Reference numberJBO/34/63
Alternative reference numberJBO/34/434
TitleMinutes of a meeting
Date30 November 1791
Description 'At the Anniversary Meeting of the Royal Society.
The President in the Chair.

Dr Blanc as one of the Auditors of the Treasurers Accounts on the part of the Society reported that at an Audit of the said Accounts held at the Presidents House on Monday 28th November 1791. it appeared that the Total of the receipts for the year then closed including the Balance of £964...5...0 due on the last Account, amounted to the sum of £2580...19...10 and that the total of the Disbursements for that year amounted to £1047...8...2. so that there remained in the hands of the Treasurer a Balance of £1533...11...8. Thanks were voted to the Treasureer for his care of the Society's affairs, and to the Auditors for their trouble in examining his Accounts.

The President announced the demise of the following members since the last Anniversary.

On the home list
William Constable Esq
Alexander Garden Esq
Daniel Hopkins MD
Sir Herbert Mackworth Bart
Michael Morris MD
William Pitcairn MD
The Reverend Richard Price DD
Ralph Earl Verney

On the Foreign List
Ignatius von Born, Knight of the Roman Empire
James Bowdoin Esq President of the American Academy
Joseph Gartner MD
John David Michaelis, Knight of the Order of the Polar Star in the University of Gottingen
Sigismund Count of Redern
Jacob Christian Schaffer DD
John Henry George Count of Westhern, of the Holy Roman Empire

The President also announced tht the following new members had been admitted into the Society since the last Anniversary
On the home list
The most Serene Highness Prince Michael Poniatowski, Primate of Poland
George Best, Esq
Sir Cecil Bishopp, Bart
John Bruce Esq Professor of Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh
George Chalmers Esq
Abraham D'Aubant Esq Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Corps of Engineers
The Reverend Richard Farmer DD
William Fraser Esq
Cypriano Ribeiro Freire, Knight of the Order of St Jago
Davies Giddy Esq
Lewis Alexander Grant Esq
Philip Earl of Hardwicke
John Hawkins Esq
William Heborden [?] Esq
Joseph Huddart Esq
Aylmer Bourke Lambert Esq
Colonel Norman Macleod
George Pearson MD
George Pocock Esq
The Reverend John Seally LL.D
John Spranger Esq Master in Chancery
Richard Stanley Esq
Charles Towneley Esq
John Turnbull Esq
Fowler Walker Esq
Thomas Walker Esq Accomptant General and Master in Chancery

One the Foreign List
Louis de la Grange, Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris
Jean Baptist Joseph De Lambne
Simon L'Huiller, Citizen of Geneva
Marc August Pictet, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Geneva
Antonio Scarpa, Professor of Anatomy at Pavia
Alexaner Volta, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Pavia

The President hereupon delivered the following discourse on declaring the Allottment of two of Sir Godfrey Copley's prize medals.
The Scientific Harvest of the last year, having in the estimation of your Council, proved unusually deficient in the quality of its produce, they declined to exercise their power of allotting your annual Prize Medal, entrusted to them by the Will of the late Sir Godfrey Copley ; thinking it probable that in some future year two Candidates would appear each of whom would be better entitled to that honourable distinction than any one, whose pretensions at that time came within the Compas of their information, could support himself to be. Nor was the accomplishment of their expectations long delayed, for the Philosophical Transactions of the present year, have communicated to the public two papers, the merits of which will I have no doubt be honoured with a full measure of your approbation, Major Rennells ingenious and usefull application of the Rate of travelling as performed by Camels, to the improvement of Geography, and Mr de Lucs invention and description of an Hygrometer likely to supersede all others that have hitherto been applied to that Valuable branch of Meteorology.

To do justice to Major Rennells Labors, it would be necessary to enumerate with exactness the successive advances practical geography has received from his sagaceous industry and to give a history of the means by which each particular one was obtained, a task which was I possessed of sufficient material I would readily undertake to execute without fear of exhausting your patience however long it might trespass on your time, but the seat of his labors having been fixed in distant Countries we know only, that he has undergone fatigues with patience encountered dangers with alacrity and received severe wounds in the execution of his duty ; but we are not possessed in detail of the extent or particulars, of any of these interruptions to the progress of his pursuits.

