Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/747

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SCIENCE AND THE COLLEGES.

In this connection you may pardon me for a word of my own experience, when twenty years ago I set out in search of a place for work. A chair of Natural History was the height of my aspirations; for anything more specialized than this it seemed useless to hope. I was early called from New York to such a chair in a wellk-nown college of Illinois. But in those days the work of a college chair was never limited by its title. As a Professor of Natural History I taught zoölogy, botany, geology, physiology—of course, a little of each, and to little purpose. Then physics, chemistry, mineralogy, natural theology, and political economy, also as a matter of course. With these went German, Spanish, and evidences of Christianity, because there was no one else to take them. There finally fell on me the literary work of the college—the orations, essays, declamations, and all that flavorless foolishness on which the college depended for a creditable display at commencement. When to this was added a class in the Sunday school, you will see why it seemed necessary that the naturalist and the professor must sooner or later part company. I tried at one time to establish a little laboratory in chemistry, but met with a sharp rebuke from the board of trustees, who directed me to keep the students out of what was called the cabinet, for they were likely to injure the apparatus and waste the chemicals. When I left this college and looked elsewhere for work, I found on all sides difficulty and disappointment; for the reputation I had, wholly undeserved, I am sorry to say, was the dreaded reputation of a specialist. The question of theological orthodoxy seemed everywhere to be made one of primary importance, and candidates for chairs who, like myself, were not heretics on the subject of the origin of species, passed the rock of evolution only to be stranded on the inner shoals of the mysteries of the Scottish philosophy.

But these were not the only sources of difficulty. In one institution toward which I had looked the chair of Natural History was found unnecessary. In the meeting of the board of trustees a member arose and said in substance: "We have just elected a Professor of History. This includes all history, and the work in natural history is a part of it. Let the Professor of History take this, too"; and for that year, at least, the Professor of History took it all, and it was not hard for him to do it, for the college course in history consisted of nothing but cut straw and its preparation—that is, the reading of a chapter in the text-book a day in advance of the class was no drain on the time or the intellect of the teacher.

Even in the excellent State university into which I ultimately drifted I was met at the beginning by the caution that the purpose of my work must be elementary teaching, the statement of the essential facts of science, and by no means the making of naturalists and specialists.