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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/43

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33
A PLEA FOR PURE SCIENCE.

until the man is no higher than his fellows. Hence the world, through the abundance of its intercourse, is reduced to a level. What was formerly a grand and magnificent landscape, with mountains ascending above the clouds, and depths whose gloom we can not now appreciate, has become serene and peaceful. The depths have been filled, and the heights leveled, and the wavy harvests and smoky factories cover the landscape.

As far as the average man is concerned, the change is for the better. The average life of man is far pleasanter, and his mental condition better, than before. But we miss the vigor imparted by the mountains. We are tired of mediocrity, the curse of our country. We are tired of seeing our artists reduced to hirelings, and imploring Congress to protect them against foreign competition. We are tired of seeing our countrymen take their science from abroad, and boast that they here convert it into wealth. We are tired of seeing our professors degrading their chairs by the pursuit of applied science instead of pure science; or sitting inactive while the whole world is open to investigation; lingering by the wayside while the problem of the universe remains unsolved. We wish for something higher and nobler in this country of mediocrity, for a mountain to relieve the landscape of its monotony. We are surrounded with mysteries, and have been created with minds to enjoy and reason to aid in the unfolding of such mysteries. Nature calls to us to study her, and our better feelings urge us in the same direction.

For generations there have been some few students of science who have esteemed the study of nature the most noble of pursuits. Some have been wealthy, and some poor; but they have all had one thing in common the love of nature and its laws. To these few men the world owes all the progress due to applied science, and yet very few ever received any payment in this world for their labors.

Faraday, the great discoverer of the principle on which all machines for electric lighting, electric railways, and the transmission of power, must rest, died a poor man, although others and the whole world have been enriched by his discoveries. And such must be the fate of the followers in his footsteps for some time to come.

But there will be those in the future who will study nature from pure love, and for them higher prizes than any yet obtained are waiting. We have but yet commenced our pursuit of science, and stand upon the threshold wondering what there is within. We explain the motion of the planet by the law of gravitation; but who will explain how two bodies, millions of miles apart, tend to go toward each other with a certain force?

We now weigh and measure electricity and electric currents with as much ease as ordinary matter, yet have we made any approach to an explanation of the phenomenon of electricity? Light is an undulatory motion, and yet do we know what it is that undulates? Heat