If there is anything in the realm of mechanics which excites the wonder and admiration of man, it is the knowledge that the greatest inventions are the simplest, and that the inventor must take advantage of one law in nature which is universal in its application, and that is vibration.

There is a key to every secret in nature's great storehouse. It is not a complicated one, containing a multiplicity of wards and peculiar angles and recesses. It is the very simplicity in most of the problems which long served as a bar to discovery in many of the arts. So extremely simple have been some of the keys that many inventions resulted from accidents.

Invention Precedes Science

Occasionally inventions were brought about by persistency and energy, and ofttimes by theorizing; but science rarely ever aids invention. The latter usually precedes science. Thus, reasoning could not show how it might be possible for steam to force water into a boiler against its own pressure. But the injector does this

If, prior to 1876, it had been suggested that a sonorous vibration could be converted into an electrical pulsation, and transformed back again to a sonorous vibration, science would have proclaimed it impossible; but the telephone does it. Invention shows how things are done, and science afterwards explains the phenomena and formulates theories and laws which become serviceable to others in the arts.

Simplicity In Inventions

But let us see how exceedingly simple are some of the great discoveries of man.

The Telegraph

The telegraph is nothing but a magnet at each end of a wire, with a lever for an armature, which opens and closes the circuit that passes through the magnets and armature, so that an impulse on the lever, or armature, at one end, by making and breaking the circuit, also makes and breaks the circuit at the other end.


The telephone has merely a disk close to but not touching the end of a magnet. The sonorous vibration of the voice oscillates the diaphragm, and as the diaphragm is in the magnetic field of the magnet, it varies the pressure, so called, causing the diaphragm at the other end of the wire to vibrate in unison and give out the same sound originally imparted to the other diaphragm.


The transmitter is merely a sensitized instrument. It depends solely on the principle of light contact points in an electric circuit, whereby the vibrations of the voice are augmented.


The phonograph is not an electrical instrument. It has a diaphragm provided centrally with a blunt pin, or stylus. To make the record, some soft or plastic material, like wax, or tinfoil, is caused to move along so that the point of the stylus makes impressions in it, and the vibrations of the diaphragm cause the point to traverse a groove of greater or smaller indentations. When this groove is again presented to the stylus the diaphragm is vibrated and gives forth the sounds originally imparted to it when the indentations were made.

Wireless Telegraphy

Wireless telegraphy depends for its action on what is called induction. Through this property a current is made of a high electro-motive force, which means of a high voltage, and this disturbs the ether with such intensity that the waves are sent out in all directions to immense distances.

The great discovery has been to find a mechanism sensitive enough to detect the induction waves. The instrument for this purpose is called a coherer, in which small particles cohere through the action of the electric waves, and are caused to fall apart mechanically, during the electrical impulses

Printing Telegraph

The printing telegraph requires the synchronous turning of two wheels. This means that two wheels at opposite ends of a wire must be made to turn at exactly the same rate of speed. Originally, this was tried by clock work, but without success commercially, for the reason that a pendulum does not beat with the same speed at the equator, as at different latitudes, nor at altitudes; and temperature also affects the rate. The solution was found by making the two wheels move by means of a timing fork, which vibrates with the same speed everywhere, and under all conditions.

Electric Motor

The direct current electric motor depends for its action on the principle that likes repel, and unlikes attract. The commutator so arranges the poles that at the proper points, in the revolution of the armature, the poles are always presented to each other in such a way that as they approach each other, they are opposites, and thus attract, and as they recede from each other they repel. A dynamo is exactly the same, except that the commutator reverses the operation and makes the poles alike as they approach each other, and unlike as they recede.

Steel is simply iron, to which has been added a small per cent of carbon.

Quinine is efficient in its natural state, but it has been made infinitely more effectual by the breaking up or changing of the molecules with acids. Sulphate of quinine is made by the use of sulphuric acid as a solvent.


Explosions depend on oxygen. While this element does not burn, a certain amount of it must be present to support combustion. Thus, the most inflammable gas or liquid will not burn or explode unless oxygenized. Explosives are made by using a sufficient amount, in a concentrated form, which is added to the fuel, so that when it is ignited there is a sufficient amount of oxygen present to support combustion, hence the rapid explosion which follows.

Vibration In Nature

The physical meaning of vibration is best illustrated by the movement of a pendulum. All agitation is vibration. All force manifests itself in this way.

The painful brilliancy of the sun is produced by the rapid vibrations of the rays; the twinkle of the distant star, the waves of the ocean when ruffled by the winds; the shimmer of the moon on its crested surface; the brain in thinking; the mouth in talking; the beating of the heart; all, alike, obey the one grand and universal law of vibratory motion.