Address to Mechanical Engineers

Mr. C. W. Hunt, on retiring from the presidency of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers recently, delivered a most interesting address, an extract of which we republish from an engineering journal published in New York, called "Power." Speaking of the labors and achievements of the mechanical engineers, Mr. Hunt gave expression to the following philosophical thoughts:—

Working in a field and in touch with a body of his fellowmen having similar tastes, he sees on every hand scenes of engrossing interest. The telescope recording the position and motion of stars which no human eye has ever seen; the spectroscope analyzing the materials of the sun and stars with all the accuracy which it would show if the articles were in the laboratory. Looking with Roentgen rays through a double-barreled rifle he sees not only the leaden bullets within the steel barrels, but also the wads and the charges. He photographs lines in the ultra-violet spectrum far beyond the reach of our vision. He stands by a quartz filament galvanometer which indicates an electric current so minute that if it should be increased in magnitude eight hundred thousand times it would still be only the one-millionth part of an ampere, and on the other hand he sees the Niagara electric generator of five thousand horse power, with a current so much larger than that of the galvanometer that the difference can only be expressed mathematically, not in colloquial language. He sees with entrancing interest the liquefaction of hydrogen by the physicist at a temperature of only twenty-three degrees centigrade above actual zero. He shares in the enthusiasm at the results of two years of unremitting work in the photo spectrum in isolating a new element—monium, in the Hertz electro-magnetic waves now applied in wireless telegraphy; and in the newly discovered element in the salts of Uranium, whose radiations make the air through which they pass a conductor of electricity. More nearly touching him personally comes the work of the biologist, whose quest for the thing we call life has continued from the primitive man to the present time. Constantly flitting from his grasp, it has seemingly passed from fire and storm to mountain and deep, from animal and plant to seed, to cell, and now it has been followed to the molecule or the atom, and yet it as completely eludes his grasp or even his comprehension as ever it has. But followed it certainly has been, by all the laws and forces of nature at the command of man, until the search for it is now in the molecule or the atom, a space physically so small that only the trained imagination can even faintly comprehend its minuteness.

Cullings from the News Letter
February 9, 1899

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