Science & Technology

This is a collection of articles about new things – scientific or technological advances, archaeological discoveries, changes in fashion and recreation – that occurred during the period under review:

Sat 16th Nov 1793

Sir John Sinclair (Chairman of the Society for the Improvement of British Wool) has addressed the Commons on agricultural improvements. He acknowledged it was not British administrative policy to intervene in agriculture or commerce, but he espied a role for the ministry in the promotion of new means of increasing production. Today every farmer has his own methods, some good, some bad.

England and Scotland comprise over 67 million acres of which 7 million are unsuitable for cultivation. Of the remainder, 5 millions are under grain, 25 million are pasture and the other 30 millions are unused. If the unused part was better used, it would provide subsistence of 10 million people.[1]

We have 5 million black cattle which, with better fodder, could be increased 20/- in value each. We have over 20 million sheep which value could be increased by the same means by 1/- each. Thus at least £3 millions each year could be added to the national wealth by improved fodder.

We should establish a Board with staff, costing about £3,000 a year, to investigate foreign management of farm animals and diseases; survey and improve our own procedures, and encourage emulation of best practice. He asked the MPs to address the King. The motion was supported by Dundas, Wilberforce, Sir W Dolben and Mr Burdon but Hussey noted attendance at the Commons that day was too few to form a quorum.

Sat 21st December 1793

An American navigator has noticed that on departure from New England his compass points due North but on arrival in Europe it points 3 degrees left of North. Congress want to investigate the phenomena but there is no money for a voyage to the Arctic.

Sat 22nd Feb 1794

Roman ladies used dye and dust to lighten the colour of their hair. Black hair was considered common. The Emperor Commodus used so much dye and gold dust in his hair that his head appeared to radiate.

The first writers to mention hair powder were French.

L’Etoile in his journal of the year 1593 mentions nuns walking the streets of Paris with their hair powdered and curled. The fashion spread through French society and into the neighbouring countries.

Sat 22nd Nov 1794

The French have introduced something new into their armies in the Low Countries. They now put a man with a telescope in a hydrogen balloon and send him up at dawn to observe and report on the allied positions and numbers. They have an agreed set of signals to acquaint those on the ground with the results of observations.[2]

Sat 27th Dec 1794

Bombay General Orders – The Hospital Board hopes smallpox vaccination will be accepted by all manner of persons. Every surgeon is to promote the practice of inoculation amongst the people in his care. Regimental surgeons who have inoculated men are to put them on an improved diet – buttermilk and rice for breakfast; mutton with bread and rice for dinner; sweet congee for supper. Lists of men accepting inoculation are to be sent in to the Hospital Board.

Sat 10th Jan 1795

An old letter of Alexander Davison dated 12th July 1787 is published:

One hundred miles northwest of Madras is Nelor where a farmer recently discovered a small brick structure under his field whilst ploughing. It was the remains of a Hindu temple in which was a small pot containing Roman coins and medals of the 2nd century. He sold them as old gold and many were lost but the Nawab, Amireel Umara, got thirty of them whilst I was Governor of Madras and he gave me the choice of any two. I took an Adrian and a Faustina.

Some of the Trajans were in good order and many of them appeared new and uncirculated. A few were defaced and perforated as though they had been worn as ornaments.[3]

Sat 7th Feb 1795

We have mentioned the use of hydrogen balloons by the French army. They have made an ‘aerostatic corps’ in each army for the purpose.

They have also made a unique telegraph linking Lille to Paris. When Barrere announced the reduction of Quesnay to the National Convention on 15th August 1794, he got the news by semaphore via this telegraph. When Conde was taken, the National Convention knew it within three hours and the army was thanked for its services by the central government the same day it reported those services.

The telegraph is the invention of M. Chappe. He has a station on the roof of the Louvre. The Committee of Public Welfare sends the words to be transmitted to him there. He has erected a pole on the roof at the top of which are two transverse arms which can be rotated very quickly by a single control. The relative positions of these arms represent letters of the alphabet.

Chappe only discriminates 16 letters (four positions for each arm) which is enough for communication. He changes the code regularly to prevent deciphering. It is intended that only he and the General at the other end know the significance of the letters transmitted. The operators at intermediate stations do not know the code for the day – they just repeat the signals they receive. Chappe sends from the Louvre to a station at Montmartre. Each station has a watchtower with an observer equipped with a telescope to watch the other stations. Thus the message is sent from hilltop to hilltop, all the way to Lille.[4]

The machine is useful in daylight and good weather. With skilled operators, Chappe can send a message 100 miles in an hour.

The British army is experimenting with its own communications system for use at night. It is composed of enormous wooden boards on which letter-shapes have been cut out. The boards are painted black in front and a bright light is shone from behind to transmit the letter. Trials continue to determine the range of the signals. (extra details from 28th Feb 1795 edition)

Sat 21st Feb 1795

National Convention 14th July:

Barrere reported on a new technology being used to refine saltpetre and make gunpowder. The Unity Refining House in Paris and the one at Grenelle are the foremost. The first makes 30,000 lbs a day and the second 25,000 lbs. The productive ability is immense, compared with the former procedure and they have simplified the whole process.

There are 6,000 powder manufactories in the Republic but the two mentioned can now produce as much as all Europe. The old manufacturing method is to be discontinued after 19th July by order of the Committee of Public Safety and the whole of the French gunpowder industry changed to the new method. The Republic has dedicated its entire potash production to saltpetre manufacture and other users of potash are now provided with an alkali substitute made from seawater.

He said the national foundries are presently making 1,020 cannon a month, mostly intended for the French marine.

Sat 14th Mar 1795

National Convention, 27th August – Coste, the pastor of the French Protestant Church at Charlestown, Virginia has given France his invention of the ultimate weapon.

It is an incendiary bomb that can be fired from a cannon. Once lit, its fuze cannot be extinguished. It burns violently for 30 minutes. It can be thrown 800 yards from a 24 pounder gun.

Coste says any ship that was struck by one of these bombs would be destroyed, regardless of its size or the number of its guns. Six warships equipped with these bombs could destroy all the war fleets of Europe. If used in a shore battery they would permit the destruction of any maritime force coming into port.

An adaptation of the bomb would be effective against cavalry in land war.

Coste declined to reveal the chemical ingredients of his device. Baraillon thought it might be the same powerful source of fire that the chemist de Lille had discovered in Louis XV’s reign – a fire so powerful that the Sun King had declined to use it militarily. Baraillon requested the National Convention to refer the invention to the Committees for examination to see if it could be used ‘without outraging humanity’.[5]

Sat 21st March 1795

The Palace of Meudon is being secretly refurbished. It was formerly used for experiments by the celebrated Fourcroy, Guiton de Moiveaux and others. Enquiries elicit the response that none need fear these chemical reactions except enemies of France.

Sat 21st March 1795

Paris, 26th August – The National Convention has agreed a plan of national instruction:

Libraries, and other repositories of the arts and sciences, are to be cared for by good citizens. They will report any damage to buildings or books etc. Anyone damaging or destroying such institutions or their contents is liable to imprisonment for 2 years.

Baraillon proposed that anyone who had removed national treasures from the institutions must deliver them up or satisfactorily explain their possession of them.

Sat 4th April 1795

The National Convention has been told that, as saltpetre is monopolised by the army for the manufacture of gunpowder, there is a shortage of potash for making soap. Now French scientists have evolved a new way of producing alkali potash for the manufacture of both saltpetre and soap:

They remove the acrid shell of the horse chestnut and heat it to cinders. From 12½ ozs of cinders they obtained 9 ozs of potash. A sample was provided to the Deputies.

This useless nut has suddenly become useful. All citizens with horse chestnut trees are to harvest the nuts and call their local municipality for collection. All horse chestnut trees in national parks are to be harvested. The municipalities will report how much is available to CPS (Committee of Public Safety). The CPS will arrange its orderly conversion into potash.

Sat 4th April 1795

French military balloons are operated by a unit called the Military Aerostatic Company. Three persons fill it and control its ascent. The balloon is composed of sheets of yellow taffeta glued together and the whole is covered with a strong net of thread. From this network hang the ropes that hold the gondola and a rope that trails down to the ground. The gondola has air pressure and temperature gauges. It is 29 feet in circumference and 9 feet in diameter. A large number of small balloons are used to fill the aerostatic balloon and a few are carried aloft to maintain the quantity (which is always slightly leaking away). One was used at the siege of Maastricht.

Sat 18th April 1795

The liberal encouragement of science by the French Republic is productive of peace and tranquillity. Under Robespierre it was controlled and that great French scientist Lavoisier was executed.

The moderates contrarily have created a Committee of Public Instruction to cultivate arts and sciences and the National Convention has just approved a fund of 100,000 Livres to finance the work of artists and scientists. A public conservatory has been established for the receipt and collection of machines, designs, models and books on every kind of art and manufacture. Three guardians superintend the conservatory for 4,000 Livres salary per year and explain all the interesting contents to visitors.

Saturday, 13th June 1795

Letter to the Editor from ‘B’, 11th June:

Dr Priestley has examined the properties of the atmosphere in England and calculated pure air to be 27% and noxious air 73% of the total. I have used a tube, sealed at the open end with mercury, to calculate the figures in Bombay. The temperature was 90ºF. I introduced a piece of phosphorus through the mercury which self-ignited. I repeated the experiment several times. The average reduction of gas volume in the tube, caused by the consumption of pure air in the fire, was 22½%. The different temperatures of England and Bombay may cause a change in specific gravity but there is still an immense difference. I believe this reduced amount of ‘pure air’ may explain human lethargy and the prevalence of disease that characterise warm climates.[6]

In 1779 Drs Priestley and Jan Ingelhousz discovered that plants exposed to sunlight emit ‘pure air’. The quantity produced is proportional to the vigour of the plant and the brightness of the sun. Lavender and some other aromatic plants yield pure air instantly on exposure.

Mr Townshend discovered in his ‘Travels through Spain’ that the American aloe yields pure air in great quantities. Plants seem to consume noxious air and emit pure air. They compliment the activities of the animal kingdom. This reciprocity maintains an admirable equilibrium. I think our hospitals should be surrounded with those plants that produce the most pure air.[7]

Sat 27th June 1795

M/s Payne & Andrews’ powder mill at Dartford exploded on 31st December 1794. 26 cwt (2,912 lbs) of gunpowder was involved.

11 men died. Their bodies and most of their limbs have been found but, remarkably, none of their heads.

Sat 1st August 1795

Gregoire’s report to the National Convention, 31st August 1794:

Our national treasures are threatened by vandals who claim they represent the nation. Formerly these people could barely feed themselves; now they do no work and immerse themselves in luxury. A great source of their wealth is the books and arts in our chateaux and libraries. Several members of the clergy have sold or secreted all sorts of important and valuable historical works. Thefts are obscured by arson. The pillaging has continued for 5 years. The booksellers and art dealers profit by these activities. We have passed many decrees to inventory and protect our national treasures but none are effective. The Committee has requested indices of all holdings but some Departments have ignored us.

We hear that some Departments consider it easier to dispose of the treasures than inventory them. This has occurred at Narbonne and Fontaine lès Dijon. Others tear-up valuable books for cartridge paper. Some books are turning up in the shops of London dealers where they command high prices. Commonly a book is exposed for cheap sale as a single volume when the other volumes are nearby and buyers know the value of the whole set. A telescope was offered cheaply with the tube in one place and the object lens in another. The brokers know this and reconnect the parts or the volumes to restore value.

It is all done to obscure the venal nature of the sellers (there follows a long list of artwork that has been vandalised or broken, a collection of ancient gold coins at Lyon was melted down, anything depicting aristocracy or monarchy is allegedly worthless, books with the arms of nobility on them have the covers torn off, archaeological finds are considered feudal, etc.). The despoliation is nationwide but particularly severe along the north and northwest frontiers and the Pas de Calais. All this destruction is made to appear superficially reasonable but facilitates the export of our treasures to England.

We have discovered three pictures in a Paris bank – 2 Claude Lorrain’s and a Van Dyck – that were being sent to England.

We must also stop persecuting our superior men. Astronomy, chemistry, mechanical engineering, music, sculpture, debating and book learning are worthwhile pursuits. The scholars discover new principles which tend to the glory and greater wealth of the country (a list of scholars in prison and executed is given). Already a new system of weights and measures (the metric system) is about to be revealed. Our inventions and discoveries rely on scholarship.

If we do not compete with the Dutch and the English we will lose ground. Bacon supposes that Homer fed more men than Augustus did with his gifts to the Roman people. Knowledge is power and wealth. A few years ago the publication of knowledge underpinned a printing industry worth 200 million Livres to France (54 millions in Paris alone). The Louvre has the finest press in Europe – the type faces of Garamond and Vitre are unsurpassed but they rust from disuse. We should re-examine the works of history, republish the great ones. We learn from our past. It would be crass to make the same mistakes again and again.

The spices that the Dutch monopolised for so long are available to us. In our national garden at Cayenne, Guiana all the varieties of exotic spice plants and tropical products are being nurtured for distribution to French farmers. Our gardens at Charleston and New York are equally productive of useful plants. Our gardens at Constantinople and Mauritius are doing good work with foreign vegetables etc.

The chateaux of the émigrés have been particularly valuable sources of art treasures. Those aristocratic people just collected because pictures were valuable or a library was fashionable. John Law, the author of the financial system, was told that a library is a fashionable thing and that barbarian contracted with the bookseller to buy books by the fathom.

We however know how to use knowledge properly. The hidden treasures of the émigrés will be made available to the whole nation. France’s new social organisation presents unimagined and unique opportunities to spread existing knowledge and extend it.

Sat 17th Oct 1795

In this edition is a long unpersuasive attempt by a correspondent to model the factors causing the seasonal monsoons.

Sat 5th Dec 1795

Since the French adoption of the telegraph, there have been numerous similar experiments in Britain. Mr Edgeworth has erected stations on two hills 15 miles apart in County Meath, Ireland. A message was sent and the reply received in 5 minutes. Edgeworth’s device is an equilateral triangle of 14’ sides with an indicator arm pointing to any one of 8 positions marked 0 – 7 every 45º. The receiver needs a telescope to read the signals. A pre-arranged code assigns meanings to the eight positions of the indicator arm.

Sat 23rd April 1796

Alluvial gold has been discovered on Mount Croaghaun in County Wexford. Three small streams join at the foot of the mountain and run passed a bog for 150 yards. This bog floods every winter but can be worked in summer. The gold is contained in the clay. Much of the gold is itself contained in bits of quartz which have to be broken open. The quartz resembles that of the Hungarian goldmines. About 500 ounces have been removed in the last fortnight since publication of the discovery.

Sat 28th May 1796

Sir John Sinclair’s recommendations to the Board of Agriculture:

  • In England in the summer of 1795 the government stimulated the cultivation of potatoes as a substitute for grain. Potatoes can be stored for months without apparent deterioration. They are an ideal basic food.
  • Farmers should take more care over threshing. Two extra bushels of grain can be obtained from the straw of every ten quarters. Careful threshing can alone alleviate the worst of the current shortage.
  • People who prefer to eat bread to potatoes may find that a recipe of one third potato flour to two thirds barley or wheat flour will answer. Making bread of barley or oatmeal alone should also be encouraged.
  • Yorkshire gets a mildew on its grain which can be washed off. If it is washed thoroughly it can be dried and used the same as uninfected wheat.

Sinclair attaches letters he has received from the provinces supporting his recommendations. Representatives of Cheshire wrote “had the poor been left to the machinations of the grain dealers, we would have had a riot;” Worcestershire said they planted 50 times more potatoes this year then last and were assured of sufficiency soon. Forfarshire says potatoes are delicious and they nicely prepare the ground for wheat.

Government is supportive. It is only from surplus crops that revenue can be drawn – no surplus, no trade, no revenue. If the price of necessaries becomes too high, people cannot afford to buy and the provisions are wasted. The greater the cost, the less money is left over for taxes.

Sat 30th July 1796

Paris, 6th February – General Jourdain, late commander of the army of the Sambre and the Meuse, is a guest of the Minister of War in Paris. He has been presented with six fine horses from the national stock, an elegant sabre and a pair of pistols made at the factory in Versailles. Yesterday the Minister for the Interior, Benezech, gave him a splendid entertainment in his hotel.

