New Zealand Institute.
His Excellency Sir W. F. D. Jervois,
G.C.M.G., C.B., Etc.,
Delivered to the Members of the New Zealand Institute, at the Anniversary Meeting, held on the 8th August, 1883.
There is, I think, a special value in meetings such as the present, affording as they do an opportunity for looking back, not only at the proceedings of the Institute, but also at some of the principal events in the literary and scientific world, during the past year, and then of glancing forward at the aim and objects of the Society in the future.
The New Zealand Institute already possesses a history of its own, and one which reflects great credit on the members of its various incorporated Societies, and I may add on the colony as a whole. Thirty-two years ago, when the total European population was but 32,000, the New Zealand Society was founded, mainly through the instrumentality of Sir George Grey; and, although it never met with the success that it deserved, we cannot regard the efforts of its promoters as thrown away. They were the real pioneers of the movement; they broke up the virgin soil, and planted the germ out of which has sprung the present Institute, with branches established in almost every provincial district, and an influence extending from Auckland to Invercargill.
The existing Association, however, dates only from 1867, when the Act for its establishment was passed, or rather from the following year, when the separate bodies then existing at Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch became incorporated with the central Institute.
Since that date have been added the local Institutes of Otago, West-land, Hawke's Bay, and Southland, all of which, I am glad to learn, are in a flourishing condition, both as regards numbers and vitality. An Association at Nelson was also incorporated, but I regret to say that circumstances led to its ceasing to exist as a branch of the New Zealand Institute. I trust, however, that efforts which are now being made to resuscitate it will meet with deserved success.
The principal objects of the Institute as thus founded may be gathered from the list of subjects on which special information was desired, mentioned in the preface to the first volume of Transactions. They include, in short, all subjects of peculiar interest to the country, whether ethnological, zoological, geological (including chemical and mineralogical), or botanical; suggestions for improvements in agriculture and farming, sanitary matters, and the development of the country. Towards these and similar subjects, members of all the local Societies were invited to contribute, by personal observation, study, and the reading of papers at meetings, the Government co-operating by paying for the printing of the Annual Volume of Transactions, and the central Institute disseminating the information thus collected by the local bodies. I am happy to say that there is not one of these subjects that has been not merely touched upon, but very carefully gone into; in fact, I greatly doubt whether any young country in the world has been so systematically investigated as New Zealand has been under the auspices of this Institute. I need not say how much of this has been due to the untiring energy of Dr. Hector, who has not only been the life and soul of the Society, but has had the laborious duty of editing the Volumes of Transactions.
Three years ago, at the time when it was resolved to limit the Government expenditure in every way possible, it was contemplated to discontinue the annual grant of £500 for the publication of the Transactions; but the Board of Governors were able to give so good an account of the proceedings of the Institute that, on further consideration, the vote was allowed, and has since been continued.
The Institute has moreover been useful not only as a centre for the operations of local societies, but also as a focus for the work of various kindred departments, such as the Colonial Museum, the Geological Survey, the Laboratory, the Botanic Garden, the Observatory, the Meteorological Department, the Department of the Inspector of Weights and Measures, and the Patent Office. These would, no doubt, have in any case existed; but had they been entirely separate, much time and money would have been lost, which have now been wisely saved by their working together under the auspices of the New Zealand Institute.
The various Museums which are under the charge of the Institute, and the incorporated Societies, have all been more or less enriched during the last year; notably that at Auckland, by the beautiful and valuable Pompeian statue presented, amongst other works of art, by Mr. Mackelvie. This Museum is also one of the many institutions at Auckland which have been so largely benefited by the munificence of the late Mr. Costley; and, although it will not actually belong to the Institute, the Auckland members will have the additional advantage of the splendid library presented to that city by Sir George Grey.
Transactions for 1882.
The large volume of Transactions and Proceedings for 1882 gives evidence of the genuine and valuable work that is still being done by the Institute. Amongst the essays which are printed at length in the volume, I wish especially to refer to Mr. Meyrick's learned and careful account of his examinations concerning the Micro-lepidoptera of New Zealand, a comparatively new field for zoological research. The object of such inquiries may not at once be obvious, but they are nevertheless of great value as being immediately connected with important agricultural interests; the minute moths, which form the subject of investigation, being amongst the most frequent causes of blight in plants. I am glad to observe that Mr. Meyrick intends continuing these investigations, and publishing the results through the medium of the Institute. Mr. Colenso's rambles through the forest have added materially to our knowledge of the ferns and plants indigenous to this country; and I trust that, although it seems a matter of great difficulty, the attention which Mr. Arthur has drawn to the question of the disease which is now playing havoc amongst the trout in Lake Wakatipu may ultimately lead to the discovery of some means whereby it may be overcome. The acclimatization of foreign varieties of fish is of such importance as a means of increasing the food-supply of this country, that it is a matter for serious concern that a disease should have appeared amongst the one variety—English trout—which it was hoped had been successfully introduced.
I am particularly glad to find that the attention of members in both Islands has again been drawn—as it had on several previous occasions—to the important, but too often forgotten, subject of forest conservation. As was pointed out by Captain Walker, in the interesting and exhaustive addresses delivered by him in 1876 and 1877, which are printed in the 9th volume of the Transactions, silviculture is doubly useful: first, on account of the value of the product; and, secondly, on account of the change of climate it brings about.
