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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/51

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A PLEA FOR PURE SCIENCE.

what is known, in the reading of the scientific journals, and the discussions therein contained of the current scientific questions, one would obtain an impulse to work, even though it did not before exist. And the same spirit which prompted him to seek what was already known would make him wish to know the unknown. And I may say that I never met a case of thorough knowledge in my own science, except in the case of well-known investigators. I have met men who talked well, and I have sometimes asked myself why they did not do something; but further knowledge of their character has shown me the superficiality of their knowledge. I am no longer a believer in men who could do something if they would, or would do something if they had a chance. They are impostors. If the true spirit is there, it will show itself in spite of circumstances.

As I remarked before, the investigator in pure science is usually a professor. He must teach as well as investigate. It is a question which has been discussed in late years as to whether these two functions would better be combined in the same individual, or separated. It seems to be the opinion of most that a certain amount of teaching is conducive, rather than otherwise, to the spirit of research. I myself think that this is true, and I should myself not like to give up my daily lecture. But one must not be overburdened. I suppose that the true solution, in many cases, would be found in the multiplication of assistants, not only for the work of teaching, but of research. Some men are gifted with more ideas than they can work out with their own hands, and the world is losing much by not supplying them with extra hands. Life is short: old age comes quickly, and the amount one pair of hands can do is very limited. What sort of shop would that be, or what sort of factory, where one man had to do all the work with his own hands? It is a fact in nature, which no democracy can change, that men are not equal—that some have brains, and some hands. And no idle talk about equality can ever subvert the order of the universe.

I know of no institution in this country where assistants are supplied to aid directly in research. Yet why should it not be so? And even the absence of assistant professors and assistants of all kinds to aid in teaching is very noticeable, and must be remedied before we can expect much.

There are many physical problems, especially those requiring exact measurements, which can not be carried out by one man, and can only be successfully attacked by the most elaborate apparatus, and with a full corps of assistants. Such are Regnault's experiments on the fundamental laws of gases and vapors, made thirty or forty years ago by aid from the French Government, and which are the standards to this day. Although these experiments were made with a view to the practical calculation of the steam-engine, yet they were carried out in such a broad spirit that they have been of the greatest theoretical use.