« PreviousContinue »
Marcet personally ; how often have I cast my thoughts backward, delighting to connect the past and the present; how often, when sending a paper to her as a thank-offering, I thought of my first instructress, and such thoughts will remain with me.”
Henry wrote on the inside of the cover of Gregory's work the following words: “ This book, although by no means a profound work, has, under Providence, exerted a remarkable influence on my life. It accidentally fell into my hands when I was about sisteen years old, and was the first book I ever read with attention. It opened to me a new world of thought and enjoyment; invested things before almost unnoticed with the highest interest; fixed my mind on the study of nature, and caused me to resolve at the time of reading it that I would immediately commence to devote my life to the acquisition of knowledge.
J. II.” Each of these philosophers worked with simple instruments mostly constructed by his own hands, and by methods so direct that lie appeared to have an almost intuitive perception into the workings of nature, and each gave great care to the composition of his writings, sending his discoveries into the world clothed in simple and elegant English.
Finaliy, each loved science more than money, and his Creator more than either.
There was sympathy between these men ; and Henry loved to dwell on the hours that lie and Bache spent in Faraday's society. I shall never forget llenry's account of his visit to King's College, London, where Faraday, Wheatstone, Daniell and he had met to try and evolve the electric spark from the thermopile. Each in turn attempted it and failed. Then came Henry's turn. · Ile succeeded ; calling in the aid of his discovery of the effect of a long interpolar wire wrapped around a piece of soft iron. Faraday became as wild as a boy, and, jumping up, shouted, “ Hurrah for the Yankce experiment!"
And Faraday and Wheatstone reciprocated the bigh estimation in which Henry held them. During a visit to England, not long before Wheatstone's death, he told me that Faraday and he had, after Henry's classical investigation of the induced currents of clifferent orders, written a joint letter to the council of the Royal Society, urging that the Copley medal, that laurel wreath of science, should be bestowed on Henry. On further consultation with members of the council it was slecided to (lefer the honor till it would come with greater éclat, when Henry had continued further his researches in electricity. Henry's removal to Washington interrupted these investigations. Wheatstone promised to give me this letter, to convey to Henry as an evidence of the high appreciation which Faraday and he had for Henry's genius; but Wheatstone's untimely death prevented this.
Both Faraday and Henry gave much thought to the philosophy of education, and in the main their ideas agreed. I may, in this connection be excused from reading abstracts from a letter from IIenry soon after he had received the news I hail given my son his name. IIe says—what may be news to most of you:“I did not object to Henry as a first name; although I have been sorry that my grandfather, in coming from Scotland to this country, substituted it for Hendrie, a much less common, and therefore more distinctive name.” He then proceeds: “I hope that both his body and his mind will be so developed by proper training and instruction, that he may become an efficient, wise, and good man. I say efficient and wise, because these two characteristics are not always united in the same person. Indeed, most of the inefficiency of the world is due to their separation; wisdom may know what ought to be done, but it requires the aid of efficiency to accomplish the desired object. I hope that in the education of your son due attention may not only be given to the proper development of both these faculties, but also that they will be cultivated in the order of nature: that is, doing before thinking; art before science. By inverting this order much injury is frequently done to a child, especially in the case of the only son of a widowed mother, in which a precocious boy becomes an insignificant man. On examination, in such a case, it will be generally found that the boy has never been drilled into expertness in the art of language, of arithmetic, or of spelling, of attention, perseverance, and order, or, in other words, of the habits of an active and efficient life.”
Henry was a man of extensive reading, and often surprised his friends by the extent and accuracy of his information, and by the original manner in which he brought his knowledge before them. Not only was he well versed in those subjects in which one might naturally suppose him proficient, but in departments of knowledge entirely distinct from that in which he gained his reputation as an original thinker. Although without a musical ear, he had a nice feeling for the movement of a poem, and was fond of drawing from
his retentive memory poetic quotations apt to the occasion. He was a diligent student of mental philosophy, and also took a lively interest in the progress of biological science, especially in following the recent generalizations of Darwin ; while the astonishing development of modern research in tracking the history of prehistoric man had for him a peculiar fascination. Yet with all his learning, reputation, and influence, Henry was as modest as he was pure.
One day, on opening Henry's copy of “Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy” — a book which he had studied more than any other work of science-I read on the fly-leaf, written by his own hand, these words :
" In Nature's infinite book of secrecy
And did he not read a little “ in Nature's infinite book of secrecy"? And did he not read that little carefully and well? May we all read our little in that book as modestly and as reverently as did Joseph HENRY.