It appears, from the paper read by Mr. Justice Gillies before the Auckland Institute, that the cork tree may be most successfully cultivated in that district, and that each tree above the age of twenty-five years may be calculated to produce on an average about 9s. worth of cork every year; whilst Mr. McArthur, speaking at Invercargill, pointed out that in a few years the demand for railway sleepers alone—not to mention the other purposes in the way of building, carving, and fencing, for which timber is required—will exhaust the supply of native wood, and that the difficulty should be met by planting quickly-growing trees, such as larch and fir, on a large scale, without delay: in short, “planting here should follow the sawmillers, and this cannot be done too soon.”
With regard to forest conservation as concerning the question of climate, I may quote the words of Mr. Firth, who, in a paper read before the Auckland Institute in 1874, remarks that: “Denudation of timber produces barrenness of soil, increases insect life, creates drought, diminishes rain, accelerates evaporation, causes floods and untimely frosts, lessens the production of food, diminishes population, and finally degrades a nation. The glory of many an ancient empire departed with its forests. To-day Persia and Spain present sad but warning spectacles of desolation and degradation, which, though partially due to various causes, have been intensified by the destruction of their forests.”
The forms which the evils resulting from want of timber take differ, of course, in different countries. In addition to the remarks made by Mr. McArthur, Mr. Travers, in speaking before the Wellington Philosophical Society, has pointed out that the destruction of the forests in this country has already caused disastrous floods, and Dr. Meldrum and Dr. Hutchinson have explained how similar causes are bringing about similar results in Mauritius and the Sandwich Islands. From all parts of the world the story is the same. I lately received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies an interesting despatch on the subject, with reference to a large part of Southern Europe. Austria, Switzerland, and France have turned their attention to the reforesting of the bare mountain slopes; but in many districts of Italy the evil has gone on unchecked, and, in consequence of this, the floods are higher, and the average flow of the rivers is lower, than it used to be at the time when the mountains were clothed with timber and vegetation. Last September the inundations in the Province of Venetia, which were, no doubt, to a great extent brought about by this cause, resulted in serious loss of life and wholesale destruction of property.
I am glad to learn that this important subject has for some time been under the consideration of the Government of New Zealand.
Time will not allow me to make more than a passing mention of the papers of Mr. Samuel Locke and Mr. Barstow concerning the Native race and the history of the earliest European settlers in this colony; of Dr. Newman's paper respecting the healthiness of New Zealand; or of many other contributions. I will only add that I cannot look through the compressed report of the local Societies without a feeling of regret that I have no opportunity of reading at greater length several of the interesting papers, of which only an abstract can be given.
The honorary members who have been added to the roll of the Institute during the last year are: Professor W. B. Carpenter, the eminent physiologist, who has done great service to New Zealand by assisting in the organization of the University; Sir Wm. Thompson, from whose researches in physics and especially in electricity, this colony, in common with other countries, is deriving daily benefit; and Professor Ellery, the well-known astronomer at the Melbourne Observatory, whose work in the preparation of star catalogues is of great benefit in all survey operations in these latitudes.
The past year has been one of exceptional activity in the world of science. Astronomers in all quarters of the globe have been watching with keen interest the movements of the magnificent comet which was visible last spring; two months ago we had the opportunity of seeing one of the most beautiful of astronomical phenomena—a total eclipse of the sun; and in December last scientific parties were despatched by almost every European nation to take careful observations of the transit of Venus.
In the recent volume of Transactions there is a valuable paper on the constitution of comets, which was read before the Southland Institute last October by Mr. Fairclough. There and elsewhere you will find it stated that, according to Kepler, comets are as numerous as fishes in the sea. But, however that may be, there is no doubt that they may be numbered by hundreds of thousands, and that they are indeed the most numerous family of bodies in the universe. The movements of some hundreds only, however, have been studied, and of these only a few by the aid of modern appliances. They all describe a course round the sun; but, whilst some revolve in orbits occupying only a comparatively short period, which can be calculated with precision—as, for instance, Encke's Comet and Halley's Comet, which accomplish their revolutions in about three
and a half years and seventy-six years respectively—the elements of the motion of others are not sufficiently known to admit of their return being predicted.
Those who recollect the great comet of 1843 confess that it hardly, if at all, surpassed the one of last year in brilliancy, although some maintain that it exceeded it in the apparent length of its tail as seen from the earth. The large majority of those now living, however, have never seen anything that can be compared to the magnificent comet of 1882. It was visible from all quarters of the globe, and so brilliant as to be seen with the naked eye at noon in a clear sky. On the 17th of September a unique observation was made at the Cape, where the comet was seen to pass right up to the sun's limb, after which it became invisible, not intercepting the faintest portion of the sun's light. The following morning it passed its perihelion passage so close as to be within the region beyond which the great solar jets of incandescent hydrogen (to which I will presently refer in another connection) are often seen to extend. It must, whilst in that position, have been exposed to a heat so intense, that rock-crystal, agate, or the most infusible substance we know of, would have been vapourized. The gigantic tail covered a space at least as long as the distance between the earth and the sun, and, although apparently of very small substantiality, several observers report that they saw distinctly in the sky the black shadow cast by the tail of the comet.
