In time, as in space, there are mile-stones which mark our progress in the journey of life : the New Year brings us to one of these. It is, therefore, another appropriate period to take a brief survey of "the way we have trod;" to take courage from the good which has been achieved; to forget the evils of the past, and to press on hopefully towards higher enterprises in the future. During the year that has just departed, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has paid fifty-two visits to its readers; each week it has come to them freighted with things new and useful relatiug to the progress of science and art in every department. It has statedly furnished them with information of the new triumphs of inventors in the fields of discovery; and it has exerted its influence for reform in law aud policy, in regard to every question which has come within the legitimate scope of its labors. The past year will be long remembered for the defeat and overthrow of the Woodworth Monopoly. This monster monopoly has met its just fate, and we feel constrained once more to congratulate the public upon having escaped from its burdensome impositions. The Patent Office has undergone a change, in the resignation of its late worthy Commissioner, Judge Mason; but with many regrets for his departure, there is cause for rejoicing in the appointment of such an able successor as Judge Holt, who has already instituted laudable reforms for facilitating the business and securing the rights of inventors. In agriculture much light has been thrown upon various subjects through our columns. The fact, formerly disputed, that cane sugar could be produced from the Sorgho plant, has been completely established, but further experiments are required to determine the economy of its culture for its saccharine qualities simply. A very large extent of our country suffered from the potato blight. Although imich has been said and written, pro and con, regarding this evil, little seems to have been effected in preventing its annual recurrence since the time it first appeared. This is a question to which our agriculturists should devote especial attention this year. As the use of sulphur has been found to remedy the evil of the vine disease in France, its extended application to potatoes may produce a similar result here. More activity has been displayed by inventors in improving agricultural machinery than during any prior period of the same duration. Our columns bear abundant evidence of the truth of this statement, containing, as they do, so many illustrations of the various kinds of machinery employed in this department of industry. There is still plenty of room for improving farming implements; perfection has not yet been attained in this or in any btanch of mechanism. The achievements of our inventors generally, during the past year, do them great credit, both as regards their number and importance. About two thou8and seven hunched patents have been issued—being more than two hundred over the issucs of 1856. Considering the disasters which have occurred in business, this is a flattering testimonial to their genius; but we trust they will reach a still more prominent position during the present year. Our country has been visited with a most remarkable phenomenon in bnsiness. Without any serious losses by fires, flood, pestilence, or other irresistible natural calamities ; with an abundant harvest and a steady stream of gold flowing into circulation, a panic suddenly ? seized our business community, and for a * period there was a general suspension in pay- . ments and trade. The portentous wave which arose on our shores has swept over to Europe, and produced the same disastrous results there. Various theories have been advanced as to the primary cause of this singular circumstance ; but without alluding to any of these, the truth has been made clear as the sun at noon-tide, that it is not gold which constitutes the real wealth of a nation, but its industry. When business was paralyzed, and the wheels of industry arrested, "hard times" came, in spite of all the gold in the nation's coffers. With the opening year, the prospect brightens for the resumption of steady operations in our factories and workshops. " Good times" will come again when all the people are busy at work, not before. Men of business should, therefore, exert themselves to set the wheels of industry once more in motion as speedily as possible. The great Leviathan steamship has not yet been launched, according to the latest news received from Europe. Every foot over which it has been moved on the launching-ways has involved an expenditure of five thousand dollars ; and the total cost of launching, if successful, will not be less than half a million. Money would have been saved had a special dry dock been made for her at first. A series of great blunders have been committed in this affair, which, had they occurred in America, there would have been no end to the jibes and jeers uttered against Brother Jonathan, for his ignorance and stupidity. But let that pass; we must, and do, make great allowance for the new difficulties which must arise in handling such a mighty mass of metal. The year 1857 has been famous for the attempt (and failure) to lay down the ocean telegraph cable. The noblest vessels of the American and British fleets were placed at the disposal of the Telegraph Company, to effect the object; but failure was inscribed upon all their great and expensive labors for want of a good invention to graduate the varying strain upon the cable. Great preparations are now in progress, it is said, in London, for a second attempt to lay it during the next summer, and with new machinery to provide against former deficiencies. At this period last year, we stated to our readers that we hoped, with the opcning of 1858, the ocean telegraph would be in operation. These hopes have not been gratified, and we look with a skeptic's eye upon the ultimate results of a second attempt. Another great event which was to take place, and which did not, during the year that has gone, was the attack to be made upon our venerable Mother Earth by one of those stellar guerillas called comets. The collision, however, did not take place, hence we are still safe from the assaults of such an enemy, and are once more enabled to wish our patrons and friends "A Happy New Year." May none of them prove wandering stars during the year we have now entered upon, but genuine planets, throwing out beams of intelligence and genius, as they revolve in their courses, upon every dark corner of science, art, and philQsophy.
This article was originally published with the title "The Old Year and the New"