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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/12

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

knowledge. Regard the change with favor or disfavor, as you please, the fact remains that the natural sciences have become the chief factors of our modern civilization; and—which is the important point in this connection—they have given rise to new professions which more and more every year are opening occupations to our educated men. The professions of the chemist, of the mining engineer, and of the electrician, which have entirely grown up during the lifetime of many here present, are just as "learned" as the older professions, and are recognized as such by every university. Moreover, the old profession of medicine, which, when, as formerly, wholly ruled by authority or traditions, might have been classed with the literary professions, has come to rest on a purely scientific basis.

In a word, the distinction between the literary and the scientific professions has become definite and wide, and can no longer be ignored in our systems of education. Now, while they would accord to their classical associates the right to decide what is the best culture for a literary calling, the scientific experts claim an equal right to decide what is the best culture for a scientific calling. Ever since the revival of Greek learning in Europe the literary scholars have been working out an admirable system of education. In this system most of us have been trained. I would pay it all honor, and I would here bear my testimony to the acknowledged facts that in no departments of our own university have the methods of teaching been so much improved during the last few years as in the classical. I should resist as firmly as my classical colleagues any attempt to emasculate the well-tried methods of literary culture, and I have no sympathy whatever with the opinion that the study of the modern languages as polite accomplishments can in any degree take the place of the critical study of the great languages of antiquity. To compare German literature with the Greek, or, what is worse, French literature with the Latin, as means of culture, implies, as it seems to me, a forgetfulness of the true spirit of literary culture.

But literature and science are very different things, and "what is one man's meat may be another man's poison," and the scientific teachers claim the right to direct the training of their own men. It is not their aim to educate men to clothe thought in beautiful and suggestive language, to weave argument into correct and persuasive forms, or to kindle enthusiasm by eloquence. But it is their object to prepare men to unravel the mysteries of the universe, to probe the secrets of disease, to direct the forces of nature, and to develop the resources of this earth. These last aims may be less spiritual, lower on your arbitrary intellectual scale, if you please, than the first; but they are none the less legitimate aims which society demands of educated men: and all we claim is that the astronomers, the physicists, the chemists, the biologists, the physicians, and the engineers, who have shown that they are able to answer these demands of society,