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employ in the interests of science the opportunities of observation which the Survey operations afforded. The results we have seen.
I have already mentioned the opinions of two distinguished astronomers, as to what his success would have been had he elected to follow science instead of politics. It was the view of both of them that it was a grave fault on his part to have deserted scientific for political pursuits. Men who respect the smallest quantities that the micrometer can measure or the balance can weigh, and who religiously regard such principles and laws as are established in nature, are apt to look with scorn on the methods of politicians and the unprincipled conflicts of interests in which they are commonly engaged. But the chief ground of complaint was, undoubtedly, the belief that Mr Drummond would have been a distinguished promoter of the science in which they themselves were more immediately interested—the science of astronomy. We saw that Mr Drummond had become a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and expressed his resolution to qualify himself for being an efficient member. There can be little doubt that, had he not embraced political occupations, he would have become especially distinguished in that field.
Excellent as were the means of astronomical observation, they were yet capable of great improvement. To a considerable extent they have, in the interval, been improved. Drummond possessed just the combination of talents requisite for their immediate improvement. As an observer in the field, he had been as successful as in experimenting and working in the laboratory;*
* His first experiments on the expansion and contraction of metals were executed with such care, and the results were so exact, every precaution being taken that a full knowledge of the
on the other hand, his resources for overcoming difficulties of observation were, as we have seen, of the highest order. “When he quitted the walks of science, says Sir John Herschel, “ for the high and efficient line of public life which called forth the full exertion of his great powers, the impression was general that his success as a man of science, had he desired it, must have been of a very distinguished kind. A strongly characteristic feature of his scientific undertakings and improvements was their eminently practical nature, and the directness with which they attained the distinct object in view, by means highly ingenious and quite out of the common line of contrivance, yet meeting fully and precisely every exigency of the case. The distinguished astronomer has assured me that he had looked for great things, from this faculty of contrivance in Drummond, on his betaking himself to astronomy.
The foundation of his success as a contriver was the clear apprehension he always formed of the whole conditions of the problem to be solved. He had been distinguished at Woolwich, as Professor Barlow states, just by possessing this faculty. Every point of difficulty being understood, his mind was ready to receive suggestions on any one. His professional enthusiasm came in aid of constitutional alertness to follow every hint. The mica experiments, as Herschel points out, form a remarkable illustration of this disposition.
Clear-headed and prompt, his powers of contrivance seemed inexhaustible. No one could be readier with a test of any proposal, or with
conditions of the inquiry could dictate, that, after being repeatedly tested, they were ever after assumed as correct in experiments of the same class conducted by the Survey officers.
* Letter to Mrs Drummond, May 12, 1840.
the means of giving it effect when it was seen to be feasible.
His first heliostat is the only contrivance which looks as if it had been reached by a process of reasoning. It was a solution by construction of a problem in geometry -the construction done in delicate machinery. His other contrivances were all hits; the conception of them must have flashed on his mind. The idea of placing a small lime-ball in the focus of a reflector as a source of light, was an exceedingly happy one. The device for regulating the rates of expansion in the measuring bars was novel, and almost as ingenious as that for marking the compensation points. The second heliostat, with its accompanying ring, must have presented itself to his imagination in a flash of thought. Nothing could be more simple or perfect for its objects.
It cannot be said, however, in regard to any of his principal contrivances that the germal idea belonged to him. The principle of compensation is the honour of Graham and Harrison. Drummond's merit, assuming it to have been his, was that he made a novel application of it. The use of the solar reflection to mark a station was as old as General Roy-probably, as Larcom remarks, coeval with the earliest geodetical operations of any magnitude. Drummond made its use easy and certain, superseding the difficult computations that had previously been required for each station.* The oxyhydrogen light was known before Drummond gave to it celebrity and his name; yet in this, as in the preceding cases, the merit of what he did was of a high order. “ It consisted,” says Herschel, “ in the ready seizure of fact precisely bearing on his own case, and its perfectly effective application to a particular object in view.” “ His merit,” says Larcom, " was in rendering practically useful a recondite experiment—by devising a means of procuring and using without danger agents so turbulent as the mixed gases, making the apparatus sufficiently portable and simple to be employed in the circumstances of exposure required for the Survey, and, perhaps more than all, for the happy idea of using the minute spherule of concentrated light as the radiating focus of a parabolic mirror.” After every limitation has been stated, it remains that his applications of preexisting elements affect the mind with the full impression of originality. The
* Gauss, in Germany, was earlier than Drummond in constructing a heliostat, but Drummond was quite unacquainted with the instrument of Gauss, or the fact that it existed.
power of contrivance is essentially one with the faculty of discovery. Both depend on the perception of secret relations. In which way the faculty may manifest itself, is a matter of circumstances. In Drummond's case it was exercised in the sphere of duty in which he was placed, and to which he devoted his energies. It can scarcely be doubted that the same power exercised in a different sphere would have won for him a high place in the list of names celebrated in the history of scientific discovery.
MR DRUMMOND BECOMES PRIVATE SECRETARY TO LORD
ALTHORP: A PENSION IS CONFERRED ON HIM : HE BE
COMES UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR IRELAND : HIS
MR DRUMMOND now enjoyed the friendship of Lord Brougham. It was of still greater importance that he had earned the confidence of the whole Ministry. Having done so, it was unlikely that he would be long left unemployed. In April 1833 he was solicited by Lord Althorp, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to become his private secretary.
He did not accept the post at once. The dissuasions from a political career were renewed with increased force. There were other reasons for hesitation. Should he give up professional certainty for temporary political employment ? He was not rich. To accept might be to desert military for civil pursuits, to forego the “standing” which he now had in the Engineers—he was still Lieutenant Drummond—and, as it were, to begin life again in a sphere remarkable for its uncertainties and vicissitudes.
One whom he consulted as to his course was his friend Mr Bellenden Ker. Miss Martineau, who often met him in the pleasant society of the Kers, gives some