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Naturally, therefore, on the occurrence of the famous total eclipse of the sun, which we fully noticed in our report of last year, the attention of astronomers was directed especially to the coloured protuberances on the sun's surface, not without the hope that the recent discoveries of the spectroscope might be found capable of explaining some of them. A telegram from a Danish astronomer, M. Janssen, was, we believe, the first to announce to the President of the Royal Society that the spectrum of these prominences did show bright lines, while that of the Corona showed none, the necessary conclusion being that these prominences were not clouds, but incandescent matter in a gaseous form. One of the most extraordinary results of these solar observations is the wonderful changes they bring to light; thus, prominences whose heights must be measured by tens and thousands of miles appear and disappear in the course of a few minutes.
Proceeding onwards, Professor Stokes called the attention of the meeting to the great progress which had been made in the manufacture and use of guncotton, together with a full description of some other of the most recent and most interesting chemical discoveries, such as the finding 6 per cent. of copper in the colouring of the wings of the turaco or plaintain-eater of the Cape ; an artificial substitute for madder; a new opiuin base; some notices of the honours proposed to be shown to Faraday's memory; and the remembrance of the year 1869, as the centenary of that in which James Watt took out his patent for the invention of separate condensation, which many regard justly as the real birth of the steam-engine.
In conclusion, Professor Stokes grappled boldly, we are happy to say, with one of what are called the “problems of the day,” and in the following poble words enounces the true creed of a philosopher and Christian :-“ But do the laws of chemical affinity,” says he,“ to which, as I have endeavoured to infer, living beings, whether vegetable or animal, are in absolute subjection, together with those of capillary attraction, of diffusion, and so forth, account for the formation of an organic structure, as distinguished from the elaboration of the chemical substances of which it is composed? No more, it seems to me, than the laws of motion account for the union of oxygen and hydrogen to form water, though the ponderable matter so uniting is subject to the laws of motion during the act of union just as well before as after. In the various processes of crystallization, of precipitation, and so forth, which we witness in dead matter, I cannot see the faintest shadow of an approach to the formation of an organic structure, still less to the wonderful series of changes which are con ned in the growth and perpetuation of even the lowliest plant. Admitting to the full as highly probable, though not completely demonstrated, the applicability to living beings of the laws which have been ascertained with reference to dead matter, I feel constrained, at the same time, to admit the existence of a mysterious something lying beyond ; a something sui generis, which I regard not as balancing and suspending the ordinary means, but as working with them, and through them, to the attainment of a designed end. What this something that we may call life may be, is a profound mystery. We know not how many links in the chain of secondary causation may yet remain behind ; we know not how few. It would be presumptuous, indeed, to assume in any case that we had already ached the last link, and to charge with irreverence a fellow-worker who attempted to push his investigation yet one step farther back. On the other hand, if a thick darkness enshrouds all beyond, we have no right to assume it to be impossible that
we should have reached even the last link of the chain, a stage when farther progress is unattainable, and we can only refer the highest law at which we stopped to the fiat of an Almighty power. To assume the contrary as a matter of necessity, is practically to remove the First Cause of all to an infinite distance
The boundary, however, between what is clearly known and what is veiled in impenetrated darkness, is not ordinarily thus sharply defined. Between the two there lies a misty region, in which loom the ill-discerned forms of links of the chain which are yet beyond us. But the general principle is not affected thereby. Let us fearlessly trace the dependence of link on link as far as it may be given us to trace it, but let us take heed that, in thus studying second causes, we forget not the First Cause, nor shut our eyes to the wonderful proofs of design which, in the study of organized beings especially, meet us at every turn."
OF REMARKABLE OCCURRENCES
1. CASE OF THE OVEREND AND GURNEY DIRECTORS BEFORE THE LORD MAYOR.—Mr. H. E. Gurney, Mr. R. Birkbeck, Mr. H. G. Gordon, Mr. W. Rennie, Mr. H. F. Barclay, and Mr. J. H. Gurney, directors in the late company of Overend and Gurney, appeared at the Mansion-house to answer a charge of having "unlawfully and deceitfully conspired together, and by divers false pretences and divers false statements, with reference to the affairs and condition of the company, induced the complainant and the public generally to subscribe and take shares in the said company, with intent to cheat and defraud them of large sums of money. The defendants were also charged with making and publishing these statements, knowing them to be false and fraudulent, with the like intent. Much interest was manifested in the proceedings, and the court was crowded throughout the hearing. The case was heard by the Lord Mayor, Sir T. Gabriel, Sir R. Carden, Sir B. Phillips, and Alderman Cotton.
The prosecution was instituted by Dr. Adam Thom, a shareholder, and was conducted by Mr. George Lewis, jun. The defendants were represented by Mr. Serjeant Ballantine, Mr. Serjeant Parry, Mr. Serjeant Sleigh, and Mr. Giffard, Q.C.
The inquiry lasted for several days, and very great excitement prevailed throughout it in the city.
On the 27th it was brought to a close, when the Lord Mayor announced that the decision of the court was that “there is evidence sufficient to put upon their trial John Henry Gurney, Henry Edmund Gurney, Robert Birkbeck, Henry Ford Barclay, Harry George Gordon, and William Rennie." The defendants were admitted to bail-each of them in the sum of 10,0001., with two sureties of 50001, each. They addressed the court in turn, and
energetically denied any intention to defraud. Dr. Adam Thom, the complainant, was bound over to prosecute in the sum of 50001.
