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The Uses of Astronomy An Oration Delivered at Albany on the 28th of July, 1856

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In the month of August last, two events took place in the city of Albany, which have more than an ephemeral interest. They occurred in close connection with the proceedings of a Scientific Convention, and the memory of them deserves to be cherished as a recollection of the easy way in which Science may be popularized and be rendered so generally acceptable that the people will cry, like Oliver Twist, for more. It is the purpose of this small publication to embody, in a form more durable than that of the daily newspaper, the record of proceedings which have so near a relation to the progress of scientific research. A marked feature in the ceremonies was the magnificent Oration of the Hon. Edward Everett, inaugurating the Dudley Observatory of Albany; and it is believed that the reissue of that speech in its present form will be acceptable to the admirers of that distinguished gentleman, not less than to the lovers of Science, who hung with delight upon his words.


On Wednesday, August 27, 1856, the State Geological Hall of New York was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies. For the purpose of affording accommodation to the immense crowds of people who, it was confidently anticipated, would throng to this demonstration and that of the succeeding day, at which Mr. Everett spoke, a capacious Tent was arranged with care in the center of Academy Park, on Capitol Hill; and under its shelter the ceremonies of the inauguration of both institutions were conducted without accident or confusion; attended on the first day by fully three thousand persons, and on the second by a number which may be safely computed at from five to seven thousand.

The announcement that Hon. Wm. H. Seward would be present at the dedication of the Geological Hall, excited great interest among the citizens; but the hope of his appearance proved fallacious. His place was occupied by seven picked men of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of whom (Prof. Henry) declared his inability to compute the problem why seven men of science were to be considered equal to one statesman. The result justified the selections of the committee, and although the Senator was not present, the seven Commoners of Science made the occasion a most notable one by the flow of wit, elegance of phrase, solidity and cogency of argument, and rare discernment of natural truths, with which their discourse was garnished.

The members of the American Association marched in procession to the Tent, from their place of meeting in the State Capitol. On the stage were assembled many distinguished gentlemen, and in the audience were hundreds of ladies. Gov. Clark and Ex-Governors Hunt and Seymour, of New York, Sir Wm. Logan, of Canada, Hon. George Bancroft, and others as well known as these, were among the number present. The tent was profusely decorated. Small banners in tri-color were distributed over the entire area covered by the stage, and adorned the wings....