Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/566

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



BY the death of Prof. Tyndall England has lost not only one of her foremost men of science, but a man who, by his labors and his character, has contributed in an eminent degree to render the science of the nineteenth century honorable. Some men take to science as to a gainful trade, hoping that, in the competition of life, it will serve their turn better, perhaps, than any other career they see open to them. Others are led to it by a more or less amateurish curiosity. Others again enter upon the study of it from a sense of the importance of the truths and principles it unfolds and from a desire to place such knowledge as they may gain at the service of mankind. In the latter class we must place the late Prof. Tyndall. No man ever felt more fully and deeply than he that the investigation of the laws of Nature was a ministry, the essential preparation for which lay in a candid mind and a readiness to impart as freely as one received; and no scientific man of our time, it may confidently be said, has maintained a more unbroken record of personal high-mindedness, of broad humanity, and ungrudging helpfulness.

In the various notices of him that have appeared in the press since his death, the leading incidents of the late professor's life have been sufficiently stated, and we need not on the present occasion go into many biographical details. From his father he inherited neither social position nor wealth; but what he did inherit was of far more importance than either or both—a sound constitution, a well-developed brain, and a character in which courage, independence, and love of truth were the predominant elements. The philosopher Schopenhauer prefixed to the second edition of his principal work an elaborate dedication to the manes of his father, whom he eulogized chiefly for having left him an ample provision of worldly means, whereby he had been enabled to devote himself to intellectual labor without any anxiety for his subsistence. "Thy presiding care," he says, "hath sheltered and borne me, not merely through helpless childhood and unregarding youth, but even in manhood and up to the present day. For as thou didst bring into the world a son such as I am, thou didst also make provision that, in a world like this, such a son should be able to subsist and develop himself." We quote this as evincing a spirit the very opposite of Tyndall's. He did not trouble himself about what kind of a world he was born into, but from the first resolved to take things as he found them and make his way in the world by dint of honesty, industry, and courage. Leaving school in his nineteenth year, he took service on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, and in turn performed every branch of the work from the most mechanical to the most theoretical, and thus made considerable progress in what were already favorite studies of his—geometry and trigonometry. This was not sufficient, however, for his active mind and strenuous disposition. A few words of counsel given to him by an official of the survey as to the best use to which to put his spare time caused him to enter on a systematic course of study. At five o'clock next morning he was at his books, and, having adopted this plan, he kept it up without interruption for twelve years. The salaries paid on the Ordnance Survey, at least to the juniors, were not large, and when Tyndall retired from it in 1843, after four or five years' service, his wages were only