Afterwards the Abbe Sicard, who has created a new system of communication for the deaf and dumb, entertained the General with a demonstration by one dumb and one blind student. A specimen of printing by blind scholars was exhibited and a symphony by blind musicians was heard.

Sat 27th Aug 1796

Some rubber plants have been received at Calcutta and Madras from Penang. This plant produces an elastic resin. We will endeavour to cultivate them here in India. We have also imported nutmeg and cacao trees from the Moluccas.

Sat 22nd Oct 1796

London, 2nd April – the Drury Lane Theatre held a rare single performance of Shakespeare’s little known work Vortigern. The theatre was filled early and literally thousands were sent away from the doors. The play is produced by Mr Ireland, the owner of the Vortigern manuscript, who resents the aspersions cast on its authenticity by Mr Malone and offers this opportunity to the general public to form their own opinion on its authorship.

The audience was very attentive initially but once it was apparent that the Shakespearian spark that animates all his work was absent in this, disappointment turned to resentment and finally to indignation. Much of the dialogue was reminiscent of passages in Macbeth, Richard III, Henry VI, Lear and As You Like It but that was a close to Shakespeare as it got. There was a regrettable amount of inappropriate laughter from the audience. All in all, the production was so bad it was quite enjoyable.

Sat 3rd Feb 1798

Republicain Francais: The hydraulic engineer Campenas has written to Bonaparte in Italy:

Your campaigns will bring peace to Europe. Only the English continue to resist. I have invented an aerostatic machine capable of carrying 200 people. It might alternatively be used as a weapons platform. It can cross land or sea and removes the difficulty of getting at England. The fuel supply is sufficient to propel it for 24 hours. You could go to London and back in that time.

I have not proposed the development of my idea to government as they have no money and each balloon would cost 1 million Livres to construct. I am proposing it to you as I know you have powerful friends in the Directory. My proposal is to travel through the air as a new means of transportation. It devalues navigation by sea and thereby offers a means of restoring liberty to commerce.

The technical discussion of the invention is contained in a book of 400 pages divided into five sections. Several members of the National Academy approve my calculations. Here is an extract of their Review:

‘Campenas has not yet succeeded in his efforts but his calculations have merit. His design suggests the larger the machine, the easier it will be to direct because of the reduced resistance of air to its passage. The united strength of 200 men should generally be sufficient to overcome the wind. Considering the immense treasures that maritime commerce absorb, it would be reasonable to fund him with 4 millions to produce an aerostatic dock and a prototype to confirm if it is really an alternative means of transport.’

He proposes that each capital city of Europe should have an aerostatic dock with a number of wharves at which the machines of all nations may descend to load and unload. Two atmospheric buoys at either end of the machine, each with a parachute, serve to prevent accidents. A small cylindrical buoy can be let down from the middle of the machine for communications with the ground. In peacetime the machine can be used to transmit information by day or night (for it can be illuminated)

Sat 24th Feb 1798

According to George Staunton, the Chinese have their own way of inoculating against smallpox. They collect the discharge from the pustules, dry it and store it in air-tight porcelain jars. It is said to retain its vigour for years. For inoculation they sprinkle a small amount of the powdered discharge on a piece of cotton and insert it in the patient’s nostril.

Staunton also notes that Chinese ships are built with watertight compartments that prevent sudden sinking. All ships up to 400 tons have these separate holds. Chinese bulkheads are as watertight as our decks. The planks comprising the bulkheads are caulked with a cement composed of lime powder, oil and bamboo slivers. It is not inflammable and is accordingly preferable to the tallow, pitch and tar that we use for caulking.

Wed 21st Nov 1798 Extraordinary

Paris, 19th July – A telelogue or ‘speaking tower’ has been invented to magnify the volume of human speech to address large crowds.

It appears to be primarily constructed from a huge horse-powered cylinder.

Mon 31st Dec 1798 Extraordinary

Mr Belfeur, a merchant from Elsinore, has patented a means of making ship’s cables that are considerably stronger than those presently used. He extends every thread of hemp before twisting them thus distributing the load evenly across all threads.

The Commissioners of the Navy went to Greenwich in late August to see a demonstration. It is by the early adoption of such improvements that the British Royal Navy maintains its supremacy.

Sat 2nd March 1799

The Despatch (Brown) reported that at 5 am, 6th Jan 1799 at 7.58 S and 87.39 E (by solar and lunar observations), whilst sailing from the Cape to Madras, his ship experienced a long swell from the South East that continued for 5-7 minutes, accompanied by a sulphurous smell and a grinding noise that vibrated the ship and made the crew suppose they had run-over something.

Brown put down 90 fathoms of line but failed to reach bottom. It was assumed from the smell and vibrations that a submarine earthquake had occurred.

Sat 11th July 1801

The Food Commission has commended that bounties be paid to farmers who grow potatoes on new land. They recommend government pay £10+ per acre. If adopted, the recommendation will cost about £13,000 nation-wide.

Sat 6th March 1802

France is developing a new process for the bleaching of cotton and linen cloth. The process requires the application of an alkali to the cloth at high temperature. A factory has been built at Passey by Citizen Bawens to apply the new procedure industrially. The process was invented by Citizen Chaptal.

Clone factories are appearing elsewhere in France and particularly in Belgium where the production of linen cloth is commercially important. The new process bleaches linen to a uniform white in two or three days using materials of half the cost of hitherto – its even easier than bleaching cotton.

The raw material is first combed, spun and woven, then it is bleached. Chaptal’s machine handles 2,000 metres of woven cotton cloth in a single operation. The end product does not appear to be weakened by the process. Bleaching cloth without lye is also more hygienic.

Sat 27th March 1802

Nourishment by absorption – a Doctor in Brussels, caring for a man with an injured throat, applied wine and soup to the patient’s body. He says the nutrient bath kept him alive for the few weeks during which no food by mouth could be given until the wound had healed sufficiently for the man to eat again. He concludes that the skin is able to absorb and deliver nourishment for metabolism.

Sat 3rd April 1802

French inventiveness is a fact:

  • One of the French émigré priests, who has been living in England since 1792, has invented a new windmill. The blades are horizontal and rotate with constant force at all times, whatever the direction of the wind. The priest has received a reward from the French government.
  • The French have also discovered that potatoes make better size than the animal products currently in use. Take some fresh potato starch, boil it to a paste and mix in the whitening. Apply this to the ceilings and walls for a brighter whiter finish. The surfacing has a clearer colour and peels-off less readily than animal-sized surfacings.
  • Vidron, the Parisian music-master has devised a way for deaf people to hear music. He uses a steel rod. One end is placed on the musical instrument and the other is grasped between the teeth of the deaf man. He makes other connections as well, to the stomach and the head, as necessary. It is the use of steel that makes Vidron’s device work. Formerly wood was used. To the deaf man, it seems as though the sound is coming from the rod rather than the instrument. A good number of the deaf people tested reported awareness only of vibrations but it seems useful in a minority of cases.

Sat 3rd April 1802

A new type of medicated wine is attracting attention in Europe. One of the endorsees is a woman who has been married for over thirty years. She says she was induced under its influence to write a love letter to her husband!

Sat 15th May 1802

A distinctive feature of the Tuilleries under Bonaparte is the undress of the female courtiers. Their arms and breasts are exposed and their other parts are distinctly visible through the thin chiffons.

The ladies affecting this new style of dress are called economistes or sometimes Rumfordiennes, in honour of the inventor of the stove that produces considerable heat from very little fuel.[8]

The overall appearance looks parsimonious but is belied by the diamonds and jewels that the ladies are invariably adorned with.

Sat 15th May 1802

An Englishman has been licensed to build a paper manufactory in Portugal. He will use the white skin of the aloe as raw material. The aloe grows wild throughout Portugal. The resultant paper is bright white with a lovely texture. As the raw material is almost free (apart from collection costs) his produce will be much cheaper than existing English paper and should have a higher quality.

Sat 22nd May 1802

To make an electrical battery, place pieces of silver and zinc together, each pair separated from the next pair by a piece of thick cloth soaked in seawater or sal ammoniac.

Build your pile – silver, zinc, cloth, silver, zinc, cloth, etc.

Power increases according to the numbers and sizes of the plates used but increasing the numbers is more productive than increasing the size. The battery will continue to conduct electricity until the cloth is nearly dry. If you connect two of these piles they must begin and end with different metals. The electricity seems to flow first from the silver to the zinc and not vice versa i.e. there seems to be a negative charge on the silver and a positive charge on the zinc.

The silver produces hydrogen in water whilst the zinc produces oxygen. Most other metals will produce electricity if configured in this way but less than silver and zinc.

Sat 19th June 1802

Dr James Carmichael Smith has demonstrated the beneficial effect of fumigating accommodations with nitrous acid. His first subjects were the Spanish prisoners in 1780 during the American War. The fumes destroy mephitic air and prevent the spread of contagious disease. Wilberforce has asked the House of Commons to reward Smith.

Sat 26th June 1802

In July the India Company’s advertisements in the Bombay Courier commenced to be printed in four languages – Arabic, Persian, Gujerati and English. One of the first is an offer gratis to vaccinate children against smallpox. The Courier Editor says he now also has Malabari and Marathi fonts.

The Company is aware that existing methods of disease-control, such as isolation, are workable. Cowpox vaccine was recently introduced but has so far lacked virility and has been ineffective to prevent smallpox. Dr Short, one of the Company’s surgeons resident at Baghdad, has produced fresh vaccine material there and forwarded it via Basra to India. Short got the vaccine from Lord Elgin at Constantinople who in turn got it from Dr de Carro of Vienna.

For the first thirty attempts we failed to get this material to work but then the vaccination of Anna Dusthall, the Eurasian daughter of a servant of Captain Hardie, produced the disease. It is from this girl alone that all the inoculant we are now sending throughout India has originated. On 22nd June, eight children were vaccinated from Anna, who was then in the 8th day of the disease, and five vaccinations took. From that five a further thirty have been treated. From these we will extract vaccine material to send to the other Presidencies.

The Hindu’s should relish the idea of cows saving humans from smallpox. They should be amenable to vaccination on that ground alone.[9]

Sat 29th Jan 1803

A French chemist at Dijon named Botel has discovered a cure for drowning. He immersed some rats in water until they ceased struggling then revived them with oxygenated muriatic acid gas (muriatic acid is the former name of hydrochloric acid). He repeated the experiment on cats with the same result. He says he then tried it on himself with the same result.

The chemical has also been found very effective in bleaching linen. The French Academy has appointed Commissioners to investigate Botel’s claims.

Sat 12th Feb 1803

A diver has walked across the Oder and sawn a log in half underwater midway. The river is 25 feet deep. The diving suit is made of tin and is connected to the surface by two flexible tubes that terminate in a piece of cork on the surface. A valve on each tube permits one-way air flow.

Sat 12th Feb 1803

French balloon technology is advancing although the Consulate has banned flights by amateurs (only Garnerin is licensed). M Garnerin brought his balloon to London and exhibited it to a crowd of politicians and others. The English are using canvas for their own balloons whilst the French have progressed to silk with a varnish on the outside to better retain the hydrogen.

Garnerin put up a pilot balloon first to check wind direction and strength. Barometric pressure was 29½ inches. Then he harnessed himself in a parachute beneath the big balloon and ascended to over 4,000 feet waving his tricolor flag as he rose. When he was over green fields (no fire risk), it was getting cold and pressure at that height had reduced to 23 inches, he disconnected from the balloon and parachuted down. At first his descent was fast but once the parachute fully opened it slowed. All the spectators were horrified by the supposed accident but Garnerin survived – he landed in a farm at St Pancras. He was briefly nauseous afterwards but soon recovered. The balloon came down on Harding’s Farm, near Frensham Ponds, Farnham.

Garnerin is now off to Bristol to do it again – he is a one-man friendship show between two erstwhile enemies.

Garnerin has been distressed by a London newspaper report accusing him of atrocities in the Revolutionary War (he fought at Marchiennes in October 1793, was captured by the Duke of York’s forces and imprisoned in Austria for 31 months)

Sat 23rd April 1803

The remains of a forest have been discovered in a cavern on the Isle of Dogs. The trees are prodigiously high and their bark is well preserved although the wood has decayed. Charcoal, nut-shells and human bones were found in one place.

Sat 10th Dec 1803

Bonaparte requires his infantry to learn how to swim. They have been instructed in it and recently a whole regiment was required to cross the Seine. He keeps improving the quality of his army.

Rivers without bridges are absolute barriers to our own troops.

Sat 7th Jan 1804

Weekly deaths recorded in London are generally between 50-80 depending on the season. However, since the beginning of 1803 it has decreased and by March 1803 was in the range of 10-20 per week where it has remained for the rest of the year.

The change is attributed to Jenner’s vaccination against Smallpox.[10]

Sat 28th Jan 1804

The French are experimenting with their hydrogen balloons as a means of invading England. A subscription for 300,000 Francs has been opened at Paris, divided into 3,000 shares of 100 Francs each to finance a Company that will manufacture the balloons.

Sat 17th March 1804

10th March 1804 – James Horsburgh, Captain of the Anna (a Bombay ship), has collated 12 years of observations of Asian seas. He uses a chronometer to make his sightings and ensure precise longitude. He has also referred to the diaries of some respected fellow navigators. From this database he has been able to construct charts of the coast and islands of India, the Malacca Straits and the China Seas. He says they are ‘a near approximation to the truth’.

He wants to publish the information for the safety and benefit of other navigators and has announced a subscription of 3 Gold Mohars (45 Rupees, about 4 Guineas) for each copy of his four Charts and Plans. If the subscription is excessive for the publishing charges he will refund the balance.

Subscriptions payable to Bruce Fawcett & Co of Bombay, Colvins Bazett & Co of Calcutta or Colt Baker Hart & Co of Madras.

Sat 2nd June 1804

The Russian Tsar has awarded 1,000 Roubles to Baron Toll for inventing an underwater bomb. It is very cheap and causes immense damage.

Sat 17th Nov 1804

Dr Olbers of Germany has discovered a planet three times the size of Jupiter. He calls it Hercules. No other astronomer has seen it. Olbers says its orbital period is 211 years and it shines like a 6th magnitude star. It traverses a line 30º off the ecliptic. He has detected seven moons, one of which, he estimates, is twice the size of Earth.

Sat 29th Dec 1804

The Scottish invention of stereotyping has been improved by the French and is to be used for the first time in England to produce a facsimile of the Queen’s translation of a German religious tract.

Sat 5th Oct 1805

Count von Hoffmansegg sent Sieber to Brazil to search out medicinal plants. He has found the ayapana plant which grows along the waterways of the Amazon valley. It is an antidote to insect bites. You just rub it on the bite and the pain and swelling abates. He says it is effective against the acid on caterpillar hairs and against flying insect bites.

Sat 19th Oct 1805

Notice – The Bombay Government will adopt Mr Palmer’s process of preserving limes for consumption at sea by sailors to prevent scurvy.

The limes are harvested at end October or early November and the juice squeezed into casks which have previously held brandy, rum or Madeira. When the cask is nearly full, a red hot iron bar must be twice quenched in the juice. For every 10 gallons of juice, add ½ gallon of full-proof Bengal rum. Allow to settle for a week and its ready for use.

Sat 11th Jan 1806

When the Pope was in Paris for Napoleon’s coronation, he was shown the government printing factory which contains 150 presses. Displayed on each machine was the Lord’s Prayer in a different language – 75 European, 12 African, 17 American and 46 Asian languages and dialects. It was a lucid display of French ability to internationalise Catholicism.

Sat 11th Jan 1806

10th December 1805 – A luminous body of the brightness of a 4th magnitude star was seen in the Crane constellation from the Company’s Observatory at Madras. At 7 pm it was visible with the naked eye. It was encircled by an ill-defined luminosity of about ¼° diameter. It was first seen midway between theta- and iota-Gruis but moved relative to those stars.

On 11th December at 7pm it was midway between epsilon-Gruis and alpha-Toucan. Altitude about 19° at 7pm.

