Martineau, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1854

[254] The last few months have been unusually prolific in works dealing with the generalities both of science as a whole and of its principal departments. Among these, if we may judge by the claims of the author and the zeal of his disciples, M. Comte’s "Philosophie Positive," converted, without the loss of a sentence that was worth keeping, from six wearisome volumes of indifferent French, into two of very excellent readable English, by Miss Martineau’ singular skill, deserves to occupy the first place in an article which purports to indicate the progress of the sciences. We shall attempt no analysis of the book here. Indeed, as we consider that that half of it which does not come within the scope of this article–viz., the "Social Physics"–has made such progress since the "Philosophie Postive" was published, that a knowledge of the actual condition cannot be gained from M. Comte’s work as it has now been several years before the world. …

Simultaneously with the publication of Miss Martineau’s version of the "Philosophie Positive," Mr. G. H. Lewes has issued a volume, [255] entitled "Comte’s Philosophy of the Sciences," and consisting of a collection of papers which appeared in the Leader, to which he has added a resumé, not hitherto published, of the sociological sections of M. Comte’s work.

Differing in scope and in extent from Miss Martineau’s condensed version, Mr. Lewes’s work will, we doubt not, as an exposition of the Philosophie Positive, prove more attractive to ordinary readers; indeed, if thorough comprehension of his author’s meaning, combined with force and perspicuity in setting it forth, were all we had a right to require of Mr. Lewes’s hands, our remarks would be simply laudatory. Unfortunately, Mr. Lewes himself debars us from taking a position in which we should be so well satisfied to remain, by telling us in his preface that,

"In order to make the volume more attractive, I have, while expounding his (Comte’s) principles, brought them to bear upon the present state of science; accordingly, instead of the organic chemistry and physiology of 1838, the reader will find the very latest facts and ideas of 1853."

We regret to be obliged to say, that neither as regards chemistry nor physiology are those pledges redeemed. For instance, at page 55, in reference to the well-known experiment of freezing water in a red-hot crucible, we find it stated–

"Yet if you pour water into a red-hot crucible containing liquid sulphuric acid, the temperature of the water is not raised."

And a little below–

"The rapid evaporation of the sulphuric acid produces cold so intense," &c.

And again, p. 56–

The method of nature, the true path of her activity, as regards sulphuric acid subjected to head, is what we call rapid evaporation;" while at page 139 the same marvellous error is repeated. Surely any philosophizing upon chemistry should be preceded by so much knowledge of that science as would prevent the philosopher from confusing suphuric acid (vulgo oil of vitriol), one of the most fixed of liquids, with liquefied sulphurous acid gas, one of the most volatile.

Murchison, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1854

[572] Twenty years ago it was universally admitted that the masses of red sandstone which lie beneath the limestones of the coal formation, constituted the ultima Thule of geological science,

and from thence to the so-called primary formations, the masses of slates and subcrystalline rocks which enter so largely into the composition of the western and south-western parts of our island, were grouped together, by negative characters, under the name of "grauwacke." At that time, however, the very difficulties of the subject appear to have attracted two, then young men, of such energy and tenacity of purpose as true philosophers are made of, to attempt its thorough investigation. The result was as might be expected. Under the hands of the one, the massive strata of North Wales, contorted, distorted, and disguised by metamorphic action as they are, fell into shape and orderly arrangement as the Cambrian system. The other tells us [Sir R. I. Murchison,

"Siluria. The History of the oldest known Rocks containing Organic Remains"],–…

[573] "I began to classify these rocks. After four years of consecutive labour, I assigned to them (1835) the name Siluriand, deriving it from the portion of England and Wales, in which the successive formations are clearly displayed, and wherein an ancient British people, the Silures, under their King, Carado, (Caractacus) had opposed a long and vigrous resistance to the Romans. Having first, in the year 1833, separated these deposits into four formations, and shewn that each is characterized by peculiar organic remains, I next divided them (1834, 1835) into a lower and upper group, both of which, I hoped, would be found applicable to wide regions of the earth.


In this way was the existence of life–in new and strange forms indeed, but still subject, as we have every reason to believe, to general conditions of the same character as those which now obtain–carried back for ages and ages beyond the period at which it had previously been supposed to commence. The known age of our planet was well-nigh doubled, a geological new world was laid open to hosts of busy investigators, and its discoveries took the high position which they have since so well and worthily maintained in the front ranks of European science.

