« PrécédentContinuer »
The articles STEAM and STEAM-ENGINE in the former edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, were written by Dr Robison. The college companion of JAMES WATT became the historian of his achievements, the expounder of inventions of which he had closely watched the origin and progress. His articles are distinguished by that clearness of conception, closeness of reasoning, and gracefulness of style, which entitle him to be ranked among the soundest and most accomplished of those authors who have contributed to the advancement of mechanical science. These articles have long formed the standards of our knowledge, and are still the fountain-head to which we resort for information. To Sir David Brewster we are indebted for the publication of certain contributions to these original articles, which have enhanced their value: to his edition of Dr Robison's works, Mr Watt himself undertook to contribute notes and additional matter, and thus became at once the historian of his own inventions and the commentator on the writings of his early friend.
Thus, the friendship of these two distinguished
individuals, commencing with the warmth of youthful companionship, continuing through the vicissitudes of lives longer than the usual term of humanity, and descending into their graves—is embalmed in these their joint contributions. It appeared to the writer of these pages, that he could not better dis. charge the duty devolved upon him, in accepting the responsibility of the articles Steam and SteamEngine, in the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, than by retaining as much of those original contributions of Robison and Watt as could consist with the present advanced state of knowledge and practical art. Considerable portions of them are, therefore, presented to the reader exactly as they came from the pens of Robison* and Watt, distinguished by their names or the accompanying marks; and to these valuable gems his own contributions serve only as the mere “setting" required to connect them with the now extensive structure of practical science.
In the joint lives and labours of Robison and Watt, we open one of the brightest pages of the “ friendships of philosophy"_intellectual prowess was in them remarkably conjoined with the virtues and amiabilities of social life, and it is difficult to say, whether we more admire the philosopher, or love the man. Akin to these feelings appear to have been the sentiments with which through a long life they regarded each other. Fortunately, the records of these sentiments
still exist in notices written by themselves. Robison's sketch of Watt is already before the public; but we have now the pleasure of presenting to our readers, a companion sketch of Robison drawn by Watt himself, which we owe to the kindness of Sir John Robison, and which, in April 1805, was addressed by Wati to the widow of the departed friend of his youth.
MR WATT'S SKETCH OF DR ROBISON.
“ Our acquaintance began in 1756-7, (Mr Robison being then seventeen,) when I was employed by the University of Glasgow to repair and put in order some astronomical instruments, bequeathed to the University by Dr Macfarlane of Jamaica—Mr Robison was then a very handsome young man, and rather younger than me. He introduced himself to me, and I was happy to find in him a person who was so much better informed on mathematical and philosophical subjects than I was, and who, while he was extremely communicative, possessed a very clear method of explaining his ideas. Between two young men of ardent minds engaged in similar pursuits, a friendship was soon formed, which has continued until death has deprived me of my friend, and has suffered no other interruption than what has been caused by our absence from each other, and the necessary attention to our respective duties in life.