Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/863

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

cipline in the search for truth, the observation of objects, and the study of principles, there has been no genuine education. For it is with facts at last that we have concern in experience, and the education of him who has not learned to study them is futile. The dictum of Clerk-Maxwell and Lord Rayleigh that there is an "almost universal tendency of uninstructed minds to elevate phrases above things" has all the effect of a new definition of ignorance. This idea has been long fore-shadowed in a vague recognition of the ignorance of mere book-worms, and in all the exigencies of a practical life the worthlessness of simple book-knowledge is proverbial. The antithesis of ignorance is not learning but knowledge. Thinkers undoubtedly get help from books, when they know how to use and subordinate them so as not to become their victims. One of the profoundest English thinkers, Hobbes, who has impressed himself powerfully upon the thought of the last two centuries, read but few books, and Aubrey remarks that "he was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men he should have continued still as ignorant as other men." Mere reading is not mental discipline, but rather mental dissipation, and one of the worst features of our popular education is the superstitious supremacy it gives to naked book acquisitions. The radical work of scientific education must be done here: "The almost universal tendency of un-instructed minds to elevate phrases above things" must give place to the more rational and enlightened tendency to elevate things above phrases. It was inevitable that the verbal should be in the ascendant in ancient times, and in the mediæval ages, when but little was accurately and profoundly known of the relations of things; but science has given us a new dispensation of knowledge, and this has created a new education in which knowledge is no longer a matter of phrases, but a familiarization of the mind with the verities of nature and of truth. In this new education, language, conceded to be of great importance, is not an end in itself, but is to be made tributary to the higher end of understanding the nature, order, and constitution of things.



The New Chemistry, By Josiah Parsons Cooke, LL.D. Revised edition, remodeled and enlarged. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 400. Price, $2.

All who are interested in the progress of chemistry will be glad to learn that Professor Cooke has thoroughly revised his interesting volume in the "International Scientific Series," entitled "The New Chemistry." It took a position in all the languages in which it appeared, both as a model of admirable exposition and a standard work on the present condition of chemical theory. But, excellent as it was when first published, the author has not been content to let it go improvised when there has been further important progress, both of the science and of his own views of the subject. He has accordingly revised and amplified it so that it may now be accepted as an authoritative statement of the present condition of chemical philosophy. We reproduce the author's preface to the new edition, that our readers may know exactly the import of the changes that have been made in the book:

The progress in chemistry during the ten years which have elapsed since this work was first published and stereotyped has been accompanied by no such revolution in its philosophy as the previous transition from the dualistic system of Berzelius to the unitary system of structural organic chemistry had involved. Nevertheless, there has been a constant advance, during which we have gained clearer conceptions and more comprehensive views of the fundamental principles of the science; and many of the accidental features which marked the transition period have disappeared. Meanwhile the distinction between elementary substances and materials consisting of isolated elementary atoms has become clear, and, in making these last, alone, the elements of chemistry, we have pushed our science, if not to its extreme limits, still one step further back: and in taking this step we have left behind many of the anomalies which previously encumbered our philosophy. Except in a very limited sense, the so-called elementary substances are now seen to be as truly compounded as any other substances, and it is manifest that their qualities must depend on