The subjects brought forward were not of intense interest. We had a paper by Dr. Traill, describing the Portrush Railway, and there were various other papers; and I can pass over some of the other subjects, because I shall have to deal with them under another head. But while we were in Montreal, a deputation of American professors and members of the American Association came over, and invited a good many of those who were present at Montreal to visit the American Association at Philadelphia. I was one of those who went over to America simply and solely for a holiday, and I am bound to say that I set my face determinedly against going to Philadelphia. I traveled with two charming companions, and we all decided not to go to Philadelphia. But the compact was broken, and we capitulated, and went from the charming climate of Montreal into the most intense heat and into the greatest discomfort that I think poor members of the Telegraph Engineers' Society ever experienced. We entered a heat that was 100° by day and 98° by night; and I do not think there is anybody in this room, unless he has been brought up in the furnace-room of an Atlantic steamer, who can fully appreciate the heat of Philadelphia in these summer months.
The discomforts of the climate were, however, amply compensated for by the hospitality and kindness of the inhabitants. We spent, in spite of the heat, a very pleasant time.
Before referring further to the meetings at Philadelphia, I may just mention the other journeys that I took. My holiday having been broken by the rupture of the union to which I have alluded, I had to devote it then to other purposes, and, in addition to Montreal and Philadelphia, I went to New York (to which I shall refer again), from New York to Buffalo, then to Lake Erie and Cleveland, and on to Chicago, where I spent a week or more. From Chicago I went to see the great artery of the West - the Mississippi. I stopped for a day or two at St. Louis. One remarkable fact came to my knowledge, and I dare say it is new to many present, and that is, that the Mississippi, unlike other rivers, runs uphill. It happens, rather curiously, that, owing to the earth being an oblate spheroid, the difference between the source of the Mississippi and the center of the earth is less than that of its mouth and the center of the earth, and you may see how this running up hill is accounted for.
From St. Louis I went to Indianapolis, thence to Pittsburg, where they have struck most extraordinary wells of natural gas. Borings are made in the earth from the crust to a depth of 600 or 700 feet, when large reservoirs of natural gas are "struck." The town is lighted by this gas, and it is also employed for motive power. In Cleveland, also, this natural gas is found, and there is no doubt that it is going to economize the cost of production very much in that part of the country. From Pittsburg I went to Baltimore, where Sir William Thomson was occupied in delivering lectures to the students of the Johns Hopkins University. In all these American towns one very curious feature is that they all have great educational establishments, endowed and formed by private munificence. In Canada there is the McGill University, and in nearly every place one goes to there is a university, like the Johns Hopkins at Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins left 3,500,000 dollars to be devoted entirely to educational purposes; and that university is under the management of one of the most enlightened men in America, Professor Grillman, and he has as his lieutenants Professors Rowland, Mendenhall, and other well-known men, and each professor is in his own line particularly eminent.
Sir William Thomson delivered there a really splendid course of lectures. From Baltimore I went through Philadelphia to Boston. I visited Long Branch, and I spent a long time in New York, so that from what I have said you will gather that I spent a good deal of my time in the States. Wherever I went I devoted all my leisure time to inquiry into the telegraphic, telephonic, and electric light arrangements in existence. I visited all the manufactories I could get to, and I did all I possibly could to enable me to return home and afford information, and perhaps amusement, to my fellow-members of this Society.
As an illustration of the intense heat we experienced, I may mention that it was at one time perfectly impossible to make the thermometer budge. The temperature of the blood is about 97 or 98 degrees, and if the temperature of the air be below the temperature of the blood, of course when the hand is applied to the thermometer the mercury rises. In one of our journeys up the Pennsylvania Road we tried to make the thermometer budge as usual, but could not, which proved that the temperature of the air inside the Pullman car in which we traveled was the same as that of the blood.
The American Association is of course based on the British Association. Its mode of administration is a little different. It is divided into sections, as is the British Association, but the sections are not called the same. For instance, in the British Association, Section A is devoted entirely to physics, but in the American Association, Section A is devoted to astronomy and Section B to physics. In the British Association, Section G is devoted to mechanics, but in America Section D is devoted to that subject. But with the exception of just a change in the names of some sections which are familiar as household words to members of the British Association, the proceedings of the American Association do not differ very much from ours. They have, however, one very sensible rule. The length of every paper is indicated upon the programme of the day's proceedings, and the continuation or the stopping of any discussion on that paper is in the hands of the section. For instance, if the President thinks that a man is speaking too long, he has only to say, "Does the meeting wish that this discussion shall be continued, or shall it be stopped?" A majority on the show of hands decides.
Such a practice has a very wholesome effect in checking discussion, and I certainly think that some of our societies would do well to adopt a rule of the same character.