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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/117

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THE SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF ITALY.

amount to more than that. Competition increases from year to year, and profits tend downward all the time; consequently, it takes more talent and energy to make fortunes now than it did a few years ago. It is not so easy for a laborer to become a boss as it formerly was; and as the chances for rising to bosshood grow less, the hatred of bosses increases. This is a symptom of discontent, and an evidence of the unreasonableness of the philosophy which is at the bottom of the schemes for relief. Capital must be paid, skill must be paid, and, if they are each paid but two per cent of the accruing profits, one per cent only remains for labor to get as its share, and this to the laborer whose wages are one dollar a day would amount to but three dollars a year. That is something, to be sure, but as a means of elevating the laboring classes is of no account.

 

THE SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF ITALY.
By Dr. W. C. CAHALL.

TO Italy, more than to any other country, belongs the Renaissance. The soil was particularly favorable. Upon the fall of the Byzantine Empire its rich treasures of Greek manuscripts found their way from Constantinople to western Europe. The fleets of Venice brought the greater part of them to Italy, where they found liberal purchasers. The Greek scholars, finding their vocation destroyed in Constantinople by the Turks, flocked to Italy to teach and translate. The awakening mind of Italy viewed with eager delight this new world in literature. The eternal freshness and beauty of Homer and Plato, and the marvelous knowledge of Nature displayed by Hippocrates and Aristotle, when read in these full transcriptions of their writings, came with the force of a revelation to those accustomed to garbled extracts, loaded down with scholastic commentaries and absurd elucidations. The study of the classics became a passion of the few, and then the fashion of the many. In every city and large town of Italy academies were formed for the critical study of the manuscripts.

George Eliot, in her historical romance Romola, furnishes us with a very interesting account of the proceedings of the Platonic Academy of Florence, then under the patronage of the Medici. Not only pure literature and philosophy but scientific inquiry gained an impetus from these societies. Under the direction of such men as Alberti, Da Vinci, Toscanelli, and Da Porta, Nature came to be questioned in the proper scientific spirit.

Hitherto the scholastics would have had Nature to conform with man and not man conform with Nature. To these teachers