Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/807

This page has been validated.


ONE of the most interesting phases in the history of scientific research is what may be called the co-operative feature. No great machine is the invention of one mind. Few great discoveries have been made in complete accuracy by any one man. A locomotive is a mosaic of inventions, discoveries, and improvements. It would be impossible to estimate the number of minds which have contributed to the mighty structure, and have slowly built up its complex perfections. The names of Stephenson, Jervis, Winans, and Allen, in their successive contributions to the devices by which the locomotive has increased its capacities, but faintly hint the immense number who have given some detail, some great or small modification and improvement by which the vast and impressive result has been built up. In the same way, every science grows to its completeness by the accumulating discoveries of individuals, added from year to year and century to century. Astronomy has gathered its harvest of results by the hands of hundreds of patient toilers. Copernicus established the true center of the solar system; Kepler added the three great laws which bear his name, relating to the orbits and the periods of the planets; Newton contributed the law of gravitation. The science has been a growth, fed by the thoughts and the painstaking labors of many minds. And while each of these great men has furnished a distinct and complete contribution to the total knowledge in the science, each has also depended upon his predecessors for co-operation and the data which made his own task possible of accomplishment.

Just such a process as this has been going on in the young and growing science of meteorology. It may be doubted if any other branch of science in our century furnishes a more curious and valuable illustration of the progress of discovery in a given field, the corrections applied by later discoverers to the work of their predecessors, the accumulation of facts and data till they are sufficient for the formation of a working hypothesis, the modifications of the hypothesis in the light of new data, the application of the theory to practical affairs, and the unification of the set of phenomena thus investigated with other and all facts in the same branch of science. The history of the investigations which created our great system of observation and record, and made it possible for a whole people to get daily bulletins of the morrow's probable weather, is one of the most striking in the whole history of science. Let us sketch it as it lies in the annals of the learned societies of America, as yet both uncollected and unconnected.