Language and History English two-minute tales, music and mental agility puzzles
The Lessons of Nature : Samuel Smiles shows us two great achievements inspired by two tiny creatures.
The Lessons of Nature

From ‘Self-Help, with illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance’ by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904).

Scottish motivational writer Samuel Smiles is talking about the importance of noticing what we see, and gives two notable examples of a time when Nature has been mankind’s teacher.

WHILE Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown was occupied in studying the construction of bridges, with the view of contriving one of a cheap description to be thrown across the Tweed, near which he lived, he was walking in his garden one dewy autumn morning, when he saw a tiny spider’s net suspended across his path.

The idea immediately occurred to him, that a bridge of iron ropes or chains might be constructed in like manner, and the result was the invention of his Suspension Bridge.*

Sir Isambard Brunel took his first lessons in forming the Thames Tunnel from the tiny shipworm.*

He saw how the little creature perforated the wood with its well-armed head, first in one direction and then in another, till the archway was complete, and then daubed over the roof and sides with a kind of varnish; and by copying this work exactly on a large scale, Brunel was at length enabled to construct his shield and accomplish his great engineering work.

* The Union Bridge, the first vehicular suspension bridge in Britain, crossing the River Tweed from Horncliffe, Northumberland, England to Fishwick, Berwickshire, Scotland. Opened in 1820, it was the longest wrought-iron bridge of its kind in the world, at 449ft.

** Connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping at a depth of 75 feet, and 1,300 feet long. It was the world’s first tunnel beneath a navigable river. Note that this is Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, father of the more famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel. (Smiles called Brunel ‘Isambert’; ‘Isambard’ is the more usual spelling, and has been used here instead.)

From ‘Self-Help, with illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance’ by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904).

More like this

Samuel Smiles (22) Discovery and Invention (64) Science and Scientists (17) Enterprise in Education (8) History (393)

Picture: © RHaworth, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Looking south towards England from Berwickshire in Scotland, with Captain Samuel Brown’s Union Suspension Bridge (1820) stretching across the River Tweed. The design was inspired by Brown’s admiration for a spider’s web.
Previous
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Next
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

Amazon Books

Featured Music

Letters Game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: Letters Game Games with Words

Numbers Game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic

Selected Stories
King James II was forced off the throne in favour of his daughter Mary, and a new English constitution was born.
Julius Caesar came over from France expecting to silence the noisy neighbours, but things did not go according to plan.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Forced from his throne and threatened with murder, Edwin makes a curious bargain for his deliverance.
Based on ‘Elene’ by Cynewulf
(8th century)
The mother of the Roman Emperor goes to Jerusalem on a quest close to her heart.
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos
A council of mice comes up with a plan to outsmart the Cat, but volunteers are a bit thin on the ground.
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Harriet Smith’s school gave her a grounding in good sense that even Emma Woodhouse could not quite overthrow.