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Engrav'd this mandate, to preserve their frame
For this, has Heaven to virtue's glorious stage
Come, then, my little guardian genius! Cloth'd
Not e'en remotely distant couldst thou view.
Eternal Providence! whose equal sway
LIFE OF HUBER.
It has been observed by writers, that there is no misfortune to which mankind is exposed, that so effectually shuts from us the book of nature and knowledge, as that of physical blindness. Yet, when we take into consideration the scores of blind persons, (many of them so from birth or early in life,) in almost every age and country, whose names are registered high on the scroll of fame, for their attainments in literature and the arts, and their important service in the development of science, since its early dawn upon mankind, we are at an utter loss to determine from what strange oracle these writers have received such disparaging impressions, or what mode of reasoning they have adopted, to arrive at such conclusions.
It is a well known matter of fact, as well as history, that there is scarcely a single branch of natural science yet developed, requiring the minutest calculation or profoundest thought, in which blind persons have not been celebrated proficients. The most intricate problems of mathematics they have demonstrated with ease; to the beautiful science of chemistry they have added many valuable experiments; hydrostatics, hydraulics, acoustics, and optics, have
been to them themes of entertainment and delight; and even the motion of the heavenly bodies they have determined with accuracy, and the two noblest poems that yet gem the literary heavens, at this Augustin age, are the productions of the blind.
With such truths before us, refulgent as the noonday snn, we cannot help thinking that, whoever seeks to maintain that the immortal mind of man must remain ignorant and unemployed, for the only reason that one of its avenues to the external world of knowledge has become obstructed, is guilty of the grossest inconsistency, and shows himself destitute of the most important of all senses
To receive that knowledge through other mediums of the mind, usually conveyed through that of the eye, is, we confess, in many instances inconvenient; but whoever has not sufficient force of character to grapple with such difficulties in the pursuit of knowledge, would, under the most favorable circumstances, arrive at no great celebrity. How the difficulties which the loss of sight occasions, may be overcome by ingenuity and perseverance, even in the investigation of those sciences requiring the minutest observation, the achievments of this naturalist have cheeringly illustrated.
Francis Huber was born at Geneva, on the 2d of July, 1750, of an honorable family, in which originality and vivacity of mind formed a distinguishing characteristic. His father, John Huber, had the reputation of being one of the most witty men of his age, à trait which was frequently noticed by Voltaire, who valued him for the originality of his conversation. He was an agreeable musician, and no inferior poet. To these accomplishments he joined the taste and art of observing the peculiarities of the animal creation.
His love of natural history as well as his brilliancy of mind were completely inherited by his son. The latter attended from his childhood the public lectures at the college, and, under the guidance of good masters, he acquired a predilection for literature, which the conversation of his father served to develop. He derived his fondness for science from the lessons of De Saussure, and from manipulations in the laboratory of one of his relatives, who ruined himself in searching for the philosopher's stone.
At the age of fifteen, his general health and his sight began to be impaired. The zeal with which he pursued his studies, constituting his highest pleasure, and his unremitting application to reading by the feeble light of a lamp, or that of the moon, were, it is said, the causes which threatened at once the loss of health and of sight. His father took him to Paris, to consult Tronchin on account of his health, and Ven. zel, on the condition of his eyes.
With a view to his general health, Tronchin sent him to an agricultural district near Paris, to divert his attention from all laborious study. He there practiced the life of a simple peasant, engaging in those rural concerns that never fail to give quietude of mind, and healthful activity to the body. This