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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Who is Responsible?

Who is Responsible?

It is the duty of the engineer in charge of a steamer or dredge to see that the machinery is kept well up to the mark and not overtaxed. The owner, though present on board cannot be expected to know much about such matters.

The necessity for having a large reserve of power beyond what will be ordinarily called into action never seems to occur to the rector; yet this is the first requirement for the safety of all structures, mechanisms, or living beings. Engineers specify that boilers and engines shall not be subjected to a greater "working stress" than about one-sixth of the estimated "breaking strain" on other words, one-sixth of the stress that would he needed to cause a breakdown), Nature is almost as liberal in the excess of power with which she provides every organ of the body beyond the stress to which she intends it to be ordinarily subjected. This is shown by the fact that where there are pairs of organs, such as the kidneys, one may be removed without serious harm to the organism, and the individual may still put on an occasional spurt (which would throw, perhaps, three times the average strain on his one kidney for an hour or so) without causing evidences of accumulation of poisons in the system which the kidney is designed to remove. But when, by improper feeding, mothers habitually impose on the growing kidneys and digestive organs of babies two or three times the due amount of work, we find that this simple departure from first principles leads to the most disastrous consequences.