How does it work? This question has been put to me so often by persons young and old that I have at last decided to answer it in such a manner that a much larger public than that with which I have personal acquaintance may be able to satisfy themselves as to the principles underlying many of the mechanisms met with in everyday life.
In order to include steam, electricity, optics, hydraulics, thermics, light, and a variety of detached mechanisms which cannot be classified under any one of these heads, within the compass of about 450 pages, I have to be content with a comparatively brief treatment of each subject. This brevity has in turn compelled me to deal with principles rather than with detailed descriptions of individual devices—though in several cases recognized types are examined. The reader will look in vain for accounts of the Yerkes telescope, of the latest thing in motor cars, and of the largest locomotive. But he will be put in the way of understanding the essential nature of all telescopes, motors, and steam-engines so far as they are at present developed, which I think may be of greater ultimate profit to the uninitiated.
While careful to avoid puzzling the reader by the use of mysterious phraseology I consider that the parts of a machine should be given their technical names wherever possible. To prevent misconception, many of the diagrams accompanying the letterpress have words as well as letters written on them. This course also obviates the wearisome reference from text to diagram necessitated by the use of solitary letters or figures.
I may add, with regard to the diagrams of this book, that they are purposely somewhat unconventional, not being drawn to scale nor conforming to the canons of professional draughtsmanship. Where advisable, a part of a machine has been exaggerated to show its details. As a rule solid black has been preferred to fine shading in sectional drawings, and all unnecessary lines are omitted. I would here acknowledge my indebtedness to my draughtsman, Mr. Frank Hodgson, for his care and industry in preparing the two hundred or more diagrams for which he was responsible.
Four organs of the body—the eye, the ear, the larynx, and the heart—are noticed in appropriate places. The eye is compared with the camera, the larynx with a reed pipe, the heart with a pump, while the ear fitly opens the chapter on acoustics. The reader who is unacquainted with physiology will thus be enabled to appreciate the better these marvellous devices, far more marvellous, by reason of their absolutely automatic action, than any creation of human hands.