INVENTION AND INDUSTRY.*
TAR. SMILES'S new book might well have been longer. It makes excellent reading; and though most of the stories he tells have been told before, he adds many new facts. The lives of great inventors and captains of industry, moreover, possess an interest all their own ; they serve to keep alive that spirit of enterprise to which modern civilisation owes its existence, and cannot be made too popular or too widely known among the masses of our fellow-countrymen. Great inventors, like great poets, are born, not made; they invent as the others write, because they cannot help it, and their work, like all the world's best work, is a labour of love. Consider the career of William Murdock, the perfector of the steam-engine, and the inventor of gas as an illuminant, —a man who in various ways has done more for physical progress than almost any inventor of his time. He came of a strong race, the race to which belonged 'Watt, Burns, and Carlyle. One of his kinsmenwas the poet's schoolmaster, and his early days were spent herding his father's -cattle, " behind you hills where Lurgan flows "—an occupation -eminently favourable for thought and for the development of 'poetic and inventive genius ; and invention is as needful to a
poet as imagination to an inventor. As a mechanic, young Murdock was entirely self-educated. Fired by the fame of Watt, he went in 1777, being then in his twenty-third year, to the foundry in Soho, asked for employment, and had a memorable
interview with Boulton, the account of which is well worth quoting : — "During the brief conversation that took place, the blate young Scotchman, like most country lads in the presence of strangers, had some difficulty in knowing what to do with his hands, and unconsciously kept twirling his bat with them. Boulton's attention was attracted to the twirling hat, which seemed to be of a peculiar make. It was not a felt hat, nor a cloth hat, nor a glazed hat ; but it seemed to be painted, and composed of some unusual material. ' That seems to be a curious sort of hat,' said Bonitos!, looking at it more closely; what is it made of P'—` Timmer, sir,' said Murdock modestly. Timmer ? Do you mean to say it is made of wood.?'—"Deed it is, sir.'—' And pray how was it made ?'—' I made it myse, sir, in a bit laithey of my own contrivin'.'—' Indeed !' Boulton looked at the young man again. He had risen a hundred degrees in his estimation. William was a good-looking fellow—tall, strong, and handsome—with an intelligent open countenance. Besides, he had been able to turn a bat for himself with a lathe of his own invention. This, of itself, was a proof that he was a mechanic a no mean skill. Well,' said Boulton at last, I will enquire at the works, and see if there is anything we can set you to. Call again, my man.'—' Thank yon, sir,' said Murdock, giving a final twirl to his hat."
He did call again, was put on a trial job, and, being found competent, was " shopped " for two years at 15s. a-week when at home, 17s. when in the country, and 18s. when in London. Boulton and Watt at that time were putting up pumping-engines
in Cornwall; but they were a long way from perfection, often broke down, and gave Watt, who had indifferent health, great trouble and worry.; so in 1779 he turned the job over to Murdock, then in his twenty-sixth year. The latter threw himself into the work with characteristic energy, and conquered difficulties which would have killed his physically feebler
master. One day half-a-dozen mining captains came into his engine-room at Chacewater, and began to bully him.
Murdock set them at defiance, stripped, selected the biggest of the lot, and told him to come on. In a few minutes the young Scot had laid his man low, whereupon the others ex pressed their admiration of his prowess and became thenceforth his fast friends. He remained many years in Cornwall, "flying from mine to mine," putting the engines to rights, "slaving night and day, and often so busy that he had not time to eat,' at a wage, until 1780, of a pound a week. In 1782 he invented the " Sun and Planet " motion for securing rotary motion without a crank, which, having been patented by somebody else, could not be adapted to Boulton and Watt's engines. It is rather amusing to find Watt, himself so great an inventor, chiding his assistant for trying to carry out his own idea, expressed in the patent of 1784, of employing steam-power for purposes of locomotion. While living at Redruth, Murdock did actually make a model locomotive, which worked well; and one night, when the inventor was trying it on a level piece of road, it nearly frightened a worthy parson,—who took the fiery, hissing little monster for the Evil One in propria persona,—to death. But Watt frowned on the enterprise, advised Murdock to attend to the business in hand, and let others "throw away their time and money in hunting shadows !" So the problem of steam locomotion had to remain unsolved for another genera tion. But Murdock's greatest achievement was the utilisation of coal-gas for lighting purposes. Touching the beginnings of this invention, Mr. Smiles tells the following interesting anecdote, communicated to him by Mr. M. S. Pearce :
" Some time since, when in the West of Cornwall, I was anxious to find out whether any one remembered Murdock. I discovered one of the most intelligent men in Camborne, Mr. William Symons, who not only distinctly remembered Murdock, but had actually been present on one of the first occasions when gas was used. Murdock, he says, was very fond of children, and not unfrequently took them into his workshop to show them what he was doing. Hence it happened that on one occasion this gentleman, then a boy of seven or eight, was standing outside Murdock's door with some other boys trying to catch sight of some special mystery inside,—for Dr. Booze, the chief doctor of the place, and Murdock, had been busy all the afternoon. Murdock came out, and asked my informant to ran down to a shop near by for a thimble. On returning with the thimble, the boy pretended to have lost it, and whilst searching in every pocket, he managed to slip inside the door of the workshop, and then produced the thimble. He found Dr. Bone and Murdock with a kettle filled with coal. The gas issuing from it had been burnt in a large metal case, such as was used for blasting purposes. Now, however, they had applied a much smaller tube, and at the end fastened the thimble, through the small perforations made in which they burned a continuous jet for some time."
