Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/375

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partly very observant; by the one quality he doubtless incommoded himself grievously, by the other he discovered how to predict eclipses, saved mankind from a certain amount of irrational panic, and won for himself a great reputation. To Thales the balance was for good; but it would not be safe to affirm that this would be the case with every one who walked with his head in the air looking at the stars.

Thus the direction in which observation may be most usefully practiced varies with the circumstances of the case; with the circumstances of the pupil when education is in question; and is not the same in the different ranks of society. The problem has, we think, been most successfully solved at present in the colleges, more or less recently founded, of our great northern towns. There, physical science is in demand for practical purposes, and educational institutions accommodate themselves to the demand. But, in the elder universities and the elementary schools alike, an equal measure of solution has not yet been attained. Oxford and Cambridge students (to begin with the higher rank) have not, as a rule, any plain and visible necessity for physical science as an aid in their future employments. But there is another side of science besides the immediately practical one a side which ought to be held of especial value in institutions that have under their survey the largest interests of humanity. The great sciences of observation—astronomy, geology, and the natural history of animals and plants—are more noticeable for their ideal than for their practical side, though they do touch on practice also. They give sublime views of the universe, such as it is a refreshment and consolation to possess, and such as touch not remotely on the destiny and happiness of man. We in England, at any rate, are not hopeless of the reconciliation of these views with the religious ideal that we have received. But it is the apparent collision, on certain points, between the new and the old that has impeded the reception of these sciences in those respects in which they are so calculated to elicit human feeling, and therefore so appropriate as studies in our elder and chief universities. In astronomy, indeed, the collision with religion has been long ago practically surmounted. But the observational side of astronomy has been rather sunk at Cambridge and Oxford in comparison with its mathematical side. It may be suspected that many students of astronomy (though not astronomers proper) have less knowledge of the actual face of the heavens than had those Chaldean shepherds who roamed the plains of the East thousands of years ago, in whom the science originated.

When we come to the poorer extreme of society, though the elementary education of the country does not quite ignore the cultivation of the observant faculties, neither does it, in our opinion, lay sufficient stress upon them. The arts of reading and writing, and the study of arithmetic, taken simply by themselves, have a tendency to withdraw the mind from the outer world, and it needs a corrective to restore