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education of the working classes, having been provided with mining lamps by the Manchester Geological Society, went round at his own expense and delivered lectures to the colliers of the different districts in Lancashire. Mr. Looney having presented these lamps to me, I feel in some measure bound to follow his example, and revive the subject until the useful nature of it is better known, and abler lecturers are induced to take the matter up.
Coal is a substance well known to most people; and it is hard to believe that disputes should have arisen, and thousands of pounds been spent in order to determine whether a body was or was not coal
. Yet this has taken place in our day. If a man forund a seam of black substance in the earth, and it bunt like coal, and made gas like coal, he would naturally conclude that it was coal, and call it as such, without sending it up to the chemists, geologists, mineralogists, and microscopists of London, to ask their opinions. These learned gentlemen might find fault with its colour in being brown and not black. Some might cay that it had too much gas, and others too little gas, for the coals they had been accustomed to
Others might again say that it contained too little ash, or too much ash, for their ideas of coal
. Probably it will be as well to take Dr. Redforn's definition, who says :-"Under the term coal, those substances must be comprised which consist of compressed and chemically altered vegetable matter, associated with more or less of earthy substances, and capable of being used as fuel.”* À Lancashire man who had been accustomed to see the bright pitchy looking cannel of Wigan, would hardly include under the term cannel the brown earthy-look ing parrots of Scotland; whilst a Newcastle man would scarcely recognise the blazing Wallsend coal with the smouldering anthracite of South Wales. Yet in
Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science, Vol. lii., p. 106.
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each district the substances would be well known as coals, and no doubts would be entertained as to their Dature. As coal ought not in strict language to be called a wineral (which includes only brute and not orga
nic matter, however altered), the opinion of common in people on the productions” of their respective dis
, is entitled to some respect, and they certainly have as much right as a stranger to give it a name. About one thing, however, there is no doubt, namely, that coal is of vegetable origin, and consists of the remains of plants. There is certainly a considerable difference between a piece of wood and a piece of coal, but not more so than between a piece of liquoride root and a lump of Spanish juice; both are equally of vegetable origin, however much they are 20w changed in appearance. The chemist tells you that coal is of vegetable origin by its composition; the geologist shows you the floor of the coal, a rich silty clay, full of countless roots, and the roof studded with upright stems of plants, well known amongst colliers as potholes, whilst the coal itself is full of fibres of charcoal mingled in the bright coaly mass, and the microscopist cuts the hard nodules and brasses found in coals, and proves them to be samples of the old vegetables preserved and hermetically sealed up, and now showing the minutest
The nature of the plants, of which coal has been formed, is not yet well known, but the most eminent living botanists are decidedly of opinion that they were aquatic; and from the fact of most deep seams of coal now containing salt water, it is pretty clear that such plants guce grew in sea water, even if the remains of the fishes and shells found in the adjoining strata did not indicate a marine origin, which they most
In the Lancashire coal field, from the bottom to the top, there must be at least 120 seams of coal, great and small.
These indicate 120 periods of
seeds and vessels.
egetale : arthr sale
rest or repose of the earth's crust, when a primeval forest reared its top above the waters until the vegetable matter now forming each bed of coal was grown and deposited. Then such forest was submerged and buried under mud and sand, now found as shale and sandstone rocks. The hollow caused by such subsidence is silted up until it is again covered over by shallow water. Then again a fresh crop of vegetation flourishes, so as to form another bed of coal. For 120 times does this successive growth of vegetable matter, submergence, and silting up go on. In some instances, whole forests of Sigillaria, standing upright in fine shale, on the top of the seams of coal, are met with, thus clearly showing that they were submerged quietly and slowly; whilst at other times the prostrate stems now found lying in sandstone, and other roots, show that the submergence was rapid, causing strong currents, that tore up and drifted the trees. All the floors of coal seams are full of the roots of Sigillaria (Stigmariæ); so with the stems of trees in the roof, vegetable matter in the seam of coal, and roots in the floor: there can scarcely exist a doubt, therefore, as to the remains of the vegetables now composing coal having grown on the spot where it is now found, and that stigmaria was the characteristic root of the plant, which for the most part produced coal.
The constituents of the gaseous mixtures given off by coals when compared with the known composition of wood and coal, enable us to form a very probable conjecture respecting the mode of their formation. It is now admitted that coal is the product of the gradual decomposition of wood, by » kind of mouldering process in the presence of water, pressure, and a limited supply of air. These agencies have all had a share in the transformation; but we are unable to trace the influence which each may have separately exerted towards the ultimate result.
24 13 0*
We obtain the elements of splint coal
The whole of the coal fields of Great Britain are disjointed and fractured portions of one great field, and although the true foundation of our national greatness, and larger than any other yet discovered in Europe, are of small extent when compared with the enormous coal fields of the United States, which in extent probably exceed all those of Europe put
The exact areas of the different coal fields
, and how much coal they are likely to produce, it is difficult to state with any degree of precision, da no one yet can tell how far the seams of coal may be worked under their overlying deposits.
There has lately been published by Government in the report of the inspectors of coal mines, a summary of the production of coal during the last year (1857), with the number of lives lost. As it contains much information in a small compass, I shall give it entire. It is as follows:-"During the year 1857 there have been 74 explosions of fire damp, 360 accidents from falls of roof, coal, and sides of workings, 144 in shafts, miscellaneous 182, making a total of 760 accidents: of these there have been 377 lives lost by explosion, 372 by falls, 162 in shafts
, and 208 miscellaneous, making a total of 1,119 lives lost. During the year 1856 there were about 230,000 persons employed in and about the collieries of Great Britain, and about 667 million tons of coal Taised. The loss of life by accidents was, therefore, at the rate of about one person killed in each 224 employed, and one killed for each 64,751 tons of coal raised. In the year 1857 the production of coal was consider* Ronald's and Richardson's Chemical Technology, Vol. 1, PART 2, p. 514.
ably increased in some districts, whilst in others there was a slight decrease, the total production being probably 68 million tons. The loss of life therefore in 1857 is about one person killed for each 60,769 tons produced. This serious loss of life amongst persons following a peaceful occupation, is deserving the attention of the country at large, and imperatively demands the best efforts of the owners, agents, and workpeople. The Inspectors have, on the whole, to acknowledge the increased attention which has been paid towards improving the management since the passing of the present act; but it is obvious that in some districts accidents occur in consequence of defective management; and the Inspectors cannot too strongly recommend to the colliery owners and agents in such districts the employment of viewers, combining practical knowledge with scientific attainments. The efforts being made by the owners and managers of collieries, and others, in various parts of the country, to establish mining schools, are the result of the long acknowledged want of a special education, as applied to coal inining, and appear to the Inspectors to deserva encouragement." The number of men employed, and the vast amount of coal produced by the mines of Great Britain, is truly a source of national pride, and may be well adduced as a proof of the material power and wealth of the nation. But when we look at the loss of 1,119 valuable lives, we are obliged to confess that it has been purchased at an incalculable loss. Coal mining, no doubt, must always be an employment fraught with more or less danger, but still it is conceived that many of the above lives could have been saved by the exertions of officers possessed of the science, skill, and mining knowledge necessary for the command of a mine, aided by an intelligent body of sober, steady, intelligent, and well-disciplined working miners. All the above accidents are well worthy our attention; but on the