'Thus a woman's thimble was the first gas-burner. In 1792 Murdock lit up his house at Redruth with gas; but it was not until 1802 that he made the first public exhibition of his invention, by lighting-up the whole of the works at Soho with the
• new -illuminant. Strangely enough, he had not been able to induce Bonito]) and Watt to take out a patent for it, and glory and the satisfaction of feeling that he had done a good thing were his sole rewards.
Among other biographies contained in Mr. Smiles's books are those of John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer, and John Lombe, introducer of the silk industry into England. Harrison, the son of a common carpenter, was a born mechanic and horologist, and by his invention of the marine chronometer, second in importance only to the compass itself, he conferred on the race a benefit beyond all estimation, and has been the means of saving from destruction priceless wealth and innumerable lives. Before his time there was no method whereby the longitude of a ship at sea could be accurately determined. So keenly was the want felt, and so many were the disasters arising from bad navigation, that Philip III., of Spain, offered 100,000 crowns for any discovery by means of which the longitude might be ascertained by a better method than by the log. When Holland became a great Naval Power, she offered a reward of 30,000 crowns for a similar discovery. In 1714, a petition was presented to the English Legislature by " several captains of her Majesty's ships, merchants in London, and commanders of merchantmen, in behalf of themselves and of all concerned in the navigation of Great Britain," setting forth the importance of accurate reckoning of longitude, and the danger to which ships were exposed from the want of some suitable method of determining the same. The petition was referred to a Committee, and in the same year Parliament passed an Act offering a reward of £10,000 for the discovery of a method for determining the longitude to one degree of a great circle, or 60 geographical miles; 215,000 if it determined the same to two-thirds of that distance; and £20,000 if it determined the same to one-half the distance in question, 30 geographical miles. The terms of this offer denote how great were the inconvenience and danger which it was desired to obviate. Imagine a ship out at sea or nearing land not being able to ascertain her position within 60 or 80 miles, in an age, too, when charts were imperfect, and lighthouses hardly .known ! Those who want to know how Harrison overcame the difficulty and won the reward, we refer to the pages of Dr. Smiles. But he obtained it only after long and arduous labour ; and he had to fight the Government nearly half a century before he could wring from them the full reward which they had offered, and which they could not deny that he had more than earned.
Strange how ill the world rewards, and how soon it forgets, its greatest benefactors ! We know who built the Egyptian pyramids, but we know not who invented the potter's wheel ; everybody can tell who discovered America, but the name of the obscure genius, who, by the invention of the mariner's compass, rendered the discovery possible, is lost for ever. How many, even among those that are most interested in the commercial supremacy of our country, know that John Lombe, of Norwich, introduced the silk industry into England, and that in order to accomplish his purpose, he had to carry his life in his hand and expose himself to risks as real and as deadly as those of a
battle-field or a forlorn-hope P Most people hai,e heard that Arkwright invented the spinning-mule, and Hargreaves the jenny; yet few remember, if they ever knew, that the later development of the cotton-trade is chiefly due to William Roberts, the inventor of the self-actor mule, and James Bullough, the inventor of the loose reed and weft-fork stopmotion. The inventions of these two men, and the subsequent improvements to which they have led, have at least tripled the productive capacity of the spinning-mule and the power-loom, thereby not alone cheapening an article of prime necessity for the million, but providing employment for hundreds of thousands of our ever-increasing population; yet even Mr. Smiles makes no mention of these heroes of invention and industry.
We would particularly recommend to the attention of our readers Mr. Smiles's chapter on " Industry in Ireland," based, for the most part, on personal observation. Ireland is a country which has great need both of industry and invention ; and the author's account of the linen-trade of Ulster and the late successful development of shipbuilding in Belfast (thanks to the enterprise of a Yorkshireman), prove that energy and perseverance have as fair a field in Ireland as in any other part of the United Kingdom. The country is rich in • all sorts of potential wealth; and if the people could only be persuaded that God helps those who help themselves, and cease to dream of a political millennium which will never come, they might be as prosperous as Englishmen and Scotchmen. They might, for instance, supply the rest of the nation with fish, besides sending vast quantities to foreign Lands. They have a coast-line of fishing-ground of nearly 3,000 miles in extent, as Mr. Smiles tells us ; and then he continues :
" The bights and bays on the West Coast of Ireland—off Ennis, Mayo, Connemara, and Donegal—swarm with fish; near Achill Bay 2,000 mackerel were lately taken at a single haul ; and Clew Bay is often alive with SA. In Scull Bay and Crookhaven, near Cape Clear,. they are so plentiful that the peasants often knock them on the head with oars, but will not take the trouble to net them. These swarms of fish might be a source of permanent wealth. A gentleman of Cork one day borrowed a 'common rod and line from a Cornish miner in his employment, and caught fifty-seven mackerel from the jetty in Scull Bay before breakfast. Each of those mackerel was worth two-pence in Cork market, thirty miles off. Yet the people round about, many of whom were short of food, were doing nothing to catch them, but expecting Providence to supply their wants. Providence, however, always likes to be helped. Some people forget that the giver of all good gifts requires us to seek for them by industry, prudence, and perseverance."
Mr. Smiles's latest book will be popular with all who like good stories none the less because they are true, and told in homely English, as well as with all who believe that the virtues which• he exalts are amongst the surest foundations of national andindividual-prosperity.