The next evening it was lower on the horizon and disappeared by 7pm.

The velocity of this object is immense – first sighted with an achromatic telescope of 70 power it was not magnified but within 24 hours it had described an arc of about 12°. At first we thought it was a comet but it travelled too fast.

Sat 21st Feb 1807

The British have made an experimental attack on Boulogne using Congreve’s rocket. Twenty-four boats were sent in, undetected by the enemy, each with a couple of rockets (but they could carry and fire a hundred). The rocket casing is pointed and sticks into whatever it is fired at. The tube contains inflammable chemicals that burst on contact into unquenchable flame through six holes in the cylinder. The stick attached to the rocket is nearly 20 ft long and permits a level of accuracy similar to a cannon or mortar.

The enemy was so shocked by our novel attack it was a considerable time before they manned their shore batteries.

Sat 20th Aug 1808

The French have made a solar water heater at Marseilles. They placed some mirrors in a frame around a black kettle and the reflected sunlight very quickly brought the water to boil.

Sat 7th Oct 1809

Essence of carnation is available in Bombay for the first time. The process of extracting it from the flowers has just been discovered in England and all the ladies of fashion are using it on their kerchiefs. Contact Baxter Son & Co, sole representatives of the importer (a ship’s officer).

Sat 18th Nov 1809

  • Captain Ouseley of the Foreign Depot has demonstrated his device for projecting fire. An assembly of General Officers turned-out at Woolwich to watch. It is a small machine that ignites and projects a flammable substance which clings to whatever it touches and incinerates it. It was used on a flag staff, representing a mast, and was successful in two out of three demonstrations.
  • A few days later Lt Brown of the Navy and 30 men rowed a canvas boat up the Thames and under Westminster Bridge. The collapsible boat was invented by Col Browne of St Vincent’s. The canvas is treated to make it water-resistant. It can carry 50 sitting soldiers or 100 lying down. It weighs only 60 lbs. Two of these boats lashed together can carry the heaviest piece of ordnance in our armoury. Its unladen draft is 3 inches. It is intended for the passage of armies across rivers but may have other interesting uses.

Sat 17th Feb 1810

Advertisement – Monsieur Toupée has arrived in Madras with a fine assortment of wigs, whiskers, pomade, hair powder, oils, scents, combs, brushes, rouge, tweezers and curling irons.

He transforms old age into youth, ugliness into beauty. Large noses are made smaller whilst small eyes are made larger, wide mouths are narrowed, smiles are effected where seriousness hitherto reigned, ears are bored and clipped with uncommon taste, necks lengthened or shortened in the Parisian style.

Monsieur will only shave ladies but he dresses the hair of both sexes. His prices are uncommonly reasonable.

Sat 2nd Feb 1811

Professor Leslie has invented a new way of making ice. When air is rarefied it requires heat to maintain its temperature. Put a saucer of sulphuric acid in the receiver of an air pump and place it under a vessel filled with water. Exhaust the air pump and the water will freeze in 20 minutes. In the course of a day a pound of acid will make 10+ pounds of ice. The acid gains heat as the water loses it. To recycle the acid for further use, it is necessary to heat it and evaporate off the water that has mingled with it.

Sat 4th May 1811

Capt James Horsburgh has been appointed Examiner of Ships’ Journals by the Company. All the raw data included in the logs of the Company’s fleet is to be made available to Horsburgh to assist him in improving his charts.

Sat 12th Oct 1811

Edinburgh Review, March 1811 – Near the gold mines of Soffala on the Zambezi are stone houses reportedly built by Chinese who, according to Marmot, had a settlement in that town centuries ago. These houses are very different from the light and airy residences of the African natives.[11]

Sat 21st Dec 1811

Dr Frederick Smith Stuart of Billericay Essex has written to the London newspapers 9th Oct 1810 to report his cure for consumption:

“In February 1805 I started coughing violently, bringing-up blood and vomit. The volume was such as to require constant use of a basin. I had night fever and sweating and continually felt pain in my chest “like an iron hand squeezing my heart. I lost my appetite as whatever I ate made me sick.”

“For a year I subsisted entirely on boiled potatoes, three dry biscuits and a basin of tea each day. After five months of this I had lost so much weight my bottom was like a cow’s hoof and all my ribs protruded. My colleague Dr Reynolds suggested some light meat.

“I was in great pain and could drink nothing, not even water. I thus remained, not living not dead, for two years until I ate some ripe currants – first white only, then white and red mixed, and finally red only. It was the only food I could metabolise. I ate 3-4 pints of currants a day in three doses, one after each meal. My cough and phlegm ceased and my appetite returned. When currants went out-of-season my condition worsened. I used tamarinds as a substitute (having found that conserve of roses and acid of lemons did not answer).
“I am now completely cured of this ‘incurable’ disease. In my medical practice I have since learned of two other people who were cured of consumption by currants.”

Sat 22nd Feb 1812

The French have erected a great pyramid at the base of a hill 3 miles west of Boulogne and about one mile inland. It has been built in three weeks. Our blockade cruisers have just noticed it. The base covers over an acre and the structure is presently 460 feet tall. Our smugglers say it will be twice as high when complete and 4,000 men are engaged in its construction. We cannot imagine what use it has but we fear it hints at a renewed French intention for an invasion.

Sat 2nd May 1812

Dr J B Trotter says Charles James Fox died prematurely as a result of taking digitalis. He was recovering from the initial attack and subsequent bleeding. He was eating and sleeping well. A doctor then told him of the good effects of this new medicine and Fox himself was keen to try it. It was administered one morning.

He then arose and washed his face and hands. He appeared to be maintaining the improvement in his condition. He had started to brush his teeth when his appearance and condition changed very suddenly and he almost fell. I managed to get him back on the bed but he went downhill from then on and died two days later.

Sat 25th July 1812

Notice, 21st July 1812 – In the 1811 season the Company’s Select Committee at Canton produced a chart of the approaches to Macau and sent it back to London for approval (it is the product of their anti-piracy cruiser which used the opportunity of its cruises to survey the approaches to the Canton River). The Directors have engraved it and supplied a copy to every commander of an East Indiamen. They have also sent 62 copies to Bombay Presidency for the use of the Company’s marine and the country ships. Country ship operators will pay 14 Rupees for a copy.

Capt Byng of HMS Belliquieux has made a chart of part of the west coast of Sumatra which the Directors also approve. Twenty copies are sent for the country ships on the Malay route. 3 Rupees each.

Sat 15th Aug 1812

The French are refining beetroot to make sugar. They have industrialised a Prussian process. Previously they used grapes but with indifferent results.[12]

Sat 22nd Aug 1812

The French signalling telegraph now extends from Paris to Antwerp, Brest and Milan. A new branch line off the Milan line is being built to Toulon.

Thurs 12th Nov 1812 Extraordinary

The latest Calcutta Gazette carries the following invitation:

This interminable war with France prevents British convalescents from recuperating in the healthy environments of Provence, Nice, Tuscany and Naples. Our humid British climate favours consumption and only the dry air of southern France and Italy cures it.

We propose the construction of a Madeira House at Clifton. This type of building permits the temperature and humidity inside to be regulated. We will maintain the public areas at 62-65º F. The temperature in individual rooms will be set by the occupier.

Doctors have established that the pulmonary diseases of the English are caused by humidity and variable temperature. Our building will eliminate the causes and thus promote a cure.

We invite subscriptions to a capital of £50,000 divided into 500 transferable shares of £100 each. A committee of shareholders will direct the business.

Contact Busby of the Commercial Coffee Rooms, Calcutta or Mangeon’s Hotel Clifton or M/s Paxton, Cockerell, Trail & Co of Pall Mall.

Sat 2nd Oct 1813

Dr W Ainslie’s book on the vegetable medicines of India is near publication. He has translated nearly all the Sanskrit, Hindi, Telingu, Malay, Tamil and Dukhani terms into English botanical names. He has also added a section classifying the medicines by use.

Apply to Shotton Calder & Co of Bombay for your copy.[13]

Sat 9th Oct 1813

Dr Morichini of Gotha has discovered that non-magnetised iron needles can be magnetised by exposure to ultra-violet radiation filtered from the sun.

Sat 16th Oct 1813

Drs Aubin and Lafont, respectively at Constantinople and Salonika, have discovered that the procedure of vaccination that we recently learned to use against smallpox also protects against plague. Vaccinated infants can be nursed by infected mothers without becoming infected themselves. 6,000 adults have been vaccinated in Ottoman domains and reportedly none have become sick.

An Italian colleague, also working in Turkey, vaccinated himself with material taken from a deceased plague victim and claims to have developed an immunity to the disease.

Sat 30th Oct 1813

Dublin Evening Post – On 12th April there was a great run of herring off the coast of County Donegal. Herring have not been seen there for many years (fishing has been a risky business during the war and stocks have recovered).

An excited crowd of residents took to the boats to catch what they could. The catch was so prolific that an unexpected gust of wind overturned more than sixty boats. The hulls were later washed-up on the coast and 42 fishermen died with their catch. Instead of a windfall surplus, many widows and orphans have sustained a great loss.

Sat 27th Nov 1813

The French recently established a uniform system of weights and measures (metric system) which has many advantages and the Scots have just endorsed the decimal principle for their measurements.

Sat 4th Dec 1813

Napoleon is not a bad man. A few years ago the passes through the Alps were footpaths and mule tracks. Today they are post roads the width of three carriages. This would have astonished Hannibal but the French have gone further and would have also astonished Julius Caesar – they have drained the Pontine Marshes.

This source of noxious smell and disease for two millennia is no more. The French solution to this intractable problem was to excavate a greater fall on their drains and make then considerably bigger than earlier attempts. They have diverted the sea water on one side and the run-off from the mountains on the other. They have used a considerable amount of Neapolitan pozzolana, the best water-proofing material known to man.[14] The marshes are now transformed into 150,000 acres of fine agricultural land. There should also be a decrease in the malignant fevers that were associated with the marsh vapour.

Sat 11th Dec 1813

The Glasgow Philosophical Society has demonstrated that cast iron, when cherry red, can be cut with a saw as easily as cutting wood. It is a discovery of d’Arcet at the iron works at Montmartre. The saw was undamaged. Our mastery of iron is improving.

Sat 11th Dec 1813

Since the grain failures of a few years ago, the cultivation of the potato has spread throughout the country. The Rector of Southbright in Devon gets £1,000 a year in tithes on potatoes. Ten years ago he received nothing.

Sat 29th Jan 1814

We are all familiar with coconut oil – we use it for lighting – but some British merchants at Colombo plan to ship a cargo to England on speculation and the Company has given them a good freight rate (£7 per ton) which should cover both the loss by evaporation and the risks of cheap sale. Palm oil, which is now widely used in soap-making, costs 30/- cwt whilst coconut oil is just 5/- per cwt – it should be a lucrative speculation if coconut oil is also suitable for soap.

We know that alkali and fatty acid mix to a solid which is suitable for candles – perhaps coconut oil will have an application in that market too.

Colombo merchants are also looking for commercial applications for ebony wood which is widely available there.

Sat 14th Jan 1815

Solomon’s Island in the Greek Archipelago has disappeared. On 26th January 1814 it was there, the next day it had gone along with its Greek population. It was 36 miles in circumference. Adjacent islanders knew nothing. They just recalled a very calm night with no breeze.

Sat 11th March 1815

An 8 ft 4 inch Sturgeon weighing 260 lbs has been caught in the River Tees 2 miles below Stockton.

Sat 25th March 1815

Sir William Adams has devised a completely new approach to eye disease. He makes artificial lenses for cataract sufferers. He has done some astonishingly effective surgery at Greenwich Hospital and has just written-up his procedures for publication by the Philomatique Society in Paris.

The hospital Directors have presented him with a £3,000 service of silver, mined from their own silver mine in Cumberland.

Sat 10th June 1815

HMS Nelson is the largest ship ever built in England. The hull is over 200 ft long and the masts are over 100 ft high. It draws 25 ft., weighs 2,600 tons and carries 875 men. It has 108 guns. It was built at Woolwich.

Sat 3rd Jan 1818

An epidemic is spreading through the central division of Lord Moira’s army at Sikundra near the Jumna. 8 Europeans and 400 Indians died in the last two days. Today (17th Nov 1817) a further 29 Europeans and 500 Indians have died.

Laudanum and brandy are effective in treating the fever, if given timely, and calomel completes the cure. The epidemic is seasonal and occurs whenever a cold wind blows down from the Himalayas.

Sat 4th July 1818

Middle-aged British men of the Regency period use macassar oil to maintain their hair growth. It is said to retard baldness. It is produced from the flower of the ylang-ylang tree (Cananga odorata) which grows in the Celebes.

Sat 1st Aug 1818

There has been a fearful cholera epidemic. It started in Bengal and has spread throughout India. The Company’s doctors are using three grains of calomel to settle the stomach sufficiently to get medicine ingested. The medicine is one gram of opium every two hours with frequent draughts of brandy water and other stimulants. They spread the calomel on the tongue and the opium goes down unremarkably. Without calomel the patients can keep nothing in their stomachs.

The doctor advises that laudanum can replace pure opium but small doses of 15 – 30 drops are stimulating and cause twitches whereas 60 drops is sedative and induces sound sleep. He says up to 10 grains of calomel is stimulating and purgative but 15 – 20 grains is sedative and produces only one or two good motions.

He has additionally been using jalap and peppermint in some cases but warns against the use of mercury ‘which appears to accelerate death’

Sat 1st Aug 1818

Another doctor reports curing St Vitus Dance with gaseous nitrous oxide. He administers 6 breathes as soon as the patient feels an attack coming on and this disrupts its formation. He attended his patient for six days but was only required to use the gas twice, a great reduction on the usual frequency of attack. Thereafter the patient had no further attacks and, after three months, was pronounced cured.

Sat 20th March 1819

The bagpipes were invented in Arabia. The Irish and the Saxons both use bagpipes and the Irish acknowledge they copied it from the Scots. Where and when the Saxons picked up the instrument is uncertain.

When the praetorian camp at Richborough, Kent was excavated a small bronze figure of a Roman soldier playing the bagpipes was discovered. From this it is supposed that the Romans introduced the instrument to Britain.

An inscription found on the Danube refers to a college of bagpipers (utricularii) formed to supply pipers to the legions. The same source notes the use of bagpipes is dedicated to Nemesis, an Asian God and avenger of injuries. Thus an Asian origin became conceivable.

Now Colonel Johnson has seen several of the instruments at Bushire. A native troop of players were using the bagpipes and thought it was a traditional local instrument.[15]

Sat 8th May 1819

The cholera epidemic in India is getting worse not better. There is a letter in the paper today from ‘Civis’ suggesting it is transmitted in drinking water. We all think its in the air but the letter-writer notes the disease is not appearing everywhere at once but is arising in selected communities one by one. He also says the weather seems to have no effect – whether its in a hot or cool place, the disease still appears.

He recalls that the part of the ill-fated Walcheren expedition that remained on the ships drinking the water brought from England remained unaffected by the local fever whilst the troops ashore died like flies (see the Europe chapter for details of Walcheren and Britain’s most extensive military action in the Great War against Republican France).

If the disease is carried in the air there should be some mechanism that purifies air when it passes over the sea – what is it?

He suggests we should boil water to kill any disease in it.

Sat 16th Oct 1819

Letter to the Editor – the cure for termites is red ants. Each time I find a bit of furniture has become wormy, I sprinkle a little sugar around the holes and introduce some red ants. The white ants emerge for the sugar but the red ants are there for the white ants and carry off every last one.

Other insects can be kept away from food by putting the food container in a bowl with some water in it (very effective) or suspending the container from the roof (less effective).

Sat 6th Nov 1819

Plymouth News – Wm Gall, the Coroner at Broad Street, St Giles has just held an Inquest into the death of an Irish labourer by spontaneous combustion.

Dr Henry Thompson deposed that he examined the body of Patrick Roper at the place of death. The two hind quarters were severely contused, the ribs were scattered around the room, the left arm with shoulder attached was on the chest-of-drawers and the other arm was behind the bed. The head could not immediately be found but a hole in the ceiling suggested a direction for search. Death was due to a sudden dismantling of the entire body.

