Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/865

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gracious in this place, yet we can not refrain from asking if it is quite appropriate to the character of such an enterprise to begin by letting down instead of elevating the ideal of inspiration in the pursuit of original science.

After com mending the men of the past who have made eminent achievements in pure science in this country, the writer says: "The leading feature of American science, however, and that which most distinctly characterizes it, is its utilitarianism. True there are in our country able investigators working in scientific fields which do not offer the promise of material reward; but, notwithstanding this, it remains still true that those sciences whose principles are capable of useful application are the most zealously cultivated among us, and attract the largest number of students. Nor is this to be at all regretted. Research is none the less genuine, investigation none the less worthy, because the truth it discovers is utilizable for the benefit of mankind. Granting even that the discovery of truth for its own sake is a nobler pursuit, because a less purely selfish one, does it become any the less noble when it is ascertained that the truth thus discovered is capable of important applications which increase tenfold the happiness of human life? It may readily be conceded that the man who discovers nothing himself, but only applies to useful purposes the principles which others have discovered, stands upon a lower plane than the investigator. But when the investigator becomes himself the utilizer, when the same mind that made the discovery contrives also the machine by which it is applied to useful purposes, the combined achievement must be ranked as superior to either of its separate results."

There is here a reversal of the gradation in the motives to scientific study which has been too long and too clearly recognized to be lightly brushed aside. The most exalted incentive in the pursuit of truth is that high appreciation of it which makes its bare discovery the supreme compensation of the investigator. There is deeply implanted in the human mind a desire to find out the secrets of nature; and there is a pleasure in the satisfaction of this desire which has ever been the sharpest spur of scientific research. It is, moreover, this impulse to seek the truth of nature for the simple love of it that has played much the most prominent part in the progress of science. But, though animated by a noble purpose men are human still, and so they have been also impelled to scientific discoveries by the lower impulses of personal ambition, or because of the honor and fame they will confer. There is, besides, an inducement to scientific inquiry on account of the usefulness of its results in practical life, or the motive of public utility. And, finally, there is the desire to reach new results for the selfish individual advantage of turning them to profitable account: this is the mercenary motive, and is, of course, the lowest of all.

Now, human motives are often a good deal mixed, yet dominant intentions are not difficult to detect. In this case, what a man does with his discovery must be taken as proof of his intention in making it. If a man finds out a new fact, makes a new observation, or works out a new principle, and then communicates it to the world, he is to be fairly credited with the motive of laboring for the increase of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. If he is solicitous about the priority of his result, we know that he prizes the personal honor that it will confer. If he makes a discovery and applies it to some useful end, and then presents it to society for the promotion of the public good, he is to be credited with the philanthropic motive of contributing to the common utility. But, if he makes a discovery, and, shrewdly keep-