Crosse, Andrew – Experiments and their reception by fellow scientists
Type of Spiritual Experience
We have included this observation to show that despite Crosse’s apparent isolation, his work became well known and his influence far reaching. He appears to have inspired people by his enthusiasm and originality of ideas. He put ideas into others heads for them to develop and follow through.
In 1836 Crosse was persuaded to attend a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Bristol. After describing his discoveries over dinner at the house of a friend in Bristol, he was further persuaded to recount them to both the chemical and the geological sections of the meeting. They included his electrocrystallization and atmospheric experiments, and his improvements to the voltaic battery.
A description of the experience
Memorials, Scientific and Literary of Andrew Crosse, the Electrician – Cornelia and Andrew Crosse
Account of the talk
It is difficult to give any just notion of the appearance of Mr. Crosse when he first got up to speak; simplicity and a perfect unconsciousness that he had anything extraordinary to communicate, were the prevailing features. In person he is tall, of light complexion, with a manner at once frank and open-hearted. His address was not polished; * * * he appeared that which indeed he stated himself to be, the child of seclusion, devoted to scientific pursuit, which had engrossed his mind for nearly thirty years, and forming one of the noblest instances on record of a man of wealth and station dedicating the best period of his life to the development of Nature's mysterious power, with the sole aim of benefiting mankind and doing honour to his country………….
At the chemical Section, Mr. Crosse read papers on “Some Improvements on the voltaic Battery," and" observations On Atmospheric Electricity." He had not brought with him from Broomfield any notes whatever of his experiments, so that he had to trust to his memory alone for the details, at once complicated and original. ….
Mr. Crosse’s discoveries had caused so much excitement, and were received with so much enthusiasm, that all manner of compliments were quickly showered down upon him. Dr. Dalton did him the honour to say, that he had never before listened to anything so interesting……
"I slipped away out of it all," and two or three days before the British Association had closed their meeting at Bristol, Mr. Crosse was back to the wild Quantocks, encased once more in the solitude of his own home, devoting himself to the isolated pursuit of his beloved science, and shrinking, absolutely shrinking, from the celebrity he had acquired.
Account by Edward Cox
"Had you never before heard that name, or if you had not known that you were about to visit one who had distinguished himself in the pursuits of science, you would soon discover that you are in the company of a man of genius, that you are conversing with one who has thought for himself, and refused to subject his mind to the chains of authority and to bow before the dicta of schools.
The presence of genius you discover in Andrew Crosse before you have conversed with him for a quarter of an hour. The talk of most men, even of those who are reputed as wise or witty, is merely a repetition of that which you have heard, in substance if not in form, from other men fifty times before, and read as often. But Mr. Crosse's talk is his own.
You may differ from his opinions, you may question his accuracy, you may contest his arguments, you may smile sometimes at views that may seem to you visionary and wild, because they are different from your own habitual trains of thinking, and therefore startle you; but you cannot complain that they are commonplace; they are not echoes of the voices of others, nor gems in a new- setting-alter et idem-stolen from books old or new. * *
Particularly striking is Mr. Crosse's eloquence, when he tells you the wonders of his favourite science of electricity of its mysterious agencies in the natural phenomena of the heavens above, of the earth beneath, and of the waters under the earth; how it rules alike the motions of the planets and the arrangement of atoms; how it broods in the air, rides on the mist, travels with the light, wanders through space, attracts in the aurora, terrifies in the thunderstorm, rules the growth of plants, and shapes all substances, from the fragile crystals of ice to the diamond, which it makes by toil continued for ages in the womb of the solid globe.
As he describes to you all these wonders, not imaginations of a dreamer, but realities which he has himself seen and proved, by producing, by the same agent and the same process, only in a lesser degree, the same results, his face is lighted up, his eyes are fixed upon the ceiling, present things seem to have disappeared from him, lost in the greater vividness of ideas which his full mind throngs before him; he pours out his words in an unfailing stream: but, though he has a command of epithets, he finds language inadequate to express his conceptions of the might of that mysterious element which though so very mighty that it could annihilate a world as easily as it lifts a feather, he has summoned from its throne, compelled into his presence, guided with his hand, and made to do his bidding!-thus surpassing the fabled feats of the enchanters of old.