The fruits of his patient perseverance he however has placed in out hands under the title of a Bengal Atlas Consisting of Maps constructed on the most scientific principles and executed with a degree of exactness not often paralleled.

Would I could say that England, proud as she is of being esteemed by surrounding nations the Queen of Scientific improvement, could boast of a general map as well executed as the Majors delineation of Bengal and Bahar, a tract of Country considerably larger in extent than the whole of Great Britain and Ireland ; but it would be injustice to the Majors industry were I not here to state that the districts he has perambulated and planned, exceed probably in extent the whole tract of surveyed Country to be found in the Maps of the European Kingdoms put together ; while the accuracy of his particular surveys stands unrivaled by the most laboured County Maps this Nation has hitherto been able to produce.

Not content with having reared this stupendous monument to his honest fame, this pile of laborious industry, erected for the benefit of Mankind, at the expense of a large proportion of the constitutional health allotted to him by nature, he continues with unabated ardour to pursue his Geographical studies : his dissertation on the Rivers Ganges and Barram Pooter printed in the Philosophical Transactions, his Map of the Peninsula of India with that of Hindoostan, and the Memoir appertaining to it, give ample testimony to the assiduity of his application ; and to this Memoir I do willing justice by saying that the perspicaceous and masterly style in which it is composed, clearly demonstrates that the Geography be the Field in which he has principally appllied for the cultivation of his Laurels, he is able to reap no inconsiderable Crop when he chuses to labor in the more capricious harvest of Belles Letters.

The essay which has attracted the notice of the Council on the present occasion, was composed with a view to assist the infant endeavours of a Society instituted for the purpose of attempting to gain some knowledge of the interior parts of Africa where vast tracts of land sufficient to form vast empires still exhibit a blank in the Map of the Country and where tho' it has extended itself in every other direction, Geography has not during this age of improvement made any proportionate degree of advance.

An undertaking this conjenial to the Majors studies could not fail of attracting his Notice and claiming his assistance, which he has effectively given ; the equability of the Rate of Camels during their Journey over the desert had been little noticed by former writers ; and tho' some travellers had attempted to apply it to Geographical purposes, their lucubrations were known to few. To the Major then we are obliged for having brought forward the facts on which his deductions are founded, and for having drawn from them all the conclusions necessary to make them practically usefull to the Geographer.

To you then Major who have given a new guide to the steps of him who traverses the pathless tracts of Shifting sand, who have furnished the log-line that was wanting to make the Compas and Quadrant as usefull in the Desert as they are in the Ocean, I willingly deliver this token of the Regard of the Royal Society. Pursue my friend, the Science you hnave selected for the exercise of your talents with the same vigor and perseverance as you have heretofore exerted. More industry than you have already applied to your studies cannot be expected at your hands, persevere only in your accustomed exertions and be assured that the honors you receive from your fellow labourers will accompany you to the end of life and when they can no longer be paid to your person will raise themselves into a monument of gratitude, to the perpetual remembrance of the benefits you have conferred on the age in which you have lived.

Mr de Luc whose studies tho' not less beneficial to the advancement of Science, have been confined within the limits of Europe is the next object of my discourse. He has not indeed explored the distant shores of India, but his Zeal meritorius iin its effects, as the object of his pursuit were difficult in the attainment, has guided Science amidst the inhospitable craggs and shelterless precipices of his neighbouring Alps ; where, not satisfued with enquiring into the nature of the Rocks that compose them he has made use of their pointed summits as scaffolds to elevate him into strata of the Atmosphere inaccessible in more level countries and enabled him to acquire the valuable information communicated to us in his 'Recherches sur l'Atmosphere', respecting the modifications of their parts, and the effects their combinations produce on the regions both above and below them.

The portions of our Learned Brothers Labors that has at this time attracted the notice of your Council, is the paper on the subject of Hygrometry printed in the last Volume of the Philosophical Transactions, in which he brings forward Meteorological discoveries and deductions, that must have cost him the labor of many years to attain. To make you acquainted with the merit of his perseverance, and do some justice to his indefatigable industry, it will be necessary I should give you a brief abstract of the progress of his hygrometical studies.

