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tute. This one was not a novice, but a naturalist well known through his beautiful and important discoveries; it was M. Lamarck. The old man presented a book to Napoleon. "What is that?" said the latter; "it is your absurd meteorology, in which you rival Matthieu Laensberg. It is this annuaire' which dishonours your old age. Do something in Natural History, and I should receive your productions with pleasure. As to this volume, I only take it in consideration of your white hair. Here!" And he passed the book to an aide-de-camp. Poor M. Lamarck, who, at the end of each sharp and insulting sentence of the Emperor, tried in vain to say, 'It is 'a work on Natural History which I present to you,' was weak enough to fall into tears.
The Emperor immediately afterwards met with a more energetic antagonist in the person of M. Lanjuinais. The latter had advanced, book in hand. Napoleon said to him sneeringly:"The entire Senate, then, will have to give place to the Institute?" "Sire," replied Lanjuinais, "it is the body of the state to which most time is left for occupying itself with literature." The Emperor, displeased at this answer, at once quitted the civil uniforms, and busied himself among the great epaulettes which filled the room.'
On the death of Lalande, Arago had been nominated to the vacant place in the Bureau des Longitudes as assistant astronomer, and in the same year (1809) he succeeded Monge in the chair of Analytical Geometry in the Ecole Polytechnique. During the following years some of his most important optical researches were made. In 1816 Arago, in company with Gay Lussac, visited England, and formed personal acquaintance with the most eminent men of science. In that year also he and the same friend set on foot that valuable scientific periodical 'the Annales de Chimie et de Physique.' In 1818 and the following year he revisited England, in conjunction with Biot, for carrying on the geodesical operations to connect the French with the English arc of the meridian.
The year 1830 formed a remarkable epoch in his life, being marked at once by his election to be Perpetual Secretary to the Academy, his elevation from the secondary position he had long occupied at the Observatory, to be its head and director,—and, on the breaking out of the Revolution, by his election as a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Lower Seine. He again visited England in 1834, and attended the meeting of the British Association at Edinburgh, where his appearance and striking eloquence will be remembered by a large number of the friends of science in this country.
It was an unfortunate circumstance in Arago's life that he should latterly have been mixed up with politics, especially as he professed extreme Republican opinions. During the earlier part
of his career as a deputy he seldom spoke in the Chamber unless to urge some measure for the advancement of science or popular instruction, or some object of national utility: among which his advocacy of the construction of Artesian wells, of railways and electric telegraphs, was peculiarly prominent and successful. But there were occasions when the vehemence of his political feelings was more strongly roused: thus more especially in the fatal outbreak of 1848, he seems to have been so far misled by his excited feelings in favour of Republicanism as to have warmly promoted what he believed to be a restoration of popular liberty; and he became a member of the Provisional Government, accepting the office of Minister of War and of the Marine, in which he exerted himself to the utmost to promote the interests of the public service. It seems incredible that a man accustomed to scientific reasoning could have been led into the adoption of such absurd political errors, especially the National Workshops and their accompanying follies, without foreseeing the inevitable result. When, however, the catastrophe of June did at length take place, Arago's courage and firmness were conspicuously displayed in attempts to pacify the exasperated mob; and not until after his ineffectual efforts to appease them had exposed him to the most imminent personal danger, was he persuaded to retire; from that time he never mixed again in affairs of state.
On the change of government in 1851, an oath of obedience. to the new constitution was required of all public functionaries. As head of the Bureau des Longitudes he was of course subject to this requisition. But in common with almost all the most eminent men in France, Arago refused to take this oath; but in the letter to the minister, in which he peremptorily tendered his resignation, the striking picture he drew of the condition of the Observatory, the result of his energetic superintendence, and a brief reference to his past services to science, contrasted with his then enfeebled state, was obviously intended as an appeal to the Government against the hardship of enforcing that deprivation which his determined refusal would entail. Copies of this letter, to make the appeal more forcible, were simultaneously inserted in all the journals. The minister referred to the Prince President, and out of consideration to Arago's services and age, a special exemption from the oath, in his case, was decreed; and in consequence he remained undisturbed in the home he had so long occupied to the end of his life. This, however, was, unhappily, no very long period.
In the summer of 1853, his health had become much enfeebled; indeed, as he pointedly observed, it was scarcely to be
expected that the hardships, privations, and labours of his earlier years should not have left deep traces which would manifest themselves in more marked and dangerous consequences with advancing age. He was advised to try the effects of his native air, and, accompanied by his affectionate niece, Madame Laugier, he proceeded to the Eastern Pyrenees; but not deriving the benefit he expected, returned to Paris with little hope of recovery. He sank gradually, and died on the 2nd of October 1853, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.
One of his biographers has observed* :—
'Arago was endowed with an ardent temperament, which occasionally had the effect of involving him in controversies, tending to detract from the influence so justly due to his high intellectual qualities. These, however, are faults which are more or less inseparable from human nature in its present existence: assuredly when they have been long forgotten, the name of François Arago will still continue to occupy its distinguished place in the annals of science.'
