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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

evils attach themselves to it signifies nothing more than that human society is as yet imperfect.

 

 

THE SCIENTIFIC TEMPER AND THE NEED OF THE TIMES.

A good illustration of the true scientific temper is furnished in some extracts from the correspondence of James Watt given by Prof. T. E. Thorpe in the Watt memorial lecture delivered by him not many weeks ago. Watt and Cavendish, toward the end of the last century, had both been experimenting and theorizing upon the composition of water. A friend writing to Watt gave him an extract from a paper by Cavendish, and hinted, unjustly, that the latter was making unacknowledged use of Watt's work. The latter's reply was worthy of a true man of science: "On the slight glance I have been able to give to your extract of the paper, I think his theory very different from mine; which of the two is the right one I can not say; his is more likely to be so, as he has made many more experiments and consequently has more facts to argue upon." Again the great discoverer refers to his general diffidence of character. "I am diffident," he says, "because I am seldom certain I am in the right, and because I pay respect to the opinions of others where I think they may merit it." If Science was always served in this spirit, she would have no reason to complain of her devotees, nor would there be any justification for the opposition which the latter, it must be allowed, sometimes excite.

What is principally wanted in the domain of scientific inquiry, as everywhere else, is the spirit of justice. That spirit will prevent a man from appropriating without acknowledgment the labors of others, and also from looking with disfavor on the work of others because it does not tend to support some theory to which he is personally wedded. Men worthy of the scientific calling will recognize that truth is above all, that it is a privilege and an honor to be engaged in its service, and that to make self-glorification the chief end of one's labors is to be unfaithful to the cause of truth and to bring reproach on the profession of science. The scientific world is to be congratulated, upon the general freedom from personal aims and views which its representative men display. The example of Darwin in this respect was of inestimable value. Here was a man engaged in working out a theory of the utmost importance, and. after all abatements are made, of the highest originality. If any man could have been pardoned for being insensible to the objections raised to his theory, or to the weight which might properly be claimed for the opposite views of others, it was he. Yet no man was ever more ready to have his work criticised, no man ever tried with more obvious sincerity to place himself at the point of view of his critics so that he might see the full force of what they had to urge. We hardly think we are mistaken in believing that scientific controversy has shown less tendency to be acrimonious, and a stronger tendency to be just and generous, since the publication of Darwin's Life and Letters.

In these troublous times of contending factions and international jealousies, the very highest service to society will be rendered by that body of men, whoever they may be, who shall most signally exhibit in their words and conduct a love for truth and a desire for justice; who shall stand out most resolutely against the shibboleths of party and