Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


142 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. most powerful speakers in favour of the accused-was not concluded till about midnight of the second day, when his opponents were outvoted by ninety-six to eighty-four. Mr. Leslie now took possession of the Mathematical chair without further opposition. Finding the class apparatus very deficient, he immediately set about remedying the defect, by making extensive collections and adding several instruments of his own invention ; and throughout the whole period of his professorship, much of his leisure was devoted to the accomplishment of still further improvements. In 1810, by the aid of the hygrometer-one of his ingenious contrivances-he arrived at the discovery of artificial congelation, or the mode of converting water and mercury into, ice, which has been characterised as a process “ singularly beautiful.” In 181 9, on the death of Professor Playfair, he obtained the chair of Natural Philosophy, and thereby found his sphere of usefulness extended, and a wider field for the display of his talents. The various works produced by Mr. Leslie are as follow :-In 1809, “ Elements of Geometry,” which immediately became a class book-1813, an “Account of Experiments and Instruments depending on the relation of Air to Heat and Moisture ”-1817, “ Philosophy of Arithmetic, exhibiting a progressive view of the Theory and Progress of Calculation”-l821, “ Geometrical Analysis, and Geometry of Curve Lines, being volume second of a course of Mathematics, and designed as an Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy,” for the use of his class, of which only one volume appeared-1828, “Rudiments of Geometry,” a small octavo, designed for popular use. Besides these, he wrote many articles in the Edinburgh Review ; in Nicholson’s Philosophical Journal ; in \ the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh ; and furnished several valuable treatises on different branches of physics in the Supplement to the Emyclopledia Britannica. In the seventh edition of that work, begun in 1829, he-wrote a “ Discourse on the History of Mathematics and Physical Science during the Eighteenth Century,” which is allowed to be the most pleasing and faultless of all his writings. In 1832, on the recommendation of Lord Brougham, then Lord Chancellor, Mr. Leslie was created a Knight of the Guelphic Order, and a similar honour was conferred on Herschel, Bell, Ivory, Rrewster, South, Nicholas, and other iudividuals equally eminent for their attainments ; but he did not long enjoy the honour conferred on him. He had purchased an estate, called Coates, near his native place, where, by exposing himself to wet while superintending some improvements, he caught a severe cold, which terminated in his death on the 3d November 1832. All have admired the invqntive fertility of his genius-his extensive knowledge and vigorous mind. As a writer, however, his style has been criticised ; and he has been accused as somewhat illiberal in his estimate of kindred merit, while he is represented to have been credulous in matters of common life, and sceptical in science. “ His faults,” says his biographer, ‘‘ were far more than . The character of Sir John has been subject to some littls stricture.
Volume 9 Page 190
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 9 Page 191
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures