Reflections on the Decline of Science in England

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Author: Charles Babbage

Section 9. Of the Fairchild Lecture.

Mr. Fairchild left by will twenty-five pounds to the Royal Society. This was increased by several subscriptions, and 100L. 3 per cent. South Sea Annuities was purchased, the interest of which was to be devoted annually to pay for a sermon to be preached at St.Leonard’s, Shoreditch.

Few members of the Society, perhaps, are aware, either of the bequest or of its annual payment. I shall merely observe, that for five years, from 1800 to 1804, it was regularly given to Mr. Ascough; and that for twenty-six years past, it has been as regularly given to the Rev. Mr. Ellis.

The annual amount is too trifling to stimulate to any extraordinary exertions; yet, small as it is, it might, if properly applied, be productive of much advantage to religion, and of great honour to the Society. For this purpose, it would be desirable that it should be delivered at some church or chapel, more likely to he attended by members of the Royal Society. Notice of it should be given at the place of worship appointed, at least a week previous to its delivery, and at the two preceding weekly meetings of the Royal Society. The name of the gentleman nominated for that year, and the church at which the sermon is to be preached, should be stated.

With this publicity attending it, and by a judicious selection of the first two or three gentlemen appointed to deliver it, it would soon be esteemed an honour to be invited to compose such a lecture, and the Society might always find in its numerous list of members or aspirants, persons well qualified to fulfil a task as beneficial for the promotion of true religion, as it ever must be for the interest of science. I am tempted to believe that such a course would call forth exertions of the most valuable character, as well as give additional circulation to what is already done on that subject.

The geological speculations which have been adduced, perhaps with too much haste by some, as according with the Mosaic history, and by others, as inconsistent with its truth, would, if this subject had been attentively considered, have been allowed to remain until the fullest and freest inquiry had irrevocably fixed their claim to the character of indisputable facts. But, I will not press this subject further on my reader’s attention, lest he should think I am myself delivering the lecture. All that I could have said on this point has been so much more ably stated by one whose enlightened view of geological science has taken away some difficulties from its cultivators, and, I hope, removed a stumbling-block from many respectable individuals, that I should only weaken by adding to the argument. [I allude to the critique of Dr. Ure’s Geology in the British Review, for July, 1829; an Essay, equally worthy of a philosopher and a Christian.]

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Chicago: Charles Babbage, "Section 9. Of the Fairchild Lecture.," Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, ed. Bryant Conant, James and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in Reflections on the Decline of Science in England Original Sources, accessed June 14, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=UHYXC1YKENZ93UX.

MLA: Babbage, Charles. "Section 9. Of the Fairchild Lecture." Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, edited by Bryant Conant, James, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, Original Sources. 14 Jun. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=UHYXC1YKENZ93UX.

Harvard: Babbage, C, 'Section 9. Of the Fairchild Lecture.' in Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, ed. and trans. . cited in , Reflections on the Decline of Science in England. Original Sources, retrieved 14 June 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=UHYXC1YKENZ93UX.