The question as to the relations between the comets of 1843, 1880, and 1882 is one of great interest. According to Mr. Chandler, the orbit of the comet of last year is such as to be quite inconsistent with a short period of revolution, and, if so, it must be distinct from either of the earlier comets,—or from the earlier comet, supposing those of 1843 and 1880 to be identical.
Another view has lately been put forward in the “Observatory,” from which I quote the following words:—“The physical appearance of the comet, which like that of 1843, and unlike that of 1880, showed at first a decided nucleus, together with the intimation of a period very considerably greater than that of the interval from the 27th January, 1880, the date of perihelion of the 1880 comet,” to September, 1882, “suggest that perhaps the 1843 comet suffered disintegration when at its nearest approach, and that the 1880 comet was a portion of its less condensed material, whilst the body of the comet with the principal nucleus, suffering less retardation than the separated part, has taken two and a half years longer to perform a revolution.”
The latest, and I understand the most accurate, calculations, however, attribute to the orbit of the comet of 1882 a period of 840 years, so that the last time it passed round the sun was about the year 1140, in the days of King Stephen.
The total eclipse of the sun, visible throughout this part of the world, which took place on the 6th of May last, had been looked forward to by men of science with special attention, on account of the interesting questions which it was expected to solve.
The roseate protuberances of the chromosphere which are seen surrounding the limb of the sun during an eclipse were, by the investigations which were made during and consequent upon the eclipse of 1868, proved to be jets, composed almost exclusively of incandescent hydrogen gas, to which I before referred in speaking of the passage of the comet, bursting forth from the layers of vapour which form the atmosphere to the sun. Amongst these vapours spectrum analysis has detected sodium, magnesium, and calcium.
Beyond this atmosphere, however, there is visible during a total eclipse a magnificent silvery aureole, or luminous corona, which may reach to a distance equal to an entire radius of the moon's orbit. It is not yet certain of what this corona is composed, and it is quite possible that it may be a magnetic phenomenon analogous to the aurora borealis. The remarkable association of the breaking-out of sun-spots with the occurrence of violent magnetic storms on the sun's surface gives support to this view. A marked instance of this occurred on the 19th November last, when telegraphic communication was interfered with throughout the world, and an aurora was visible over both hemispheres, associated with a very large sun-spot.
To the corona again immense appendices have been observed. Whether they are dependent on the coronal atmosphere, or are really streams of meteorites circulating round the sun, was still uncertain; and this was one of the questions which it was hoped would be decided by the observations taken during the eclipse of 1883, especially as bearing on the remarkable theory lately put forth by Dr. Siemens to explain the maintenance of the sun's energy, which suggests that energy thrown off from the equatorial regions of the sun is reabsorbed at the sun's poles, to be again re-formed into a source of power.
From the observations of the eclipse it was moreover expected that information would be furnished respecting the small round spots which have frequently been observed to appear and disappear in front of the sun's orb. Can these be planets, revolving round the sun, but which the illumination of our atmosphere, so bright in the neighbourhood of the sun, conceals from us at other times? There are but two ways in which the matter can be investigated—viz., the attentive study of the solar surface (a work of great difficulty), and the examination of the circumsolar region whilst an eclipse renders such examination possible. As ordinary eclipses have only a duration of two minutes
at the point where the phase is maximum, the eclipse of the 6th May last, which was to have a duration three times as great, was looked forward to the more eagerly, and scientific parties were sent out from England, France, and America to examine the phenomenon from Flint and Caroline Islands, situated to westward of the Marquesas, and the nearest points of land to the central line. We have learnt, by telegram, that the observations made by them were successful, especially as regards the photographs taken; but it is impossible to discuss the details of the results until further accounts reach us.
Transit of Venus.
Next, as regards the transit of Venus. I need scarcely mention that the object of observing the transit of Venus across the sun's disc is to determine the distance of the sun from the earth;—in the words of Sir George Airey, “the noblest problem in astronomy.” Although, through the sublime discoveries of Copernicus and Kepler, we have a just conception of the order of the solar system and its relative dimensions as expressed in Kepler's Law: that the squares of the periodic times of the planets in their orbits are to each other as the cubes of their distances from the sun; yet we know not with anything like absolute certainty any of these distances. But, in virtue of the law just quoted, given the true distance of any of the planets from the sun or from each other, and we have all the rest. The distance we seek, therefore, is not alone that of the earth from the sun, but in reality the base-line of the universe.
The sun's distance was to the ancient astronomers an insoluble problem, owing to the want of adequate instrumental means. Aristarchus gave the distance as nineteen times that of the moon, which, according to our value of the moon's distance, would give that of the sun under 5,000,000 miles. Even so late as the time of Kepler, not 300 years ago, the estimate of the sun's distance was 13,000,000 miles, or less than one-seventh of what is now accepted.
Indeed, in Kepler's time, the idea of utilizing the transit of Venus, as astronomers now do, was not thought of. It was reserved for the celebrated Scottish philosoper, James Gregory, in 1663, to point out the probability of determining the sun's parallax by means of the transit of Venus.