Molly Roper deposed that, at the end of each week, her husband would take his wages to the pub and stay there until his money was exhausted. On Saturday night at about midnight Patrick Roper came home and went to bed. Molly was already in bed and asked him to blow out the candle. She saw him raise the candle to his mouth whereupon there was a blinding flash and an immense explosion. The room appeared full of liquid fire and she lost consciousness.

Lawrence Meagher deposed that he lived in the room above the Ropers. Whilst sleeping on Saturday night his bed was suddenly raised with such violence he and his wife fell out of either side. Protruding through the palliase was a head with eyes blinking and teeth chattering. On looking closely he recognised his old mate Pat Roper.

Dr Thompson gave further evidence. He recalled there were many similar instances in the medical texts. He had personally dealt with a case in the Peninsular War in which an officer’s wife exploded after drinking tea mixed with gunpowder.

Sat 11th Dec 1819

Paris – A manufacturer of padding for calfless people was so indiscreet as to put stockings in his shop window containing a pair of his well-rounded manufactures. This is damnable.

The false calf market was developing nicely and this insider has foolishly revealed it to all and sundry. Every man with full calves will instantly be the subject of giggles.

We are all exposed to the malicious lad with a pin.

Sat 18th Dec 1819

Calcutta 23rd November – velocipedes are not allowed on Respondentia Walk. Sgd C T Higgins, Town Mayor.

Sat 19th Feb 1820

The Marathas have an ancient practise of mixing their gunpowder with sawdust which we have always found incomprehensible.

It was recently alleged in Brazil that using softwood sawdust and gunpowder in equal proportions increases the explosive force.

Colonel Warnaghen of the Company’s army has been exploding rocks with mines and estimates that the mixture is some three times stronger than gunpowder alone.

Sat 4th March 1820

London Courier, 6th November – General Sir Wm Congreve, the rocket scientist, has invented a new sighting system for naval guns and carronades. A deputation from the Admiralty, who attended the tests at Woolwich Arsenal, said it is superior to any existing system.

Sat 20th Jan 1821

A group of 12 Chinese who went from Lisbon to Rio with the Portuguese King in 1808, have established tea-farming there. Their plantation now contains 5,000 shrubs and supplies local requirements.

Sat 24th Feb 1821

Portsmouth, 29th July 1820 – Barlow of the Royal Academy has devised a plate that can be used to correct a course set by Dead Reckoning. It has just been used by HMS Leven with good results.

In a run of 183 miles the error due to Dead Reckoning was 19 minutes latitude and 28 minutes of longitude – equivalent to some 34 miles distance. The error using Barlow’s plate was 2 minutes latitude and 4 minutes of longitude.

Some follow-up experiments were conducted in the harbour on HMS Conway (Basil Hall) which is about to depart on a cruise of the southern hemisphere to inter alia test the device extensively.

Sat 31st March 1821

File Note – All feverish diseases with gastric effects are called cholera in the newspaper. Western doctors identify spasmodic, intermittent and morbid varieties.

Sun 10th June 1821 Extraordinary

Mde Fodor, the Parisienne courtesan, is said to be near death. She was drinking large quantities of vinegar to reduce weight and suddenly became unwell.

Sat 7th July 1821

The Commissioners of Public Records have reported to the House of Commons. They were appointed twenty years ago and now 45 volumes of British historical documents connected with the law and government of this country for the last 700 years have been published and placed in various public libraries for preservation.

This was a noble and splendid work arranged by Lord Colchester.[16]

Sat 18th Aug 1821

HMS Seringapatam has been fitted with an iron mast at Portsmouth. The ship has also some new capstans, reputedly capable of exerting four times the force of the old wooden ones.

Sat 15th Sept 1821

House of Commons – Taylor MP has presented his Bill to compel the owners of steam engines to contain the smoke they emit. Calvert has made a steam engine that consumes its own smoke and emits very little – it is a model for all users.

Lyttleton MP said there are 2,000 engines in the north of the country and 4,000 – 5,000 in the south. It would be wrong to put their owners to the expense of fitting the new apparatus.

Several other MPs were against the device, not least because it decreased the heat and thus efficiency of the engine.

It was agreed to form a committee 83 / 19.

Sat 8th Dec 1821

The costs of postage have been high since the last revision of the postage charges and the only relief available is to use ‘China paper’, a very fine lightweight paper manufactured by the Chinese, that helps to keep the weight and costs down.

Sat 2nd March 1822

Westmoreland Gazette, August 1821 – It is not just Persians who have large families. A Merionethshire farmer has died aged 105. He had 30 children by his first wife, 10 by the second, 4 by the third and 7 by a few good friends.

His youngest son is 81 years younger than his eldest. 800 descendants attended his funeral.

Sat 16th March 1822

Ceylon Gazette 28th Feb – During 1821 this island’s government vaccinated 18,796 people against smallpox.

Sat 27th April 1822

The Congreve rocket has found a commercial application in the whaling industry. The whaler Fame has just returned to Hull with 9 whales all captured with rockets. Often a single rocket is sufficient to prevent the whale diving. They sometimes went completely through the animal. On other occasions the effect of the explosion within the whale could be distinctly seen on its surface. The convenience of the new method lies in the rocket both destroying the animal and carrying the line to it with which it can be secured.

Six of the whales died within 15 minutes of attack and only one survived for two hours. Five of them took out no line at all and only one took out more than one line. Previous experiments with 6- and 12-pounder cannon had revealed that our whaling boats are insufficiently strong to withstand the recoil whereas rockets can be fired off without hull damage.

This technology permits us to now tackle the great sperm whales that have hitherto been amenable only to the harpoon and a long chase.

Sat 18th May 1822

India Gazette, 25th April – On 22nd April Venus was distinctly visible to the naked eye against the brilliant light of the meridian sun. The Calcutta streets were full of people observing the unusual event. The same observation could be made on 23rd April.

Sat 29th June 1822

Bombay Advertisement, 29th June – Capt D Ross’ new survey of the China Seas in the Horsburgh series is now available for purchase at 12 Rupees per copy.

Sat 17th Aug 1822

Prussic acid has become popular amongst the fashionable people of London. It is a new medication which doctors have started prescribing. A medicinal dose of acid by mouth soon numbs the extremities after which the patient takes a glass of brandy and cold water and assumes a recumbent posture.

The resultant experience is said to be relaxing and charming.

Note: There have been repeated references to earthquakes during the last year (1821 – 1822). They extend across north India and Persia into Europe and have occasionally been experienced as far west as Britain.

Sat 21st Sept 1822

The Editor of the Papal newspaper Notizie del Giorno traces the roots of newspapers to the Roman Empire. He notes that Cicero makes frequent mention of daily news-sheets and identifies three at that time as the Acta Diurna, Acta Urbis Populique and Tabulae Dealbata. The Vatican archive contains copies.

Sat 21st Sept 1822

Charles Broderick, Lord Archbishop of Cashel, Primate of Munster, Bishop of Emly and last surviving son of the Earl of Bute died on 5th May 1822.

His Grace’s doctor had sent a prescription to the pharmacy for a senna draught. The chemist prepared it and sent the phial together with another phial containing 2-ounces of laudanum for another occupant of the same house. On receipt the two phials were confused and the Archbishop was given the laudanum. He died a few hours later. The health of the opium eater is not mentioned.

Sat 9th Nov 1822

A drink called noyeau or ratafia, made from almonds soaked in spirits and sugar, is having unpredicted effects in England. Most tradesmen keep a bottle of spirits behind the counter for their best customers. One grocer offered his customers noyeau and its novel flavour was so popular he asked the supplier for more whilst noting the customers thought it lacked strength.

The wine merchant provided a new double-strength noyeau which the grocer offered to a female customer. She trembled briefly and fell down dead. Other customers suspected the liquor but the grocer denied it and drank a glass himself to demonstrate its wholesomeness. He fell down dead as well.

The dangerous ingredient is prussic acid which is derived from the kernels of many fruits – cherries, peaches and apricots – as well as both types of almond. The leaves of the peach, the laurel and the nectarine are equally poisonous.

Nevertheless, prussic acid is an important new medicine and invaluable in treating every disease in which it is necessary to suppress the vital power.

Sat 22nd Feb 1823

Marquis Wellesley, when Governor-General of British India, appointed Lt William Lambton of H M’s 33rd Regiment to superintend the Trigonometrical Survey of India.

It was intended to unite Bombay and Calcutta with the Company’s observatory at Madras on the same principles that unite the observatories at Greenwich and Paris. This endeavour will measure a meridianal arc of nearly 26º, three times the size of the French effort between the Balearic Islands and Dunkirk.

Regrettably Lambton has just died in central India of lung disease at the age of 75 years having triangulated 12º of latitude.

Sat 15th March 1823

Griffiths of Brompton Crescent has completed a steam-powered carriage at the Pimlico Works that can be driven along the common roads. It weighs about 1½ tons and can carry a load of 3 tons. It is 27 feet long. The cruising speed is 5mph.

Sat 15th March 1823

The mechanical semaphore communication between London and Portsmouth is to be extended to Plymouth. Messages to Portsmouth now take less than 2 minutes. The new connection will be made at Bannicle Hill in Surrey where the Plymouth line will veer off west. Twenty one new posts will be built on hills to carry the signal to Plymouth.

Sat 10th May 1823

Recited in Bombay Courier from the Bengal Hurkaru:

Dr Tytler reports that a Doctor at Calcutta has formed artificial bees-wax from vegetable oil. It is suitable for making candles at a fraction of the cost of normal candles. The absence of tallow allows the spiritual Indian people to use these candles. A specimen is available for inspection at the Bengal Hurkaru library.

Sat 21st June 1823

The Indiaman David Scott freighted a steamboat to China which the Company’s Directors intended to run on the river between Macau and Canton. It is built to the design of Julius Griffiths that was tested off Norfolk last year.

It arrived Canton at the time of HMS Topaze’s affair on Lintin when the Provincial Government was angered by us and could not be approached with such a scheme.[17] The David Scott then brought it to Calcutta thinking it might be useful to tow ships up the river.

There is however a growing interest amongst the expatriate British to open a steam communication between India and the Red Sea to enable people and letters to complete the journey to / from London much faster than via the Cape.

The Indian newspapers are full of this proposal.

Sat 13th Sept 1823

The steamboat Diana has come to Calcutta from London via China. As an introduction to this form of propulsion, the Company is offering cruises up and down the river to interested people at fees of 100 – 700 Sicca Rupees. It cruises at 9mph in still water. J W Anderson is the Captain. It is not clear if this is to be a river steamship or whether it will travel via the Cape or be employed at one end or the other of the overland route.

Sat 20th Dec 1823

Bengal Hurkaru, 3rd Dec – Capt Parlby of Dum Dum has improved the Company’s Congreve rockets by imparting the rotary motion of a rifle ball to them. This gives a very precise trajectory. His 1½ pounder has a range of nearly 1,500 yards. The large rocket has a range of 300 yards.

Sat 20th Dec 1823

The planning for a 9 knot per hour all-year steamer connection between Bombay and Suez is continuing. Each ship will carry up to 30 passengers. The coaling station is proposed to be at Suez. We understand coals landed for re-export there would not be subject to Ottoman duty. The route through the Red Sea would be along the southern (African) shore where there are less uncharted rocks. It should be possible to continue the service at night on this route. The land journey from Suez to El Arish will be by camel. The Pasha of Egypt undertakes to protect passengers traversing his land.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

An English manufacturer has been able to make a crepe comparable to the Chinese product. It can withstand washing.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

Franklin the arctic explorer has arrived in New York en route for England. He has confirmed the existence of a North West passage.[18]

Vol 2 No 7 – Sat 4th April 1829

The Registro Mercantil reports a new strain of indigo has been discovered in the Camarines and Albay provinces of Philippines. It produces a beautiful blue dye called payanguit and aranguit by the natives. They were both unknown to us until 1827 when a member of the economical society of Samar Province saw them. He prepared dye cakes and dyed some cloth and thought the result comparable to indigo. Since then the economical society has had several members repeat the discoverer’s tests and affirm the quality.

Samples of the plant have been sent to Manila where a chemist says it is the same as indigo. The leaves are removed after the plant flowers and are macerated in hot water and fermented, bringing out the dye.

Vol 2 No 11 – Tues 2nd June 1829

An experiment in steaming a ship instead of smoking it (in order to remove white ants and vermin) has been attempted on HCS Investigator with success.

Vol 3 No 17 – Wed 25th Aug 1830

A most destructive earthquake occurred on about 20th June, 200 miles south of Peking at between 36º N and 36½º N. City walls and buildings were thrown down for a distance of 200 miles. The shocks continued for several days.

A dozen cities have been destroyed. The people in Canton are talking of a possible death toll of 500,000 – 1,000,000. The proximity to Peking is ominous and has disturbed the Emperor.

Vol 3 No 19 – Sat 18th September 1830

A slight earthquake rocked Canton during the night of 16th September. The shock waves continued for 6-7 seconds and appeared to be from north to south. The first wave was the most violent and the fluidity of the ground was perceptible between the subsequent waves which were separated by intervals of over a second.

Strangely, Chinese residents seem unaware of its occurrence.

Vol 4 No 2 – Mon 17th January 1831

A new comet has appeared at Canton about 30º above the ESE horizon shortly before dawn. Its appearance during the An Tse Yen invasion is taken as an ominous sign.

Vol 4 No 10 – Fri 13th May 1831

News from Central America – a canal is projected to cross the continent from the mouth of the River San Juan via the Lake of Nicaragua to the Gulf of Nicoya.

General Verveer, a plenipotentiary from the Netherlands, has arrived at Guatemala to plan this canal. This will focus the wealth of Central America on Nicaragua. The canal is to be built under the protection of the Netherlands and will allow vessels up to 400 tons to transit without unloading. It is to be a neutral zone and ships of war are excluded. This will particularly benefit the Russian colonies along the north west coast of America. The average depth of the Nicaragua Lake is 40 fathoms and it extends to within 14 miles of the Pacific. The San Juan River is 80 miles long but fast-flowing and difficult to ascend. In the rainy season there is sufficient water for ships drawing 9 feet to descend this river to the Caribbean Sea.

In the Republic of Colombia they routinely send loaded canoes from coast to coast via a short canal called the Raspadura which joins the rivers Atrato and San Juan.

Vol 4 No 10 – Fri 13th May 1831

The Chinese way of preparing indigo:

The best plants come from Kwong Si province. The plants are pounded and mashed then steeped in water until the plant matter has decomposed. The infusion is decanted off and a little lime is added. 1 picul of plant produces 1 catty of dye. To make it more green a little gamboge, a tan-coloured tree resin, is added.

To produce purple colouring the cloth receives a second dyeing of red using Thai soomoo wood solution.

Indigo has been known in China for centuries. In olden times it was not allowed to harvest it at certain times of the year hence the word for blue – larm – is made from the characters for forbidden and plant.

Bengal indigo is not marketable in China because it requires acid to dissolve the blocks of dye which the Chinese do not like to use.

Vol 5 No 12 – Thurs 16th August 1832

Mr J Routsey of Bristol has successfully grown green tea in Breconshire at a farm near the source of the River Usk, about 1,000 feet above sea level. He uses Camellia Viridis which can endure the winter frosts.

The Dutch success with tea in Java has been ended by a riot of 400 Chinese who are the knowledgeable immigrants for cultivating tea, indigo and silk there.

Vol 5 No 20 – Thurs 20th December 1832

The root pak kap is dried and powdered and used in Chinese medicine to treat stomach ulcers (mixed with water) or applied to the skin to draw out boils. It is effective.[19]

Vol 6 No 8 – Fri 31st May 1833

The effects of the winter monsoon are very apparent in south China. The air becomes so dry that all wooden items, even well seasoned ones, warp and split.

Vol 6 No 18 – Thurs 5th December 1833

Letter to the Editor – Sir, HMS Undaunted sailed from Madras five weeks ago and cholera broke out on board. Everyday it got worse until 103 crewmen had fallen ill and 9 had died.

