« PreviousContinue »
indebted for an interesting account of the district in which he was for some time located,* and from which the supposed mineral was obtained along with many other loose specimens. It will be worth while briefly to refer to it here, as affording an excellent instance of the great care which should be given to the discrimination of such objects. We shall quote the actual words of Mr. Piddington.†
"Our specimen is apparently the remains of an oblique rhomboidal table, much broken down by exposure to the atmosphere, or to the action of water, and decomposing externally."
"Its external colour, feel, soiling, and hardness when scraped, are exactly those of an impure earthy chalk ; *
"Its fracture, seen on a very small surface, is coarse and hackly, and it is of some considerable toughness. It shews also in the fracture thin brown coloured veins, such as are sometimes seen in common earthy iron ores from vegetable matter."
"It is externally very friable and soiling. It adheres a little to the tongue, and feels heavy. The interal colour is that of a dull dirty fawn coloured claystone, the lustre earthy, but perhaps in a strong light a little saccharine."
"The smell is very remarkable, being oily and rancid, as if oil had been spilled upon it; and this especially when it is pulverised or heated high enough to drive off the water. The powder is of a dull, yellowish white colour. The external chalky surface then, is that of the decomposed mineral,* *. Its spec: gravity is but 3.43 ;*
Blowpipe examination. In the forceps it blackens, softens and sometimes exfoliates a little, or a piece flies off. The most remarkable characters are the blackening and softening, by which last the points of the forceps are deeply impressed into the assay." "The blackened assay affords no trace of a sulphuret, and in the reducing flame the blackness soon goes off, leaving the whole mineral of a dirty greyish white."** * * "Via Humida. ** *By the only analysis for which I could afford an assay, from so small and precious a specimen, I find it to contain
"As above-mentioned, we cannot afford to sacrifice any more of this curious specimen for examination, and I should moreover remark that a portion of the external decomposed white crust was unavoidably taken in the analysis made. We have a right however to claim the discovery
* Capt. J. C. Haughton, Author of Mem. on Geol. Structure of Singbhoom. Jour. As. Soc. Bengal, Vol. xxiii. p. 103, 1854.
Jour. As. Soc. Bengal, Vol. xix., p. 452. MARCH, 1859.
of it for Lieut. Haughton, and I have therefore named it, provisionally, Haughtonite."
We fancy our readers from the above description have probably anticipated the solution of all these curious facts. If not, we will solve their doubts at once, by telling them that this "precious" specimen of a "valuable" new mineral was nothing more nor less than a fragment of old, dried-up white paint; it derived its flat table-like form from the surface on which it dried, its curious brown wavy lines from the disseminated films of oil through it, these at once accounting for the blackening and softening when heated; and for the oily and rancid smell. We doubt not, there had been lying in some out of the way corner of the verandah of Capt. Haughton's residence in the country, a box which was the receptacle of all loose fragments of stones belonging to nothing in particular; and that with the many fragments of stones and ores had been thrown a piece of hardened paint, which had lain at the bottom of some earthen pot until it was useless. Such was the Haughtonite. We cannot, therefore, admit the other minerals described by the same author, without further and more careful examination.
A wide field still remains for future enquiries in Indian mineralogy; and many will be the additions to the list of Indian minerals. In Bengal, the direction which the railroads have taken passing over ground which is for the most part nearly flat, there will be but little opportunity afforded by cuttings through rock for such collections, but we trust that on the Bombay side of the peninsula, some one interested in such pursuits has been carefully watching the operations of the railway engineers. The vast cuttings through the trap-rocks on the Bhore Ghaut, must have yielded splendid specimens of the varieties of Zeolites known to occur there. And we shall be greatly surprised, if several other varieties not hitherto observed, have not been brought to notice. We look eagerly to our Bombay brothers of the hammer for information on this point.
During the last few years, the Court of Directors of the East India Company, anxious to do what in them lay to promote the material wealth of this country, sent to each of the three Presidencies of India, a gentleman to act as mineral viewer, with especial reference to the extent of the deposits, and the practicability of working the coals, and iron ores. The several reports of these gentlemen have now appeared, and we believe the authors have all returned to Europe. These reports are practically valuable, and we would refer those personally interested in such enquiries to them, as affording a considerable amount of information. Mr. David Smith, the gentleman sent to Bengal, has reported on the coal fields of Rancegunge, of Kurhurbari, of
Palamow, and Sirgoojah. We may say that he has not added a single geological fact to those already known regarding these fields. He has discussed fully the probable expense, and the probable difficulties, attendant on the proposed attempt to work the iron ores, and this portion of his report is valuable and important, as giving the candid impressions of one conversant experimentally with such undertakings. His calculations do not very materially differ from those given year before by Mr. Oldham, if allowance be made for the different scale of the works proposed. Mr. Smith's reports regarding the other fields, merely notice the facts of thickness, number of beds and facility for extraction, &c.
In Bombay, Mr. Blackwell visited the Nerbudda district. and Sinde, and in his reports has discussed the feasibility of profitably manufacturing iron, and of obtaining coal.*
We have not seen any reports by Mr. Wall respecting the Madras districts, with the exception of a short description of his trip to Kotah on the Godavery, published in the Madras Lit. and Phil. Journal,† in which he gives some facts of interest and importance, bearing on the geology of the country.
