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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/42

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

themselves with the fact that gunpowder will explode, and seeking no further, they have fallen behind in the progress of the world; and we now regard this oldest and most numerous of nations as only barbarians. And yet our own country is in this same state. But we have done better; for we have taken the science of the Old World, and applied it to all our uses, accepting it like the rain of heaven, without asking whence it came, or even acknowledging the debt of gratitude we owe to the great and unselfish workers who have given it to us. And, like the rain of heaven, this pure science has fallen upon our country, and made it great and rich and strong.

To a civilized nation of the present day, the applications of science are a necessity; and our country has hitherto succeeded in this line, only for the reason that there are certain countries in the world where pure science has been and is cultivated, and where the study of nature is considered a noble pursuit. But such countries are rare, and those who wish to pursue pure science in our own country must be prepared to face public opinion in a manner which requires much moral courage. They must be prepared to be looked down upon by every successful inventor whose shallow mind imagines that the only pursuit of mankind is wealth, and that he who obtains most has best succeeded in this world. Everybody can comprehend a million of money; but how few can comprehend any advance in scientific theory, especially in its more abstruse portions! And this, I believe, is one of the causes of the small number of persons who have ever devoted themselves to work of the higher order in any human pursuit. Man is a gregarious animal, and depends very much, for his happiness, on the sympathy of those around him; and it is rare to find one with the courage to pursue his own ideals in spite of his surroundings. In times past, men were more isolated than at present, and each came in contact with a fewer number of people. Hence that time constitutes the period when the great sculptures, paintings, and poems were produced. Each man's mind was comparatively free to follow its own ideals, and the results were the great and unique works of the ancient masters. To-day the railroad and the telegraph, the books and newspapers, have united each individual man with the rest of the world: instead of his mind being an individual, a thing apart by itself, and unique, it has become so influenced by the outer world, and so dependent upon it, that it has lost its originality to a great extent. The man who in times past would naturally have been in the lowest depths of poverty, mentally and physically, to-day measures tape behind a counter, and with lordly air advises the naturally born genius how he may best bring his outward appearance down to a level with his own. A new idea he never had, but he can at least cover his mental nakedness with ideas imbibed from others. So the genius of the past soon perceives that his higher ideas are too high to be appreciated by the world; his mind is clipped down to the standard form; every natural offshoot upward is repressed,