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GERBERT'S ORGAN. :
have revived with it, and to have infected the Italian philosophers, as it had done those of the East, with an indifference towards useful or practical mechanics. Excepting occasional disquisitions, with a view to the illustration of some part of the works of an ancient author, machines were as heretofore considered to be subjects from which no distinction could arise, and their construction was abandoned to the mechanic, without a single philosopher deigning to stoop from the regions of abstract philosophy, to impart, from the stores of science, a rule, or an observation, to assist the artisan in his labour.
If nothing, therefore, can be added to the history of the employment of steam, a slight interest is attached to the fact, that a knowledge of its power was not extinct; some of its effects were dreaded by lime-burners at this period. In the heart of some stones, according to Alberti, writing in 1412, there are certain voids and concavities, in which air, being shut up, does sometimes produce incalculable mischief; “ for when they come to be touched by.the fire, and the stone grows hot, it turns to rapour, and, bursting the prison in which it is confined, with a tremendous noise, blows
up the whole kiln with a force altogether irresistible."
The works of some Greek mathematicians and mechanics attracting the attention of scholars, may be considered an auspicious commencement of a new era, for it was improbable but that a taste for mechanical philosophy should also be formed ; and so it followed. Yet, as if the leaven of former prejudice in part remained, the warlike machines of the ancients, which, by the introduction of gunpowder, had become obsolete, were now commented on with ingenuity, and in a great many cases were ably illustrated.
17 We speak not here of what might be considered the feeling of society towards those who distinguished themselves as speculative mechanics about this period. Whether the imputation of magic, attached to the order, arose through its own pretensions to occult knowledge, or whether astrological practices were forced upon it by the prejudices and ignorance of society itself, the effect on science was nearly the same. Yet, to impute systematic deception to the whole body, would be measuring out unmerited reprobation on numerous individuals of great knowledge, and who discharged the various duties of life with exemplary honour and integrity ; and who, by their station in society, and share of its wealth, were far above the practices from the hope of gain. Their pursuit of such trifles, it perhaps were more just to consider as arising from weakness of judgment, rather than corruption of mind ; that, in fact, their own reason was first bewildered in the labyrinth of astrology, before their enthusiasm pointed out the distinction that would follow success, in unra. velling the mazes of futurity to others; and, if a few unprincipled adventurers sought dupes only among persons of fortune, their avarice should rest as an opprobrium on themselves alone. The tales of the disciple, and master too, in some of these cases, are widely. at variance. "He,” says the latter, “who called to his aid the venial deference of the wise, but poor man, to sanction actions which it had been more honourable not to have engaged in, or gratify a personal vanity, which by other means it would have been reckoned meritorious to repress, had no good ground of complaint, that the powers of the magician could not be depended upon. But, alas!" says the neophyte, " that so great a price should be set upon that,
which, from sad experience, I now find makes the cost of a grain of mustard seed immeasurably beyond it in value."
One thing is certain, that so long as practical subjects were discarded by philosophers, a wide field was open for the introduction and display of the most unaccountable absurdities; and if now and then something is found to redeem much extravagance, it is so surrounded with rubbish, that the labour of excavation is seldom repaid by the acquisition. Another effect, equally fatal, was less obvious, only because it was deeper seated; exaggerated professions tainting the language of philosophy with hyperbole, absurd expectations deeply infected its spirit. Then, indeed, philosophers appeared like simple men journeying through fertile savannahs, where bountiful nature, at every step of their progress, invites them to supply want from her exuberance; but, despising her profusion, press onward to a toilsome, miserable existence, and inhospitable regions, in which, if they do find gold, it can purchase no enjoyment.
The glory and shame of the fraternity was admirably exhibited in the career of Hieronymus Cardan,* who united the most transcendent attainments with the most consummate quackery, profound sagacity with the weakest superstition; who is seen drawing on one page the horoscope of Christ, and in another, imploring his forgiveness for the sin of having eaten a partridge on Friday; unfolding the most beautiful relations in algebraic analysis, and fore• His own account of his
four greatest calamities is brief and comprehensive. “ The first and greatest is my personal defect;" then “the most cruel death, or folly or barrenness of my children ; perpetual poverty, accusations, incumbrances, distempers, dangers, imprisonment; hardship in the so frequent preference of so many worthless persons." Vita Propria,
telling, from the appearance of specks on his nails, his approach to some discovery; above all, eloquently enforcing the obligations of a pure religion, and expressing the finest sentiments in morals, while his long life was one continued exertion, grossly outraging both. Here this philosopher, juggler, and madman, is entitled to brief mention, from displaying in his writings a knowledge of what has been called some of the “ capabilities” of steam, and more particularly with the fact of a vacuum being speedily procured by its condensation. He also early recommended that the heated fuliginous vapour, which escaped from every hearth without performing any useful labour," should be turned to a more profitable account; and in a later book* he gave a description and rude diagram of a machine, moved by heated air, which, since his time, has received no improvement, although much employed, and well
* De Varietate Rerum, lib. xii. cap. 58. Basil, 1557.
From Zonca's book, Roma, 1607; this appears to have been early adapted to th uses suggested by Cardan, and have had considerable elegance thrown into its form.
His figure of the clipile is often alluded to by subsequent authors, and it is probable that he was the first who described it.
He quotes Vitruvius as his authority for considering it to have been known andused at Rome in the time of the first Cæsars
known as the smoke-jack. His enumeration of its properties are pot, at any rate, exaggerated, if its general adoption be held as a test of merit; and after bearing the brunt of the persevering and judicious Count Rumford's long, vigorous, and powerful attack, "nothing curtailed of its fair proportion," it may be considered an invention destined to minister to the most agreeable propensities of many generations of our successors.
Mathesius, a German author, in 1571, displayed almost as much ingenuity in contriving to introduce so untoward a subject into a sermon as a description of an apparatus, answering to a steam-engine, as would be required to invent the machine itself, and which he gives as an illustration of what "mighty effects could be produced by the volcanic force of a little imprisoned va-, pour.'
Following in the same interesting track, about 1577, another German writer substituted steam in what is called the whirling clipile, as an economical substitute for turnspit labour. Its qualities are, on this occasion, enumerated with selfishness; it is said to "eat nothing, and giving, withal, an assurance to those partaking of the feast, whose suspicions natures nurse queasy appetites, that the haunch has not been pawed by the turnspit in the absence of the housewife's eye, for the pleasure of licking his unclean fingers.”+
The greater attention which practical mechanics began about this time to receive from the public, appears to have been the effect, rather than the cause, of some good collections having been made of the machines employed in the arts of the
* Berg-Postilla oder Sarepta von atterly Bergwerk und Metallen, p. 374. Nurimb. 1571.
+ Stuart's Descriptive History of the Steam-Engine, p. 8.