprived him of his mother, whom he loved tenderly, bat bis wife remained his companion for thirty years.

In the last years of his life, when his age warned him in vain to take repose, he undertook a series of works which he intended to be an epitome of the labor of his life. In 1864 appeared "The History of Mathematical and Physical Science in Belgium ;' in 1866, “Jathematical and Physical Science in Belgium, from the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century ;in 1867, The Meteorology of Belgium, compared with that of the World ; " in 1869, “ Social Physics, or an Essay upon the Development of the Faculties of Van ;” in 1870, “Anthropometry, or Measure of the Faculties of Man." If death had not overtaken him he would have completed the series by a new edition of his Physics of the Globe," published in 1861, and by a treatise on astronomy.

We will not attempt to enumerate the learned societies of which Quetelet was a member; the list would be too long. He was elected an associate of the Royal Astronomical Society on January 11, 1828.

Notwithstanding the uumerous occupations which claimed every moment of his time, Quetelet always gave the kindest reception to those who wished to speak with him on subjects connected with his studies. He could discern and would encourage merit, and many learned men will remember the support they received from him, in the commencement of their career, with feelings of profound gratitude.

Eighteen months before his death he undertook the fatiguing journey to St. Petersburg, at the pressing invitation of the Grand Duke Constantine, under whose anspices the statistical congress had been called. Neither the fear of cholera nor the entreaties of his friends deterred him. He was much gratified by the reception given him, and appeared to have been benefited in health by the journey. On Monday, the 2d of February, he fulfilled exactly his duties as secretary of the academy, although suffering froin the disease of the lungs of which he died fifteen days later. And he also assisted at the session of the class of letters. He died on the 17th of February, 1874, and Belgium deplored her greatest scientific luminary. The "academy” was the last word on his lips as he sank iuto unconsciousness.

EULOGY ON ARTHUR AUGUSTE DE LA RIVE.

By M. DUMAS, Permanent Secretary. Pronounced before the Academy of Sciences of the French Institute on the 28th of

December, 1874.

GENTLEMEN: One year ago the Academy of Sciences received with profound sorrow the unexpected announcement of the death of one of its eight foreign associates, M. Auguste De La Rive. The rare talents of this eminent physicist, his warm heart, and high moral character, won for him in his native city universal affection. Geneva mourned for him with deep and sincere regret, for she lost in him an eminent philosopher and professor, who added to the renown of her justly-celebrated academy; a citizen whose loyalty had frequently been tested in times of trouble; and a useful member of society, whose generous hospitality delighted in gathering around his fireside representatives of the science, art, letters, and politics of all nations.

But Geneva was not alone in her grief. The services of M. Auguste De La Rive were such as the whole world recognizes, and of which posterity cherishes the memory. France, at least, cannot forget that if in time of prosperity she found in hiin always a faithful and provident friend, whose solicitude for her reputation seemed sometimes almost chimerical, she was none the less sure of his active sympathy in days of misfortune. When Switzerland opened her heart to our soldiers, who, betrayed by fortune and decimated by the sword, cold and hunger, had retreated to the snows of the Jura, Auguste De La Rive and his associates brought to them succorand consolation; not unmindful that ourtwo races, united by an old friendship, had often mingled their blood under the same flag.

It was not only to the illustrious physicist that bis native city rendered the homage in which we this day unite. To the happy gifts bestowed by nature was added the prestige of an ancient and honorable name. The family of De La Rive may be traced back to Ripa de Mondovi, and is, in fact, one of those in which is personified the history of Geneva. From the twelfth century, for more than four hundred years, it is found in the first rank of the government archives of the city ; from the fourteenth century, it includes a judge of Piedmont; a lieutenant of police, op. posed to the Reformation, and exiled from Geneva for having advocated in secret the Catholic religion; a plenipotentiary, charged with demanding of Henry IV, in favor of the Genevese, certain privileges which were only granted by royal patents; an envoy of the canton, sent to Louis XIV, when asylum was given by the small republic to the refugees who

had been driven out of France by the revocation of the edict of Nantes; and, in the last century, three generals, one in the service of the Turks, another in Holland, and a third in Sardinia. Up to this time there is no appearance of a scientific tendency among the members of this family, so rich in every other line of personal distinction, probably because the public mind was not turned in that direction ; but toward the end of the last century, we see them attaining in science the same high position they held in public affairs. The mother of the illustrious historian of the Alps, De Saussure, belonged to the family of La Rive, and also the wife of the learned pbilosopher, Charles Bonnet; both of whom, tradition says, exercised great influence, the one over her son, the other over her husband. In fact, the history of the family from the beginning of the present century would give not only that of the country, but also the most interesting chapters in contemporary science.

