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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/666

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

has been made the subject of a series of recent papers by President Andrew White. It does not, however, concern us further than to show that, although such violent opposition certainly retarded the early and free development of geology, it was nevertheless not unfavorable to its ultimate success. The wide-spread partisanship excited by theological discussions only disseminated a broader knowledge of the subject, and hence a greater interest in it, so soon as the hindrances to its cultivation were finally removed.

But it is to neither religious persecution nor to religious zeal that we owe our modern science of geology. Dogma and discussion might have been extended indefinitely without approaching one whit nearer to the truth. Observation, not theory, was the one thing needful. While the doctors were deciding whether or not shells could have been strewn over mountain-tops by the waves of Noah's deluge, the "practical men" of the earth were busy in exploring its crust for hidden wealth. Some accurate means of comparing and classifying the strata was to them a matter of necessity, and it need not surprise us to find that the first real geologists were not professors, but "practical" miners; that the earliest germination of a truly scientific study of the earth was not in the university, but in the technical school.

At that remarkable period, about one hundred years ago, when not merely the sciences, but Science herself in the modern sense, sprang into life, geology was doubly prepared to receive the benefit of the great awakening. As she gradually developed from a creed into a science, there was twofold interest in her welfare: the first, theoretical, or, as we may more properly say, theological, since it amounted to a religious fanaticism; the second, practical, and brought about by the growth of mining industries and the search for wealth.

During the past century of geological activity the objective points of these two ideas have been in succession more or less cultivated. Among the theologians the question at issue related to the fossils; among the miners, on the other hand, to the rocks.

Originating, as the systematic study of the earth's crust did, in the mining schools, it is not strange that the latter first received the serious attention of scientific men. The rocks were the earliest objects of investigation, and petrography, or the science of rocks, was, naturally enough, the starting-point in geology. But as a science, petrography was, at the outset, a failure, though not on account of any lack of appreciation or patience on the part of its cultivators. Mineralogy throve, but no means could be discovered of applying her methods to the finer-grained rocks, and so the interest in petrography necessarily declined. After repeated