Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/775

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ples; but the course was largely devoted to the drawing of figures of crystals. Nearly all of this instruction was of a kind that caused the pupil to do his work in a mechanical manner, following "thumb-rules" given by the instructor. The student evidently was not expected to understand the reasons for his work—the great object seemed to be to mechanically produce the most beautiful and perfect drawings; and on this part of the course itis not proposed to dwell.

The mineralogical instruction was given in the following manner: First, there had been chosen a set of the most important mineral species, amounting to over two hundred in all, with which it was thought best that the student should be familiar. A sufficient number of typical specimens of each species and its important varieties had been labeled and permanently arranged, according to Dana's "System of Mineralogy," in a set of drawers accessible to the student. The instructor, with the specimens before him and the students around him, proceeded to point out the essential characteristics of these minerals, calling attention mainly to those features which would distinguish each mineral from all others in the chosen set. It was not proposed to burden the pupil with long descriptions of each mineral, but rather to require him to know and understand that which separated each one from its fellows, and caused it to stand out distinct from them. To this end every means of determination that seemed essential was put in requisition, except quantitative analysis. If the crystalline form was sufficient, the student was not expected to go further. If the physical properties sufficed, that was all that was necessary; if not, then resort must be had to the blow-pipe, and even to the wet tests. The student was taught to do that which the practical mineralogist does—to determine his minerals by the shortest method consistent with accuracy—the method to vary according to the specimen. The pupil was taught to observe the color, streak, hardness, etc., to weigh the evidence in each case, and to decide according to the weight of the evidence. No guess-work was permitted, but some decisive test was required which should prove that the specimen belonged to the species to which it had been assigned. After a certain group had been passed over by the instructor—as, for instance, the picked species of the native elements, sulphides, etc., and sulpharsenites, etc., of Dana's system—each student was assigned a drawer containing specimens of these minerals, unlabeled and mixed together. These specimens were selected so as to be fair representatives of the species and varieties, but yet sufficiently difficult and varied to bring into play the student's faculties which it was desired to cultivate. As aids, the student was allowed his lecture-notes, Dana's "System of Mineralogy," and the lecture-drawers of labeled minerals.

After sufficient time had been given for the laboratory-work, each student was expected to be questioned, during the lecture-hour, upon such specimens as the instructor chose from his drawer. The student