Charles Gaspard De La Rive, father of our lamented associate, was the first savant of the name. His works form, with those of his son, an indivisible whole. Destined for the magistracy, be pursued bis law. studies until, in 1794, Geneva suffered a deplorable repetition of the French revolution. He took an active part in resisting the insurgents, and was imprisoned and condemned to death by the revolutionary tribunal. Thanks to the exertions of his friends, he escaped, took refuge in England, and went to Edinburgh to study medicine. His mother was very much opposed to his adopting this profession, as she considered it beneath the dignity of the family. She refused to pardon him for pur. suing a course contrary to her wishes, and, as she forbade his return to bis native land, he reinained in exile long after the decree of amnesty allowed his appearance in Geneva. That be should bave regarded such an unjust prohibition, caused by what seems to us a strange and unreasonable prejudice against an honorable profession, is very remarkable; but it must be remembered that in Geneva, at that time, aristocratic feelings largely prevailed, and public and private education, in spite of Rousseau, was based upon the inculcation of entire submission on the part of a child to the absolute authority of the parent.

On his return to his country, Gaspard De La Rive devoted himself with diligence to such studies as were necessary to fit bim for the chair of chemistry, and through the liberal character of bis mind, which was open to the widest generalizations of science, was led to the investigation of the electrical forces, to take part in the grand reform in natural pbilosophy then occupying the attention of France, and to lay the foundation for the future course of his illustrious son. If, in the history of science, the De La Rives may not be placed in exactly the same rank as Oersted, Ampère, Arago, and Faraday, whose labors they shared, certainly they cannot be widely separated from them. The united efforts of this brilliant pleiad of physicists, which includes M. Becquerel as a later and none the less distinguished representative, have added to civilization a knowledge of forces which are now indispensable to industry and commerce, and of which, alas, the fury of war has increased the importance. How the applications of these agents, the discoveries of peace-loving men, have been perverted! How the rapid telegram from the cabinet of the statesman inflames at will the passions of the people! How electricity, at the command of a distant engineer, explodes the torpedo which violently disturbs the sea, or fires the mine which rends the earth like a volcano, extending on every side devastation and death!

Gaspard De La Rire was a successful expounder of chemistry, and taught its principles with clearness and simplicity. His numerous and choice experiments rendered his instruction interesting and valuable not only to the students who desired merely a theoretical knowledge of the subject, but also to the industrial classes, who sought to make prac. tical application of the information obtained. He proposed to make chemistry a part of the curriculum of a liberal education, and he succeeded in attracting, by the eclat of his experiments, students of all classes, whom he afterward retained by directing their minds from these lower objects to the beauty and precision of the higher conceptions of natural philosophy. No one contributed more to popularizing the atomic theory of Dalton, which he considered a most happy hypothesis. Having studied in England, he retained a taste for large apparatus, in which his fortune allowed him to indulge; his voltaic batteries were without a rival on the continent. But while his laboratory was English, the constitution of his mind, on the contrary, led him to adopt the ideas of Lavoisier and the doctrines of the French Academy,

His countryman and friend, Dr. Marcet, a chemist of distinction, lir. ing in London, came to pass a winter in Switzerland. He could not endure this preference for the school of Paris, and endeavored to corvert the select audience Gaspard De La Rive collected about him to the ideas of the London school, especially to those of Davy, whose renown at that time was world-wide. The pupils of the chemical course had, therefore, the singular good fortune of having two professors, each of whom discoursed in turn upon the same subject, explaining the views to which he gavetbe preference. Thetwo teachers, stimulated by opposition, gradually advanced from the ordinary conventional and classic grounds of instruction to heights where definite thought commences to waver into nebulous speculation. These lectures, which amouuted to academic sessions, awakened the curiosity and excited the enthusiasm of the audi. ence, who, while divided in opinion, were always united in praise of the ardor and mental activity of the two friends.

Gaspard De La Rive was affable, benevolent, paternal, and goodhumored. His joy in the success of a well-conducted experiment, his satisfaction when he felt himself understood, was indicated in every lineament of his expressive countenance; and, after listening to the good man, his auditors were surprised to find that, although his discourse had been entirely of chemistry, they felt themselves better, as well as

« AnteriorContinuar »