To this characteristic remark we will add that of a distinguished philosopher who enjoyed the advantage of his intimate friendship during a long period of years; and who in the introduction prefixed to his collected works, after giving an enumeration of Arago's writings, thus concludes his memorial of his friend:
The works of M. Arago have raised him to the rank of the most eminent men of the 19th century. His name will be honoured wherever respect is preserved for services rendered to science, for the feeling of the dignity of man, for independence of thought, and for the love of public liberty. But it was not alone the authority of powerful intellect which gave M. Arago the popularity which he enjoyed what contributed yet more to render his name honoured, was the conscientious zeal which did not fail him at the approach of death, shown in unceasing efforts to fulfil to the last moment the most minute duties. To render one last homage to him who has just sunk into the tomb, I will subjoin some lines which have already been
Of the particulars of Arago's life, besides his own autobiographic sketch of his earlier years, accounts more or less detailed have been given in the éloge of him, delivered officially by M. Flourens, who succeeded him as Secretary of the Academy, in a notice by M. De La Rive, in the Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève (tom. xxiv. p. 264.), and in a memoir by his friend M. Barral (Paris, 1853), as well as in the brief sketch prefixed to his works by Humboldt. To which we may add that an article in the North British Review (Feb. 1854), contains some particulars of his history, communicated from personal knowledge by a distinguished British philosopher who
had been his intimate friend.
published elsewhere: "That which characterised," said I, "this unique man, was not alone the powerful genius which both produces and fertilises, or that rare penetration which knows how to develope new and complicated views as though they had been long ago attained by human intelligence; it was also the attractive combination of the power and elevation of a character of strong emotion, with affecting sweetness of feeling. I am proud to think that by my tender devotion, and by the constant admiration which I have expressed in all my works, I have been united to him forty-four years, and that sometimes my name will be mentioned in connexion with his great name." 'ALEXANDER HUMBOLDT.'
Notwithstanding the high tone of these commendations, we regret to feel the necessity for adding, that Arago's moral qualities were not altogether marked by the same elevation as his intellectual faculties; and indeed, in some instances, we fear, even those discussions properly belonging to science were not uninfluenced by unworthy and ungenerous passions. His views of the scientific claims of other philosophers, of the priority of discoveries, and similar questions, were too often dictated by prejudice or partiality, party spirit or national jealousy; while his personal demeanour towards his contemporaries, and especially his subordinates, was frequently offensive from an arrogant, overbearing spirit, displayed both in the affairs of the Academy of Sciences, and the management of the Observatory, as well as in other cases to which his influence extended, so as to obtain for him the sobriquet of the 'Napoleon of Science.'
Having thus far briefly sketched the main events of Arago's personal history, we shall proceed to give an account of his literary and scientific labours, his written works, and experimental discoveries. Eminent as were his services to science as an astronomer and as a general physicist, yet in neither of those departments were his abilities so conspicuously exercised, or his achievements of such capital importance, as in the field of optical research. He has indeed been taxed with holding the important position of astronomer to the State, and yet doing nothing for astronomy; and of neglecting the proper province of the philosopher for that of the mere popular lecturer: but these charges sink to the ground on the bare enumeration of his diversified original writings.
It was in connexion with his official duty as a member of the Board of Longitude, that Arago, in 1822, commenced editing the celebrated Annuaire' of that Board; to which, in addition to the regular contents of an Astronomical Almanac, he almost every year contributed those remarkable articles in which some
scientific topic, chiefly astronomical or meteorological, of special interest at the time, was expounded in a popular manner, with all that union of mathematical clearness and precision, which he so preeminently possessed the talent of infusing into the details of scientific discussion.*
In the capacity of Perpetual Secretary to the Academy of Sciences, the duty devolved upon him of writing and delivering the éloges of defunct academicians, a task peculiarly congenial to his taste, and for which his qualifications were remarkably adapted. Uniting a comprehensive knowledge of various branches of science and literature, which enabled him to appreciate the attainments and discoveries of eminent men in all departments, with a singularly happy style of lucid eloquence in expounding and illustrating them, he was equally instructive and attractive, in the brief and animated sketches he gave of the labours and successes, the toils and triumphs, of so many of his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, in the pursuits of abstract science, experimental research, and practical invention. These loges are, in fact, more or less extended biographical memoirs of the individuals honoured with places in the Academy, whether natives or foreigners; combined with outlines of their chief investigations, usually prefaced and elucidated, by such a glance at the existing condition and previous progress of the particular branch of science, as would be necessary to render the account of their labours intelligible.
On his appointment as Director of the Observatory, he lost no time in endeavouring to introduce the improvements which had long been needed to restore its efficiency. Among other objects, by his influence with the government, he procured the grant of 90,000 francs for a large equatorial telescope, which at this moment is, we believe, only just completed; although Arago had in the first instance prepared the building with its revolving dome, and portions of the mounting requisite for an instrument with an object-glass of fourteen inches diameter, at that time the largest attempted, being upwards of twenty feet focal length.
Of his labours connected with subjects properly of an astronomical nature, we can do no more than barely enumerate a few. Some improvements in the micrometer, and measures of
One excellent specimen of these compositions was long ago brought before English readers, in the translation, by Colonel Gold, of Arago's Essay on Comets,' occasioned by the threatened near approach of the comet of 1832, which seems to have caused much alarm in France.