Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/711

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SKETCH OF DR. GUSTAV NACHTIGAL.

Light, then, is an inexhaustible source from which living beings obtain energy under all forms and in the most unforeseen conditions; or, as Lavoisier has said, we might believe prophetically, considering the time when he spoke: "Organization, feeling, spontaneous movement, and life exist only at the surface of the earth, and in places exposed to the light. We might say that the fable of the torch of Prometheus was the expression of a philosophical truth that did not escape the ancients. Without light, nature would be bereft of life, dead, inanimate. A beneficent God in giving light has spread organization, feeling, and thought over the surface of the earth."

 

SKETCH OF DR. GUSTAV NACHTIGAL.

THE name of Dr. Gustav Nachtigal is associated with some of the most arduous achievements of African research, which were also not of inferior importance; and in the last year of his life he was prominent, as the designated servant of his Government, in those transactions which had for their object the establishment of German colonies and influence at commanding positions in the "Dark Continent."

Dr. Nachtigal was born on the 23d of February, 1834, at Eichstadt, near Stendal, in the former Prussian province of Altmark, where his father was a clergyman. He lost his father at an early age, and the burden of the support of himself and his little sister, as he used afterward to relate with grateful admiration of her heroic devotion, fell hard upon his poor widowed mother. Having received the usual primary education and completed his course at the gymnasium, he studied medicine at the schools in Berlin, Halle, Würzburg, and Greifswald. At the last place he was a pupil of the famous pathologist Niemeyer, and contracted from him, as he afterward told a friend, much of his enthusiasm for science. He received his doctor's degree here in the fall of 1857, passed the state examination during the ensuing winter, and was appointed under-physician to the thirtieth infantry regiment, which was stationed at Cologne. In 1859, he was promoted to be assistant-surgeon of the thirty-third regiment, also in Cologne. Two years later, when he received his furlough from active service, his superiors could say of him: "A thoroughly scientifically taught physician, Nachtigal is full of energy, and shows great devotion to his profession. His quiet self-possession, and his clear understanding, together with great tact in demeanor, attest that he is peculiarly well fitted to the higher positions of the military medical service."

In 1862, having been attacked with a disease of the lungs, which