As is well known, these transits occur in pairs, the first and second of a pair being divided by an interval of only eight years, whilst between one pair and another there are successively intervals of 105 ½ and 121 ½ years. Thus, there were transits of Venus in 1631 and 1639; next in 1761 and 1769; the present generation has been specially favoured by having seen the transits of 1874 and 1882; and the next will not take place till 2004 and 2012.
Dr. Halley, of comet renown, who died in 1742, left to his countrymen, not only the famous prediction of the return of his comet, which has since been twice verified at the appointed times, but also the most earnest recommendation to observe the transits of Venus of 1761 and 1769. Halley's injunction was well obeyed, especially in 1769, when the observations of Captain Cook's expedition at Otaheite, combined with observations at other stations in various parts of the world, resulted in the conclusion, until recently relied on as correct, that 95,000,000 miles is the true distance of the sun.
The mention of the honoured name of Cook recalls to mind how close the association is between the observation of the transit of Venus in 1769 and the rediscovery and settlement of these southern lands.
The principle of the observation is that followed by the surveyor in ascertaining the distance of an inaccessible object. A line is measured on the ground, also the two angles which it forms with the inaccessible point; the third angle of the triangle is then inferred, and the computation of the distance required is one of the simplest in plane trigonometry. But the distance to the inaccessible sun is so immeasurably great that any base line which the surveyor could mark off on the earth's surface would be as useless for the purpose as a mathematical point. Even if we could stay the sun in his course, and grant other impossible conditions, the most delicate instrument would fail to show any convergence of the sides of the wished-for triangle. In other words, there would be no parallax.
The solution of the problem must be tried in some other way, and the most obvious thing to do, in the first instance, is to increase the length of the base. The longest possible base on the earth is, of course, the diameter of the earth itself. By placing observers suitably, in widely separated parts of the globe, the longest practicable base will be obtained, but still the problem is insoluble, unless we can have some intermediate body of known rate of circular motion coming in line between the observers and the sun. In the problem before us, Venus is that body, and, as she is, at transit, nearer the earth than the sun in the ratio of about 2 to 5, it will be seen that, to observers widely apart, Venus must necessarily come in line with the edge of the sun at different times to the two observers; just as would be the case were two observers, standing apart on the bank of a river, each to signal as a passing boat came in line with a tree on the opposite bank. It would be seen that an interval of time elapsed between the two signals. This interval, in the case of Venus, gives the measure of the angle subtended at the sun by the base line joining the stations of the observers. For the rate of the motion of Venus relative to that of the earth being known, the interval observed is convertible into
angular measure; hence the problem can be solved. This, of course, is a very general statement of the principle of the observation, and takes no account of the many difficulties in giving effect to it, or of the laborious and abstruse computations in the after reduction of the observations.
The methods of observation are known as Halley's and Delisle's. In Halley's the duration of the transit is observed from two stations, so selected that internal ingress and internal egress may be observed at both; also that, by the rotation of the earth, the interval between ingress and egress may be increased at the one station and diminished at the other. The duration of the transit gives the length of the chords which Venus traces on the face of the sun, from which the angle or parallax is deduced. Halley's method does not require any great accuracy in the longitudes of stations, and in that respect was very convenient at the time it was promulgated, the longitudes of distant points not being then well known. But, as both ingress and egress must be observed at both stations, there is always great risk of failure from unfavourable weather. Previous to the transit of 1874 the utilization of this method was very carefully considered by Sir George Airey and others. As it was found that full advantage of it could only be obtained by establishing a station on the Antarctic Continent, the proposal was abandoned, and it was decided to rely on Delisle's method. This has the advantage that two observations suffice—one of internal ingress or egress at each of two stations. The exact time-differences between the two observations is the essential point in this method, consequently the absolute accuracy of the longitudes of the observing stations, which is now obtained through the electric telegraph, is of paramount importance.
The transit of 1874, which I suppose all present here can recollect, excited great interest. The observations on that occasion received hearty and substantial assistance from Governments, and no less than a quarter of a million sterling was expended in the aggregate by different nations on this object. It was observed from numerous stations throughout the globe, but, unfortunately, the observations in New Zealand were obscured through bad weather.
On this occasion, with the view of avoiding the errors incidental to observations of contact, photography was employed in addition to other means, and a series of pictures was obtained showing Venus in transit across the Line. The distances of the planet from the edge of the sun were afterwards measured micrometrically and at leisure from the picture. The English astronomers, however, found the photographs unsatisfactory; though, on the other hand, the Americans met with considerable success in this mode of observation.
The result of the observations of the transit of 1874 cannot be regarded as satisfactory; for, whilst Sir George Airey, in his official report, stated the solar parallax as 8.76″—corresponding to 93,375,000 miles—Colonel Tupman and Mr. Stone, from the very same observations, deduced the parallax respectively as 8.81″ and 8.88″. The agreement to within the tenth of a second of arc in angular measure seems, at first sight, very close; but, so vast is the distance represented in the solar parallax by that fraction, that these three calculations differ to an extent considerably exceeding a million of miles.
The observations of the transit of Venus of last year were undertaken by all civilized nations with the same zeal and interest that characterized the efforts of 1874. On this occasion the British astronomers discarded photography, whilst the Americans relied greatly on that means of observation.
