Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/208

This page has been validated.

praiseworthy for a student to seek similar thoroughness in some department of science? If a college course aims to develop the character of the student, depth should be considered as well as breadth; and both are secured by combining the study of a special branch with accessory work in half a dozen others.

The method of study is also important, and just here is where many otherwise good institutions fail. Every student of science should meet Nature at first hand, and learn to observe her phenomena for himself. Lectures and text-books are but minor accessories to study; in the sciences they play a wholly subordinate part; in the laboratory, the field, and the museum, the chief work is to be done. No matter what branch of science is to be pursued, the student from the very first must meet it face to face. The biological sciences ought to be studied in the field, collecting; in the museum, classifying; in the laboratory, with the microscope and the scalpel. Far too often is the study of natural history degraded into a mere memorizing of classifications; as if the transitory part of science were more valuable than the permanent! The student must see, handle, dissect, and investigate, for himself. He is to study the phenomena of life, and not merely the external appearance of a lot of stuffed specimens. Chemistry, and physics also, is to be studied chiefly in the laboratory. It is not enough for a student to see experiments, he must himself perform them. Thus only can he learn the true scope of these great sciences. By a proper drill in qualitative analysis, he learns to observe closely, and to reason from his facts to their interpretation. Quantitative analysis gives him accuracy of manipulation, and an insight into the absolute value of experiment. This insight also results from delicate practice with instruments of precision in physics; a kind of exercise of the very highest educational value. If the course of study in any science can be capped by an original research leading to the discovery of new facts, so much the better. In a German university the candidate for a doctoral degree in science is absolutely required to carry out such a research, and to submit a dissertation upon it. This is not a severe requirement—every student who has been decently trained is able to come up to it, all the popular notions about the mysteriousness of scientific research to the contrary notwithstanding. Why should we not aim to equal the German standard?

But, because I lay this stress upon the experimental method in scientific study, I do not therefore undervalue lectures and text-book work. These are valuable auxiliaries to a scientific education, although they need to be handled carefully. The teacher must be in a great measure independent of the text-book, able to make up its deficiencies, and to correct its errors. In lecturing, he must be fully awake to the importance of research, and should lose no opportunity of suggesting to his classes good subjects for investigation. If there is an unsettled question, he may call the attention of his students to it; if he sees a