Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/374

This page has been validated.

of the Government Laboratory for the Manufacture of Medicines, and afterward as Chemist of the Nitre and Mining Bureau.

After enduring the privations and hardships (including the total loss of property) consequent upon the breaking up of the Confederacy, on the reorganization of the college as the University of South Carolina, he was again appointed to the chair of Chemistry and Geology, in the undergraduate department, and of Chemistry and Pharmacy in the medical department. But the utter prostration of the material resources of the State, falling first and most heavily on institutions of higher education, compelled him to seek employment in a more prosperous region. He therefore, in 1868, accepted a call to the chair of Geology and Natural History in the University of California then about to be organized, and removed to that State to assist in the opening of the first session of the new institution, in September, 1869. He has continued to occupy this chair up to the present time.

From this time commenced the most active period of Prof. Le Conte's strictly scientific life. The boundless field for geological studies presented on the Pacific coast incited him to pursue his favorite department with renewed ardor. Every summer vacation was spent in a geological ramble with a party of students and graduates in the high Sierras, or in a geological tour through Oregon, Washington Territory, and British Columbia. As much of the region of the high Sierras is wholly uninhabited, camping-parties were organized; and thus studies of Nature were combined with a life of adventure full of delight, amid the finest scenery in the world. Many scientific papers on the origin and structure of mountain-chains, and on the ancient glaciers of the Sierras, were the result of these studies. Meanwhile other and more abstract subjects were not neglected; for he contributed during this time also many papers on the theory and phenomena of binocular vision.

Prof. Le Conte can hardly be called a specialist in any department, in the narrow sense of that term; for, although his chief activity has been in the field of science, yet his interest in literature, art, and philosophy, is almost equally great. Association alone seems to have determined his life-work in the direction of science. Until thirty years of age his intellectual culture was almost perfectly general. Only after that did it commence to concentrate first on science, and still later on special departments of science. While this may have been a disadvantage in the pursuit of special narrow lines of investigation, it had also its advantage in giving that comprehensiveness so necessary in the more complex departments of science which he had chosen.

In his theory of education, therefore, Prof. Le Conte was always an earnest advocate of the general or liberal education of the cultured man, rather than the special education of the mere expert. His ideal of education was a general culture first, and as high as circumstances