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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/219

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WHAT IS INDIVIDUALISM?

tion of experience, have worked out their individual conceptions and revolutionized the course of an industry. I may be allowed to quote one interesting example. In the days of the old Enfield rifle, a large manufacturing firm in Birmingham used to make the barrels of these rifles for the Government. The process was in the main a simple one, the only difficulty being in securing that the barrel should be absolutely straight and true. To secure this latter point often occupied some time, but it was known that one particular workman had some secret of his own, by which he was enabled to glance down the barrel and say at once whether it was perfectly true or not. The man was often pressed to reveal his secret, but always declined. At last, one day for a drink and some two hundred pounds he sold the mystery. It seems he had noticed the simple fact that, when the tube was absolutely straight, no shadow was formed on looking down it toward the light, but if the slightest deflection existed a shadow was thrown on one or other wall of the barrel. Our argument, then, so far as we have followed it out, has brought us to three principal conclusions. firstly, that every man, whatever his station in life, is endowed with a personal equation of thought; secondly, that he can either simply store the raw material of facts and ideas as they are presented to him by others, or he can digest them and reproduce them stamped with the seal of his own individuality; thirdly, that it rests with ourselves either to be mere echoes of knowledge, or else "living voices" recording our own gleanings of truth for the help of coming generations.

Let us now apply these thoughts to the special region of medical education. In his Moral Philosophy, Prof. Stewart puts down reverence for great names as one of the principal hindrances to the spread of real knowledge; I wish he had written "to the acquirement of real knowledge," for I am firmly persuaded that no student has reached the first stage of progress until he has subordinated reverence for great names to a profound respect for his own individual opinion. Pray do not misunderstand me: I am not advocating disrespect for our teachers, but I would rather a student formed an erroneous diagnosis and stuck to it, provided always he could give me his reasons for having formed such a judgment, than that he should accept my dictum as a teacher without challenging me for the grounds on which I ventured to differ from him. A man has made a tremendous stride when he has learned to have the courage of his own convictions.

 


 

[[w:The directors of the Montsouris Observatory, Paris, have found that the electrical disturbances produced by the passage of railway trains are a factor that has to be taken account of in the record of their observations. Two railroads pass close to the observatory, the trains of each of which produce peculiar and somewhat different effects.|The directors of the Montsouris Observatory, Paris, have found that the electrical disturbances produced by the passage of railway trains are a factor that has to be taken account of in the record of their observations. Two railroads pass close to the observatory, the trains of each of which produce peculiar and somewhat different effects.]]