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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/511

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GEOLOGY AND HISTORY.

one of dilettant leisure, and it is clear that American scholarship can no longer he called unproductive. Comparisons inevitably suggest themselves. Harvard possesses a larger number of professors engaged in independent research than any other institution in the country, and to Harvard, I believe, belongs the honor of leading all American universities in original work.

 

GEOLOGY AND HISTORY.
By Professor GRANT ALLEN.

THE science of human life has been the last to recognize that minute interaction of all the sciences which every other department of knowledge now readily admits. We allow at once that no man can be a good physiologist unless he possesses a previous acquaintance with anatomy and chemistry. The chemist, in turn, must know something of physics, while the physicist can not move a step until he calls in the mathematician to his aid. Astronomy long appeared to be an isolated study, requiring nothing more than geometrical and arithmetical skill; but spectrum analysis has lately shown us its intimate interdependence upon chemistry and experimental physics. Thus the whole circle of the sciences has become a continuous chain of cycles and epicycles, rather than a simple sequence of unconnected and independent principles.

History, however, still stands to a great extent outside the ever-widening sphere of physical philosophy. It is comparatively seldom that we see an historian like Dr. Curtius acknowledging the interaction of land and people upon one another's character and destiny. More often we find even the modern annalist writing in the spirit of Mr. Freeman, as though men and women formed the only factors in the historical problem, and the great physical powers of Nature counted for nothing in the game of human life. Yet a few simple instances will show at once the fallacy of such a view. If the ancestors of the Hellenic people had gone to the central plains of Russia instead of to the island-studded waters of the Ægean, could they ever have produced the magnificent Hellenic nationality with which we are familiar? Was not their navigation the direct result of their geographical position on the shores of an inland sea, intersected by jutting peninsulas, and bridged over by a constant succession of islands, each within full sight of its nearest neighbors? Was not their polity predetermined in large measure by the shape of their little mountain valleys, each open to the seaward in front and closed by a natural barrier of hills in the rear? Could their plastic genius have risen to the height of the Olympian Zeus and the Athene of Phidias if they had possessed no material for sculpture more tractable than the hard granite