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"If you are going to answer like your comrade, it is useless for me to question you."
"Sir, my comrade knows much more than he has shown; I hope to be more fortunate than he has been; but what you have just said to me might well intimidate me and deprive me of all my powers."
""Timidity is always the excuse of the ignorant; it is to save you from the shame of a defeat that I make you the proposal of not examining you."
"I know of no greater shame than that which you now inflict upon me. Will you be so good as to question me? it is your duty." "You behave yourself very confidently, sir! We shall see presently whether this be a legitimate pride."
"Proceed, sir; I am ready."
M. Monge then put to me a geometrical question, which I answered in such a way as to diminish his prejudices. From this he passed on to a question in algebra, to the resolution of a numerical equation. I had the work of Lagrange at my fingers' ends; I analysed all the known methods, pointing out their advantages and defects: Newton's method, the method of recurring series, the method of depression, the method of continued fractions, — all were passed in review; the answer had lasted an entire hour. Monge, brought over now to feelings of great kindness, said to me, "I could, from this moment, consider the examination at an end. I will, however, for my own pleasure, ask you two more questions. What are the relations of a curved line to the straight line which is a tangent to it?" I looked upon this question as a particular case of the theory of osculations which I had studied in Lagrange's "Fonctions Analytiques." "Finally," said the examiner to me, "how do you determine the tension of the various cords of which a funicular machine is composed?" I treated this problem according to the method expounded in the "Mécanique Analytique." It is clear that Lagrange had supplied all the resources of my exami
'I had been two hours and a quarter at the table. M. Monge, going from one extreme to the other, got up, came and embraced me, and solemnly declared that I should occupy the first place on his list. Shall I say it? during the examination of my comrade I had heard the Toulousian candidates uttering not very favourable sarcasms on the pupils from Perpignan; it was principally for the sake of reparation to my native town that M. Monge's behaviour and declaration transported me with joy.' (Autobiography, p. 4.)
Without dwelling longer on these scenes, which are characteristic of the spirit not even now extinct in the principal mathematical schools of France, we must pass on to the more immediate history of French Science and of Arago.
While yet in his earlier days at the school, Lagrange observed of him to Humboldt, That young man will go far;' and his progress fully realised the prediction. His advance seemed
incredibly rapid. He had not been more than a year in the school, when, having entered the artillery, and without renouncing his prospects in that service, he was appointed to the office of Secretary to the Observatory of Paris, a situation the most valuable to a rising young man of science; especially as it directly brought him into immediate intercourse and connexion with the most eminent philosophers.
He was soon officially engaged in active scientific labours; being associated with Biot, first in experiments on the refraction of gases, and subsequently in the extension of the measurement of the arc of the meridian in Spain, which had been interrupted by the death of Mechain. Biot and Arago proceeded to Spain in 1806, and having joined the Spanish commissary Rodriquez, immediately commenced their operations.
The mere ordinary work of carrying on the survey in the mountains of Catalonia involved no small amount of exertion, exposure, and privation. To vary the monotonous labours of the theodolite we are presented with several marvellous episodes of adventures with monks, jealous lovers, peasants, prelates, and brigands, which carry us back to the days of Gil Blas.
As a specimen take the following short extract:
'One day, as a recreation, I thought I could go, with a fellowcountryman, to the fair at Murviedro, the ancient Saguntum, which they told me was very curious. I met in the town the daughter of a Frenchman resident at Valencia, Madlle. B——. All the hotels were crowded; Madlle. B-invited us to take some refreshments at her grandmother's; we accepted; but on leaving the house she informed us that our visit had not been to the taste of her betrothed, and that we must be prepared for some sort of attack on his part: we went directly to an armourer's, bought some pistols, and commenced our return to Valencia.
'On our way I said to the calezero (driver), a man whom I had employed for a long time, and who was much devoted to me :
Isidro, I have some reason to believe that we shall be stopped: I warn you of it, so that you may not be surprised at the shots which will be fired from the caleza (vehicle)."
'Isidro, seated on the shaft, according to the custom of the country, answered:
"Your pistols are completely useless, gentlemen; leave me to act; one cry will be enough; my mule will disembarrass us of two, three, or even four men."
'Scarcely one minute had elapsed after the calezero had pronounced these words, when two men presented themselves before the mule and seized her by the nostrils. At the same instant a formidable cry, which will never be effaced from my remembrance, — the cry of Capitana ! was uttered by Isidro. The mule reared up
almost vertically, raising up one of the men, came down again, and set off at a rapid gallop. The jolt which the carriage made led us to understand too well what had just occurred. A long silence succeeded this event; it was only interrupted by these words of the calezero, "Do you not think, gentlemen, that my mule is worth more than any pistols?
'The next day the captain-general, Don Domingo Izquierdo, related to me that a man had been found crushed on the road to Murviedro. I gave him an account of the prowess of Isidro's mule, and no more was said.'
We must add one more anecdote of a yet more singular
'The scene with the gun, always present to my mind, seemed to make it clear to me that the Aragonese monk, if actuated by his passions, would have been capable of the most criminal actions. Thus, I had a very disagreeable impression when one Sunday, having come down to hear mass, I met this monk; who, without saying a word, conducted me by a series of dark corridors into a chapel where the daylight penetrated only by a very small window. There I found Father Trivulcio, who prepared himself to say mass for me alone. The young monk served at it. All at once, an instant before the consecration, Father Trivulcio turning towards me, said these exact words: "We have permission to say mass with white wine; we therefore make use of that which we gather from our own vines; this wine is very good. Ask the prior to let you taste it, when on leaving this you go to breakfast with him. For the rest, you can assure yourself this instant of the truth of what I say to you." And he presented me the goblet to drink from. I resisted strongly, not only because I considered it indecent to give this invitation in the middle of the mass, but because besides, I must own, I conceived the thought for a moment that the monks wished, by poisoning me, to revenge themselves on me for M. Biot having insulted them. I found that I was mistaken, that my suspicions had no foundation; for Father Trivulcio went on with the interrupted mass, drank, and drank largely, of the white wine contained in one of the goblets. Be that as it may, when I had got out of the hands of the two monks, and was able to breathe the pure air of the country, I experienced a lively satisfaction.'
