Gulliver's Travels HTML version
[The author permitted to see the grand academy of Lagado. The academy largely
described. The arts wherein the professors employ themselves.]
This academy is not an entire single building, but a continuation of several houses on
both sides of a street, which growing waste, was purchased and applied to that use.
I was received very kindly by the warden, and went for many days to the academy. Every
room has in it one or more projectors; and I believe I could not be in fewer than five
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard
long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the
same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of
cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air
in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he
should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he
complained that his stock was low, and entreated me "to give him something as an
encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for
cucumbers." I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on
purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.
I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being almost overcome with a
horrible stink. My conductor pressed me forward, conjuring me in a whisper "to give no
offence, which would be highly resented;" and therefore I durst not so much as stop my
nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient student of the academy; his face and
beard were of a pale yellow; his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was
presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I could well have excused.
His employment, from his first coming into the academy, was an operation to reduce
human excrement to its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the
tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odour exhale, and scumming off the
saliva. He had a weekly allowance, from the society, of a vessel filled with human
ordure, about the bigness of a Bristol barrel.
I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder; who likewise showed me a treatise
he had written concerning the malleability of fire, which he intended to publish.
There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new method for building
houses, by beginning at the roof, and working downward to the foundation; which he
justified to me, by the like practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider.
There was a man born blind, who had several apprentices in his own condition: their
employment was to mix colours for painters, which their master taught them to
distinguish by feeling and smelling. It was indeed my misfortune to find them at that time