Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/620

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selves to the cultivation of agricultural science. It would seem, too, that agricultural colleges or even other institutions of learning, in view of their special interest in the educational aspect of the matter, might very properly establish stations for scientific investigations bearing on agriculture, as has been done by several German universities. Here, however, financial questions would, under present circumstances, be likely to prove a serious obstacle to such a project; but, whether practicable at present or not, the question of promoting agricultural science in this way is one worthy of thoughtful attention.

A no less important question than that of the kind of work a station should do is that of who shall conduct its work, and how the station should be organized. Local circumstances will, of course, decide the form which the business organization shall take; we are concerned here only with the conduct of the actual station-work. It may be remarked in passing, however, that it is eminently desirable to keep the station out of "politics," and free from the control of "rings," and to provide it with an assured income. This much settled, to what sort of a man shall we confide the direction of the station? This must evidently depend on what the station is to be. If its business is to be simply the analysis of fertilizers, etc., what is needed is a man with sufficient technical ability for the work, and whose character will command the confidence of all parties concerned. For anything beyond this, however, something more than an analyst is needed.

An impression prevails somewhat widely that because an agricultural experiment station is designed to advance agriculture, its director must be, first of all, a practical farmer. It is said, or intimated, that only such a one can be trusted to expend the State's money in a way really profitable to agricultural interests; and the same feeling finds expression in covert sneers at scientists as "doctrinaires," and "theorists," and "impractical." We maintain, on the contrary, that the prime requisite in the director of a good experiment station is thorough scientific training. It is not necessary that he possess the highest degree of talent for original research, but a training in the scientific methods of working and thinking is absolutely indispensable to lasting success. That this is true in case the station is to be devoted mainly to scientific research will probably be admitted at once, but it is equally true when the work to be done is making so-called "practical experiments." A truly scientifically conducted practical experiment differs from those practical experiments which thinking farmers are continually trying for themselves, not in being made on a larger scale, or with a more elaborate plan, or with greater accuracy in weighing and measuring—all these differences may exist, but they are differences of degree, not of kind—but in being so conducted that at its close it is possible to know how far the results can be trusted.