In New Zealand the egress alone could be seen, and was observed from thirteen stations by seventeen scientific gentlemen, amongst whom were Dr. Hector, Mr. McKerrow, and Archdeacon Stock. There were also an English party of observers, near Christchurch, under Colonel Tupman, and an American party at Auckland, under Mr. Edward Smith, of the United States Coast Survey. The Government assisted liberally both by grants of money and by placing the Telegraph Department at the disposal of the observers. Unfortunately, Dr. Hector's observation at Clyde was partially intercepted by a cloud, but, with the exception of this contretemps, the observations in New Zealand were entirely successful. I cannot but remark that it reflects great credit on the colony that so many gentlemen should have voluntarily engaged in this work; and I have no doubt that, when the report of the results of the British expeditions are published, their services will receive cordial acknowledgment.
The observations of last year's transit throughout the world were attended with thorough success, and it is expected that, when the calculations have been completed, a great step will be made towards reconciling the conflicting results that have hitherto been obtained. But, before the question can be finally set at rest, the results of the observations on the transit of Venus must be reconciled with those obtained by other methods, which it would be out of place for me now to discuss.
Judging, however, from the conclusions already derived from various independent calculations, it seems probable that the true distance of the earth from the sun will be found to be between ninety-two and ninety-three millions of miles.
Meanwhile the scientific world awaits with the greatest interest the calculations of astronomers on this vital problem. The importance of it is not merely to be regarded as one which concerns
the scientific astronomer alone; for, to state it shortly, until we have the means of affixing accurate numerical values to those forms of vibration which are at present loosely known to us as light, electricity, magnetism, and other imponderable forms of energy, we can only imperfectly avail ourselves in practical life of these wonderful agents in ministering to the wants of mankind.
After dealing with the immensities of celestial space, it is not without an effort that we drag ourselves down to consider matters more immediately connected with our own little planet, less than 8,000 miles in diameter, and one is insensibly led to exclaim, in the language of the old Hebrew Psalmist, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him!” Yet, in our present state of existence, it is unavoidable that our minds should be mainly occupied in attending to the ways and works of our fellow-men upon this sublunary sphere.
The year is marked by the completion of great feats and the commencement of fresh efforts in engineering. The geological difficulties which for some time seemed insuperable to the completion of the San Gothard Tunnel have been overcome, and another route, which may be of some importance both as regards passengers and the mail service, has thus been opened between Australasia and England. The great canal that is to cut the Isthmus of Panama is in process of construction, and a second Suez Canal is contemplated. Tunnels have been commenced under both the Severn and the Mersey, and, were it not for political considerations, the great scheme of connecting England with the Continent would no doubt be speedily progressing. The Frith of Forth is being bridged over by what will be, when completed, the boldest structure of the kind throughout the world, with gigantic spans of no less than 1,700 feet.
But the subject which at present commands most attention in the scientific world is the use of the electric current; and it may be well to note here how far we have now advanced in the various ways of utilizing this marvellous instrument. One of the chief obstacles for many years to the use of electric force was the great cost of producing an electric current so long as chemical means had to be resorted to. This has been overcome by the invention of the dynamo-machine, which has been brought to such a state of perfection that by it we are enabled to convert mechanical into electrical force, and back again
into mechanical force, with a marginal loss of not more than 20 per cent.; frictional resistance and the deterioration of the materials composing the instrument, caused by continuous working, being reduced to a minimum. The principles involved in the construction of these machines have been known to scientific men for some years; but their practical introduction is due to M. Gramme, whose efforts have been the immediate cause of the marvellous advance that has been made in the last few years in the utilizing of electricity. We have already in this city examples of one form of electric action—I refer, of course, to the transformation of electric into heat energy, so as to produce incandescent electric light. The principal arguments in favour of electric light are that it is colourless, and thus enables us not only to see pictures and flowers by it as perfectly as we can by sunlight, but also to carry on photography and many other industries as well at night as during the day. It is free from those products of combustion which not only heat the lighted apartments, but substitute carbonic acid and deleterious sulphur compounds for the oxygen upon which respiration depends; and supports growing plants instead of poisoning them. Interesting experiments have for some time been made as to the influence of the electric light on wheat, oats, and barley, and it has now been conclusively proved that, so far from its having any harmful effect, cereals placed under the influence of an electric lamp grow much more rapidly than those which are exposed only to the light of the sun; whereas any one who has tried to keep plants in a room constantly lighted with gas knows only too well how prone they are to wither and die.
As we have lately heard, this light has already been introduced into English mines, and there can be no doubt but that it will ere long supersede gas in all public places and large halls; but it does not seem probable that it will for some time compete with it successfully as a means of lighting smaller buildings. The great convenience of gas for heating as well as lighting is a strong argument in its favour, whilst for the degrees of temperature ordinarily required electricity is hardly available. For intense heat, however—I mean above 1,800° C.—it possesses advantages that far surpass any offered by combustion. It is hardly too much to hope that ere long there will be in this colony iron furnaces worked by the current generated by neighbouring rivers or tidal waves. Owing to the comparative smallness of our towns, the great advantage of this as a means of avoiding smoke-fogs may not seem at present a question of practical importance, but when we consider the probable increase of factories, and the rapid growth of our cities, and that from the imperfect combustion of coal there is a constant exhalation of carbonic oxide,
a poisonous compound which when in large quantities causes sickness and death, we can realize how vastly important the absence of smoke may be to the health of future generations.
