Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/155

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JUNE, 1882.

"Wenn ein Kopf und ein Buck zusammenstossen, und es hlingt hohl, muss es denn immer das Buck yewesen sein?"—Lichtenberg, the Physicist.

THE above title is prefixed to an article contributed by Professor Simon Newcomb to the April number of the "International Review." The avowed object of that article is to discredit a recent volume of the "International Scientific Series" ("The Concepts and Theories of Modern Physics") as a publication unworthy of the company in which it appears, and to denounce its author as a person ignorant of the subject whereon he writes—as a scientific, or rather unscientific, "charlatan" and "pretender" belonging to the class of "paradoxers" whom Professor De Morgan has immortalized in his famous "Budget." I am fully aware that, as a rule, it is both unwise and in questionable taste for an author to make direct reply to criticism, however hostile, baseless, or absurd. The merits of a book must find their vindication, at last, in its contents, and the chief function of the critic is to bring them to the attention of the reader, the value and spirit of the critical performance being of secondary importance. But the case in hand appears to me to be an exceptional one. The unmistakable intent of Professor Newcomb's "criticism" (and, if it be left unchallenged, its probable effect) is to signalize the contents of the book with which he deals as mere drivel, and unworthy of a moment's serious attention. And he writes for a magazine, the majority of whose readers, however intelligent they may be, can hardly be expected to possess that familiarity with the matters under discussion which is a necessary prerequisite to the formation of an independent and trustworthy judgment. All they are likely to know and care is,