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Ampère, enjoying the wide reputation we have indicated, suggests in himself too striking a 
comparison between the advantages of a private education and one acquired in the tumult of public 
schools not to excite eager discussion. I only refer to this discussion, however, to deny its 
utility. At the time of his departure from the mountains of Poleymieux, our future associate 
possessed an immense amount of information, an extraordinary memory, a strong intellect, and a rare 
aptitude in mastering all subjects; but who would dare affirm that these qualities would not have 
been as well developed at a public school? An isolated fact could lead to no positive conclusion on 
so nice a point. 
The adversaries of private education remembered that Ampère contracted in his secluded life habits 
which they tax with singularity. Amongst others is cited the impossibility he found in giving a 
clear explanation, when professor, of subjects with which he was perfectly familiar; without 
calling, as it were, to his aid peculiar movements of the body. This is undeniably true. There was 
always, intellectually speaking, a great difference between Ampère in repose and Ampère in action. 
I, especially, have always sincerely regretted that the illustrious savant, in his riper years, 
should have felt his eminent powers and all enthusiasm decline as soon as seated at his desk, 
without having, however, the temerity to ascribe it to the solitude in which his youth had been 
What is known, in fact, of the mental struggle accompanying the birth and development of an idea? 
Like the first uncertain glimmerings of a star, an idea begins its dawn on the very verge of the 
intellectual horizon, at first so small and faint that its unsteady, wavering light seems to reach 
us through an almost impenetrable mist. It increases in size, until sufficiently developed to 
display a delicate outline; and finally, its contour clearly defined, it stands sharply out from all 
around–from all that is not itself. At this last stage language seizes it, clothes and stamps it 
with the definite, the impressive form which will engrave it indelibly upon the memory of future 
The causes accelerating or retarding the birth of a thought, and its various transformations, are 
numerous and evanescent; and there is, moreover, neither regularity nor consistency in their mode of 
action. Paësiello composed wrapped up in his bed-covers. Cimerosa, on the contrary, received the 
inspirations that gave to the world the beautiful themes with which his operas abound in the midst 
of the mirth and bustle of a crowd. The historian Mezérai wrote, even at mid-day in the month of 
July, by the light of wax candles. Rousseau, on the other hand, gave himself up to his most profound 
meditations in the fall light of the sun, while engaged in herborizing. 
If Ampère were only inspired while standing and in motion, Descartes
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