Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/45

This page has been validated.

And frequently, by the small salary which they receive, by the lack of instrumental and literary facilities, by the mental atmosphere in which they exist, and, most of all, by their low ideals of life, they are led to devote their surplus time to applied science or to other means of increasing their fortune. How shall we, then, honor the few, the very few, who, in spite of all difficulties, have kept their eyes fixed on the goal, and have steadily worked for pure science, giving to the world a most precious donation, which has borne fruit in our greater knowledge of the universe and in the applications to our physical life which have enriched thousands and benefited each one of us? There are also those who have every facility for the pursuit of science, who have an ample salary and every appliance for work, yet who devote themselves to commercial work, to testifying in courts of law, and to any other work to increase their present large income. Such men would be respectable if they gave up the name of professor, and took that of consulting chemists or physicists. And such men are needed in the community. But for a man to occupy the professor's chair in a prominent college, and, by his energy and ability in the commercial applications of his science, stand before the local community in a prominent manner, and become the newspaper exponent of his science, is a disgrace both to him and his college. It is the death-blow to science in that region. Call him by his proper name, and he becomes at once a useful member of the community. Put in his place a man who shall by precept and example cultivate his science, and how different is the result! Young men, looking forward into the world for something to do, see before them this high and noble life, and they see that there is something more honorable than the accumulation of wealth. They are thus led to devote their lives to similar pursuits, and they honor the professor who has drawn them to something higher than they might otherwise have aspired to reach.

I do not wish to be misunderstood in this matter. It is no disgrace to make money by an invention, or otherwise, or to do commercial scientific work under some circumstances. But let pure science be the aim of those in the chairs of professors, and so prominently the aim that there can be no mistake. If our aim in life is wealth, let us honestly engage in commercial pursuits, and compete with others for its possession. But if we choose a life which we consider higher, let us live up to it, taking wealth or poverty as it may chance to come to us, but letting neither turn us aside from our pursuit.

The work of teaching may absorb the energies of many; and, indeed, this is the excuse given by most for not doing any scientific work. But there is an old saying, that where there is a will there is a way. Few professors do as much teaching or lecturing as the German professors, who are also noted for their elaborate papers in the scientific journals. I myself have been burdened down with work, and know what it is: and yet I here assert that all can find time for scien-