[574] It must not be supposed that in his "Siluria" Sir Roderick Murchison has merely reproduced his original "Silurian System" is it appeared in 1839. Since that time the unceasing progress of geology,–and there is no one who has more eminently contributed to that progress than Sir Roderick himself–has demonstrated the existence of vast Silurian formations in Central Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America; and, at the same time, the study of the laws of the distribution of life in the past ages has shown that in the natural history of our planet, the Silurian epoch forms but a part of a great whole, constituting, together with the Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian, the great Palæozoic epoch–an epoch in which the forms of living things, though so numerous and as varied as they are now, were totally distinct modifications of the great common plan upon which all are modelled.

[575] Mosaic geology, however, being fairly dead and buried, it seems to us that the want which it satisfied still lives–rampant in bold defiance of facts, in such pseudo-scientific productions as the "Vestiges," and manifesting itself in a scientific form in the works of, perhaps, we may say, the greater number of the eminent geologists of the day. Finding such a tendency in the works of such men as Murchison, Agassiz, and Sedgwick–finding that such minds cannot rest satisfied unless they can repose on "a beginning," far be it from us to say that it is other than just, wholesome, and scientific; but we must plead guilty to having, in nautical phrase, a strong "list" in the other direction; and hence, we must be permitted to examine somewhat closely, if very hastily, the evidence of a beginning adduced by one of the chiefs of the opposite school, in the present work.

The evidence that the condition of the organic creation was essentially different in Palæozoic times, may be summed up in two propositions:–1. That the higher vertebrata did not exist during the Silurian period; 2. That the geographical distribution of living creatures in [576] past times was much wider than at present, indicating uniform climatal condition over a much wider area than at the present day. The former argument may be fairly put in this form,–Geologists have not yet discovered any vertebrate remains but those of fish in the Silurian rocks; therefore no vertebrate existed during the Silurian period.

This is, of course, entirely a negative argument. … [577] We have indicated only a very few of the numerous lines of argument which may be brought to bear against the doctrines of the

progression of organic forms in past ages–or rather against the doctrine that geologists possess any evidence of such a progression.

Hooker, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1854

[580] In our last review of the progress of scientific literature, we adverted to the philosophical tome and breadth of view which characterized several of the biological works then before us, and it is with pleasure that we shall again direct the attention of our readers to a highly meritorious contribution to the philosophy of natural science of the same class, the "General Natural History of the Organic World," by M. Isadore Geoffroy St. Hilaire, the worthy son of the distinguished rival and scientific opponent of Cuvier.


[587] We have selected a few illustrations almost at random from Dr. Hooker’s elaborate work ["Himalayan Journals"], to elucidate the point under discussion at the moment, but had almost any other question in science arisen, it would hardly have been difficult to call some illustrative facts from his pages which teem with the results of accurate and multifarious observations, guided by wide knowledge and thoroughly scientific habits of thought, and carried out under difficulties which only the strongest mental and physical organization could have overcome. The "Journals" are worthily dedicated to Mr. Darwin, beside whose work they will take their place among the most important and well worked-out results of scientific travels. We should not omit to add, that the work is illustrated and got up in such a manner as to reflect the greatest credit upon the liberality of the publisher. Our limits will not permit us to make more than a passing allusion to another work by the same author, "The Flora of New Zealand," the introductory essay to which has just been reprinted, and contains the best account with which we are acquainted of the views at present taken by the most competent authorities upon the difficult subject of species of plants and their geographical distribution

Brewster, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1854

[243] [I]f the natural question arises in the minds of our readers, Why did the essayist write a book to prove, on physical grounds, a thesis, for which a month afterwards he admits there were no presumptions of any great force?–they must not come to us for the answer. So much in justification of our own criticisms, which were expressly intended to be purely negative, and which, therefore, by no means throw us into the ranks of the host of adversaries, headed by Sir David Brewster [More Worlds than One"] who would have us believe that "Heaven" is identical with "the Heavens," and that the absence of habitable places in the latter, implies the being shut out from the many mansions of the former. … [246] Does Sir David Brewster seriously believe that there will ever be anything but an "immense void" between our sun and the nearest fixed star? … [W]e marvel to find a physical philosopher argue for the existence of an atmosphere in the moon, on the ground that it presents signs of active volcanic action. Volcanoes are said to "burn"–and it is added–"The existence of recent volcanoes may therefore be considered as a proof that the moon has an atmosphere."–p.106.

But we are glad to leave these speculations with the concluding reflection, that the fact of so eminent a man writing so ill upon it, strengthens our conviction that the subject is essentially unfitted for discussion. Surely there are sufficiently whole fields of investigation, whose cultivation will yield results which can be tested; surely, our scientific Alexanders are not yet justified in crying for other worlds to conquer.