The ship’s surgeon implicated the vessel’s sailing before the wind in the cause of the spread of disease. The Captain hauled the wind instead. An immediate improvement was noted and the disease has now been eliminated.

Sgd John Hine, 26th Nov 1833

Vol 7 No 4 – Tues 28th January 1834

The Chinese have evolved a way of farming fish. At the end of May they use mats to trap fish spawn in the Yangtse. They draw off the water containing the spawn and put it in jars and send it off throughout the Empire. It just requires daily stirring. They sell it to those who have lakes or ponds who in turn pour the water in. After a few days they can see clusters of eggs and eventually little fish.

Vol 7 No 8 – Tues 25th Feb 1834

Steam communication with India is approved. There will be two annual voyages from Bombay by the government steamer Hugh Lindsay and two from Calcutta by the privately owned Forbes. Coaling depots are being established at Galle, Socotra, Jeddah and Suez.

Vol 7 No 12 – Tues 25th March 1834

The New Monthly Magazine for August 1833 recites a novel advertisement for a pleasure cruise published in the Greenock Advertiser.

A steamer from Glasgow will travel to Alexandria, Joppa and Athens for the entertainment of passengers who can thus visit three continents in two months.

Vol 7 No 21 – Tues 27th May 1834

Recipe for French Punch – Put a metal bowl by the fire. While it is heating, put 1 oz green tea in a teapot and add 1 pint of boiling water and allow to infuse. When the bowl is hot add half pint each of rum and brandy with sugar and lemon juice to taste. Set it on the fire and add the tea. Once the spiritous vapours catch fire, remove from the heat and serve.

Vol 7 No 22 – Tues 3rd June 1834

The Penny Magazine:

Tea was unknown in England until mid-17th century. 141,995 lbs were consumed in 1711; 1,031,540 lbs in 1741; 5,566,795 lbs in 1771, 20,237,753 lbs in 1801 and 26,043,223 lbs in 1831.

By comparing the population figures from 1801 – 1831 individual consumption has declined 17% (there is widespread smuggling in the English Channel and at Liverpool). This is attributed to the high price facilitated by monopoly control and punitive duties.

In 1829 the price of tea in Hamburg was about half the London price and the quality of the finer teas was superior.

Cocoa is harvested twice a year in June and December. The pods are picked and opened, the beans extracted and heaped on clay platforms to ferment for 48 hours. The beans are then spread out and sun-dried before being bagged for shipment. When required for use they are roasted until the husks readily fall off and the inner kernal can be worked into a paste which is then reduced to fine powder by ironing.

This is flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla and used to make the beverage. The husks are also used as invalid food, being boiled in milk to make a thin delicious drink. It is much used in Spain (where it is considered a necessary of life) and France. It has not been popular in England because the high duty has minimised the potential market.

Vol 7 No 25 – Tues 24th June 1834

The Indian Journal of Medical Science:

Tea has been analysed by Frank. It contains a volatile oil which carries the flavour. The proportion of tea that is soluble is 41-44% (green) and 35-37% (black) of which the majority is soluble in water and the balance in alcohol. The rest is insoluble fibre.

As a generalisation, cheaper teas have more alcohol-soluble parts, and more expensive teas have more water-soluble parts. The ratio of water-soluble to alcohol-soluble parts is very variable – 3:1 to 12:1 (green) and 8:1 to 35:1 (black).

Oudry has also been analysing tea. He has isolated a salifiable base which he calls theine. He infused the tea in hot water with a little muriate of soda for 24 hours. He evaporated off the water and added alcohol to the residue. He then evaporated off the alcohol, dissolved the residue in water and added magnesia. This caused some part of the tea to precipitate out. He then filtered and evaporated this precipitate to produce a residue of theine.

Vol 7 No 32 – Tues 12th August 1834

The Englishman – M Pelletier has further analysed opium and isolated a new substance which he calls paramorphine (now called thebaine). It is unlike codeine or any other crystalline ingredient in opium. It tastes like pyrethrum (chrysanthemum acid). It is highly soluble in water and alcohol. It acts upon the brain and causes convulsions. A very small dose kills a dog in a few minutes.

Vol 8 No 7 – 17th February 1835

The Steam Committee reports that a steamer service Bombay to Suez or Bombay to Basra and thence up the Euphrates to Bir are both feasible.

The Suez route will be affected by the summer monsoon June – September and the Persian Gulf route might be difficult in November – February. There may be some superficial difficulties with wandering Arab tribes which need to be settled with the Porte.

The Committee recommends the Malta packet line be extended to Egypt and Syria to complete communications between India and England.

Vol 8 No 8 – Tues 25th February 1835

New York Evening Post – The American Brig John Gilpin has sailed from Baltimore round the Horn to Batavia, to Canton, to Manila, thence via Sunda Straits around Australasia to Valparaiso and to Lima in less than 190 days, averaging 183 miles a day.

Vol 9 No 23 – 7th June 1836

A great number of the rivers and lakes of China have been connected and enhanced by canal-building on a massive scale by the industrious Chinese. This vast inland waterway network makes China like a huge Holland. The canals are both for communication and irrigation. The most outstanding canal is the Royal Canal, 300 leagues long, built in about 1280 AD. It traverses Chihli and Shantung to Kiangnan and discharges into the Yellow River. All the three great rivers of China rise in the west and flow east to discharge in the Pacific. The canal system basically provides north and south links to these three west/east rivers in a grid. Thus the river waters are brought to serve the entire country.

To preserve flow it has been necessary in many places to make cuttings of 60-70 feet depth and elsewhere to raise aqueducts of great height across marshy low-lying land or lakes. The work involved in perfecting this system is unique. The canals have wide terraces along either bank to facilitate travel by land (and allow gangs to pull ships when necessary). The Grand Canal is a Wonder of the World. Constant care and maintenance is required.

When the water rises too high, sluices are opened to carry of the excess into side canals and diminish the likelihood of flood. Generally the canals are kept filled to a depth of 9 feet.

There are many locks and the Chinese lock is quite different from ours. On the Grand Canal are about 20 cataracts (called Tung Pa) made of hewn stone with a passage for ships alongside. The Chinese permanently man each cataract and use a wheel to pull up a sluice which both affords an outlet for the water and a passage for the ships. If extra water is required for the passage of a large ship, it is drawn off a reservoir adjacent to these cataracts.

The sluices are simpler and preferable to English locks. They cost about one quarter of the price and passage across them (2½ – 3 minutes) is quicker.

Some locks are formed by inclined planes. Two glaçis of about 40º join at above the level of the higher body of water. Ships coming downstream are hauled up the short glacis and lowered down the long one using ropes and 2 – 6 capstans. These glacis are built of stone and kept smooth. They are used where the change in water level is less than 6 feet.[20]

Vol 9 No 28 – Tuesday 12th July 1836

Rhus Vernix is the varnish tree that provides the beautiful black Japan varnish we so much admire in Europe. The tree grows wild all over China and Japan but when cultivated it produces three times the amount of varnish. Its Mandarin name is Chee Shu. It looks rather like an ash but the leaves are more like laurel with a downy covering. The strangest thing about this tree is the Chinese means of propagation (air-layering) which is unknown in the West.

In Spring a suitable branch a couple of feet long is cut right around and a short length of the bark removed. The wound is then bandaged with some soft moist clay which is built up into a ball and held in situ with matting. Above this is erected a water container with a tiny hole which drips constantly onto the clay keeping it moist. After six months the branch is sawn off and is generally found to have produced a network of roots around the cut. It is then planted and grows independently.

After 7-8 years the trees can be tapped for varnish. In mid-Summer the farmer goes to each tree in the evening and makes numerous oblique incisions of about 2” length in the bark. He presses a sharp clam shell into the wood beneath, which is quite soft, and the raw varnish, which is white, drains into it. Next morning the shells are collected and drained. The varnish has meantime oxidised and turned black. The process is repeated nightly throughout the summer. The varnish ceases to flow in Autumn. Fifty trees, which can be tapped by a single farmer, produce a pound of varnish a day.

There is a caveat – the varnish is highly corrosive and readily burns the skin producing painful long-lasting sores. The farmers wear protective clothing and rub their exposed parts with oil before work.

Vol 9 No 28 – Tuesday 12th July 1836

Editorial – The philosophy of Kant is developing in Europe. If not loyal, it is at least manly. These two adjectives apply to most human laws and government. Loyalty is a poorly understood abstraction but manliness relates to our wants and the things we can ourselves determine.

The human mind is now making daring advances. Governments have sought to check this process and failed. It is now a serious duty for us to consider how our advances are to be guided.

Vol 9 No 34 – Tuesday 23rd August 1836

Important Chinese products:

  • Ginseng is the Chinese specific for all diseases of the lungs or stomach. It strengthens eye sight and renews old men. Europeans have not yet been able to duplicate the good experience of the Chinese although there may be some authority for imputing the fresh root with beneficial effects. Father Jartoux, while making a map of Tartary for the Hong Hei (Kang Hsi) Emperor, made ginseng tea and felt himself stronger for it after a hard day’s work. The early Dutch described it as a larger version of our mandrake with an unpleasant sweetness and bitterness when chewed. The Chinese pay 3 lbs of gold for 1 lb. of ginseng.
    It does not grow in China but in Tartary where the Manchus also prize it. The Chinese government attempts to enforce a monopoly over the commodity. An area of mountainous forest land north-east of Peking is separated from Liaotung by a stake barrier protected by Chinese guards who punish any intruders. This is where Imperial ginseng comes from.
    Pere Jartoux reports, when he was there, that 10,000 Manchurians were sent to gather all they could. The local population has been withdrawing from western Tartary to avoid confronting the Russians who are expanding there. Any ginseng they collected after the first 2 ozs was bought by the government for its weight in silver.
    This group of Manchus apportioned the territory between them and spent six months each year searching. They had only the millet they carry with them for sustenance but few perished. Only the ginseng root is collected. It is brought back to central locales and buried for a fortnight. The roots are then washed, brushed, briefly blanched in boiling water and dried over a fire. The fire was periodically strewn with yellow millet to enhance the natural colour of the root.
  • Rhubarb grows everywhere but the best types are harvested from around the Great Wall. The Cantonese call it Tai Wong. Our name comes from the River Rhuruns in Tartary where the plant was first encountered by Europeans. It was denominated Rhu-barbarus from the river’s name and the state of the surrounding country. It first reached Europe overland through Russia to the Baltic and through Arabia and Venice to western Europe. Later the Dutch imported it to Batavia and thence to the Netherlands.
    A type of it now grows in almost every English garden. The stalks are used for puddings and pies. The root, which has the medicinal properties, does not develop in the English climate. When the Chinese dig up rhubarb, they lay the roots on a concave table so the sap soaks back into the root. They turn the pieces two or three times a day. After about four days of drying they suspend the roots in the shade to air-dry them.
    Marco Polo speaks of the immense quantities that were shipped world-wide. du Halde recalls that whilst the missionaries were map-making they often met long caravans loaded with rhubarb.
  • In the golden age of Greece, silk was hardly known. When the first silks were received from China the patient Greeks unravelled the thread and rewove it with less costly material for the warps, producing the transparent garments that Roman ladies found irresistible – the ‘woven air’ and ‘textile clouds’ of the old records. When Rome finally overcame Parthia in the 3rd century, the route from China was opened more widely, silk supply increased, prices fell and all the wealthy Romans wore it. In about 552 AD, Christian missionaries penetrated into central Asia and learned the manufacturing process. Then two Persian monks proposed to Justinian to bring the worm to Europe hidden in a hollow cane. They soon arrived in Constantinople. Plantations of mulberry had been prepared and production was ultimately successful.
    The Arabs learned the secret in 8th century and silk manufacture was introduced throughout the domains of the Caliphs but the Greeks maintained their leading position as suppliers to Europe until 12th century when the Norman Crusader Roger occupied western Greece and carried off amongst his prisoners some silk weavers and spinners whom he settled at Palermo. From Sicily the knowledge quickly spread to Naples and thence throughout Europe. The discovery of silk in China predates recorded history. Silk cloth has been sent to Europe for two millennia.
    The worm requires a constant warm temperature and dry conditions. Moisture is injurious. The worms must be protected both from the heat of the sun and the cool of the night. The hatching of the cocoons can be delayed by cooling them and this is often done pending for the mulberries to put out their first shoots. The paper on which the eggs have been deposited is then hung in the tree, with its back facing the sun. This is sufficient to warm it. This is continued for 3-4 days. The paper with the hatched worms is then placed upside down on the cut mulberry leaves and the smell quickly induces them to leave the paper and feed. They are fed half-hourly at first and this is reduced to four times a day after a few days. They cast their skins three times as they grow. When it is four days old, the worm stops eating and appears to sleep. It casts its skin the next day and returns to normal health after a further two days. Two days later a second sloughing occurs etc. After the third time, the worm remains active for 5-6 days and then begins to spin its ‘golden tomb’. Silk worms in Europe cast their skins four times, apparently due to the different climate. These are the descendants of the original imports at the time of Justinian. A smaller worm in Lombardy casts three times and was introduced from China more recently. It can be induced to spin 8-10 times a year and is called the monthly worm. The ‘four cast’ worm spins only in March but produces a better quality fibre.
    The period between hatching and spinning is about 24 days. There is increased production if the development period can be shortened and, as the leaves consumed are less, expenses are also reduced. For spinning, the Chinese lay the worms on shaded shelves and draw the thread manually from the worm’s mouth. This operation takes four days to complete and 500 – 1,000 yards of silk are produced at 6” per minute. When the cocoon is completed the worm again throws off its skin and transmutes into a brown chrysalis. After a further 10 days a butterfly is produced which cracks though the cocoon. To prevent damaging the cocoon and its silk, the animal must be killed in its chrysalis stage. We do this by exposing the cocoons to heat. If left in the sun all day, the chrysalis dies and the silk becomes gummy so we boil the cocoons in water for an hour – this is the procedure in Europe and India but the Chinese place the cocoons in earthenware jars separated by layers of salt. The jars are then sealed to the air and the chrysalis soon dies whereafter the silk can be readily wound off.
    Another type of worm in Shantung also produces a silk. It does not have a cocoon stage and eats any sort of leaf. It leaves its fibres on the trees from whence they are carefully gathered. The cloth woven from this silk is very thick and durable. It is more highly valued.

Vol 9 No 49 – Tuesday 6th December 1836

Quarterly Review, Volume II, pages 261-264:

Senhor Rosellini, whilst excavating a newly discovered and undisturbed tomb in Egypt dating from the time of the Pharoahs, discovered within it a smelling-bottle with Chinese characters on it. The discovery of such an artefact in an Egyptian tomb has caused endless speculation.

Three other similar Chinese bottles have been discovered independently in Egypt by Lord Prudhoe and Mr Wilkinson. All three appear identical with the smelling- or snuff-bottle produced to this day in China. Comparison with a recently manufactured bottle showed a close correspondence in size and shape. Prudhoe was at Coptos when a Fellahin offered him two almost identical bottles and a fragment of a statue which workmanship identified it as from one of the later dynasties. Coptos contains several temples from the earlier dynasties, probably circa Thothmes III, up to the later dynasties, concurrent with the Roman Caesars. All the smaller antiquities bought at Coptos however have been from the later dynasties.

One of the bottles is now in the British Museum and another is possessed by Mr Pettigrew who lent it to the author. The two flat sides are white and the remainder is light green. There is a sketch of a flower on one side, the stalk and leaves in pale watery black and the flower light red. It has a very Chinese appearance. On the reverse are five Chinese characters in grass script, apparently written with Indian ink. Three can be identified as still in current usage but the other two are abbreviated. The meaning of the inscription has been found. It is a quotation from a Tang dynasty (5th – 10th century AD) poet. The interior of the bottle contained a black powder. The Moslems are thought to have entered China in 7th or 8th century but Rosellini’s bottle seems to have been made earlier. It would be fascinating to establish connections between Egypt and China from that earlier time.

Vol 10 No 10 – 7th March 1837

Canton Ophthalmic Hospital report – A tea merchant from Nanking reported to his friends on the existence and activities of our hospital at Canton.