At the same time it must be admitted that gas has as yet not been fairly treated; it has been regarded almost entirely as a means of lighting, not sufficiently as a means of heating, and hardly at all as a motive-power. Dr. Siemens (who has protested strongly against this mistake) confidently predicts that, before many years have elapsed, we shall find in our factories and on board our ships, engines, with a fuel consumption not exceeding 1 lb. of coal per effective horse-power per hour, in which the gas-producer takes the place of the present steam-boiler.
With regard to electricity as a motive-power, electric railways are already in existence in Ireland and in Germany; but scientific men seem of opinion that, except in cases in which natural sources of energy, such as hills and waterfalls, are found, it will be long before electric power can take the place of steam on ordinary railways. I need not point out, however, that this is a country in which such sources of energy abound everywhere. I trust that at no distant day the force which is now applied in the form of friction necessary to hold back the trains in their descent of the Rimutaka Hill, and which is now dissipated and lost in wear and tear, may be utilized for propelling the engines for miles of their journey along the level country.
Whilst speaking of scientific discoveries as applied to practical matters, I cannot leave unmentioned a process which, though extremely simple in itself, is likely to mark an era in the history of the colony, and greatly to increase its wealth. I refer to the freezing of meat, and other products which might perhaps be similarly treated. I may mention, in passing, that the object of the process is not, as might have been supposed, to change the temperature of the atmosphere, but to suspend the vivifying powers of the germs which are continually floating about in it. As Professor Tyndall has pointed out, in his lecture before the Royal Institution in 1877 and elsewhere, animal matter may remain uncorrupted for months exposed to the air, provided that air is rendered perfectly free from these germs; whereas the slightest contact with air in its ordinary impure state—a mere pin-hole in the vessel containing the clarified atmosphere, for instance—admits the germs, and corruption ensues. The attempt to exclude the atmosphere from meat during the passage to Europe has been made, and has been found impracticable; but the desired result has been obtained by chilling the air to such an extent that the vivifying power of these germs is suspended.
The coldness of the nights in New Zealand makes the climate specially favourable for the process of freezing the meat; but, admirable as are the arrangements at Belfast, near Christchurch (where I had the pleasure of witnessing the operations), and elsewhere, I feel that much may yet have to be considered in the working-out of the details.
The principle of the machinery now in use is, that air is first compressed to such an extent that it attains a temperature of 300°, is then passed through cold tubes so as to be restored to its former temperature, though in its compressed state, and is then allowed to re-expand to its original dimensions, which causes its temperature to fall to zero. It seems probable, however, that, under some circumstances, it will be found that other means—as, for instance, the application of ammonia, ether, or sulphurous acid—are more suitable for freezing purposes than the compression of air.
I consider it a most healthy sign of the times that, during a period in which scientific knowledge has so rapidly advanced, literary study and research have made such steady and remarkable progress. Time would not permit me even to emunerate the principal literary works of the past year; but, to take merely one branch as an example—archæology—how much is there to tell!
Discoveries in Egypt.
Foremost amongst the archæological discoveries must be placed the interesting investigations which have recently been made in Egypt.
In 1878 some ruins at Tel-El-Maskutah, which had previously been considered “not worth visiting” (although some scholars had believed them to mark the site of Raamses, mentioned in the book of Exodus), were practically examined, and, amongst other things, was found a sculptured group, which was conveyed to Ismailia. When Sir Erasmus Wilson's exploring expedition commenced operations last year, the first step taken by M. Naville, who was in command of the party, was to examine these carvings. He observed that they were dedicated to the god Tum, the setting sun, and describe Rameses II. (the great monarch of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, who reigned in the 14th century B.C.) as the friend of Tum. Hence he conjectured that they might come from one of the many cities which bore the sacred or temple name (as opposed to the popular name) of Pe-Tum (i.e., the abode of Tum); and that this Petum might be the same as the City of Pithom, which is mentioned in Exodus i., 11, as one of the treasure cities built by the children of Israel for Pharaoh. On
the strength of this conjecture, M. Naville, in February last, commenced excavations at Tel-El-Maskutah; and before he had been many weeks at work he had laid bare a vast enclosure, about 200 metres square, divided into square chambers built of large bricks, principally made without straw; all the chambers were without doors, and were evidently intended not for dwelling-rooms, but for storehouses or granaries. This was in fact the Temple of Tum, and the monuments found in the enclosures point clearly to its having been founded by Rameses II., although added to in the 22nd dynasty.
The Egyptian city “Thuku” had already been identified with the Succoth of the Bible; but now the missing link in the chain of identification was to be supplied. Certain inscriptions on statues referred to “Pe Tum in the city of Thuku,” that is, “Pithom in the city of Succoth;” in other words, Pithom was the name of the temple from which the city, which was also called Succoth, took its name. Thus, in the words of Mr. Stanley Lane Poole, “Not only do we see the actual storehouses which the children of Israel are related to have built, but we now know “the first station on their journey from Egypt to Palestine,” when, as we read in the twelfth chapter of Exodus, they “journeyed from Rameses to Succoth.” In this way, by the explorations of a party which had only been at work for a few weeks, the identification of Pharaoh the oppressor with Rameses II. has been almost established, and the authenticity of the biblical narrative strongly confirmed; and every student of archæology will watch with the deepest interest the further investigations of those who have begun with so remarkable a success.