[Anon] Schamyl, the Prophet-Warrior of the Caucasus

Westminster Review 61 n.s. 5 (1854): 480-519

Newton, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1855

[557] Isaac Newton was born in the Manor-house of Woolsthorpe, a hamlet in Lincolnshire, at two o’clock in the morning of the 25th of December (old style), 1642, being the same year in which Galileo died. The development, pursuits, and accomplishment of the life thus ushered into the world some time before nature intended it, forms the subject of two interesting volumes from the pen of Sir David Brewster. Newton learned reading, writing, and arithmetic at two village-schools near his mother’s house; at twelve years old he was sent to the Grammar-school at Grantham, where for some time he was distinguished for his idleness, and for the low position which he occupied in the school. An accident which appealed to his physical courage, seemed destined to arouse his mental energy also; a boy kicked him in the stomach, and, urged by the schoolmaster’s son, Newton challenged the aggressor, thrashed him, and completed his triumph by rubbing his nose against a wall. The boy, however, still stood above him in class, and this he was determined not to permit: he attacked his studies with energy, and after a doubtful conflict, obtained not only the ascendency over a single antagonist, but also over the entire school.

Being recalled at fifteen from Grantham, he became a farmer, and accompanied a serving-man of his mother’s to Grantham on Saturdays to dispose of his grain and butter, and purchase household necessaries. He habitually deserted his post at Grantham, and shut himself up with his books in the old garret which he had occupied when a pupil at the Grammar-school. His next defalcation consisted in not going to Gratham at all, but establishing himself under a hedge, and reading through the day until his companion’s return from market. His first scientific experiment was made on the force of a storm on the day of Cromwell’s death. He jumped first in the direction of the wind, and then against it, and took the difference of distance as a measure of the force of the gale. Newton finally left Woolsthorpe in June, 1661, was admitted subsizar at Trinity College, Cambridge, on the fifth of that month, and matriculated sizer on the eighth of July. The study of the writings of Descartes introduced Newton to the higher mathematics, and he soon became an independent discoverer in this domain. In the winter of 1664-5, he found the method of infinite series, and in 1665 he calculated by this method the area of the hyperbola to fifty places of decimals. In the month of January, 1665, he had the degree of Bachelor of Arts conferred upon him, and in the selfsame year he committed to writing his first discovery of fluxions.

"It was doubtless in the same remarkable year," writes Sir David Brewster, "that Newton’s mind was first directed to the subject of ‘gravity.’ . . . Kepler had discovered the great law of planetary [558] motions . . and hence Newton drew the important conclusion that the force of gravity or attraction by which the planets are retained in their orbits, varied as the square of their distances from the sun." It will be observed that Sir David Brewster omits the word inverse. The fame of Newton does not appear to us to rest upon the discovery of the law that gravity varies as the inverse square of the distance, but in the qualities of mind of which he gave evidence during the discussion of this entire question, and of its grand adjuncts and applications. That the force diminishes in the ratio mentioned is a natural supposition, and had occurred to others before Newton, but his manner of approaching the subject through the gigantic obstacles which lay in his way, made manifest the powers of a mind unparalleled in the history of the human intellect before him, and without an equal since. ….


[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1855

[241] The most important contributions to Science proper during the last few months have unquestionably been made in the direction of Biology. In our own country more particularly, a physiological work has appeared–Dr. Carpenter’s "Comparative Physiology," which will assuredly only increase its author’s already deservedly high reputation, and will for a long time occupy a leading place among the most advanced works on the subject of which it treats.

The incessant succession of editions of Dr. Carpenter’s works shows pretty clearly in what estimation his labours are held by the general public, not only in this country but in America (where we believe they are almost universally used as text-books) and there is no need to recommend this volume to that section of the reading world; but we are strongly inclined to think that while receiving a full, and perhaps overflowing, meed of reputation from this quarter, Dr. Carpenter is somewhat stinted of his fair share by his scientific brethren, who are apt to regard his works as digests, and himself, to use a favourite phrase, as simply a "compiler." Now, although no one estimates the faculty for original investigation, and that rare power of seeing into fact for oneself, which is the basis of all sciences, and of all real knowledge of any kind, more highly than ourselves, yet we would observe, in Dean Swift’s words, that there is a difference "between seeing and seeing:" and that observation, without compilation and digestion, is quite as valueless as compilation and digestion without observation. There is a kind of rational creature which looks at dead flies and shells, at bones and muscles; and having given names to all the different sorts it can pick out, and acquired the faculty of remembering and producing them on occasion, calls itself an original investigator and a man of science, and looks down upon everything else as "mere compilation;" and we cannot but think that the unfortunate abundance of this sort of minute philosophy, among the followers of natural history and physiological science in England, has something to do with the cry to which we refer.

