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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/32

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that there be no excuse for man's ignorance of the laws of life, Nature has prepared still another series; and this the grandest of all, for it is the cause of both the others. Commencing with the plants and animals of the present epoch, and going back along the track of geological times, through Cenozoic, Mesozoic, Palæozoic, Eozoic, to the very dawn of life—the first syllable of recorded time—and we find again a series of organic forms growing simpler and simpler, until, if we could find the very first, we would undoubtedly again reach the simplest condition in the lowest conceivable forms of life. This, as we have already seen, is the geologic or evolution, or Phylogenic series. We have already explained these three series, only in this connection it suits our purpose to take the terms backward.

Now, it is by comparison of the terms of each of these series going up and down, and watching the first appearance, the growth, and the perfecting of tissues, organs, functions, and by the comparison of the three series with one another, term by term—I say it is wholly by comparison of this kind that biology has in recent times become a true inductive science. This is the "method of comparison." It is the great method of research in all those departments which can not be readily managed by the method of experiment. It has already regenerated biology, and is now applied with like success in sociology under the name of historic method. Yes; anatomy became scientific only through comparative anatomy, physiology through comparative physiology, and embryology through comparative embryology. May we not add, sociology will become truly scientific only through comparative sociology, and psychology through comparative psychology?

Now, while it is true that this method, like all other methods, has been used, from the earliest dawn of thought, in a loose and imperfect way, yet it is only in very recent times that it has been organized, systematized, perfected, as a true scientific method, as a great instrument of research; and the prodigious recent advance of biology is due wholly to this cause. Now, among the great leaders of this modern movement, Agassiz undoubtedly stands in the very first rank, I must try to make this point plain, for it is by no means generally understood.

Cuvier is acknowledged to be the great founder of comparative anatomy. He it was that first perfected the method of comparison, but comparison only in one series—the Taxonomic. Von Baer and Agassiz added to this, comparison in the ontogenic series also, and comparison of these two series with each other, and therefore the application of embryology to the classification of animals. If Von Baer was the first announcer, Agassiz was the first great practical worker by this method. Last and most important of all, in its relation to evolution, Agassiz added comparison in the geologic or phylogenic series. The one grand idea underlying Agassiz's whole life-work was the essential identity of the three series, and therefore the light which