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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/379

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thusiasts, whose faith in me has so far exceeded the bounds of reason, should be set right. But that "want of finish" in the matter of accuracy which so terribly mars the effect of the "Great Lesson," is no less conspicuous in the case of the "Little Lesson," and, instead of setting my too fervent disciples right, it will set them wrong.

The Duke of Argyll, in telling the story of Bathybius, says that my mind was "caught by this new and grand generalization of the physical basis of life." I never have been guilty of a reclamation about anything to my credit, and I do not mean to be; but if there is any blame going, I do not choose to be relegated to a subordinate place when I have a claim to the first. The responsibility for the first description and the naming of Bathybius is mine and mine only. The paper on "Some Organisms living at Great Depths in the Atlantic Ocean," in which I drew attention to this substance, is to be found by the curious in the eighth volume of the "Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science," and was published in the year 1868. Whatever errors are contained in that paper are my own peculiar property; but neither at the meeting of the British Association in 1868, nor anywhere else, have I gone beyond what is there stated; except in so far that, at a long subsequent meeting of the association, being importuned about the subject, I ventured to express, somewhat emphatically, the wish that the thing was at the bottom of the sea.

What is meant by my being caught by a generalization about the physical basis of life I do not know; still less can I understand the assertion that Bathybius was accepted because of its supposed harmony with Darwin's speculations. That which interested me in the matter was the apparent analogy of Bathybius with other well-known forms of lower life, such as the plasmodia of the Myxomycetes and the Rhizopods. Speculative hopes or fears had nothing to do with the matter; and if Bathybius were brought up alive from the bottom of the Atlantic to-morrow, the fact would not have the slightest bearing, that I can discern, upon Mr. Darwin's speculations, or upon any of the disputed problems of biology. It would merely be one elementary organism the more added to the thousands already known.

Up to this moment I was not aware of the universal favor with which Bathybius was received.[1] Those simulators of an "ignorant mob" who, according to the Duke of Argyll, welcomed Darwin's theory of coral reefs, made no demonstration in my favor, unless his Grace includes Sir Wyville Thomson, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Bessels, and Professor Haeckel under that head. On the contrary, a sagacious friend of mine, than whom there was no more competent judge, the

  1. I find, moreover, that I specially warned my readers against hasty judgment. After stating the facts of observation, I add, "I have, hitherto, said nothing about their meaning, as, in an inquiry so difficult and fraught with interest as this, it seems to me to be in the highest degree important to keep the questions of fact and the questions of interpretation well apart."