TRIALS OF HER MAJESTY's Ship“ HERCULES.”—The frigate “Hercules” was put through her trials over the measured mile and in circling off Portsmouth with great success, the mean speed attained by the ship over the mile being at the rate of 14,691 knots, or seventeen statute miles per hour. The turning power of the ship proved equally satisfactory, a complete circle being made in four minutes, a shorter time than the same evolution was ever performed in before by a ship of not less length. The anchor of the frigate was weighed soon after eleven a.m., and soon afterwards steam was admitted to her cylinders, and her enormous screw began slowly to revolve as she pointed her head out eastward for a preliminary hour's run seaward before entering upon the runs over the measured mile. A morning more favourable for the trial could not have occurred, the waters of the Solent being as smooth as the surface of a croquet-lawn, with a light breeze from the westward, and a pleasant sunshine ushering in the new year.
The officials and others on board the frigate comprised RearAdmiral G. G. Wellesley, C.B. ; Captain Rich, Her Majesty's ship “Asia,” and commanding the Portsmouth Steam Reserves ; Mr. Steil, Admiralty Inspector of Machinery; Chief Inspector of Machinery, George Murdoch ; Mr. Barnaby, Assistant-Constructor of the Navy; Mr. Thornton, Master Shipwright of Chatham Dockyard; Mr. Eames, Inspector of Machinery, Chatham Dockyard; Mr. Steil, Steam Factory Department; Mr. H. Anderson (Messrs. John Penn and Son); Mr. C. V. Boys, Electric Telegraph Company; and Messrs. Owen and Hand, Portsmouth, Shipwright Department.
At a few minutes before one p.m. the ship was placed on the measured mile, and six runs taken without a check of any kind, Nos. 1, 3, and 5 being taken with the tide, and Nos. 2, 4, and 6 against it. The speed attained on the fifth run-with the tide, of course—was a tremendous rate of speed for a heavily plated ironclad to move at under any conditions. The “ “ Hercules exhibited much less vibration at the stern than the "Bellerophon” did on her trials; but she appeared remarkably tender, heeling over as much as three and a half and four degrees in turning at the end of one mile to enter upon the back run. The frigate entered upon her trials at her deepload draught of water, the ammunition, of which she was short, being represented by ninety-eight tons of iron ballast, the draught of water being twenty-two feet eleven inches forward, and twenty-six feet five and a half inches aft. The diameter of the screw was twenty-three feet six inches, and its pitch was set at twenty-four feet. The ship made all her runs over the measured mile with her rudder acting in the ordinary way, and not as a balance-rudder. The time of the ship throughout was taken with one of Benson's chronographs.
It was quite dark when the “Hercules” anchored at Spithead on the conclusion of her trials. The engines of this ship were the largest yet turned out of Mr. Penn's establishment. Their working was magnificent, and their indicated power could not, when worked out from the card diagrams, be much less than seven times their nominal power, or say 8000-horse.
Mr. Joseph Harding, Trinity and Queen's pilot, ably directed the steering of the ship through the day.
3. SEVERE GALE.-WRECK OF A SCHOONER.—The severe southwesterly gales which swept over the coast of Kent during the preceding days were fruitful of disaster; and this morning they increased to great violence, sudden gusts of wind frequently sweeping upon the coast with terrific force. Signals of distress were heard proceeding from the “Gull Lightship,” and a vessel was descried on the Goodwins. The alarm was quickly given, and the lifeboat put off
. to render aid to the unfortunate vessel. The tide was ebbing fast, and the sea was very rough. On reaching the Sands, the crew of the lifeboat found that the distressed vessel was a French schooner, named the “Jaspard,” Rouxel master, of and from St. Malo, for London, with a cargo of oats. The vessel was too deeply embedded in the sand to be rescued from her perilous position. The lifeboat was run ashore on the Goodwins in order to reach the vessel. When boarded, only one man, the master, was found. He stated that while he had left the deck to go down into the cabin the boat containing the crew, four in number, had put off from the vessel, leaving him behind, either by accident or design, and they had not since been seen or heard of. After taking the master from the wreck, the crew of the lifeboat had a long and arduous task to extricate their boat from the Sands. After persistent effort for between two and three hours, however, they succeeded, and once more put to sea on their return to the harbour, which they reached about half-past twelve noon, and were warmly cheered on landing by the crowds who thronged the beach and the pier-head.
In Yorkshire early this morning a south-west gale, at times blowing with the violence of a hurricane, with very heavy rains, set in, and continued till about nine a.m., when the weather moderated, and ultimately became quite summer-like. The effect was magical. On the 2nd the whole country was deeply covered with snow, but at noon to-day not a trace of snow was to be found. So rapid a thaw was, of course, expected to cause floods, and all the Yorkshire rivers were, for the fourth time in as many weeks, over their banks, and a very large tract of country was flooded, roads and houses in some places being inundated. Various works and mills near rivers were flooded and stopped.
16. PUBLIC ENTRY OF THE LORD-LIEUTENANT INTO DUBLIN.Earl and Countess Spencer came from Holyhead in the royal mail steamer “ Ulster,” which arrived at Kingston at about seven o'clock a.m., and were greeted with a salute of twenty-one guns by the “Royal George." Their Excellencies landed at the Carlisle