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Finally, there are others, who, being more solicitous about the affairs of our beloved republic, than their proper household concerns, who would toast in recommendation or disapprobation of our government, with brimming cups, while their wives and children are in want of help at home; would request somegexposition of my political tenets. But I must inform my reader (of what order he may be) that his wishes cannot be immediately and entirely gratified. I was consider'd at school, and now that I have grown up to man's estate, am still accounted the greatest foe to open egotism, and the fastest friend to secrecy and silence, that ever walked his pilgrimage over our planet.
If it ever becomes necessary to speak of myself, I cannot do it directly. I love to make a little enigma of the thing, by means of collateral bints and oblique references. For this reason I have ever extolled the celebrated answer of the prince of Saxony. Maurice being asked, who was the first and most accomplished general of the age, handsomely returned. “Why sir the marquis of Spinola is the second.”
Although I'shall not permit the curtain, which veils my character, to be abruptly withdrawn, yet in my next paper I shall present a brief history of my grandfather. The midwife, who handed me into this scribbling: world, the nurse, who soon after relieved her of the charge, my godmother Tabitha Tweedle, a venerable maiden, highly valued by her neighbours for a talent of infallible prophecy, and my respected parents, all prognosticated that I should prove the very image and counterpart of my reverend ancestor. Whether they were mistaken or not, will peradventure be discover'd hereafter.
As to the course to be pursued, in my speculations, I cannot say much. I anticipate a good deal of selfish gratification from my labours in the literary vineyard. I however promise nothing. It would be highly impolitic and improper to excite pleasing expectations, which might end in disappointment; 'or exult in visionary honours, which might lead to shame. Perhaps where I had hoped, too fondly, to garner in an exuberant and goodly harvest of the most delicious grapes, and the richest olives, the soil would prove itself unable to yeild any other vegetation, than
the rankest weeds and the most barren thistles. Advancing with this temper of mind I shall apply my best exertions to impart 6 ardour to virtue and confidence to truth;" but should they fail at last, I may exclaiin with the dying Mezentius.
Nullum in caede nefus, nec sic ad proelia veni.
Most men are discouraged and deterred from the pursuit of philosophy and the cultivation of elegant letters, by the actual pressure of Indigence, or by the airy phantoms of Poverty. But there are heroes in the realms of wit, as well as in the campaigns of war; and he is truly a Julius Cæsar', and an Alexander the great, in the empire of learning, who fights and conquers the vulgar foes of genius. The polite reader may remember this sort of triumph, illustriously exemplified in the life of William Gifford, the poet; in the life below of Lambert, the mathematician, we find all the demons of adversity successfully assaulted, by a hero, at least as valorous as Hannibal.
If among the literati, whose merits in the sciences have eternized their name, those who have acquired their erudition, without the assistance of others, merely by the energy of their own exertions, be, in a superior degree, entitled to the notice of the learned, then the man, of whose life and character we are now going to give an account, deserves undoubtedly, in preference to all others, to be introduced to the acquaintance of our scientific readers; especially as he overcame the most arduous difficulties, merely through the unassisted application of his uncommon genius.
John Henry Lambert was born August 29, 1728, at Muhlhausen, a small confederate town in Sundgau. His father, whose ancestors had emigrated from France, when the edict' of Nantz was revoked, was by trade a tailor, and had great difficulty to maintain himself and his family, by means of his industry. His limited circumstances determined him to bring up his son for his own profession, and to give him an education, conformable to his future situation in life, without, however, totally neglecting the improvement of his mind. He frequented the public school, at the expense of the corporation, till he was twelve years old, and distinguished himself so eminently from the rest of his schoolfellows, that his father was, at last, by the repeat. ed intercessions of his instructors, and his invincible aversion from the trade, for which he was intended, prevailed upon to permit him to study theology. But being soon checked in the prosecution of his scientific career, by a total want of the requisite means, he was at length necessitated to assist his father in his profession.
