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Wonders of the Deep: The Williamson Submarine Expedition, the birth of an idea, how ideas are conceived with examples of James Watt, Sir Isaac Newton and Sir James Simpson.

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It is always a matter of no little interest to trace the development of an idea in an inventor's mind from its inception to its conclusion. Many valuable ideas have their birth, but, unfortunately, for one reason or another, they die a premature death. The idea is probably found to be impracticable, or it may prove to have no commercial value; and sometimes lack of knowledge or finance prevents an inventor from carrying his idea out to a practical and satisfactory conclusion.

Many of our greatest and most marvellous inventions and discoveries have originated from simple beginnings. James Watt, for example, was led, from merely watching the movement of the lid of a kettle of boiling water, to develop certain ideas with regard to the application of steam power to driving a stationary engine. Isaac Newton, one of our most eminent scientists, one day saw an apple drop from the tree to the ground - an occurrence that had been witnessed by thousands and thousands, but no one ever seems to have asked himself the question: “Why does the apple fall to the ground?” This simple incident set Newton's mind to work, and after many years' thought and study resulted in the discovery of the law of gravitation.

Sir James Simpson's discovery of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform, which produces an insensibility to pain, was the result of an accident: For some years the young physician had been conducting experiments in this direction with different drugs, and had obtained various results, none of which so far had proved satisfactory. One night be resolved to carry out an experiment with chloroform. He and his two assistants, sitting round the supper-table in the dining-room, inhaled some of the fumes. Their conversation immediately became brighter; then, after a short while, came a silence, succeeded by the sound of falling bodies. By and by Dr. Simpson awoke. Anxiously looking about him, he heard one of his coadjutors snoring hard, and saw the other just struggling from the floor to his chair. From the curious sensations they had experienced, the doctors realised that they had at last discovered a valuable anaesthetic, one that was destined to confer an immeasurable boon on hundreds of thousands of persons.

Hundreds of similar instances might be adduced to show that wonderful inventions and discoveries have often sprung from ordinary incidents, occasionally from accidents, or have been the outcome of close observation and intense study.

What was the origin of the remarkable idea which was carried to such a successful issue, that it became possible for the first time in the history of invention and discovery to take motion pictures below the surface of the ocean?


James Watt (1736-1819)

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Sir James Simpson (1811-1870)

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