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The Institute Platform: Dr. Bailey's Lecture on Centennial Foot-prints

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The Institute Platform: Dr. Bailey's Lecture on Centennial Foot-prints
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Dr. Bailey's Lecture on Centennial Foot-prints.

"Some Centennial Footprints—the Retrospect of a Naturalist." was the subject of the lecture of L W. Bailey, M. A. Ph. D., in the Institute last evening. In opening his lecture Dr. Bailey said the injunction of the poet that we should leave our "footprints on the sands of time," seemed almost superfluous, as these traces would be sure to be left and what in this respect was true of individuals was also true of communities. While time rolled by certain changes would occur, but still marks would be left from which a knowledge of the condition of the past could be gained. The natural state of this province was comparatively unknown when the Loyalists landed, as it was for some time after. The pioneer in natural researches was Abram Gesner. Another investigator who did much to collect interesting information was the late Dr. Robb. The result of his researches were left principally in manuscript, except one article which he contributed to a report prepared by Prof. Johnston. The work of Dr. Robb was supplementary to that of Dr. Gesner. Other men who took a great interest in this work were Dr. Patterson and Moses H. Perley. Reflections of this kind carried one back to the record of the early days of the St. John Natural History Society. This society, when formed, held its meetings in a little room on Germain Street. It prospered at times, but its fire did not always burn with the same brilliancy. The society continued until the St. John fire when everything was burnt, but the society was one of the first to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes, and since then it has grown and flourished.

In studying the geology of New Brunswick, said Dr. Dailey, the highest and only recompense to the student is the satisfaction of obtaining correct knowledge. Before a thorough investigation of the natural resources of the country, with the different formations, etc., can be made, it is necessary that the Government should lend its aid. In 1865 the first exploration of the country was made, but it was not till 1870 that systematic work began, which has since been carried on slowly. Enough work has been done, however, to know the geological structure of the Province.

The lecturer then proceeded to explain a number of maps which were hung on the platform. The first one was a small map representing portions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It was drawn under the patronage of the French monarch in 1755. The north boundary line was the Penobscot, the whole country below being styled Canada. Several places that have since largely increased in importance are noted on the map. The fort over which D’Aulnay and LaTour disputed marks the spot where St. John has since arisen. There was also a map by Dr. Gesner and four others representing not only the geography of the province, but the geology. After devoting a short time to their explanation. Dr. Bailey continued speaking of the knowledge afforded of the country’s past history by natural researches, which carried the student back even to the state of the country during its formation. The Province of New Brunswick was a fertile field for such study. One of its main features is the St John River, noted not only for its scenery, but for the commerce carried on there; besides it is one of the oldest river valleys in the continent. In connexion with this part of the lecture the era of the stone age was interestingly dwelt on. The productions of the inhabitants of that period were limited, but what they lacked in variety they made up in durability. They have formed models which rival those of the skilled workmen of the present day, the most prominent of them being weapons of offence and defense. That full information of the ravages, their habits, religion, dispositions, etc., cannot be obtained was a matter of great regret; and while the naturalist can till what was their food, ornaments, clothes, etc., whence they came and where they remained, is a mystery.

Between the study of geology a few years ago and that of the present day is a great difference. In place of the mineral rod which was used to find all kinds of minerals and almost everything except a fortune, the geologist now uses the surveyor’s scale, the microscope, spectroscope, etc., etc. It is not now to look at the rocks but into them; not to examine worlds but atoms. The whole object of modern scientific discovery is to get at the bottom, to recognize the more intimate connexion between the present and the past. There is no feature in the province but its origin can be traced back to an earlier time. Another feature of the present day is the accuracy of the information. There is always a tendency to exaggerate, but nowhere is that tendency greater than in the history of natural events. The mistakes are frequently those of opinion, but when the mineral wealth of a country is being considered, too great care cannot be taken for accuracy. There is far too great a disposition to exaggerate, and that state will continue until the mining industry is taken under the Government supervision. The Province has a good share, but no possible good can be gained from describing the mines as larger or wealthier than they are. In the interest of the country any information of them is required to be accurate and only as they actually exist. The lecturer then concluded with a brief summary of the natural and physical advantages of the country and the advantageous circumstances which the people of New Brunswick were allowed to enjoy.

During the lecture, which occupied just one hour, Dr. Bailey was occasionally interrupted by applause, otherwise he received the careful attention which an interesting lecture is sure to command. The inclemency of the weather was not apparent from the number present, which was quite equal to previous evenings. The lecturer was introduced by the president, Mr. D. P. Chisholm, who, with Messrs. I. Allen Jack, G. Herbert Lee, Jas. A. Estey and others, occupied seats on the platform.