Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/554

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
538
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

country, but also to encourage the people of other cities to do likewise. There is not a place of 20,000 inhabitants in the country which should not be able to support a scientific society, and, though time would be required to accumulate such a library and such collections as those owned by the Philadelphia Academy, still no one should be discouraged, since no beginning could be more humble than the one we have described. Science is becoming every day more prominent in our country, and our colleges are rapidly giving it that preference which has been accorded to the dead languages in the past, and this is a change for the better, for it is a fact that the American mind is a practical one. The number of young men who attend our colleges to-day is relatively smaller than it was a hundred years ago; and even of college students a large proportion become farmers or physicians, or follow mining, manufacturing, or mercantile pursuits, and to them science is of far more practical value than the wars of Cæsar or the "Birds" of Aristophanes. The field of science is an expensive and difficult one for the isolated student to explore. Specimens are requisite and books are necessary, and these are most readily obtained by a co-operation of all who are interested, and this very co-operation for this purpose is the foundation of all scientific societies.

 

A LITTLE MATTER.
By A. E. OUTERBRIDGE, Jr.

THE original investigator in Nature's domains may not inaptly be likened to a pioneer who penetrates the primeval forest, and by the aid of his keen hatchet hews down the obstructions, marking out first a narrow path in the wilderness until he reaches a favorable camping-ground. He then clears a space, admitting sunlight and air; meanwhile, he is perhaps unconscious of, or indifferent to, the approaches of other adventurers, until, little by little, the clearings encroach upon each other; cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and gardens appear; the face of the landscape changes, and its every aspect becomes familiar, so that we cease to wonder at its sometimes strange and novel features.

This analogy is not a mere fancy; all the advances in scientific knowledge have been made in little detachments. Narrow lines of investigation have been projected and explored by patient toilers who dig out a few roots here and there, which are carefully garnered until their genus can be determined by further study. In this way, separate facts are being constantly stored up, to be collated and classified at a proper time.

The ideas which have prevailed in the past, in regard to the nature