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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/11

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

MAY, 1890.


 

EDWARD LIVINGSTON YOUMANS:[1]

THE MAN AND HIS WORK.

By JOHN FISKE.

IN one of the most beautiful of all the shining pages of his History of the Spanish Conquest in America, Sir Arthur Helps describes the way in which, through "some fitness of the season, whether in great scientific discoveries or in the breaking into light of some great moral cause, the same processes are going on in many minds, and it seems as if they communicated with each other invisibly. We may imagine that all good powers aid the 'new light' and brave and wise thoughts about it float aloft in the atmosphere of thought as downy seeds are borne over the fruitful face of the earth" (vol. iii, page 113). The thinker who elaborates a new system of philosophy deeper and more comprehensive than any yet known to mankind, though he may work in solitude, nevertheless does not work alone. The very fact which makes his great scheme of thought a success and not a failure is the fact that it puts into definite and coherent shape the ideas which many people are more or less vaguely and loosely entertaining, and that it carries to a grand and triumphant conclusion processes of reasoning in which many persons have already begun taking the earlier steps. This community in mental trend between the immortal discoverer and many of the brightest contemporary minds, far from diminishing the originality of his work, constitutes the feature of it which makes it a permanent acquisition for mankind, and distinguishes it from the eccentric philosophies which now and then come up to startle the world for a while, and are presently discarded and forgotten. The his-

  1. An Address before the Brooklyn Ethical Association, March 23, 1890. vol. xxxvii.—1