The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO RICHARD OWEN; 16 June 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510616-TC-RO-01; CL 26: 90-91


Chelsea, 16 june, 1851—

Dear Owen,

I find record, among John Sterling's letters, of his having met you in various places about Falmouth (and liked you very well), in something whh he calls a “Polytechnic Meeting” held thereabouts in the Autumn of 1841. I am printing a Life of poor Sterling at present, and busy riddling out any fraction of memorability from these details. The Falmouth rencounter I myself may well keep in mind; for I think it is to it that I owe my first acquaintance with you.— But I do not well know what this “Polytechnic Meeting” is, or was;—or how distinguished from the “British Association,” with whh it seems by no means identical.1 A word from you might explain this;—and the shortest that will suffice for intellgibility is all I ask or want in this hurried time. No doubt you remember Sterling at Sir Charles Lemon's:2 but I do not ask you to say anything about that, or the rest of the circumambient matters,—at all events I will not steal your sayings to feed my printer with them. “The Polytechnic Meeting at Falmouth in 1841?” that is the essential question.—

Can you not advise Professor Airey,3 or some real Mathematician and Geometer, to undertake that business of Foucault's Pendulum, and (throwing Euler4 & his Algebras overboard) illuminate it for the geometrical mind? It seems to me the prettiest experiment made in this Century,—tho' perhaps good for nothing otherwise. I have had a great wrestling with it occasionally in my own poor hand (which used to know some Mathematics 20 years ago), and a deadly suspicion haunts me, the fact itself being certain as Fate, that nobody has yet in the least explained what the real course and conditions of it are.

Yours ever truly,

T. Carlyle