[242] The true philosopher is not only an observer, but also a compiler. He is the Blackstone of the laws of nature. … But to pass to some particular illustration of our meaning.

It is now seven-and-twenty years since Von Bär published his great work "On the Development of Animals," and laid down therein those laws, which are to Biology what Kepler’s great generalizations were to Astronomy. During that time, by what English or French philosopher has the vast import of these laws been acknowledged and appreciated? Absolutely, by not one save Dr. Barry; and that he is the exception is a sounder claim to our gratitude than all his researches on "double spirals." In Dr. Carpenter’s work, however, the reader will find a most admirable exposition of Von Bär’s laws,–an exposition which shows that the writer not merely transplants the generalizations of others, but that he can in the highest sense make them his own. We strongly recommend the perusal of the first chapter of the "Comparative Physiology" to all who desire to apprehend upon what basis the Biological sciences rest–what are the methods and criteria of all sound Physiology and Biology.

[243] [We have] in common parlance, "a crow to pick" with him, and that bird of no small dimensions. More than once, in our quarterly survey of Science, have we had occasion to do battle with those who believe that we are, at present, in a position to discover a definite law and order in the appearance of living beings upon the surface of our globe. The hypothesis which we have hitherto combated, however, is not that which Dr. Carpenter puts forward. Like ourselves, he opposes the notion of our being able to discover evidence of a progressive development of living forms in time. …

Hunt, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1855

[552] The first edition of the work before us ["Elementary Physics: an Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy"] made a considerable impression upon the world of science: it formed the subject of private conversation and of public correspondence between scientific men. This attention was not, unhappily, excited by the excellences of the book, but its results were at least instructive. Profiting by past experience, Mr. Hunt now presents to the public "a new edition with corrections;" its publisher has been changed, and Mr. Bohn has thought the work worthy of incorporation with his "Scientific Library."

We have perused the book with some care, and, we regret to say, with much weariness. Were it not the production of a man who, for some reason unknown to us, enjoys a kind of association with the science of this country, and the letters to whose name [F.R.S.] attest the estimation in which he is held, we should certainly take no notice of the work. But proceeding, as it does, from such a well-known pen; adopted, as it is by such a well-known publisher; and introduced by the latter into his store of scientific nutriment for the public mind, we deem it a duty to inform the said public of the nature of the food thus presented to it.

We cannot say that the food is fresh and wholesome. We cannot even say that, though a little fly-blown here and there, the mass of it is still sound. The work is intellectually rotten throughout. There are some men of good minds, who yet seem to lack the symmetry of thought necessary to the arrangement of a scientific subject–who have the knowledge, without the power of clear communications; such men, though they may write obscurely, never write nonsense. But in the work before us, obscurity and absurdity exhibit themselves [553] in appropriate companionship. Mr. Hunt advertises his "intimate association with institutions which are devoted to the diffusion of useful knowledge"–his conviction "that it is quite possible to render every truth intelligible by the most simple language"–his intention "to give accurate information on every important fact connected with physics, and to explain the experimental evidence by which each law has been developed." And what is the result of this large promise? A book in which the plainest truths of science are crippled and defaced, and whose "experimental evidence" sometimes indicates a mind disqualified by nature, or by habit, from pursuing aright the simplest physical inquiry.

These are hard words. …

"It may appear difficult to conceive how light bodies, free to move, are not thrown off from the surface of the earth’s into space, under the influence of motion. It will be shown that the power of gravitation is so nicely balanced against the result of the earth’s revolution, that the lightest down floating in the air swims in the calm equilibrium of two forces, apparently undisturbed." This may be very pretty poetry, but it is very false science. The tendency of bodies to fly away from the earth’s surface is greatest at the equator, and diminishes as we proceed north and south in the ration of the square of the cosine of latitude. But even at the equator it is only 1/289 of the force of gravity; hence the nice balance alluded to by Mr. Hunt, exists only in his own imagination. Speaking of gravitation, in page 42, Mr. Hunt says:–"It matters not whether we throw a pound of iron or a pound of chalk into air , they are each drawn back to the earth with the same velocity." This is not true; old Archimedes would have taught Mr. Hunt another doctrine. …

[554] At page 52, Mr. Hunt informs his readers that the earth rotates from east to west! If so, the sun strangely mistakes his place of rising….

Kingsley, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1855

[[240] The dearth of scientific works we had occasion to remark in our last quarterly summary, seems likely, at the present rate of production, soon to become intensified into an absolute famine; so little has either the Continent or our own country furnished, that can be converted into wholesome food for the satisfaction of our readers’ appetites.

[241] If they expect to fine a bonne bouche at the commencement of their repast, in the essay of M. Flourens on "Human Longevity and the Quantity of Life upon the Globe," we can only assure them that they will be grieviously disappointed; for a more unsatisfactory production never came before us, from the pen of a man of real science….

[246] It is quite refreshing to turn from such a production [William Clark, History of the British Marine Testaceous Mollusca] to the genial pages of Mr. Kingsley’s "Glaucus;" in which, without the least pretention to scientific lore, we find that thorough love and appreciation of the "wonders of the shore," and that conscientious devotion to the truth of Nature, which make us hope that this little effusion is only the herald of more solid contributions to Marine Zoology from the same keen-sighted eye and delightful pen. The basis of this little book was an article which appeared in the "North British Review" for November, 1854, and which we read on its first appearance with the feeling that this author, whoever he might be, must have written it whilst glowing with the excitement of a new world of marvels just opened to him, and yet must have had a mind prepared by previous culture for a philosophic appreciation of them, such as few men can attain to, yet without the slightest suspicion that the author of "Alton Locke" and "Hypatia" was before us under such an unwonted guise. And now that we have it again before us in a detached form and enlarged dimensions, we have perused it again with a pleasure heightened by the knowledge of its authorship, not unmixed with wonder that we should have been before so blind as not to detect a style, which, though usually employed upon far different topics, presents its individuality in every page. …

[247] "Why not, then, try to discover a few of the Wonders of the Shore? For wonders there are around you at every step, stranger than ever opium-eater dreamed, and yet to be seen at no greater expense than very little time and trouble."–pp.1-3.

See, too, the noble description of the character of the true Naturalist:–

"Let no one think that this same natural history is a pursuit fitted only for effeminate or pedantic men. We should say rather, that the qualifications required for a perfect naturalist are as many and as lofty as were required, by old chivalrous writers, for the perfect knight-errant of the middle ages; for (to sketch an ideal, of which we are happy to say our race now affords many a fair realization) our perfect naturalist should be strong in body; able to haul a dredge, climb a rock, turn a boulder, walk all day uncertain where he shall eat or rest; ready to face sun and rain, wind and frost, and to eat or drink thankfully anything, however course or meagre; he should know how to swim for his life, to pull an oar, sail a boat, and ride the first horse which comes to hand; and finally, he should be a thoroughly good shot, and a skilful fisherman; and if he go far abroad, be able on occasion to fight for his life."


[248] We have nowhere seen a higher or truer appreciation of the value of Natural History, as means of mental education, than is contained in the following passage:–

"A frightful majority of our middle-class young men are growing up effeminate, empty of all knowledge but what tends directly to the making of a fortune; or rather, to speak correctly, to the keeping up the fortune which their fathers have made for them; while of the minority, who are indeed thinkers and readers, how many women as well as men have we seen wearying their souls with study undirected, often misdirected; craving to learn, yet not knowing how or what to learn; cultivating with unwholesome energy, the head at the expense of the body and the heart; catching up with the most capricious self-will one mania after another, and tossing it away again for some new phantom; gorging their memory with facts which no one has taught them to arrange, and the reason with problems which they have no method for solving…"

Faraday, et al.

[T. H. Huxley]
Westminster Review 1856

[254] Faraday’s experimental researches are unquestionably among the most important that the century has produced; and of these researches those described in the volume just published ["Faraday’s Experimental Researches in Electricity"] are amongst the most interesting, inasmuch as they have revealed the existence of an entirely new branch of physics, and given a direction to the ablest scientific thought of our day..

It is difficult to determine in what respect this third volume will be most valuable to us, for, in addition to the important results of his investigation, Faraday’s method of investigating is exceedingly instructive. As an experimentalist, he is, perhaps, unequalled. His descriptions of experiments, too, are always lucid and admirable, and the conscientious accuracy with which they are interpreted, are as charming to the general reader as they are instructive to the student….

[255] The results of all the experiments, which were published in 1845, are of great importance in three ways. First, they establish a relationship between magnetism and light. Secondly, they may enable us to discover the nature of that peculiar power which [256] some bodies naturally possess, of causing the plane of polarization to rotate. Thirdly, they establish the general fact that bodies, formerly thought to be unaffected by magnetism, are not so in reality.

Amongst solids, glass, phosphorus, sulphur, resin, sealing-wax, canontchouc, starch, wood, ivory, all kinds of flesh, leather, bread, and all the common metals, with the exception of iron, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, were found to be diamagnetic. If a man could be suspended between the magnetic poles, he would be found to point equatorially, for all the constituents of his body, his blood included, are diamagnetic.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University