Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/54

This page has been validated.
44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

might be true for a man on a desert island, whose error would influence only himself. But when he opens his lips to instruct others, or even when he signifies his opinions by his daily life, then he is directly responsible for all his errors of judgment or fact. He has no right to think a mole-hill as big as a mountain, nor to teach it, any more than he has to think the world flat, and teach that it is so. The facts and laws of our science have not equal importance, neither have the men who cultivate the science achieved equal results. One thing is greater than another, and we have no right to neglect the order. Thus shall our minds be guided aright, and our efforts be toward that which is the highest.

Then shall we see that no physicist of the first class has ever existed in this country, that we must look to other countries for our leaders in that subject, and that the few excellent workers in our country must receive many accessions from without before they can constitute an American science, or do their share in the world's work. . . .

We call this a free country, and yet it is the only one where there is a direct tax upon the pursuit of science. The low state of pure science in our country may possibly be attributed to the youth of the country; but a direct tax, to prevent the growth of our country in that subject, can not be looked upon as other than a deep disgrace. I refer to the duty upon foreign books and periodicals. In our science, no books above elementary ones have ever been published, or are likely to be published, in this country; and yet every teacher in physics must have them, not only in the college-library, but on his own shelves, and must pay the Government of this country to allow him to use a portion of his small salary to buy that which is to do good to the whole country. All freedom of intercourse which is necessary to foster our growing science is thus broken off; and that which might, in time, relieve our country of its mediocrity is nipped in the bud by our Government, which is most liberal when appealed to directly on scientific subjects. One would think that books in foreign languages might be admitted free; but, to please the half-dozen or so workmen who reprint German books, not scientific, our free intercourse with that country is cut off. Our scientific associations and societies must make themselves heard in this matter, and show those in authority how the matter stands. . . .