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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/31

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MEN OF SCIENCE AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

wider usefulness," that it has been, on the whole, less successful. It is true that when we look at the history of science in America during the past fifty years; when we see at every point evidences of public appreciation, or at least appropriation of scientific discovery; and, most of all, when we observe the enlargement of older institutions of learning to make room for instruction in science, and the generous donations to found new technical and scientific schools, together with an occasional endowment of research, pure and simple in view of all these, I say, we are almost constrained to believe that scientific men have only to ask, that their facilities may be increased, and that their labors could hardly have a wider usefulness.

Unfortunately, this pleasing picture is not a true reflection of the actual condition of things. The attentive observer can not fail to discover that the relation between men of science and the general public is not what it should be in the best interests of either or both. In assemblages of the former it is common to hear complaints of a lack of appreciation and proper support on the part of the latter, from whom, in turn, occasionally comes an expression of indifference, now and then tinctured with contempt for men who devote their lives and energies to study and research, the results of which can not always be readily converted into real estate or other forms of taxable property. It can not be denied that the man of science is at some disadvantage as compared with his neighbor, the successful lawyer or physician, when it comes to that distribution of confidence with responsibility which usually exists in any well-ordered community, although the latter may possess but a fraction of the intellectual power and sound judgment which he can command. To his credit it may be said that he is usually considered to be a harmless creature, and to render him assistance and encouragement is generally regarded as a virtue. The fact of his knowing much about things which do not greatly concern the general public is accepted as proof that he knows little of matters that seriously affect the public welfare.

It is true that when the public is driven to extremities it sometimes voluntarily calls upon the man of science, and in this emergency it is often unpleasantly confronted with the fact that it does not know where to find him. The scientific dilettante, or worse, the charlatan, is often much nearer the public than the genuine man of science, and the inability to discriminate sometimes results in disaster in which both science and the public suffer.

In venturing to suggest some possible remedies for this condition of things it will be logical, if not important, to roughly define the two classes under consideration, the scientific and the non-scientific. One is the great majority, the general public, including in the United States over sixty millions of people in all