Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/859

This page has been validated.
841
PROFESSOR RUDOLF VIRCHOW.

of the German naturalists on the present position of anthropology, in which he maintained that that branch, although one of the youngest of the sciences, already occupied as advanced a position as many of the older branches of study. He opposed the idea that the people now lowest in development must necessarily fade away when they come into contact with civilization, and showed that it was contradicted by the history of the Europeans themselves. If the civilized people of the present day be considered as the product of a higher development, he said, we can not regard the possibility of such a development as a cause of the extinction of such people as are now on the same platform of culture which we ourselves once occupied. He took an active interest in the investigations of Dr. Schliemann in the Troad, and spent some time there, participating in the work, in 1879. He gave particular attention to the formations of the swamps in the neighborhood, and of the building-stones, and showed that they were all of fresh-water origin, thus conclusively putting to rest, it was held, the objections of those who, opposed to the view that Hissarlik represented the site of ancient Troy, that, at the time of the Trojan war, the place must have been covered by the sea, or too near it to permit the movements described in the Iliad. While here, he gave valuable medical aid to the people of the region.

Professor Virchow has labored actively for the spread of scientific knowledge among the people. He was for a long time a member of the body of instructors to the Berlin Workingmen's Union, and in that capacity published, in connection with Holtzendorff, a collection of popular scientific treatises.

The scientific side, although there is enough of it to fill up an ordinary human life, is only one side of Professor Virchow's career. His life is equally full on the political and practical side. Since 1859 he has been an alderman of the city of Berlin, and has in that capacity given conscientious attention to the details of the government and wants of the municipality. In direct reference to this office he has written many papers on subjects of hygiene, drainage, and sewerage, marked alike by scientific thoroughness and by adaptation to local wants. He was elected a member of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies in 1862, having the choice between the seats for three constituencies offered to him, and has served in that body with distinction ever since. He at once took the lead among those who opposed the arbitrary measures of Bismarck and his despotic assumptions; and has continued one of the most vigorous and formidable antagonists of that minister. In January, 1863, he proposed and secured the acceptance of an address accusing the ministers of having violated the constitution. In 1865 his opposition was so energetic that there was talk of Herr Bismarck's challenging him to a duel. He did not, however, assume an extreme democratic position, but accepted the constitution with the reservation of the right of protest against objectionable measures which might be pro-