Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/539

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of water. Indigo blue is reduced to indigo white, potassium ferri-cyanide is reduced to the ferrocyanide, potassium bromate and iodate are reduced to bromide and iodide; glycogen is converted into sugar with the assimilation of water, albumen into peptone, and then into amido acids and other products. Hippuric acid is formed, with the elimination of water, from benzoic acid and glycocol.

But we ask in vain: What is it that effects these reductions? how does the pepsin act? how do benzoic acid and glycocol combine? Here is a field in which chemistry must cultivate independently, not as the servant of physiology, for the fruits of the labor will be of equal value to both sciences. Whatever difficulties this problem may produce, we are certain that its solution is within our reach. It was different when, where now we see groups of atoms acting upon each other in a definite manner, irritability or an incomprehensible life-force was permitted to rule. Then the future was without prospect; no vulnerable point seemed exposed for the attack of genius. At present we may say, that which is ponderable can be weighed, and that which proves to be an individual can be isolated. After, however, the analysis is once completed, synthesis will be close at hand.



THE contemplation of the progress of science in our days shows us a whole host of zealous investigators bringing stone after stone to raise to a prouder height the structure of knowledge whose richly diversified pillars and towers, seemingly disposed without order, all contribute to the common design. From this view we readily turn to the foundations and basement-stones of the edifice, which, gray and weathered as they seem to be, yet form the basis of the heaven-aspiring building. Our greatest interest is enlisted in the story of the men who, amid the general perversion of manners and contempt for all learning of the middle ages, lived for knowledge in their study-rooms or shut up in silent cloisters. Although they did not make any great discoveries, they still endeavored to keep alive the little flame which yet shone weakly from the intellectual fires of antiquity. Still more fascinating are such views in the case of men who came out into the life of the times, and, with their sharp minds schooled in the philosophy of the ancients, entered actively into the often erratic course of the world, and by word and writing presented themselves undismayed before those in power here checking the spirit of boundless avarice and wild excess,

  1. Translated for "The Popular Science Monthly" from "Die Natur."