Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/32

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tures which might in our time, alas! have greatly benefited us; and the more rare are phenomena which surpass mediocrity.

To these dubious prognostications for science is added the view of the transformation of human life by the later development of industrial art, which is taking place on a far grander scale than that which was inspired by the discovery of America and the inventions of gunpowder and printing. The abundance of means and of forces brought into play by this agency reacts through innumerable concatenations on all circles and levels of society, and the final victory of utilitarianism, whose precepts, moreover, were always clear to the multitude, seems near.

Thus an evil time is foreboded for pure science, without any definite hope for an immediate turn of the wheel. It is about as if one lived in the midst of a gradual, constant, self-completing change, such as the earth used to suffer in primitive geological times, when, in the course of physical, geographical, and climatic alterations, one so-called period of creation gave way to another, and as if the past of the perishing creation fell to us. The academies would then represent, as it were, transitional forms between the earlier and the new creation, with the excuses for their existence growing continuously more doubtful, just as we may find examples of a similar character in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. In fact, one does not need an ear of extraordinary delicacy to hear the jealous questions: For what are those stiff figures in the midst of the rushing life-stream that does not regard them? Of what use is a golden book in the midst of the general Democritizing? or, to pronounce the catch-word of the times, why a ring of scholars? Such are the terms in which a modern Heraclite an adept in that worldly wisdom culminating in pessimism, which is praised as the newest phase of German philosophy, might express himself to-day. We Berlin Academicians may, perhaps, be permitted to adhere to the optimism of our founder.

To judge correctly concerning the present position of science, of the single observer and the learned bodies, one must betake himself, as it were, to a height above the clatter of the individual combats, whence he can watch the course of the battle, the grouping of the advancing masses, the closing circle of victory, and the unfolding of the plan; and a modern popular contest is harder to view comprehensively than a Homeric skirmish. From a proper point of view is observed the comforting, exalting opposite of that which, only partially beheld and imperfectly comprehended in the narrower circle of vision, was before lamented. Never was science, remotely viewed, so rich in the sublimest generalizations. Never did it represent a more magnificent unity in its objects and its results. Never did it advance more rapidly, with a more definite consciousness of its purposes, and with mightier methods, and never did a more active co-operation exist between its different branches. And, finally, never had academies