Gulliver's Travels: Part 3, Chapter 5 - Summary

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SUMMARY

      The author provides a detailed account of various projects going on in the various rooms of the academy. The academy itself is not a single building but a series of several houses built on both sides of a street. The first man that the author sees has been working on a project for eight years. This project is meant to extract sunbeams out of cucumber. The author describes the projector’s appearance as of a beggar in rags, with long hair and beard and sooty hands and face. Another chamber is filled with filth and human excreta and therefore stinking horribly. The scientist here is working upon a project to convert human excrement to its original food. Another scientist is trying to calcine ice into gunpowder. An architect is engineering a method to start building houses from the roof and working down to the foundation. A blind professor is teaching his apprentices to distinguish colors by feeling and smelling. A scientist has invented a method to plow the ground with hogs. His idea is to leave the cattle on the prospective land where the laborers have already buried various eatables for them, assuming that the cattle would root up all the ground to get the eatables and at the same time their dung would manure the soil. In another room, a scientist is experimenting with cobwebs to convert them into silk. An astronomer has undertaken a project to place a sundial upon the great weather clock by adjusting the annual and diurnal motions of the earth. During these visits, the author has an attack of colic, he is taken to a physician in that academy who is famous for curing that disease by contrary operations with the same instruments. The physician has a large pair of bellows with a long slender muzzle of ivory. The author leaves the doctor without taking treatment when he sees the horrible death of a dog due to these experimental operations.

      The other side of the academy is for the advancers of speculative learning. There, the author meets a person who has been conducting experiments for the last thirty years with the help of more than fifty assistants, his idea being to condense air into a dry form and to soften marble for pillow's and pin-cushions. A scientist is endeavouring to make a composition that can prevent the growth of wool upon lambs. A professor has constructed various wooden blocks with the alphabet printed on them to enable even the most ignorant person to write books on various subjects such as politics, poetry, law, etc. In the school of languages, a professor is working upon a project to shorten the discourse by cutting polysyllables into one, another project is to make communication possible without speaking words at all. At the mathematical school, the master would make the students swallow thin wafers that had the proposition and demonstration written over them with ink composed of cephalic tincture, the idea being that as the wafer digests the tincture will mount to the student’s brain bearing the proposition along with it.

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