Gleanings From The Past #67


Science, like life, feeds on its own decay. New facts burst old rules; then newly divined conceptions bind old and new together into a reconciling law.

— William James, The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, 1897

A Philosopher Taught by a Child


The first scientific discovery made by Sir Humphrey Davy was due entirely to the observation of a little child. When a youth and eagerly curious on all phenomena connected with his favorite study, he was appealed to by this child to know why It was that when two pieces of bonnet-cane were rubbed together a little faint light came from them? If the fact had ever been observed before it was at least new to the chemist’s apprentice. Patting his little questioner on the head, he replied, “I do not know. Let us see if it is so; and then we will try and find out why.” Experiment showed that the child had correctly observed the fact. The young philosopher pondered upon it, and perceived that the principle which it indicated must be of much wider application; and the train of inquiry which this set in motion gradually brought him to the discovery of the siliceous earth in the epidermis, or skin of canes, reeds, and grasses.

With respect to this beautiful discovery, Davy observes in his “Agricultural Lectures,” that this epidermis serves as a support, protects the bark from the action of insects, and seems to fulfill a part in the economy of these feeble vegetable tubes similar to that performed in the animal kingdom by the shells of the crustaceous insects.

— Ralph and Chandos Temple, Invention and Discovery, 1870

Unpunctual Brothers

The most unpunctual persons ever known were two brothers, celebrated time immemorial in the place-holding world. The late Lord Dudley used to say of them, that if you asked Robert for Wednesday, at seven, you would have Charles on Thursday, at eight.

Frank Leslie’s Lady’s Magazine, Vol. 39, October 1876

The Drinking Class

I never on any account allow my business to interfere with my drinking.

— Charles F. Browne (nom de plume Artemus Ward), Artemus Ward’s Lectures; As Delivered in the Egyptian Hall, London, 1869

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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