On 5th December 1836 a man from Nanking arrived with his son Chin Sheah Kin, 23 years, after a journey of two months, to seek for treatment of the boy. He was found to have chronic rheumatism with ankylosis of all joints, particularly the elbows and fingers. The state of western medicine did not allow for any encouragement to be offered and the boy attended only a few times.

On 26th December the daughter of a silk merchant from Nanking, Lee Ah Wo 19 years, attended with a white spot with fleshy excrescence covering the apex of her left cornea. The blood vessels were enlarged. We felt we could prevent further deterioration and applied a caustic to remove the excrescence and divided the blood vessels at the union of the cornea and sclerotica. New granulations soon filled the depression left by the caustic, the blood vessels became indistinct and sight was somewhat improved. Cosmetically, at a little distance, both eyes appeared the same.

Vol 10 No 14 – 4th April 1837

The Prussians are clever people. They wished to remove an enormous hilltop rock. First they drilled a hole in it and inserted a long iron bar. Then they waited. Not long afterwards a thunderstorm occurred, the pole was repeatedly struck by lightning and carried the charge into the centre of the rock, completely shattering it. Thereafter the fragments were easily carried away.

Vol 10 No 16 – 18th April 1837

Northampton Courier – The leaves of a plant are akin to the lungs of a mammal but not all types of plant suffer as a result of defoliation. All the grasses, the box and the willow may be violently pruned, cut down or totally defoliated without dying.

The Chinese mulberry is also like this. It is plucked of its leaves four or five times each year to feed silkworms and it survives year after year. A moral Chinese who is reluctant to shear a sheep[21] will readily pluck mulberry leaves for his worms, but he preserves the leading shoots of the tree and every successive growth increases in weight. The leaves of the mature tree are more nutritious – 100 lbs of our white mulberry leaves equates with 80 lbs of Chinese mulberry leaves and will feed worms sufficient to make a bushel of cocoons. It takes all day to pick 100 lbs of white mulberry leaves whereas 500 lbs of Chinese mulberry leaves can be harvested in the same period.

A final thing – worms fed on the Chinese mulberry are more productive. 3,000 worms fed on white mulberry here will produce a bushel of cocoons while the same volume can be obtained from 2,000 worms fed on Chinese mulberry.

Vol 10 No 20 – 16th May 1837

Laing’s Residence in Norway – A group of Scandinavians called berserkers take a drug[22] to make them insensible to pain or danger and briefly give themselves supernatural strength. The intoxicant is in an ale but instead of hops they use the leaves of a marsh plant called Paast for flavouring.

A gentleman at Hardinger who has drunk it told me (the Canton Register Editor) he has no doubt it is the source of the berserkers’ energy. As the effect diminishes it is followed by a period of gross lethargy.

Vol 10 No 35 – 29th August 1837

Some Americans established the Atlantic Silk Company at Nantucket, Massachusetts last summer and have now exhibited their products. Over 2,000 visitors were impressed by the qualities achieved. Raw silk from Worcester county, Massachusetts and from New Bedford was also displayed. Many cocoons were exhibited in white, yellow-green and orange colours. One lot of extra large cocoons was provided from Rochester Massachusetts and were claimed to be the largest ever produced in USA. The Nantucket cloth production has clearly improved since the first few months of manufacture. All the machinery used is designed by the Brooks family of Scituate. The printed and dyed cloth was produced on machines of the Boston and Lynn Printing and Dyeing Factory. These machines were invented by Mr Gay and won prizes from the New York Mechanics Institute in 1826.

Vol 10 No 39 – 26th September 1837

Millengen’s Medical Curiosities – Ginseng is prized by the Chinese, Koreans, Manchus and Iroquois Indians. It thrives in Manchuria and Canada and is also found in damp shady locations of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Chinese name yan sum denotes a ternary connection of man, Heaven and ginseng. The Japanese call it the ‘queen of plants’. The Iroquois call it the ‘thighs of man’. In China its cultivation and collection is a monopoly of the ruling Manchus and its importation or sale is restricted. In 1707 the then Emperor sent troops to supervise its collection and thereafter maintained a strict monopoly on it for revenue purposes. It is claimed to be restorative and invigorating, particularly after debauchery.

Editor – Millengen is wrong about the Chinese name. It simply means the shape resembles a human being.

Vol 10 No 39 – 26th September 1837

Lane’s Modern Egyptians:

Opium is not widely used in Egypt. The opium eater is more prestigious than the hashish eater because he tends to be middle or high class. The neophyte takes 3-4 grains to achieve a satisfactory state of euphoria. If he then uses it regularly, he will need to increase the dose incrementally. The Egyptians make several conserves from hellebore,[23] opium, hemp and other aromatic drugs and these are called maagoon.[24] This is the way opium is usually consumed. The most popular maagoon is bursh but each conserve has its own characteristic effect – to promote singing, or conversation, or dancing, for example. Another maagoon pleasantly affects vision and a fifth simply sedates.

Vol 10 No 43 – 24th October 1837

The production of black tea:

The tendrils are picked in Spring on days when the weather is light and dry. They cannot be picked in the rain. A skilled gatherer can pick 10 catties (13 lbs) a day. On return to the farm the leaves must be inspected and all old or yellowed leaves and twigs removed.

For Hung Mei tea, the tendrils are heaped and covered with a cloth under which they commence to ferment. When they have acquired a slightly sour taste they are uncovered and sun-dried. They are then kiln-dried and packed. The taste is like prune juice.

Sung Che tea is gathered in bamboo baskets, raised on bamboo frames, turned repeatedly and air dried until the leaves are only slightly flexible. They are then rubbed between the hands to release remaining moisture, baked in iron pans, placed in baskets over smokeless charcoal fires for a final drying, before being packed in leadlined chests. The rubbing between the hands is important – it must be done gently until the leaves are speckled with small red spots.

This is the kung foo (work) required to make the best qualities of congou (Cantonese kung foo) tea. The baking is also important – the tea is thrown into huge pre-heated woks and turned by hand very quickly to equally heat each leaf but without permitting much burning. The fire itself must be pre-prepared to the appropriate heat without any smoke that might affect the leaf flavour. This light firing produces the hint of bitterness that tea drinkers love. The leaves must be quickly removed when ready, for the heat is intense and will burn them excessively if they remain a moment too long. Firing is a skilled operation and the man performing it is a senior employee and an almost irreplaceable asset of the farmer.

The final drying over charcoal is commenced only after the charcoal has burned down to clear red smokeless pieces and, during this procedure, the leaves above are constantly turned. This is said to impart colour to the leaves which are then immediately packed and pressed down by feet and hands to exclude the air. The chests are then covered with paper which has also been dried over charcoal. The tea must thereafter be kept completely dry or the flavouring from firing will be lost. Any damaged chest should be rejected.

Vol 10 No 52 – 26th December 1837

Letter to the Editor of the Bombay Gazette:

Yesterday I cured a 15 years old girl of cholera. After taking the draught, her fingers became cramped and her pulse unrecordable. After about 2 hours she progressed to a deep sleep. After another 4 hours she had recovered. The following day she was suffering from the effects of the medicine which effects may be ended by repeated doses of castor oil.

The curative medicine is made like this:

Make a strong decoction of cloves, cinnamon and spice and put two teaspoons in a large glass. Add 1 teaspoon of red pepper and one of black, 60 drops of laudanum, ¼ pint brandy and as much boiling water as will bring the mixture to a hot but still drinkable temperature. Administer half.

If the patient is able to retain it, that is enough. If not, use the remaining half as well. A strong patient can take the full measure. Some people recommend adding nutmeg but I think it makes little difference. Sgd RDL

Vol 11 No 7 – 13th February 1838

The Rector – it is now possible to send a letter to India, back to London and to India again in the same time it takes to reach India by sea (41 days v 120 days). We refer to the steam packet communication through the Mediterranean and overland to Suez and thence by the Red Sea.

There should be no doubt that we must utilise this ability. The difference between having India prepared or unprepared for war is the reason. We cannot afford to jeopardise this essential part of our Empire.

Vol 11 No 26 – 26th June 1838

Dr Sigmund’s lectures – The power of some herbs on the mind is extraordinary. Extract of henbane makes people wildly irascible; poppy juice clears the intellect and elevates the mind; belladonna causes amnesia and Mexican agave juice makes us stupid.

Vol 11 No 26 – 26th June 1838

Mechanics magazine – The sale of fresh-water fish spawn is an important branch of Chinese domestic trade. In Spring the Chinese farmers collect the gelatinous matter that contains the fish eggs from along the river banks. They put it in jars with the broken shell of a fresh hen’s egg and allow it to incubate under a sitting fowl.

After a few days they return the eggs to a nursery pond and they hatch. The fry are kept in a nursery pond until they are big enough to look after themselves. The destruction of spawn by trawl nets is threatening the survival of this productive farming.

Vol 11 No 29 – 17th July 1838

Report of the Ophthalmic Hospital in Canton by the American Dr Peter Parker:

We only treated a thousand patients this year. It has become unpleasant to attend the hospital as importunate applicants surround the entrance, seize my arms and fall on their knees, etc. They all say they have come a long way, waited many days and have no money. They even pursue me home.

I have restricted treatments to officials.

One is Ching Chung Yew, 56 years, who first attended in December 1837. He was a magistrate in Hupeh for 30 years and suddenly became blind in 1837. he travelled six weeks to come here. He is an urbane and prepossessing man. He knelt to report his symptoms. His job requires continual examination of documents often at night under inadequate light. I found the iris had adhered to the lens in both eyes. The lenses themselves were slightly opaque. He was just sensible to light.

First I bled him. Then I applied belladonna to somewhat separate the irises from the lenses. The improvement in his sensibility to light delighted him. Over the next ten days strychnine was applied to blisters at the external angles of each eye. I continued the belladonna and in March I started small internal doses of strychnine until the spasmodic effects on his system manifested. No further improvement was seen.

As a last resort I proposed to depress the lenses. He agreed and in April I operated on the left eye. No inflammation occurred but his sight remained the same. I discharged him two weeks later.

Vol 11 No 39 – 25th September 1838

India Gazette, 11th July 1838 – Dr O’Shaughnessy has written a paper on 10th January 1838 on The Use of Opium in Periodic Fever:

The naval surgeon Trotter first used opium as a remedy for ague. He prescribed it on HMS Vengeance (in Lord Howe’s fleet) at the onset of the cold stage with considerable success. Dr Lind also used it but only to mitigate the existing fever without any expectation of averting a recurrence. Sir Gilbert Blane used it in the notorious Walcheren epidemic with the same results described by Lind.

Analyses by Derosne, Robiquet and others led to the discovery of opium’s active principle – morphia – in 1810. Another fraction without narcotic properties was isolated at the same time. It was inaptly called Narcotine.[25] Morphia has since been recognised as a powerful sedative. Narcotine is a bitter crystalline chemical. Bally thought it could be given in large doses with impunity. Magendie said it produced convulsions in dogs. Orfila said 40 grains dissolved in sulphuric acid killed a dog in 24 hours. Wibmer (of Munich) experimented on himself and reported consuming several grains dissolved in muriatic (hydrochloric) acid without injury. Dr Roots gave fevered patients 3 grains three times a day. It averted the fever and had no side effects.

That is the sum of western knowledge on the subject today.

I (O’Shaughnessy) sought to evaluate narcotine in treating the obstinate fevers of Bengal. I particularly wished to substitute it for quinine sulphate during the intervals of remittent congestive fever. I first prepared a pure sample and purity is of the utmost consequence. I distributed it to the pupils at the Medical College with appropriate instructions. In 20 cases it was effective and in a few of them it was better than quinine.

Then I received Dr Stewart’s report on his work in Calcutta. He reported treating 6 Europeans, 1 American and 2 Bengalis with narcotine. All relapses had previously been treated with quinine. Three patients were exhibiting side effects from quinine – one had become deaf and another had an enlarged spleen. I found the muriate of narcotine could be administered in large or small doses.

It has the following attributes that make it safer than quinine:

• When administered in the intermission between fevers it averts the succeeding fever.

• 10 grain doses are immediately soporific and anti-inflammatory

• It is well tolerated and does not effect other concurrently administered drugs

• Its action can be maintained by application to blistered surfaces.

For Bengal remittent fevers we hitherto only had quinine which is stimulating and only obtains a brief and imperfect remission. Muriate of Narcotine is an important addition.

With the above reassuring advice from Stewart, I will describe the process for isolating narcotine from morphia. Take 2 lbs opium and 20 lbs alcohol. Mix them until the opium is entirely dissolved. Decant the solution and press the residue. Add ammonia to the solution until it becomes slightly turbid. Then distil off 15 lbs alcohol.

On cooling the remaining fluid, a precipitate of narcotine, meconite of ammonia and resin forms. Using a quart of water and a drachm of muriatic (hydrochloric) acid, the narcotine may be dissolved leaving the resin. Filter this off and evaporate to powder. You now have a pink-coloured resinous mass of bitter chemical. By precipitating this with ammonia one produces a beautiful crystalline muriate of narcotine. Dissolve this precipitate in boiling alcohol and the narcotine will separate out into fine crystals as it cools. Stream muriatic acid gas over these crystals to produce the muriate. This is an expensive process and I should tell you the non-crystalline muriate is just as medically effective as the crystalline.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

M Montgolfier has reported the invention of wood-based paper. We have previously used rags.

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

Editorial, copied from a London paper:

We have received many letters concerning small-pox vaccination. It is not preventing the disease. We have just heard that 80 people in Worcester are diagnosed with the disease and a great many others have been disfigured by it. The Smallpox and Vaccination Hospital at King’s Cross has allocated part of its premises for research into efficient vaccinations. The disease remains widespread but subscriptions to the hospital are decreasing. It seems public confidence has been lost.

In 1837 the hospital took over 250 infected people out of the general population and isolated them. In October the disease spread and by December had reached epidemic proportions in London when 70 patients were admitted in that one month.

It has been a mild form of the disease and mortality amongst vaccinated patients is only 19%. But 40% of new cases have involved people who were previously vaccinated. Of these, half had the mild form called variolloid which is merely inconvenient; the remainder had more intense attacks but only one died. The hospital believes that susceptibility to the disease returns as the vaccination wears off but the vaccinated patient experiences milder attacks. Over 3,000 people have been vaccinated at the hospital and lymph has been supplied to over one thousand doctors around the country.

The lymph that the hospital uses to manufacture the vaccine has been recycled time and again. In the last 3-4 years its effectiveness has diminished. 8-10 scratches now produce the extent of skin inflammation that 3 produced fifteen years ago. Last March a new batch of cow lymph was tried and produced a more active vaccine. The hospital is now using this and only making 3-4 scratches per patient. The old lymph supply has been discarded and all recent vaccinations are made using the new stock. This ignorance of the deterioration of vaccine has allowed a deception on the people – they thought they were protected when they were not. It seems the doctors never renewed their supply from cows. This must be carefully attended to by the hospital.

Vol 12 No 26 – 25th June 1839

Calcutta Englishman, 18th April:

There has been a rapid increase of recreational opium use in England. Chemists throughout the counties are reporting the same phenomenon. In London the chemists like windfall profits and restrict their market by price but in the counties opium remains cheap. Turkey pays an import duty of 1/- per lb and wholesales at 15/- per pound. The usual dose is 1 grain. There are 7,000 grains in a lb (i.e. 0.025d per dose wholesale).

Suppose the retail chemist marks up the price by 400%, then a farthing (¼d) will buy two doses of laudanum. This is much cheaper than alcohol. It is well known that opium in moderation is beneficial to health. In the recent biography of William Wilberforce, his sons note he could not drink wine without feeling heated but laudanum always provided the well-being he sought.

The temperance societies and the wine trade will oppose opium in England; indeed, it is the wine trade that is publishing the increased use of opium. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in China has offered £100 prize for the best essay on its commercial, political and moral effects and how the trade should be handled in future. Regrettably, the society has not allowed contributors to copyright their entries so the quality may be low.

Vol 12 No 27 – 2nd July 1839

Congreve rockets – These are so powerful there is a cube of wood with 15″ sides exhibited at Woolwich that has been pierced by a rocket. They were first used in anger in the bombardment of Copenhagen.