We have alluded, however, to these reports for a special reason. We should never have looked for a geological description of the country examined in such papers, and yet they afford a tacit and therefore unanswerable acknowledgment, on the part of the authors of these reports, of the value of geological knowledge.
We are not of the school who fancy, that practice, if successful, can ever be opposed to science. We reject in toto the absurd distinction of "practical" men, and laugh to ridicule the cant of those who imagine there can be any real opposition in such things. We believe that the great author of inductive science correctly stated the progress of knowledge, "ascendendo ad axiomata, descendendo ad opera," we believe that principles must be known before the application of those principles can be safely attempted; and however valuable the manipulative skill, acquired by long continued "practice" and devotion to one pursuit, may be, when that pursuit is to be continued under the same conditions, we know also, that those most likely to be mistaken and led astray, if these conditions be altered, are precisely those most practical, most skilled in the mere practice of what they have acquired. We speak strongly on this subject from the frequency with which we hear repeated, "Oh! we want practical men"! And this is eternally dinned into the ears of every one interested in the questions discussed, but chiefly by
* Selections from Records of Bombay Government, New Series, xliv.
† New Series, Vol. ii. No, iv., July and September, 1857.
those very persons who know nothing of either the practice or the science involved in the matter.
But to return to our immediate subject. The reports, as we said, of these practical viewers have been published, of men of high, and deservedly high, reputation in their own pursuits; and in every single instance, have these gentlemen found it expedient and necessary to enter into geological details—to speak of the science, that is, not of the practice and to do this as the groundwork, the foundation, and the only safe foundation, on which to build up their practical results.
And still, curiously enough, there is not a single instance which does not at once betray the almost total want of acquaintance, on the part of the writers with the very subject matter, which, involuntarily, they felt compelled to introduce. One of these gentlemen, having somewhere become acquainted with the names applied by the Geological Surveyors to different groups of rocks, has apparently put them into a bag, and shaking them up well, has drawn them out in succession and then taken this order, as the order in which they occurred in nature. The proceeding is, at least, impartial.
Now we would here ask, why is this? Why should there be, in matters connected with the physical structure of the earth, a confusion of ideas which does not exist on other points? To us, the answer is obvious-simply this, that there do not as yet exist the general means of acquiring in childhood a knowledge of these matters. Would any sane person be found talking of wanting a "practical" man if it were desired to calculate the height of one of the mountains of the moon, or to measure the parallax of a fixed star. The builder-up of telescopes, the practical optician is here, as in other things, a necessary adjunct to any such operations. To his skill we must be indebted for the beautiful contrivances for abridging space, and measuring minute angular distances, but these contrivances are only the practical embodiment of suggestions derived from, and of wants felt by, others. But why would the optician not be applied to in such a case? Why would the statement of the scientific astronomer be appealed to rather than the dictum of the most skilled workman that ever existed? We believe simply because every person, who has the slightest claim to be considered educated, has been so far instructed from his early youth that he is able to see the distinctness of the two; to acknowledge the beauty of the contrivance and the immense accuracy of the workmanship of the practical man, and to appreciate the wonderful science and command of resources which the astronomer brings to his subject. We think further that the result would be precisely similar, were our youth trained from childhood to a knowledge, however cle
mentary, of natural science. They would then at least know what the problems to be solved meant, and be able to estimate their chance of undertaking them; they would see where extended and general knowledge came into play, and where limited and practical skill was required.
Surely, it is to this want of early acquaintance with the sublime discoveries of geology, that we may trace the frequent (alas! how often ill judged) attempts to "reconcile" its truths with religious opinions. There still lurks in the minds of many a scarcely-confessed yet only half-concealed dread of the study. Its truths, fairly stated, come upon them with almost alarming novelty, and, we would confess also, with some apparent contradiction to generally received notions. Its reasonings, too, require long and careful study to be fully understood, and however fully comprehended, they still want life, and are weak and inconclusive, unless the student has become actually familiar with the rocks and fossils,-which are the proof of the geologist's propositions—and has actually studied their relations, as they lie in the earth. The few, who give any serious consideration to the matter, admit the truth and value of the proofs submitted to them, and justly argue that what is truth in science, rightly understood, must be truth in religion; and that truth can never be dangerous. But the many who give not this attention to the evidence are so startled by the novelty, that they cannot see the sublimity, of these truths. Their minds are not prepared to admit what, at first blush, seems to be opposed to their earliest, and most fondly-cherished notions. The bearings of geological science, upon the statements of revelation, upon the antiquity of this earth, and the demonstration which its researches afford that death has been the universal law of all organic beings on this globe "from the beginning," require long and repeated thought to be fully comprehended, and cannot therefore be at once received. There must have been here, as in other cases, a large amount of previously acquired knowledge; the soil must have been prepared for the reception of the seed, if we wish that seed to germinate and yield fruit. And we hesitate not to say that this preparation, this previously acquired knowledge, can never be looked for, unless we can see introduced into our schools, and educational establishments of every grade, a certain amount of teaching in practical geology.
And these considerations naturally lead us to say a word or two on the future prospects of geology in this country. We have seen what has been done lately, we have hinted at what still remains to be done, before we can hope for even an imperfect acquaintance with the real structure, or an imperfect knowledge of the mineral wealth of the country. And we think it obvi