Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/30

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Only what has within it the seeds of mortality can be killed, and religion and imagination are outside of science; but ecclesiasticism, which has been built by men, can be destroyed by men, just as literary conventions, which were the work of scholars, can be torn to shreds by scholars and writers.

By Professor T. C. MENDENHALL.

THIS is an "Association for the Advancement of Science." But the forces which have to do with aiding or retarding this advancement are so various that we are in danger of losing sight of some of them. We are mistaken if we suppose that science is advanced only through contributions which are the result of original research in our laboratories and libraries. Even if so narrow a view be taken, it will be admitted that the talent for research is fostered and encouraged, if not indeed created, by an atmosphere of recognition and appreciation. The existence of such an atmosphere is in itself a blessing, and its production is certainly worthy of our highest efforts.

To this end it is desirable and necessary to bring about a more general diffusion of accurate knowledge concerning the elementary principles and propositions of the science of physics, as well as some degree of familiarity with the methods of physical investigation. I do not refer, of course, to the demands or the necessities of those who expect to undergo a course of training for the purpose of becoming themselves physicists, but rather to the diffusion of this knowledge among the masses of educated people in general.

That this diffusion is not taking place to any great extent, and will not, according to natural laws alone, is patent to any observing physicist, who can not fail to have come in contact with prevailing and pernicious errors, which often carry the weight of repetition, and now and then of recognized authority.

I am aware that this is not an association of educators, and that pedagogics is not, as yet, one of the sciences specifically indicated as worthy of advancement at our hands; but, if the growth of a tree is to be made healthy and permanent, it is not safe to neglect the soil into which its roots penetrate. Train it and prune it as you will, to grow into vigor and strength it must spring from a rich and generous earth which, though beneath it and below it, must be in harmony with it in order to supply the proper and necessary materials for its sustenance.

  1. Substance of a vice-presidential address delivered before the Section of Physics at the Montreal meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, August, 1882.