The rocket has an iron casing 3″ in diameter and one fifteenth of an inch thick. The tip is hardened, and can be fitted with hooks if required, but the rest of the cylinder is soft iron soldered together. Inside is a lining of cartridge paper. The rockets have multiple uses. Some are loaded with inflammables and used as incendiaries – the fuse is a slow match; others are loaded with grape shot or canister which are distributed by explosives for use against infantry; another version carries chain shot or bar shot to destroy the sails and rigging of enemy ships.

The range varies from 2,000 – 3,500 yards depending on the payload weight. It is launched from a hollow metal tube for aiming.

Vol 12 No 28 – 9th July 1839 (actually published 12thJuly)

English news – 4.8 million less stage coach journeys were undertaken in the country in 1838 compared with 1836. During the same period 14.4 million railway journeys were undertaken.

Vol 12 No 45 – 5th November 1839

Iniquities of the Medical Trade (from the Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, 31st Jan 1839):

Professor Thomson says the trader sorts his drugs. He sells the pure ones in their natural state; he powders the somewhat impure ones, and he uses the badly contaminated, often decomposing, drugs for tinctures. Apart from this selectivity, he says fraud is often practised in the pharmaceutical trade:

  • Opium often contains iron;
  • calomel (chloride of mercury used as a purgative) often contains only barium sulphate;
  • the natural yellow pigment gamboge is often substituted for a manufactured version;
  • quinine powder contains other barks, charcoal and Venetian red;
  • calamine (zinc carbonate) is often barium sulphate with colouring;
  • ginger contains up to 50% capsicum;
  • jalap contains ground barley, etc

(the list of popular adulterants is very long)

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The Academy of Science in Paris has heard from Dr Larray that facial disfigurement from smallpox is avoidable. He has duplicated an ancient Egyptian method of applying gold leaf with gum water to the patient’s face morning and night throughout the disease. The skin remains smooth even during the phase when the face is swollen by pock-marks.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

India Journal of Medical and Physical Science, January 1840 edition:

As an orally-administered intoxicant, hemp is known by a variety of names in the East – sidhee, subjee, bhang, etc. The method of preparation of a quantity suitable for an habitué is as follows:

About 3 tola (540 grains Troy weight) of the dried leaf is washed in cold water, rubbed into a powder, mixed with black pepper, cucumber and melon seeds, sugar and half a pint each of milk and water. This is the preferred recipe of the Muslims.

The Hindus, particularly the Rajputs, have another recipe. They wash and grind the leaf and mix 3 tola with black pepper to which a quart of water is added. It is drunk at one sitting.

Intoxication in either case ensues in half an hour. Usually the user becomes cheerful and is likely to sing and dance. His appetite is stimulated and he also seeks for sexual pleasure. Quarrelsome people find their natural emotional state is exacerbated. The intoxication lasts about three hours after which the user becomes drowsy and falls asleep. There are no side effects other than occasional giddiness and bloodshot eyes the following day.

Ganja is the hemp used for smoking. 180 grains can be bought for a rupee and is enough for three people. It is rubbed in the palm of the hand with a little water. Some tobacco is placed in the pipe then some prepared ganja then more tobacco. This is a communal activity and the hookah snake is passed around for each person to draw on. Intoxication is almost instant. One draught is enough for the novice; 4-5 draughts for the habitué. The effect is readily distinguished from eaten hemp – laziness and an agreeable reverie ensues but the user can well perform his routine tasks.

Majoon is a hemp confection made with sugar, butter, flour and milk. The proprietor of a hemp den in Calcutta named Amir has repeatedly shown me how to make majoon. The ghee is melted by the fire … illegible … the flour and hemp are added and well mixed. This paste is removed from the fire and squeezed through a cloth whilst still warm. The dross is thrown away and the smooth residual green cream solidifies into a buttery mass. This is washed in soft water until most of the green colour has been removed and only a very pale tint to the ointment remains. The water is thrown away for the green colouring contains a disagreeable substance causing constriction of the throat when ingested. The cook then takes 2 lbs of sugar and dissolves it in a little water. He continually adds milk, carefully removing milk scum from the surface, while he cooks the mixture until it turns into a clear sticky syrup. 4 ozs of powdered milk is then added together with the buttered hemp. Stir briskly for a few minutes; add a few drops of attar of roses, and pour the mixture onto a cold slab where, once flattened, it will separate naturally into small lozenge-shaped pieces. One such lot is sold in the Calcutta streets for 4 rupees. A novice user requires one drachm, an experienced user, three. The taste is sweet and the odour very pleasing.

Amir says there are 7-8 majoon manufacturers in Calcutta. He himself sometimes adds stramonium seeds. He says all the Indians and the Portuguese, particularly their womenfolk, are users. It produces an ineffable happiness, a sensation of flying and a voracious appetite for both food and sex. He thinks it has no long term deleterious effects contrary to the Persian and Arabic doctors who say constant hemp use leads to madness and impotence. Most carnivorous animals find its smell attractive and readily eat it, soon exhibiting ludicrous symptoms of drunkenness but apparently experiencing no bad consequences.

Editor – the Chinese use hemp as a succedantum to opium.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

Letter to the Editor of The Commercial Advertiser – your report on Dr O’Shaughnessy’s treatise on hemp in the India Journal of Medical and Physical Science, January 1840, failed to make note of another drug churrus (commonly spelled charas these days, hashish) that the doctor reports upon.

In the hemp growing areas of Nepal and central India men walk through the crop in mid-summer causing the soft resin on the plant to stick to their clothes. They scrape it off and knead it into balls which sell at 5 or 6 rupees the seer. A waxy type of churrus called momea is obtained by hand in Nepal and sells for double the price. In Persia they take up the plants and press them on coarse cloth to obtain churrus. They then scratch it off and dissolve it in a little warm water. It is said the churrus of Herat is the best and strongest.

It is illegal to bring hemp into Calcutta and smugglers are heavily penalised. Nevertheless, in January and February each year a few peddlars come from Nepal bringing large amounts of churrus. They bribe the police to get in. The churrus is in small balls or sticks of ¼ – ½ lb each. They sell only to known customers at 2 – 3 rupees per seer. By November stock is running out and prices can get as high as 40 rupees per seer. It is used like ganja and intoxication ensues within a few minutes of smoking.

Editor – the Company inflicts heavy penalties on anyone caught smuggling this opium substitute into Calcutta. Is there an anomaly here?

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

Dublin University Magazine article – Besides those many drinks that convert sugar to alcohol by fermentation, there is a class of inebriating narcotic stimulants of which opium is the best known. Its use in Asia is universal from Turkey to China.

There is no connection between opium use and Muslim religious beliefs. The fact that the Prophet forbad alcohol to his followers is little regarded in Islam.

The use of opium is simply preferred by those who chose to become inebriated alone rather than in company. Whether opium or alcohol is more injurious is irrelevant. Moderate alcohol intake is widespread and does not incite to crime or injure health.

Opium is different. A small dose soon becomes inadequate; augmentation produces addiction and then drug use becomes imperative. Very few people are able, like the Rev Wilberforce, to manage a limited lifelong habit.

Dr Jones in his ‘Mysteries of Opium Unveiled’ says he knew several people in England who took 2, 3, 4 or even 6 drachms a day and he heard of one who ate 2 ounces daily.

Opium has many substitutes. Various preparations of hemp are common in opium-growing countries – it’s a sort of poor man’s opium, like beer instead of wine in England. The most common hemp product is bhang which is exclusively used in India and is more violent and stupefying than opium and less permanent.

Two other substitutes are South American coca and a Russian mushroom.

The Peruvians pick coca leaves 3-4 times a year. They dry them and pack them in small baskets. They chew the dried leaves as we chew tobacco and find it so invigorating they often eat nothing for 4-5 days although they may be constantly working throughout that time. While they have a supply of coca they feel neither hungry, thirsty or tired and can work for almost a week without rest. Coca also has gratifying mental effects. It produces fascinating scenes to the imagination. Many willingly forsake their usual evening avocations to retire to the fields and revel in the delights of its magical properties. They lie under trees and indulge themselves in reverie until daybreak.

When a Peruvian sets out on a journey, as the indigenous postmen are required to do, he will carry a small leather pouch for his dried coca and a calabash to contain lime or fire-ash to temper the coca. He can then travel extraordinary distances without food. It was this fast postal service that enabled the Peruvians to respond quickly to the Spanish invasion.

The Russian mushroom grows in Siberia and is eaten without preparation. Two small mushrooms form a moderate dose. The effects are rather more like alcohol drunkenness than opium reveries. It causes a flushed face, some giddiness, deep-seated gaiety and endless talking. It effects spatial perceptions – a small gap in one’s path may appear as a vast chasm requiring a run and a jump to cross. If you are fond of music you will likely sing endlessly.

Vol 14 No 2 – 12th Jan 1841

The London Times – The agricultural labourers of the fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire have, for many years, been in the habit of taking an opium pill before going to work. It makes them work more efficiently and they find the labour more tolerable. They work on marshy land and the habit may have originated as a prophylactic against fever.

Vol 14 No 44 – 2nd November 1841

A hi-tech steamer has been built at Bristol incorporating all sorts of new technology. The engine is 1,200HP, the cylinders are 10” in diameter. She has no piston rods – instead the pistons bear directly on a crankshaft along the cylinder tops converting vertical motion to rotation. She has no paddles but is propelled by an invisible screw underwater.

Friend of China 31.3.42 edition

Editorial – Chinese grass cloth (ma bo) is made of flax not aloe as the London Times says. Aloe produces a very strong rope. The fibre is like the Sicilian and Spanish silk – good for bell ropes, tassels and chair seats – and very durable.

The Times man said ‘If you look closely at the fleshy leaves of the aloe you can see long white fibres, just like linen, from which grass cloth is made’. That is wrong.

Friend of China 7.4.42 edition

Java tea: A large sale of c. 3,000 chests of Java tea is reported to have occurred at Rotterdam recently. Dutch tea was previously a curiosity but tasters say it is now comparable to China tea and about the same price. The Dutch say their control system makes their tea invulnerable to adulteration of superior grades with inferior.

Friend of China 21.4.42 edition

The alpaca has been introduced into Cape Province and New South Wales and the new wool, which price has doubled in the last year, should find a ready market. The fabric is durable and has a glossy silky appearance – it should be attractive in China.

Editor – We should get some animals from Peru or Chile and farm them on Hong Kong.

Friend of China , 5th May 1842:

An electric clock has been displayed at the London Polytechnic and men all over Europe are trying to adapt electricity for motive power in preference to steam.

Friend of China 7.7.42 edition

Technological advances:

  • The French newspaper Commerce says the Russians have paid 1,000,000 Roubles (about £40,000) to buy the German chemical dyeing process to produce blue colour on cloth (sulphur dyeing). This new process will influence Indian indigo production if it works well. The cost is 20% of the old process.
  • Mr Baggs has fixed colours in cotton by electricity. He places the cloth on a block painted with colour and passes a charge through the block. The colour is transferred to and fixed in the cloth. Baggs uses it to paint landscapes and other pictures on cloth.
  • Mr Smee’s electro-type machine is being used to counterfeit coins. It is more properly used to engrave Sheffield stainless steel. Manchester has been using it on cotton printing cylinders.
  • Finally daguerreotype produces signatures indistinguishable from originals.

Friend of China 21.7.42 edition

The Agri-Horticultural Society at Calcutta has ordered several of the simple lightweight Chinese ploughs for testing in India. They should also check the chung, or ground mill, and the fung kwai or fanning mill which are also very simple and effective implements.

Friend of China , 28th July 1842:

Damp baled cotton is notorious for spontaneous combustion. Numerous fires have occurred on loaded ships at Bombay and Calcutta due to this cause. It seems all sorts of vegetative products are similar.

The Russians have made experiments into spontaneous combustion. M Georgi roasted 4lbs coffee beans until brown. He ground 2lbs to powder. He then tied whole beans and powder separately in tight linen. After ¾hr the bag containing powder burst into flames and burnt to ash.

Friend of China 4.8.42 edition

The Americans were the first to attempt sperm whale fishing. Their Antarctic fleet sells $3,000,000 of whale products. Apparently the best fishing grounds for whales is the north Pacific. The region is remote and voyages might last three years but the profits are huge. The French have just entered this industry and the colonists at Sydney and Hobart are trying it. Peel’s proposed duty on foreign sperm oil is £15 per ton.

An old resident here in Hong Kong tells us sperm whales are often seen on the China coast. The Chinese also have a way to catch them. In the last few days a pod was seen in Hong Kong harbour.

Friend of China 25.8.42 edition

European news:

Dr Payerne has stayed 3 hours in his diving bell without air. He is identifying the gases necessary to support life.

Friend of China 25.8.42 edition

French silk trade:

In 1841 there were 83,954 looms in France weaving silk. 170,000 people were employed and the value of annual sales approximated £10,000,000. The raw silk is worth £5,500,000 and the labour cost is £2,200,000 so it is substantially profitable. The industry is centred on Lyon where more than half the production is done. Domestic consumption is now worth £3,000,000 and goods worth £6,000,000 are exported to USA.

Ten years ago the annual trade was worth £6,000,000. In 1833 home sales were 20% of exports; now they are greatly increased. By comparison English silk exports never exceed 10% of production.

France is well aware of Chinese production. She can make great savings by obtaining her raw silk from China. Once processed, French products are the best in the world but the profitability can be still further increased by using more Chinese raw silk. This comment applies equally to the developing silk production of Switzerland and Germany.

We should note that France imports plain silk (pongee) piecegoods from England, prints them in bond and re-exports the printed silks globally.

Friend of China 8.9.42 edition

There are many Chinese products that we might find useful ourselves. Here are details of two of them:

  • Agar-agar is made from a type of seaweed and is used by the Chinese to make the transparent windows they use for their lanterns. It is a good paste because insects do not eat it. It is used in silk and paper making and when boiled forms a sweet gum which is also used in confectionaries.
    Canton imports 400 – 500 piculs of the seaweed annually from New Holland and New Guinea and the surrounding islands at $1.50 – $2.00 per picul. We should consider its use ourselves.
  • Alum salt is exported by China to the East Indies in big quantities. Elsewhere it is found in slate deposits and probably it is the same source here. It is locally adulterated with gypsum and lime and its taste is not as sharp as the European supply but the pieces are large and transparent.
    The Chinese add it to river water to take-down the particulate matter and clarify the water before using it for cooking. It sells in the local market at $2 – $3 per picul and the export duty is 5 Taels per picul.

Friend of China 6.10.42 edition

RMS Columbia has made the voyage from Boston to Liverpool in 11 days 6 hours (including 6 hours stopover at Halifax to board and alight passengers). This is a record.

Friend of China, 20.10.42 edition

Peel has just reduced duties on vegetable oil and oil seeds which should increase consumption in England.

Many new products have been introduced recently and an oil almost equal to olive has been expressed from the American peanut.

The Chinese get oil from a huge variety of nuts and seeds for various purposes and some of these must be useful in England. Further investigation is required.

Friend of China, 24.11.42 edition

M Biot has obtained and translated a catalogue of celestial observations made in China between 687AD and 1275AD and presented them to the French Academy of Sciences in Paris on 16th May 42.

More than 1,300 observations are contained in the work. Comets, shooting stars and periodical showers of meteors are recorded. These days the months to see meteors are August and November but in those days it was July and October.

Friend of China, 24.11.42 edition

Dr Turnbull of London has recently cured many cases of blindness by exposing the patient to the fumes of Prussic acid for about 30 seconds. It has long been known that when a person dies of Prussic acid poisoning his eyes remain clear for days. This led to Turnbull’s present experiments.

The Prince of Hanover is considering submitting to the new treatment as his blindness, hitherto deemed incurable, might be ended. The treatment is said to be effective for cataracts and inflammations.

Friend of China 1.12.42 edition

  • Dr Boudin of the military hospital at Marseilles has adopted the use of minute doses of arsenic as a treatment for ague and other types of fever. He says the costs of the quinine used annually by the French army in Algeria is 100,000 francs so his medicine offers savings.
  • M Gabet a Lazarist missionary in Manchuria has sent samples of a rare type of rice he collected at Jehol which grows on dry land like wheat. He says the rice originates from Cochin China and needs no irrigation.

