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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/52

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Again, what would astronomy have done without the endowments of observatories? By their means, that science has become the most perfect of all branches of physics, as it should be from its simplicity. There is no doubt in my mind that similar institutions for other branches of physics, or, better, to include the whole of physics, would be equally successful. A large and perfectly equipped physical laboratory, with its large revenues, its corps of professors and assistants, and its machine-shop for the construction of new apparatus, would be able to advance our science quite as much as endowed observatories have astronomy. But such a laboratory should not be founded rashly. The value will depend entirely on the physicist at its head, who has to devise the plan, and to start it into practical working. Such a man will always be rare, and can not always be obtained. After one had been successfully started, others could follow; for imitation requires little brains.

One could not be certain of getting the proper man every time, but the means of appointment should be most carefully studied, so as to secure a good average. There can be no doubt that the appointment should rest with a scientific body capable of judging the highest work of each candidate.

Should any popular element enter, the person chosen would be either of the literary-scientific order, or the dabbler on the outskirts who presents his small discoveries in the most theatrical manner. What is required is a man of depth, who has such an insight into physical science that he can tell when blows will best tell for its advancement.

Such a grand laboratory as I describe does not exist in the world at present for the study of physics. But no trouble has ever been found in obtaining means to endow astronomical science. Everybody can appreciate to some extent the value of an observatory; as astronomy is the simplest of scientific subjects, and has very quickly reached a position where elaborate instruments and costly computations are necessary to further advance. The whole domain of physics is so wide that workers have hitherto found enough to do. But it can not always be so, and the time has even now arrived when such a grand laboratory should be founded. Shall our country take the lead in this matter, or shall we wait for foreign countries to go before? They will be built in the future, but when and how is the question.

Several institutions are now putting up laboratories for physics. They are mostly for teaching, and we can expect only a comparatively small amount of work from most of them. But they show progress; and, if the progress be as quick in this direction as in others, we should be able to see a great change before the end of our lives.

As stated before, men are influenced by the sympathy of those with whom they come in contact. It is impossible to immediately