Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/748

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I could give more illustrations, and from better schools, showing that the demand of the colleges of twenty years ago was always a demand for docility and versatility, never for thoroughness or originality; and, as a rule, the progress of science in America came from men outside of the college, and in a great part outside of college training and college sympathies; that to promote science or to extend knowledge was not often one of the college ideals, and that the colleges' chief function was to keep old ideas unchanged. What was safe in times of old will he safe to-day, and safety, rather than inspiration or investigation, was the purpose of the college. From time immemorial until now Oxford and Cambridge, the schools of clergymen and gentlemen, have been the center of English conservatism. The American colleges—dilute copies of Oxford and Cambridge—were likest their models in their retention of old methods and old ideas. The motto, once suggested for a certain scientific museum, "We will keep what we have got," might have been taken by the American college. There was no American university then, unless a few broad-minded teachers—such men as Lowell, Gray, Silliman, Henry, Baird, and Agassiz—could, as so many individuals, be properly regarded as such.

In a high sense, as I elsewhere have said, the coming of Agassiz marked the foundation of the first American university. Agassiz was the university. The essential character of the university is Lernfreiheit, freedom of learning, the freedom of the student to pursue his studies to the furthest limit of the known, the freedom of encouragement to invade the infinitely greater realm of the unknown. It is from this realm that come the chief rewards of the scholar. The school from which no exploring parties set out has no right to the name of university. In the progress of science, and the application of its methods to subjects not formerly considered scientific, the German university has its growth and development. In like progress must arise the American university.

You remember the story of the discussion, some forty years ago, between Emerson and Agassiz, as to the future of Harvard. Emerson, himself one of the sanest and broadest of men, saw in the work of Agassiz elements of danger, whereby the time-honored symmetry of Harvard might be destroyed. In a lecture on universities, in Boston, Emerson made some such statement as this: That natural history was "getting too great an ascendency at Harvard"; that it "was out of proportion to other departments, 'and hinted' that a check-rein would not be amiss on the enthusiastic professor who is responsible for this."

"Do you not see," Agassiz wrote to Emerson, "that the way to bring about a well-proportioned development of all the resources of the university is not to check the natural history