Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/618

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less, in many cases, amply repay the expense of a station. Or, the leading crops of a State might be made the subject of scientific study, either with regard to their value as food for men and animals, or as to their demands on the soil for plant-food. The number of these examples might be increased manifold were it needful. Investigations of this sort would have for their main object the adaptation of general truths to local conditions. Their benefits would be immediate and evident, and they could not fail, if intelligently conducted, to exert a salutary influence on both the agriculture and menticulture of the region.

Third, an experiment station may make it its aim to advance agricultural science in general, without regard to obtaining immediately useful results.

This would probably be the most unpopular course it could pursue. The great demand is for something "practical," by which is meant something whose value is at once apparent, and can be measured in dollars and cents. This is true in all departments of mental activity, but in none more emphatically than in the one we are considering, unless, indeed, it be in education, and nowhere does the "practical man" render his impracticality more evident. It is a difficultly learned lesson that knowledge pays. We glibly repeat the maxim that "knowledge (i. e., science) is power," but we scarcely half believe it. What we mean is that knowing how to do some particular thing or things gives us power. But knowledge is power, nevertheless, to every man in his own way and along his own lines of work, and no knowledge is valueless to any man. Therefore it ought to be made possible for our experiment stations, and, indeed, made part of their duty, not only to teach their constituents how to use such knowledge of agricultural science as the world now possesses, but also to aid in increasing the common stock of knowledge. They should be originators as well as distributors of science. Can any one doubt, in view of the past history of science, that such a course would be of lasting benefit to agriculture? We need not seek for striking illustrations of the practical application of the discoveries of pure science to justify such an opinion, though such illustrations lie all about us, as, for example, the electric telegraph, the coal-tar colors, and Pasteur's method of inoculation for splenic fever, to mention no more. It is not in brilliant inventions or ingenious processes that the advancement of agricultural science is chiefly to be traced, but in the gradual separation of the false from the true, in a better understanding of the reasons of old methods, and the perception of how they should be modified to meet new conditions. In short, what science does for agriculture is not so much to transform the art or its processes, though it does much in that direction, as it is to educate the artisan. It does, indeed, put many new tools into his hand, but it also teaches him how to use old and new tools to the best advantage.