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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/50

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

encourage the highest work, if for no other reason than to encourage the student to his highest efforts.

But, assuming that the professor has high ideals, wealth such as only a large and high university can command is necessary to allow him the fullest development.

And this is specially so in our science of physics. In the early days of physics and chemistry, many of the fundamental experiments could be performed with the simplest apparatus. And so we often find the names of Wollaston and Faraday mentioned as needing scarcely anything for their researches. Much can even now be done with the simplest apparatus; and nobody, except the utterly incompetent, need stop for want of it. But the fact remains, that one can only be free to investigate in all departments of chemistry and physics, when he not only has a complete laboratory at his command, but a friend to draw on for the expenses of each experiment. That simplest of the departments of physics, namely, astronomy, has now reached such perfection that nobody can expect to do much more in it without a perfectly equipped observatory; and even this would be useless without an income sufficient to employ a corps of assistants to make the observations and computations. But, even in this simplest of physical subjects, there is great misunderstanding. Our country has very many excellent observatories: and yet little work is done in comparison, because no provision has been made for maintaining the work of the observatory; and the wealth which, if concentrated, might have made one effective observatory which would prove a benefit to astronomical science, when scattered among a half-dozen, merely furnishes telescopes for the people in the surrounding region to view the moon with. And here I strike the key-note of at least one need of our country, if she would stand well in science. . . .

Americans have shown no lack of invention in small things; and the same spirit, when united to knowledge and love of science, becomes the spirit of research. The telegraph operator, with his limited knowledge of electricity and its laws, naturally turns his attention to the improvement of the only electrical instrument he knows anything about; and his researches would be confined to the limited sphere of his knowledge, and to the simple laws with which he is acquainted. But as his knowledge increases, and the field broadens before him, as he studies the mathematical theory of the subject, and the electromagnetic theory of light loses the dim haze due to distance and becomes his constant companion, the telegraph instrument becomes to him a toy, and his effort to discover something new becomes research in pure science.

It is useless to attempt to advance science until one has mastered the science: he must step to the front before his blows can tell in the strife. Furthermore, I do not believe anybody can be thorough in any department of science without wishing to advance it. In the study of