From the time of his being left alone with Rodriquez in Majorca, to connect the Spanish triangulation with the Balearic Isles, a more serious train of misfortunes commenced, in which Arago ran many fearful risks and underwent many hardships. The first commencement of these disasters arose out of the prevailing fear of a French invasion among the inhabitants; whose ignorant alarm converted the blazing signals of the survey into modes of communication with the supposed enemy, and invested Arago with the character of a spy. A narrow escape with his life from the infuriated populace, in
May 1808, was but the prelude to a series of similar dangers and sufferings to which he was exposed on the coast of Spain and in Algiers, between that date and July 1809, when he finally reached France.
During this eventful part of his life, after extricating himself from some of the difficulties and perplexities (not always very clearly explained in the narrative) which detained him in Spain, he set sail for Marseilles; but was driven by contrary winds to a part of the coast of Africa, whence he determined on making his way by land to Algiers. We extract one curious scene which occurred during this journey, amid the multitude of extraordinary adventures which combine to make him the hero of the narrative:
'We made a bargain with a Mahomedan priest, who promised to conduct us to Algiers for the sum of twenty "piastres fortes" and a red mantle. The day was occupied in disguising ourselves well or ill, and we set out the next morning, accompanied by several Moorish sailors belonging to the crew of the ship, after having shown the Mahomedan priest that we had nothing with us worth a sou, so that if we were killed on the road he would inevitably lose all reward.
Another time we laid down in a lurking-place dignified by the fine name of caravanseray. In the morning, when the sun rose, cries of "Roumi! Roumi!" warned us that we had been discovered. The sailor, Mehemet, he who figured in the scene of the oath at Palamos, entered in a melancholy mood the enclosure where we were together, and made us understand that the cries of "Roumi!" vociferated under these circumstances, were equivalent to a sentence of death. "Wait," said he; "an idea has come into my head of a means of saving you." Mehemet entered some moments afterwards, told us that his means had succeeded, and invited me to join the Kabyls, who were going to say prayers.
I accordingly went out, and prostrated myself towards the East. I imitated minutely the gestures which I saw made around me, pronouncing the sacred words,-La elah il Allah! oua Mahommed raçoul Allah! It was the scene of Mamamouchi of the " Bourgeois Gentilhomme," which I had so often seen acted by Dugazon,-with this one difference, that this time it did not make me laugh. I was however ignorant of the consequences it might have brought on me on my arrival at Algiers. After having made the profession of faith before Mahomedans There is but one God, and Mahomet is his prophet, if I had been informed against to the muphti, I must inevi tably have become a Mussulman, and they would not have allowed me to go out of the Regency.
'I must not forget to relate by what means Mehemet had saved us from inevitable death. "You have guessed rightly," said he to the Kabyls; "there are two Christians in the caravanseray, but they are Maliomedans at heart, and are going to Algiers to be adopted by
the muphti into our holy religion. You will not doubt this when I tell you that I was myself a slave to some Christians, and that they redeemed me with their money." "In cha Allah!" they exclaimed with one voice. And it was then that the scene took place which I have just described.'
His first reception on his native shore was an inhospitable consignment to strict quarantine in the lazaretto of Marseilles. But the monotony and annoyances of this detention were mitigated by the kind attention of Humboldt, who on this occasion commenced a long-continued friendship by a letter of mixed condolence and congratulation, and also by a visit from Pons, the astronomer of Marseilles. Arago's return home was quickly followed by his election into the Academy of Sciences, which became for the next forty years the seat of the extraordinary power he exercised over science and scientific men in France. The following scene offers a striking picture of the interior of the Imperial court, and illustrates the nature of Napoleon's patronage of science: not, indeed, placing it or its professors in the most dignified point of view:
'The members of the Institute were always presented to the Emperor after he had confirmed their nominations. On the appointed day, in company with the presidents, with the secretaries of the four classes, and with the academicians who had special publications to offer to the Chief of the State, they assembled in one of the saloons of the Tuileries. When the Emperor returned from mass, he held a kind of review of these savans, these artists, these literary men, in green uniform. I must own that the spectacle which I witnessed on the day of my presentation did not edify me. I even experienced real displeasure in seeing the anxiety evinced by members of the Institute to be themselves noticed.
"You are very young," said Napoleon to me on coming near me; and without waiting for a flattering reply, which it would not have been difficult to find, he added,-"What is your name?" And my neighbour on the right, not leaving me time to answer the certainly simple enough question just addressed to me, hastened to say,
"His name is Arago."
“What science do you cultivate?"
'My neighbour on the left immediately replied,—
"He cultivates astronomy."
"What have you done?"
'My neighbour on the right, jealous of my left-hand neighbour for having encroached on his rights at the second question, now hastened to reply, and said,—
"He has just been measuring the arc of the meridian in Spain." 'The Emperor, imagining doubtless that he had before him either a dumb or an imbecile man, passed on to another member of the Insti