Although The South Kensington Museum now takes the lead, and surpasses all former scientific institutions by its vastly superior collection of models and works of art, there will be doubtless many thousand young people who may remember (it is hoped) with some pleasure the numerous popular lectures, illustrated with an abundance of interesting and brilliant experiments, which have been delivered within the walls of the Royal Polytechnic Institution during the last twenty years.On many occasions the author has received from his young friends letters, containing all sorts of inquiries respecting the mode of performing experiments, and it has frequently occurred that even some years after a lecture had been discontinued, the youth, now become the young man, and anxious to impart knowledge to some home circle or country scientific institution, would write a special letter referring to a particular experiment, and wish to know how it was performed.The following illustrated pages must be regarded as a series of philosophical experiments detailed in such a manner that any young person may perform them with the greatest facility. The author has endeavoured to arrange the manipulations in a methodical, simple, and popular form, and will indeed be rewarded if these experiments should arouse dormant talent in any of the rising generation, and lead them on gradually from the easy reading of the present Boy's Book, to the study of the complete and perfect philosophical works of Leopold Gmelin, Faraday, Brande, Graham, Turner, and Fownes.Every boy should ride a hobby-horse of some kind; and whilst play, and plenty of it, must be his daily right in holiday time, he ought not to forget that the cultivation of some branch of the useful Arts and Sciences will afford him a delightful and profitable recreation when[Pg 2] satiated with mere play, or imprisoned by bad weather, or gloomy with the unamused tediousness of a long winter's evening.The author recollects with pleasure the half-holidays he used to devote to Chemistry, with some other King's College lads, and in spite of terrible pecuniary losses in retorts, bottles, and jars, the most delightful amusement was enjoyed by all who attended and assisted at these juvenile philosophical meetings.It has been well remarked by a clever author, that bees are geometricians. The cells are so constructed as, with the least quantity of material, to have the largest sized spaces and the least possible interstices. The mole is a meteorologist. The bird called the nine-killer is an arithmetician, also the crow, the wild turkey, and some other birds. The torpedo, the ray, and the electric eel are electricians. The nautilus is a navigator. He raises and lowers his sails, casts and weighs anchor, and performs nautical feats. Whole tribes of birds are musicians. The beaver is an architect, builder, and wood-cutter. He cuts down trees and erects houses and dams. The marmot is a civil engineer. He does not only build houses, but constructs aqueducts, and drains to keep them dry. The ant maintains a regular standing army. Wasps are paper manufacturers. Caterpillars are silk-spinners. The squirrel is a ferryman. With a chip or a piece of bark for a boat, and his tail for a sail, he crosses a stream. Dogs, wolves, jackals, and many others, are hunters. The black bear and heron are fishermen. The ants are day-labourers. The monkey is a rope dancer. Shall it, then, be said that any boy possessing the Godlike attributes of Mind and Thought with Freewill can only eat, drink, sleep, and play, and is therefore lower in the scale of usefulness than these poor birds, beasts, fishes, and insects? No! no! Let Young England enjoy his manly sports and pastimes, but let him not forget the mental race he has to run with the educated of his own and of other nations; let him nourish the desire for the acquisition of scientific knowledge, not as a mere school lesson, but as a treasure, a useful ally which may some day help him in a greater or lesser degree to fight The Battle of Life.
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