Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/360

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

servatory at Königsberg. At twenty-six years of age, without ever having been in a university, he took rank as one of the first professors in the University of Königsberg.

We thus see that Bessel was, in the broadest sense of the word, a self-made man. But it can not be said that he was a genius. Ideas did not come to him as the manna to the children of Israel in the desert. He acquired all his knowledge solely by his excessive application and by his indomitable energy in pursuing the end he was aiming at. I do not think that his natural talent exceeded the mean which Nature has given to all. We feel, in reading Bessel, not the sense of a sudden induction—which is frequently given to the mathematician as well as to the astronomer—but rather that of a continuous labor, which draws new and exact conclusions from materials previously accumulated, and knows how to make a practical use of.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from Ciel et Terre.

 

ON LEAVES.
By Sir JOHN LUBBOCK.
I.

MR. RUSKIN, in one of his most exquisite passages, has told us that "flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity: children love them; tender, contented, ordinary people love them. They are the cottager's treasure; and in the crowded town mark, as with a little broken fragment of rainbow, the windows of the workers in whose heart rests the covenant of peace." I should be ungrateful indeed did I not fully feel the force of this truth; but yet it must be confessed that the beauty of our woods and fields is due at least as much to foliage as to flowers.

In the words of the same author, "The leaves of the herbage at our feet take all kinds of strange shapes, as if to invite us to examine them. Star-shaped, heart-shaped, spear-shaped, arrow-shaped, fretted, fringed, cleft, furrowed, serrated, sinuated, in whorls, in tufts, in spires, in wreaths, endlessly expressive, deceptive, fantastic, never the same from footstalk to blossom, they seem perpetually to tempt our watchfulness and take delight in outstripping our wonder."

Now, why is this marvelous variety, this inexhaustible treasury of beautiful forms? Does it result from some innate tendency of each species? Is it intentionally designed to delight the eye of man? or have the form, and size, and texture some reference to the structure and organization, the habits and requirements, of the whole plant?