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RAND'S HALL, 8 O'CLOCK, P. M.
The meeting of the Alumni was called to order by the acting President, Alfred P. Boiler.
Hon. James Forsyth, President of the Institute, was introduced and delivered the following address: Gentlemen of the Alumni:
The fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has so many features of interest to all who have been connected with it, as well as to those who have witnessed its rise and progress in this city, and present success as a scientific and professional school, that they have felt it to be not inappropriate to mark this year in its history with more than usual ceremony.
You have assembled for that purpose. Be assured of the interest and hearty sympathy of all our citizens in your exercises at this time, and of their cheerful co-operation in making them worthy of the occasion.
On behalf of our citizens, and especially the Trustees of the Institute, who desire to make your visit to this school, at this time, happy and profitable, and on behalf of the chief magistrate of the city, who, this evening opens the doors of his hospitable mansion for your reception, I welcome you, one and all, to the Institute, to our city, and its hospitalities.
Prof. E. N. Horsford, of Cambridge, Mass., Class of 1838, late U. S. Commissioner to the Vienna Exposition, then delivered the following address:
ADDRESS BY PROF. E. N. HORSFORD,
CLASS OF 1838.
Gentlemen of the Alumni of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
I might, as a loyal son of our Alma Mater, try to pay the tribute of my respect to the Institution which has grown from comparatively small beginnings to its present commanding position. I might speak of the genius of its founder; of his discovery of the system of object teaching, and of the then new method of training young men to become teachers; of his great services of other kinds to the cause of education; of his vast acquisitions and perfect command of them at all times. I might glance at the career of the graduates I have known. I might recall to your memory the names of some of the friends of the Institute in the days of my membership—of some who still live; of more that have gone—but at the best, I should indifferently fulfill the task. It will be performed by others better fitted, by sons more familiar with the record. I will not add, by sons who remember, with a warmer gratitude than I, the privileges that were secured to us here.
It was a source of pride and satisfaction to me when, some years after my graduation, it was my fortune to enter Leibig's Laboratory as a pupil, to find that the methods pursued under the guidance of that great Teacher, were in many respects the methods I had been familiar with in the Rensselaer Institute; carried out with the ampler facilities furnished by Government, but essentially the same in conception, in fitness, in certainty of result.
In a recent visit to Europe it was refreshing to see in the Polytechnic Education of Austria, which now unquestionably has no superior in the world, the methods of the Rensselaer School of fifty years ago. It will not do to say that the methods were copied from ours, but it is proper to say that the inspiration that gave them to the eastern world moved the mind of Prof. Eaton at a period as early as it did that of Pestalozzi, and Fellenberg, and Leibig, and under circumstances much less favorable for development. The mention of the Old World, as we are accustomed to call it, suggests to me a theme.
I can think of nothing with which I can better occupy the few moments allotted to me, than in presenting a picture of the life that showed itself last summer to an American Commissioner, at the grandest show of the products of polytechnic industry that has ever been gathered for the study and entertainment of the world. We do not meet here solely to be enlightened. We meet to revive cherished memories—to lay the foundation of new ones. I confess I should like of all things to listen to the personal history of the classmates with whom I used to wander in search of plants, and minerals, and birds; with whom I used to conduct wonderful triangulations of the Hudson Valley, and extemporaneous surveys of impossible railways in the direction of the Hoosac Mountain. About the time I was ready to leave the Rensselaer School some thirty-six years ago, there came to town for the purpose of delivering a lecture, Col. William L. Stone, for many years the editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, better known to this generation as the author of the " Life of Red Jacket, the Seneca Chief." He commenced his lecture by answering the question whether he had come to Troy supposing he could enlighten its citizens, by relating the anecdote of a man found digging a hole in a cellar. On being asked its object, he answered by saying that "it was to let the dark out." My object is humbler than Col. Stone's was. I propose only to try to entertain you.
In crossing the old city of Vienna, by the way of the Kaenrtner street, from the neighborhood of the Burg to that of the Hotel Metropol, you pass not far from the St. Stephens Cathedral an apothecary's shop. Over the door is the unique sign "Apotheker zum heiligen Geist." When I first read it, I was startled with what seemed to me an unworthy appropriation of language associated in all our minds with some of our most sacred thoughts. "Apothecary to the Holy Ghost." Could this quaint sign cover up some mediaeval legend? Vienna is full of very unique usages connected with the Catholic Church. Some of them—such for example as the procession on Corpus Christi day, in which the Imperial family, the Ministers of State, the Dignitaries of the Church, the Capuchines, the Benedictines, and Franciscans, the societies and the soldiery take part,—in oriental magnificence of costume is something marvelous to behold, and is scarcely to be elsewhere seen. One must not decide too hastily. The sign always challenged my attention when I crossed the city "Apotheker zum heiligen Geist" At another point a little inn has the sign, u Zur Auge Gottes" To the eye of God. Perhaps this is a form of inviting and promising fair dealing. It is undoubtedly free from the charge of being purposely irreverent. But what does the Apothecary to the Holy Ghost mean? One day it flashed upon me. This Heiligen Geist does not mean the Holy Ghost. Heiligen means healing. It is the Apothecary to the healing spirit. This was interesting. It was quite satisfactory. We have made a special appropriation of the word as applied to spirit, but in its compound of holiday we maintain the use of the Germans. The holidays are healing days. Days when the torn or tired spirit may rest and be healed, and restored. The holy days too are healing days. The Holy Spirit is a healing spirit. I confess that this little line of reflection helped me much to understand a great deal that I saw in my recent visit to Vienna. There were numerous healing days in Austria. Let us have a healing hour. In passing from England to the Continent and especially to Austria, you go from a country of rare beauty, and towns in general of sombre look, to a country of less beauty, perhaps, but to towns that impress you at once with their bright cheerful sunny aspect. Liverpool and London are dark. They bear the stain of the Mersey and the Thames. Dwellings and shops and public buildings seem draped, in London. Vienna looks as if departing sunlight had been caught and ingrained in the walls. This remark applies to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfort, Wiesbaden, Liepsic, to Linz, to Munich, to Pesth, Innsbruck, to Kolin and Wittingan—as well as to Vienna. Paris owes possibly much of her architectural splendor to the proximity of quarries, whose blocks, easily wrought under the chisel, acquire hardness with years. This softness of the building stone has developed a race of sculptors. Vienna owes much to her command of an abundant light drab cement, which in its plastic condition invites the art of the modeller, and when the form has gained its proportions, time hardens it to very stone.
The old city of Vienna owed its location to the junction with the Danube, of a small and now insignificant stream called the Wien. The city sprang up at the angle. The Danube is a vagabond sort of river like the Mississippi, wandering about the great plains of Austria and Hungary, cutting its way through an easily yielding soil, and forming new channels with every season of high water. The Imperial government in recent times has spent vast sums of money in carrying out plans for narrowing and confining the Danube so as to maintain its navigability. A few years ago there was the city of Vienna surrounded by a wall and ditch, and glacis, and entered through gates, while around it were numerous suburban villages. These villages have enlarged and grown together up to the glacis, and ten years ago the walls were thrown down and the ditches filled up, and a part of the glacis appropriated to buildings, and a broad avenue and parks. Now from the Danube on one side around the old city to the Danube on the other, the site of the ancient wall and ditch is occupied by a magnificent street or boulevard, some 250 feet wide, skirted throughout most of its length by long, lofty palatial blocks, often spoken of as a succession of palaces. Indeed many of them much exceed in splendor and majesty of external appearance most of the