In the year 1770, when he first applied himself to the subject, the instrument called an hygrometer scarce deserved that name, it indicated only the changes of moisture and dryness, without furnishing the means of deciding the distance of the point where at any time it had itself from the extremes either of one or the other ; or leading in any degree to a determinatin of the actual quantity of moisture existing at any time in the atmosphere.

This first attempt was to obtain a fixed and comparable point of moisture, and a substance sufficiently regular in its expansions and contractions to which it might be communicated. The first of these he attained by applying water to Ivory, but finding that different pieces of that, and various other substances which he tried, could not be depended upon for expanding equally with each other, he was obliged to abandon the Comparability of his new scale, and search for a second fixed point, from whence he might be able to derive that property in some other manner. Heat was the thing that suggested itself, as likely to furnish a fixed point of dryness, and in consequence, by heating a vessel and placing his instrument in it when dry, he succeeded in producing a comparable scale, having only one fixed point, with which he made a variety of useful experiments.

In the course of these it was suggested to him in the year 1780, that quick-lime was endowed with a great capabliity as well as an excessive slowness in attracting moisture from the air, and this he found true, for by filling a vessel repeatedly, sometimes with quick-lime fresh from the kiln, and at others with the same lime brought again to a state of incandescence he was able always to produce the same degree of dryness, which remained unaltered in his Vessel for a great length of time. '

With this fixed point of dryness he made trial of various fibrous substance taken lengthwise, and found that they all when exposed to an increasing degree of moisture, became sooner or latter stationary, after which the motions of some of them were retrograde. In consequence of this discovery, he abandoned the use of all fibres taken lengthwise, and began a set of experiments on similar substances cut transversly.

In the course of these he observed that different substances from the surface of evaporating water gave, even in close vessels, very different results in degree of moiosture ; he therefore contrived a hollow Cylinder of Cotton Cloth, 4 inches in diameter, and supplied by a reservoir above with water, to keep it constantly wet ; in this tube, when covered by a glass vessel inverted over water, he found his hygrometers always came to the same point as when plunged into actual water.

Thus were two fixed points discovered, which for all purposes of comparison, may be considered as those of absolute moisture and dryness; the next thing wanted, was a substance capable of measuring with as little error as possible, the interveaning degrees between these two points, and this if our worthy brother has not wholly attained, he has made a near approach to it, by applying a slip of whalebone cut transversly to the purpose of ascertaining them, of such slips he has constructed several hygrometers, and finding by experience that after having been used for a considerable length of time, these will answer their purpose with a sufficient degree of exactness, he has presented one of them to you, to be added to your collection of instruments, and with this your Council have been so well satisfied, that they have ordered a register of its motions to be regularly kept in future and presented to you annualy, in addition to your usual Meteorological Observations.

Mr de Luc being absent the President declared that he should avail himself of the first opportunity to present the prize Medal to him in the name of the Society.

After which the Society proceeded to the election of their Council and Officers for the next year. The sixth Chapter of the Statutes relating to this election was read. Mr Philip Hurlock and Dr Patrick Russell were appointed Scrutators in the usual manner, and the Members gave in their lists.

On examining the ballot it was found that the following eleven Members of the old Council had been chose to continue next year.
Sir Joseph Banks Bart, Charles Balgden MD, Sir John Coll Bart, Henry Cavendish Esq, Patrick George Craufurd Esq, The Reverend Nevil Maskelyne DD, Const: John Lord Mulgrave, Sir William Musgrave Bart, Joseph Plant Esq, Patrick Russell MD, Samuel Wegg Esq.

That the ten following Members of the Society had been chosed into the new Council, John Willett Adye Esq, Henyage Earl of Aylesford, Sir George Baker Bart, Gilbert Blane MD, Richard Wilbraham Bootle Esq Daniel Braithwaite Esq The Reverend John Michell BD John Lord Sheffield, Benjamin May Esq, Joseph Windham Esq.

And that the following were chosen officers for the year next ensuing. Sir Joseph Banks Bart, President, Samuel Wegg Esq Treasurer, Josph Plant Esq, Charles Blagden MD Secretaries.

Thanks were ordered to the Scrutators for their trouble in assisting at the Election.
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