With regard to the excavations in the Troad, however, the result of the latest investigations has been rather to lead us to modify conclusions formerly arrived at than to add to the list of archæological discoveries. Until a few years ago, the site of Homer's Troy was disputed—some placing it on the spot now known by the name of Hissarlik, others at the modern Village of Bunárbashi, about six miles to the south, others again maintaining that Troy never had any existence except in the poet's imagination. Dr. Schliemann, nearly ten years ago, astonished the literary world by announcing that, having carefully examined both places, he had proved that there were no relics of antiquity worth mentioning at Bunárbashi, but that at Hissarlik he had unearthed the ruins not only of the Homeric City, including the Palace of King Priam, the Scæan Gate, the great surrounding wall, and the great Tower of Ilium, but even the still earlier town which had been destroyed by Hercules!
To state it shortly, he claimed to have discovered the remains of five cities, one above another, the second from the bottom being the city described by Homer, and the fifth being the Greek city known as Ilium, built shortly after the founding of Rome. He admitted that the ruins of the fire-destroyed city which he identified with Troy, hardly corresponded with the palaces “with polished corridors adorned,” described in the Iliad, but replied that the destruction took place long before Homer was born, and the description was added to by tradition and poetic license. The same spots were investigated last September by Mr. Jebb, Professor of Greek at the Glasgow University, and formerly Public Orator at Cambridge, and he has come to the conclusion that Dr. Schliemann's view—that he has discovered the very City of Priam, and proved that the Iliad was based upon real facts; that Ilium did really exist, and that Homer, even although he exaggerates, nevertheless sings of events that actually happened—must be definitely abandoned.
He admits, however, that the ruins of the five cities described by Schliemann exist; that one, or perhaps two of them, represents the Greek Colony of Ilium, and that the earliest, or possibly the earliest two—if we may distinguish between the city destroyed by fire and an earlier settlement—dates from pre-Hellenic times; that this may have been the town the siege of which gave rise to the poetic legend of Homer. But he contends that neither the ruins themselves, nor the surroundings, correspond with the poet's description; and arrives at the somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion, “that the Homeric data are essentially irreconcilable with each other, being, in fact, derirved partly from Bunárbashi, and partly from Hissarlik.” He adds that, in his belief, “Bunárbashi was the place where the oldest legends or lays, local to the Troad, placed Troy,” and that “Hissarlik may have been the centre around which poets of the Ionian epic school grouped incidents or traits which they added to the original nucleus.”
I may remark, however, that this is just the opposite to the order in which legends would seem likely to grow. I should rather have expected that the story would have been originally told about the city which was burnt, and afterwards, when the site was forgotten, have been transferred to some neighbouring locality where the surroundings are more imposing or romantic.
It must, at any rate, be admitted, that the discoveries of Dr. Schliemann, both in the way of ruined walls and buildings which he has found, and of pottery, jewellery, wrought metals, and armour which he has collected, are amongst the most valuable of the many additions that have been made in recent years to our knowledge of archæology, although he has probably gone too far in identifying the
several remains of antiquity which he has brought to light with the subjects mentioned in legends which have been handed down to us through the uncertain traditions of the poets.
The unhappy complications in Eastern Europe of a few years ago have at least brought forth some good results to antiquarian research. Thessaly having been ceded to Greece, learned men at Athens are already taking steps for the preservation of any objects of interest which may be brought to light on that classic soil. In Cyprus, English, Greek, and Turk are united in the careful search for Cypriotic, Phœnician, and Greek remains, which no doubt still abound in that island, no longer, I am glad to say, to sell to the highest bidder in Western Europe or America, but to form a local museum at Nicosia.
The Commission which is now labouring at Rome has already been rewarded, besides minor triumphs, by the discovery of the walls of Antemnæ, a city which is mentioned by Virgil, when he tells how—
Five mighty towns, their anvils set,
With emulous zeal their weapons whet:
Crustumium, Tibur the renowned,
And strong Atina there are found,
And Ardea and Antemnæ crowned
With turrets round her wall;
and which is stated by Livy to have been the birth-place of Hersilia, the wife of Romulus, and to have been one of the cities that joined in the attack on Rome in revenge for the rape of the Sabines. How far we can regard the incidents related by Livy as literally true, or whether we must treat them as a vast pile of legend built on a slender foundation of history, it would be out of place for me here to consider; but at least we may take it as a fact that Antemnæ was a town which flourished ere Rome was built, and was destroyed long before the time of Pliny, and that even a very few years since it was believed that no traces of it could be found.
Turning to geographical research, much valuable information has been obtained concerning the hitherto little known countries of Central Asia, by the explorations of O'Donovan in the Merv Oasis, by Floyer in Beloochistan, Baber in Western China, and other travellers both English and Russian.