While he was occupied in this manner, he read with uncormon eagerness all Latin books, of which he could obtain possession; and happening in the course of his readings, to meet wich an old work on mathematics, his decided predilection for this science manifested itself soon, in a most striking manner, by the ardour with which he studied it, and the complete knowledge he acquired, by means of it, of the computation of almanacks, notwithstanding the numerous errors he discovered in it, without being able then to correct them. The occupations, incumbent upon him, in the day, obliged him to devote great part of the night to the prosecution of his studies: and the money necessary for the purchase of candles with which he could not expect to be supplied by his parents, he procured by the sale of small drawings, which he delineated, while he, with his foot, rocked his infant sister. Some workmen being employed one day in repairing his father's house, this afforded him an op
portunity of putting several questions respecting the practical application of some principles he had found in his book, to the builder, who was induced thereby to gratify him by the loan of a mathematical work which he possessed. Words are inade, quate to express the joy which he felt on discovering that this work was completely calculated to enable him to correct the errors which he had found in his own book. He now learned from these two books, without any additional assistance, the rudiments of arithmetic and geometry.
His enthusiastic zeal for the sciences prompted at length several men of learning to instruct him gratis, and they had the satisfaction of seeing him improve with a rapidity that exceeded their most sanguine expectations. Thus generously supported, he acquired, in a short time, a knowledge of philosophy and the oriental languages, and learned to write a very elegant hand, which procured him the place of a copyist in the chancery of his native town, whence he removed in his fifteenth year to the iron works of M. de la Lampe, situated in the vicinity, where he was appointed book keeper, and obtained an opportunity of learning the French language.
Two years after, Mr. Iselin of Basil, who then conducted the publication of a newspaper, engaged him in the capacity of an amanuensis; and in a short time conceived for him the most tender friendship, of which he gave him numerous proofs as long as he lived. This situation afforded Lambert an opportunity of making further progress in the belles lettres, as well as in philosophy and the mathematics; and his passionate love of the latter science frequently made him neglect his regular occupations. In the year 1748 he was recommended by his patron to baron Salis, president of the Swiss confederacy, as tutor to his children. Theexcellent library; which he found in the house of his new patron, and the leisure hours with which he was indulged, together with the instructive intercourse which he had with allthe members ofthat illustrious family, and with a great number of scientific strangers who visited the baron, drove him to excellent means of satisfying his thirst for knowledge, and enabled him to become more familiarly acquainted with astronomy and all other branches of the science of mathematics as well as with physics, physiology, jurisprudence, eloquence, poetry, and the Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and German languages. His uncommon talent for mathematics now displayed itself in a most conspicuous and decided manner. Pascal's example stimulated him to invent an accounting machine, while the numerous occasions he had for an accurate chronometer actuated him to invent a time piece of mercury which went twenty seven minutes without causing the slightest error. Here he also invented his logarithmic accounting scales, and was likewise, by the error which one of his pupils had committed in the solution of an algebraical proposition, induced to turn his mind to the invention of a machine for designing perspective drawings. He surveyed and made a drawing of the country around Coire, and performed numerous physical observations in the mountains of that country. In 1752, he began to keep a regular journal of his daily occupations, which he uninteruptedly continued to the end of his life, and which is highly esteemed by the learned.
Lambert was as universally esteemed for his amiable character as respected for his scientific merits. The manner, in which he had been educated, had, indeed, left indelible traces of his originally low situation in life, which manifested themselves by his timid and awkward conduct, by the tasteless incongruity of his dress, the furniture of his apartments, by loud laughter, low jests and antic gestures, by his predilection for glaring colours, coarse viands, and sweet wines, as well as by the pleasure he took in frequently mixing with low companies, in joining in their political disputes and laughing aloud at their coarse witticisms. But these defects were amply overbalanced by a most excellent heart and uncommon mental perfections. A real virgin modesty, the most complete sobriety, an honest and frank manner of thinking, and a decided aversion from all kinds of duplicity and falsehood; an antipathy against every species of injustice, a prompt reparation for every injury which he thought he had committed, the most anxious desire to avoid every cause of dissension and dispute; an inexhaustible patience and forbearance; a total freedom from moroseness and ill hu