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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/867

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

to this type? No, but this is the type to which, in so far as they are true to the spirit of philosophy and science, they will all, gradually, more and more conform.

 

 

DEATH OF PROFESSOR GRAY.

The death of Asa Gray removed a student who was looked up to in all the world of knowledge. In many aspects he had no master, and there were few who could be regarded as his peers. In his special field his leadership was recognized—in all nations. The help and sympathetic co-operation he gave to Darwin in building up the doctrine of variation and natural selection show him to have been a pioneer in the advance of science as a whole. His success in presenting the details of what was considered one of the driest of scientific subjects in such a way as to make his treatises as readable as a book of travels entitles him to a high position in literature. The company of American botanists who, having drunk their inspiration from his books, are carrying on their work in a like spirit, are a testimony to his powers as a teacher. And the Church, when it has purged itself from the heresy that every discovery in science overthrowing some old notion is an attack on religion, will be able to point to him as a man consistent and diligent in both spheres of life, to whom it never occurred that there was any conflict to be adjusted.

The history of learning is full of examples of men who have risen to eminence from the most incongruous surroundings, without adventitious aids, but solely by the force of their own impulses. Professor Gray affords another. His advantages were of the most limited character. His working life began with tending his father's tanbark mill, while he was distinguished as being the champion speller of his school district. Two years at a grammar-school, one year at the academy, and a medical course, constituted his entire formal education. He had no classical training, no scientific instruction further than was subsidiary to the medical studies of which he made no use. But he became one of the leading scientific men of his age, and, as Professor Dana remarks, "eminent for his graceful and vigorous English, the breadth of his knowledge, his classical taste, and the acuteness of his logical perceptions." An article in the "Edinburgh Encyclopædia" directed his attention to botany. He procured Professor Eaton's text-book, which was perhaps one of the best on the old system—but how different from the works of the series with which he made the science luminous!—and began his brilliant scientific career with the analysis of Claytonia Caroliniana. He must have been proficient in his studies, for we find him before the close of his medical course taking the place of the professors in lectures at Albany and Hamilton College. Then he became a regular teacher himself; was associated with Dr. Torrey in his researches; published his own investigations of the sedges and of the plants of northern and western New York; and prepared his first text-book, "The Elements," in 1836, a book in which, according to Professor Dana, the subjects of vegetable structure, physiology, and classification were presented in a masterly manner, and which "showed his customary independence of judgment and clear head in various criticisms and suggestions." The name of Professor Gray is intimately associated with Darwin's in the history of the theory of the origin of species. The series of letters from Darwin to Gray, contained in the recently published "Life and Letters" of Darwin and beginning on page 420 of the first volume, attest the respect Darwin had for his knowledge, the confidence which he reposed in his opinions, and the hearty fellowship that existed between them. Gray, Lyell, and Hooker were the three whose approval