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in opposition to any man of contrary opinions, even if that man should unfortunately prove to be my nearest relative, or my most intimate friend. The same considerations had necessarily the same influence over my brother.
“I am not ignorant that the firm adherence to opinions may sometimes require many a painful sacrifice, and lead to many a painful separation between relatives and friends ; but this, I trust, can only happen when there are any who are resolved not to discriminate between the obligations resulting from the relations of society, and those which, in the discharge of a political right, are imposed by an honourable and consistent maintenance of conscientious opinion. Fortunately, instances of such discrimination, alike honourable to both parties, are not rare ; and, indeed, among my own relations, I seo a complete division of a family in political subjects, without any interruption of the duties or the pleasures of family intercourse.
Whatever my brother does, he will do openly and honourably, and I earnestly request you dispassionately to consider the circumstances which I have stated, and then I cannot doubt but you will, with your accustomed liberality and kindness, do justice to the motives which have influenced us on this occasion.
“I feel that I have trespassed on your time and indulgence by this explanation, which I have endeavoured to make, and, I trust, have made with that deference and respect not only due from me, but which I most unfeignedly feel towards you, my old and valued friend. May I beg my best respects to Mrs Aitchison, who, I sincerely hope, is tolerably well.—And I remain, my dear sir, with great respect, very faithfully yours,
"T. DRUMMOND." Mr Aitchison did respect to the motives here so well defended. As to the election contest, finding he had no chance, he retired, and Mr Murray was elected without opposition.
By November 1832 Drummond returned to London, and, for a time, to the duties of the Survey. On the third of this month died Sir John Leslie, formerly Professor
of Mathematics—but at the time of his death Professor of Natural Philosophy—in the Edinburgh University. The Town Council of Edinburgh were looking out for a successor to him. They offered the post to Sir John Herschel, but he declined it. It seems that they next offered it to Mr Drummond ; at least, a party in the Council must have solicited him to come forward as a candidate. In a letter to his brother, dated November 14, 1832, he says :-“I saw the Chancellor yesterday evening; he exclaimed against my accepting the professorship. You know I had already declined it for different reasons.
I have had a letter from my mother this morning entreating me to accept the offer. I have written to her explaining the whole grounds of my refusal (the letter has not been preserved], what the Chancellor said, &c.
The Chancellor told me he understood Dr Brewster had applied ; if so, he should be the successful candidate.” He was not, however. Another was preferred, and Sir David's connection with the University (as Principal) was postponed for nearly thirty years.
Drummond's task at this time in connection with the Ordnance Survey was to prepare for publication an account of the measurement of the base at Lough Foyle, which, it is much to be regretted, he never finished. He had, early in 1830, prepared a sketch of the operation in a lecture for the Royal Institution. He now drew up a synoptic view of former bases, with a brief notice of their merits and defects. In the preparation of this paper he was led to the study of Probabilities; and La Place, says Larcom, was, it is believed, his last mathematical reading. He would probably have finished his account of the measurement of the base but for two reasons—that additional experiments were required for the comparison of the new standards and those formerly used, and that it was necessary to await the final decision of the Legislature on the actual standard. On the experiments for comparing the old and new standards Mr Drummond was engaged, along with Mr Simms and the Rev. Mr Sheepshanks, in March and April 1833.* This was his last scientific labour. In April 1833 he became Private Secretary to Lord Althorp, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and for the rest of his life all his labours were of a social or political nature.
Mr Drummond's scientific career was a very short one, extending over little more than seven years, during which he was also engaged in discharging the laborious duties of his profession. Many of these duties, indeed, were of a scientific nature—the work of observation and calculation ; but many of them also involved labour rather of the body than of the mind. The scientific labours by which he will be remembered, are not those of the service immediately, but those undertaken from time to time to meet its various exigencies.
If Mr Drummond had not been led by a genuine love of science to its cultivation in the earlier years of the service, he could not possibly, in the later years, have advanced its interests as he did. But we saw that by 1824 he had been engaged on researches on light; was an ardent student of meteorology, and a good chemist and optician. He had previously been an excellent and ingenious mathematician. In 1824 he began to apply his resources to render the Survey worthy of the contemporaneous state of science, and to
* The results appear at page 12 of the Appendix to Captain Yolland's “ Account.”
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.