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Memorial to Samuel Smiles, LL.D

Nature volume 140, page 537 (25 September 1937) | Download Citation



IN the latter half of the last century a book called "Self Help" was widely read, and an indication of this is shown by its having been translated into twenty-two languages. It developed from a lecture given by Dr. Samuel Smiles in the old Cholera Hospital, Leeds, to a mutual improvement class of working men. Smiles was born in 1812 at Haddington and educated at the Burgh School and at the University of Edinburgh, where he qualified as a medical man. Not having sufficient patients, he wrote articles, and these were seen by the proprietor of the Leeds Times who in 1838 asked him to be editor. In 1842, having then "had enough of unquiet life of newspaper work", he set up as a surgeon in Holbeck, South Leeds. He was partly attracted there by the activities of a school and in his autobiography he says: "On Sundays I taught young men and sometimes gave addresses in Zion School, New Wortley." Smiles married the daughter of a Leeds contractor and in 1845 became secretary of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway, which was afterwards absorbed into the Midland Railway system. This occupation brought him into contact with engineers, and he began to collect data which later appeared in his five volumes of the "Lives of the Engineers" ; "Industrial Biography" ; "The Lives of George and Robert Stephenson", etc. By his writings and lectures, etc., he helped to create in the West Riding a strong public opinion on such questions as the repeal of the Corn Laws ; Parliamentary reform ; national education and free public libraries. Zion School was one of the first to have such a library. A memorial tablet in bronze is to be fixed on the old school building, and a set of his books has been presented by Sir John Murray, whose firm published them. Sir Walter D. Smiles, M.P., is also presenting an enlarged framed portrait. The organizer of the memorial is Mr. E. Kilburn Scott, of 38 Claremont Square, London, N.I.

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