The results of the interesting geographical and ethnological investigations made by my friend M. Miklouho Maclay during his scientific travels in South-Eastern Asia and Oceanica, have been given to the world by means of lectures before the Russian Geographical Society, and are soon to appear in a complete form, the work being published at the expense of the Emperor. Recent events, which have turned our attention to New Guinea, make the information he has collected during several prolonged visits to that island of special
importance. So determined was M. Maclay to lose no opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the Papuan race, that he submitted to all the discomforts of living amongst them for several months at a time, away from all European society, dwelling in a small hut, and for some time supporting himself by hunting. He has come to the conclusion (in opposition to the view formerly held) that the inhabitants of New Guinea are all of one race, although some who dwell near the coast have intermarried with the Malays and the inhabitants of other islands; and so low is the stage of culture to which they have attained that they have not learned even how to kindle a flame, but can only carry a torch from another fire; yet even amongst savages such as these the labours of the missionaries have not been in vain, as they have succeeded in teaching them something of the truths of the Christian religion, and have introduced the art of reading and writing. M. Maclay is of opinion, although he will not speak positively until he has made further investigations, that the Australian blacks are not connected either with the Papuans or the Polynesians, but form an independent race. I have lately heard that he has returned to this part of the world to carry on his ethnological investigations; and I trust that, should he come to New Zealand, he will be cordially welcomed by the members of the Institute.
Whilst speaking on this subject I should like to draw the attention of all here to the Geographical Society of Australasia, which, I learn, has been founded, and before which an interesting paper on New Guinea was lately read by Mr. La Meslee. I believe that the establishment of a society by which the residents in the various colonies would be united for the advancement of geographical knowledge, more especially in connection with the imperfectly known parts of Australasia, would be of great value, whether regarded from a scientific, commercial, or educational point of view, and I sincerely hope that New Zealand will unite with the other colonies in so admirable an undertaking.
The hand of death seems to have been unusually busy during the past year amongst men of science and letters. Scarcely had the grave closed over the remains of Charles Darwin before the news reached us of the fatal accident which had carried away Professor Balfour, at the early age of 32, one of the ablest and most promising men of his generation at Cambridge. In Professor Palmer we have lost one of the brightest scholars of Oriental literature. Amongst others whose loss we have to deplore are—Mr. Green, whose careful researches, made in spite of all the obstacles of a life of anxiety and feeble health, have placed English history in a new light; Robertson, the Ecclesiastical historian; Anthony Trollope, one of the most
popular of modern novelists; Stanley Jevons, the logician; and, last not least, Spottiswoode, the late President of the Royal Society, a man celebrated no less for his ability and scientific attainments than for his high character and benevolence, lately laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, amidst statesmen, warriors, poets, and heroes of literature and science, whose names will ever be honoured throughout the British Empire.
And now, having referred to the history of the Institute in the past, and glanced at a few of the principal events which have recently taken place in the world of science and literature, I turn to the future, and ask, what do we set before us as the object of the Institute, and with what attainment may we rest content? I have already spoken of the various subjects which were specially recommended for study fourteen years ago. Of these, some few (such as the history of the Maori race, about which Mr. Colenso, Mr. Travers, and others have contributed valuable and exhaustive papers) may be considered as almost completed; others, perhaps, have for various reasons ceased to be of importance; but the large majority call for further investigation, and will for many years demand careful research. I think, too, that the time has come when it may fairly be considered whether the subjects on which papers are specially desired should not take a wider range. The Institute and the incorporated societies supply machinery which is already being utilized, but which I believe to be capable of being utilized to a greater extent than it is at present, in the grand work of diffusing general education. In this sense I regard the Institute as supplementary to the schools, which are so rapidly increasing in number, and the University Colleges which are being established in all the centres of population in New Zealand, as a means by which that spirit of inquiry which has been aroused in early youth may find scope in later life. The great discoveries that are being every day made in the scientific world show us that, in the present state of society, some amount of scientific education is, in most cases, essential to make a successful practical man, a fact which none are more ready to admit than those who themselves feel the want of such a training. At the same time I would impress on every member of the Society that science, in the popular sense of the term, is only a part of education; and I trust the day may be far distant when literature is neglected, as some fear it may be, for the study alone of purely external objects. I believe that vast good is done by those who bring before the notice of others the thoughts and actions of great men, whether in ancient or modern times, in other parts of the world. By this means, a healthy desire for improvement may be instilled into the minds of
many who otherwise would have but little inclination or opportunity for independent study, and the general taste will be elevated. At the same time let each man who has the ability add something original, in his own department of information, whether pertaining to science or literature, to the common stock of knowledge.
It is thus that we, who have derived so rich an inheritance from the toils, the attempts, and even the failures of our ancestors, may, in our turn, labour to lay up a store for our descendants which shall make them nobler, wiser, and more enlightened than ourselves; thus, that each generation may rise superior to those which have gone before; thus, that the dreams of the Past may become the realities of the Present and the starting-point for the Future. In the words of the poet,—
Thy far-off children shall possess
That flying gleam of rainbow happiness:
Each wish unfilled, impracticable plan,
Goes to the forging of the force of man;
Thro' thy blind craving novel powers they gain,
And the slow race develops in its pain.
See their new joy, begotten of thy woe,
When what thy soul desired their soul shall know;
Thy heights unclimbed shall be their wonted way,
Thy hope their memory and thy dream their day.