Friend of China 5.1.43 edition

Mercury has been discovered in Aden.[26]It is in small globules attached to the sides of cavities in a red vesicular slag that abounds all over Aden. The island was formed by volcanic action.

Previously we have produced mercury by sublimation of cinnabar, a sulphate of mercury found mainly at Almaden in Spain where it has been mined for 2,500 years. The Rothschild family now have a monopoly on the production of the Almaden mines and hence the price is about 80% higher than before the celebrated Toreno contract (in which Queen Christina took a personal interest).

The next best source is in Idria.

There are rich veins of cinnabar in the Palatinate (along the Rhine) and we saw some of those rocks had the liquid metal in them like the Aden rocks.

The Chinese use mercury to make vermilion and the brightness of Chinese vermilion is unequalled anywhere in the world. Dr Ure says if you add 1% of antimony sulphate to the mercury sulphate you can obtain an approximation of the bright Chinese colour. Chinese vermilion comes from the cinnabar mines of Hunan. Fifty years ago the South American silver mines received their mercury from China.[27]We should try to recreate the traffic.

Whilst on this subject, we hear the mercury mines in Peru at Juancavelica have been partially re-opened. The tunnels collapsed thirty years ago at which time they were producing 200 tons a year.

Finally we mention the newly-opened mercury mines at Irida, Tuscany.

Friend of China 16.2.43 edition

Editorial – The opium war was the first example of the application of steam power on a scale sufficient to influence the outcome of the campaign. Steam has previously been used in the Company’s war with Burma, by the French in the conquest of Algiers and in the recent bombardment of Acre, but its economy and great power have not been clearly demonstrated until now.

The naval arrangements of Admiral Parker drew the warmest admiration from the French naval observers in the Yangtse.

Friend of China 16.2.43 edition

Egypt is in fearful trouble from a cow disease that has killed off over 200,000 animals valued at £2 millions. Worse, the animals are used for draft and in their absence all agriculture is at a stop.

The Pasha has ordered his cavalry horses to work in his own fields and has seized any healthy cows he can still find to assist.

This year we have had an economic recession, an earthquake in Haiti and the Hamburg fire …… now this.

Friend of China, 9.3.43 edition

Australia wants to export salt beef. Perhaps they could use Mr Payne’s ingenious device which evacuates the air and seals the meat within a tin-can thus preserving the contents.

Friend of China, 9.3.43 edition

Transport Improvements:

The Hindustan, recently arrived from Calcutta, made the journey from Southampton to Calcutta in 90 days but spent 30 of those days refuelling and stopped so the actual passage was just 60 days.

The Great Britain now under construction is faster that the Hindustan and can carry 40 days of fuel. She is 324 feet long, registered tonnage 3,200, the largest ship ever built. Her four engines produce 250HP each. If the archimedean screw, or rear propeller, is adopted instead of paddle wheels we think the passage to Calcutta can be completed in 45 days.

Improvements in transport are important to us colonists – last week we received letters via the overland route (Marseilles and Suez) posted in London nearly five months ago!

Friend of China 6.4.43 edition

Dr McPherson on the medicinal qualities of opium:

The Chinese affirm that it is preventive against various diseases. The active principle has recently been successfully used in Bengal as a substitute for quinine. It was also noted that whilst our troops were feverish in Hong Kong and elsewhere on the China coast, the Chinese coolie corps serving our army, who are opium smokers to a man, were almost unaffected.

This suggests the habitual use of opium is not unhealthy. But McPherson notes a slave to the Drug, when deprived of his allowance, feels rats gnawing his shoulders, worms devouring his leg muscles and an indescribable craving in the stomach. All this is relieved only by a pipe.

Friend of China 11.4.43 edition

The Arundel with a general cargo has been lost on the Sussex coast. She grounded near Winchelsea during the recent terrible storms and broke up. This yacht was built by the Duke of Norfolk using timber from his own estates.

It had been bought by Captain Richardson with the intention of bringing her to China to exhibit to our opium merchants in view of her extraordinarily fast sailing qualities.

She was one of the finest ships in the Royal Yacht Squadron.[28]

Friend of China 11.4.43 edition

France has decided to compensate her indigenous beet-sugar growers with £2½ millions and start importing colonial cane sugar.[29] We suppose it will come from Siam, perhaps Manila. It is said the French are very keen to promote their trade in this part of the world. Probably the Count Ratti de Menton (the new consul being sent out) has been instructed in this respect.

Friend of China 13.4.43 edition

An article in the French Press asserts that M Negier has proved that nose bleeds can be stopped by raising the arm on the same side as the nostril that bleeds.

Friend of China 20.4.43 edition

Report from Manila:

An American named O’Keeting has built a rope factory on the banks of the Pasig River near the village of Nactajan. After collecting information and making arrangements over the last few years, he returned to America and bought a 30 hp high-pressure steam engine in Boston with the necessary attachments for dressing hemp and turning it into rope. He started processing operations last May.

The ground floor of his factory contains three rotatable cylinders, each with iron points 2″ long at ½” centres. These are used to tear-open the hemp fibre. It is then passed to a larger cylinder which cards it into finer fibre and divests it of all trace of woody material. The rough threads are then crushed between two cylinders whereafter it is passed through an adjustably-sized hole and twisted onto a bobbin about 6″ in diameter. An iron screw is used to increase or reduce the dimensions of the hole and hence the cord passing through it. The thread on 8-10 bobbins suffice to make a rope of considerable size. 12-15 ropes can be made at one time.

The building is 800′ long and built entirely of American timber. The produce is superior to hand-made rope. Steam-produced cordage is $8 per picul; the ordinary type is $5.50-6.00 per picul. Totally 16 piculs can be made daily. Raw hemp costs O’Keeting $1 per picul. Forty Filipinos are employed each earning 38¢ per day. The steam engine burns local wood which is quite cheap.

Friend of China , 27.4.43 edition

A projected canal across the Isthmus of Panama:

M. de Humboldt has read a paper at the Academy of Sciences in Paris concerning the government of New Grenada’s Commission to survey the route for a canal across the Isthmus. It has been discovered that the Andean chain does not extend through the isthmus and, on the contrary, there is an extant river valley which is favourable for the excavation of a canal. Three rivers which are easily controllable and may be partially navigable will connect with the canal. Only 12½ miles needs to be excavated. Four double locks, each 138 feet long, are required to regulate the fall. The total length of Humboldt’s proposed canal will be 49 miles with a width of 55 feet at the base and 135 feet at the surface and a depth of 20 feet. It will be suitable for vessels up to 1,400 tons. The estimated cost is 14 million Francs including two steamers.

Friend of China 4.5.43 edition

Guano is a very fine fertiliser. You just dissolve it in water and spray it over your garden. It is mainly sourced from the west coast of South America.

The Cantonese do a lot of fertilising. They call it ‘dropping fatness’ (lok fei). Dr Ure (in his Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, etc) says guano is dark yellow. It contains ammonia and uric acid. It is found on the Peruvian coast and other places in deposits that are 50-60 feet thick. It has been used successfully in the West Indies to recover exhausted sugar plantations.

Friend of China 1.6.43 edition

In the summer every member of the Chinese population wears an overcoat and trousers of light cotton died with a species of yam called Su Leung. All cottons and linens and some silks will take this dye. It takes better if the cloth is exposed to direct sunlight, the brighter the better. 1 catty of yam dyes 5-6 square yards of cloth.

First wash the cloth in cold water to get rid of any gum and let it dry. Meanwhile the root is washed and sliced with the skin, beaten to a paste and poured into a jar with a little water. After macerating for half an hour it is passed repeatedly through a sieve, always using the same water which quickly assumes a clear deep-red colour. Take care not to press the paste. Then immerse the cloth loosely folded in the infusion and dry it in the sun. It is common to dunk the cloth for up to 4-5 times depending on the shade of red required. It is sometimes asserted that this process makes the cloth waterproof but we suspect water resistance also comes from the fine thread used in the glass-cloth weave which produces a glazed appearance.

Friend of China 8.6.43 edition

Research by Professor Liebig in his Animal Chemistry has revealed that caffeine, the active principle in coffee, and theine, the active principle in tea, are the same. Both are found in chiefly vegetable diets. The professor says this chemical when infused with oxygen yields taurine, the nitrogenous compound of bile.

Professor Liebig is the first person to attempt an elucidation of the function of bile. He believes it is not an excretion, nor an aid to digestion, nor yet a nutriment; he says it is merely a vehicle for carbon and hydrogen to unite with oxygen in the respiratory process. A horse secretes 37 lbs of bile daily; a man 17 – 24 ounces. A carnivore like a large dog secretes 2¼ lbs daily.

(NB – caffeine was first isolated by Robiquet. The analysis of Pelletier and Dumas in one hundred parts is : carbon 46.51, hydrogen 4.81, oxygen 27.14, nitrogen 21.54. It is soluble in both water and alcohol)

Friend of China 15.6.43 edition

London news – A voltaic telegraph is being installed along the line of the Great Western Railway from the Houses of Parliament via Buckingham Palace to Windsor. It will permit the Queen to receive information instantly.

Friend of China 31.8.43 edition

The French government has announced it has adopted a device that renders sea water into potable fresh water. It is to be fitted to fourteen trans-Atlantic packets.

The device was invented in England six years ago and a committee of scientists, naval officers and businessmen promoted it to the Admiralty but without success.

30.11.43 edition

Letter to the Editor:

This letter is about the physical causes of the sickness that has killed so many of us in Hong Kong this summer.

During the S E monsoon the hills north of Hong Kong stop the wind and make the air stagnant. The exhalations from the ground rise and unite with the air of rotting animal and vegetable matter to accumulate in the air we breathe. Occasionally a typhoon dissipates this bad air. We ourselves cannot remove hills or create wind, but are we able to remove the miasma?

Decomposing animal and vegetable matter is noxious and causes disease even when greatly diluted; when concentrated it causes rapid death. The virulence of the local fever is from this cause.

The specific gravity of miasma is greater than air so people living on upper floors even at the valley floors escape its action while those on the ground floor are immediately effected. The tropical sun is almost vertical and draws the miasma up the valley sides so that even the ground floors of houses on the lower hillsides are effected.

As night falls the exhalations condense out of the air and a mantle of death falls on our dwellings.

In Hong Kong a large number of people are concentrated into a narrow coastal strip and their presence contributes to the impurity of the air and water. The ravines and streams contain animal and vegetable matter that rots all day. It is brought down to the open sewers and drains of the town.

Both the cause of our illness and its remedy should be plain.

An embankment should be built along the waterfront beyond the low water line. The drains should be bricked in on all sides and extended through this embankment to the sea where they will always be below the water line, thus trapping the emanations underwater.

The hillside steams should be diminished in capacity so their flow is increased. Then the rotting animal and vegetable matter will be brought quickly down and washed into the sea.

Most of this effluent comes from the refuse of the matsheds on the upper hillsides that are occupied by the poor Chinese. They should be legally restrained from throwing rubbish in streams and forced to remove all the dirty things around their huts. We should complete all this work in the current cold season to ensure we do not have another diseased summer like the last one.

The local water supply is very poor and the Chinese themselves agree. We should immediately start to filter it through charcoal before use.

It seems the dampness of Happy Valley which is proximate to wet cultivation (paddy) and the proximity of the ravines and uncleared land at West Point may have both generated particularly noxious airs (the two areas of most human disease) but there is obscurity about local effects.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. This unused part shrank immensely during the next few years owing to the unrestrained progress of privatisation and to Pitt’s great raffle of British land, mentioned in an article dated 6th March 1802 in the Economy chapter.
  2. The allies were slow to recognise the significance of this and suffered for it.
  3. See the Economy chapter for more news of the colourful Alexander Davison, an India Company officer, lawyer, occasional ship-owner, international trader and City merchant. He is best known as Admiral Lord Nelson’s prize agent.
    Imperial Rome ran a deficit in its trade with west India, mostly through the port of Calicut. It was a buyer of ginger and pepper and had little to return so Roman coin tended to accumulate in the hinterland. On the subject of old gold coins, John Nicholls MP recalls a chat with Warren Hastings in which it was revealed, as Governor General, he had sent 172 Dareics, the large (175 gr) pure gold coin of the Persian Emperor Darius, back to the Directors but they had been melted-down.
  4. Reminiscent of the old Chinese signalling system across Turkestan from station to station – smoke by day, fire by night. Jesuit missionary borrowings from China that were adopted in the Revolution are not just ideological; the military use of balloons might be another one, although with different application in ancient China.
  5. I have not ascertained Coste’s identity. It might be Pascal Xavier Coste who took an interest in weapons. His ultimate weapon might use phosphorus.
  6. This forms the theoretical basis to the medical argument that Europeans must acclimatise in tropical countries and supports the Company’s willingness to allow regular long leaves at home in temperate Europe, a practice that continued throughout the imperial period.
  7. ‘B’ was published again in 19th Sept edition (as ‘C’) extolling the insights and procedures of Hindu medicine in connection with the treatment of kidney stones.
  8. Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, the American loyalist who invented the stove that features in all cowboy films, usually with a pot of coffee on top.
  9. Over the next few months the Company issues Regulations requiring all its major ports to establish quarantine hospitals.
  10. The attribution to Jenner appears nationalistic. Sir George Staunton, the British sinologist, reported in his publications on China that those people had been using inoculation, inter alia for smallpox, for centuries.
  11. The river is navigable for 400 miles from its mouth on the Mozambique coast and Soffala must lie somewhere along this length but I have been unable to ascertain details. The gold mines are to the south of the river. Admiral Cheng Ho visited this coast in the early Ming when the Arabs were also trading there.
  12. This was the work of Benjamin Delessert. France remains the world’s largest producer of beet sugar today.
  13. Materia Medica of Hindostan” published in 1813 by Whitelaw Ainslie.
  14. From which we get the English word porcelain.
  15. Modern scholarship suggests the utricularii on the Danube were employed to maintain the rafts used for river transport – there was a well-established guild of them at Arles in Roman times i.e. their bags were used for floats not music.
  16. Charles Abbot is the 1st Baron Colchester, a barrister and MP. This enormous contribution to British history has disappeared in spite of its wide distribution upon publication. Britons today are invited instead to see a later collection of Anglo-Saxon laws up to 1066AD that was published by the Royal Records Commission during William IV’s reign and has niche significance to a few historians. Abbot’s collection was of the laws of the Norman, Plantagenet, Tudor, Protectorate and Stuart dynasties and was a one-stop source of all the legislation detailing the rise of government power and the proportionate diminishment of society it caused. Abbot was also responsible for starting the national census. He should be better known.
  17. See the China chapter for the incident involving HMS Topaze at Lintin.
  18. See the ‘Year without a Summer’ chapter for more reports about the North West Passage.
  19. A strongly hydrophilic powder. Only a small quantity is needed to fill the stomach.
  20. In the north of Guangdong in the vicinity of Ching Yuen city are over 40 of these glaçis. Some are kilometers long and have become sporting venues. They are called Piu Lau in Cantonese.
  21. The Chinese and many other Asians of this time take the wool off suitable animals by scratching their skin with the finger tips to release loose hair, a process that the animal clearly very much enjoys. It is still done in parts of central Asia.
  22. Amanita muscaria – the red-cap mushroom with white spots that is often shown on Christmas cards. The drug of the Berserkers is likely the secret weapon of the Vikings in their earlier descents on North West Europe.
  23. This is black hellibore, the Christmas Rose – formerly an important medicine.
  24. A Muslim recipe for hemp Maagoon which is sold in the Calcutta bazaars is shown later in the text under a Romanised form of the Bengali name majoon.
  25. Used as an antitussive, at least until recently.
  26. Aden has been occupied to provide a coaling station on the overland route.
  27. Bought for silver and shipped Amoy to Manila to Vera Cruz
  28. A little-known precursor to the J M & Co imports of the two Falcons. The Royal Yacht Squadron was inter alia a testing and development facility for new hull and rigging designs.
  29. Napoleon’s ‘continental system’ encouraged the adoption of many inventions, one of which was the use of beets to produce sugar.

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