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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/286

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

began the compilation and publication of the Annual of Scientific Discovery, which he continued for some sixteen years. That he was a clever student with quite exceptional endowments is seen in the circumstance that immediately after graduation he was appointed assistant professor in the scientific school and lecturer on physics and chemistry in Groton Academy, Massachusetts. He also, between 1857 and 1863, prepared a series of scientific school books embracing the subjects of physics, chemistry, and geology, and a volume on the Science of Common Things, all of which attained a wide circulation.

Thus for a period of nearly fifteen years Mr. Wells had devoted himself assiduously to the cultivation of the physical sciences. Beginning with the practical operations of the laboratory, where the value of experiment and observation is made apparent, his work was continued in the strengthening and developing experiences of the teacher, and thence led up to that wider knowledge and that clearness of exposition which a bright mind would acquire in the preparation of a number of successful scientific class books. It may be presumed that by this time he was thoroughly acquainted with scientific method in its applications to the investigation and explanation of physical phenomena. With the results this had yielded in building up the great body of verified knowledge composing the several sciences he must also have been familiar. Mentally alert and with sharpened powers of observation, he was able to seize and classify the facts bearing upon the problem in hand, and subject them to systematic processes of scientific reasoning.

Such, in brief, was the training and such the equipment brought by Mr. Wells to the study of economic questions when he first began to write upon them in 1864. A better preparation for the work to which he was to give the next thirty years of his life can scarcely be imagined. While it is quite true that in entering this new field he was to encounter a class of facts and variety of phenomena that were of a very different order from those with which he had previously been dealing, their apparently haphazard character did not deceive him. Well versed in the practice of tracing effects to causes, gifted with remarkable powers of insight, and thoroughly believing that the methods of science would prove as available in the study of economics as in other fields, he began his investigations without misgiving, patiently accumulated and studied the facts, and when conclusions were arrived at, no matter how contrary they might be to current teaching, fearlessly announced and defended them. Though half his life a firm believer in the doctrine of protection, when Mr. Wells went to Europe for the Government in 1867 to investigate the subject of tariff taxation, high and low tariff countries alike were visited, with the determination to leave nothing undone that would aid to a better understanding of the question. All the varied aspects of the problem were carefully studied in connection with the principal industries of the respective countries, and, finding reason in the facts thus obtained to revise his opinions, he came home a convert to free trade. For an account of what he had observed during the course of his investigations, and of the conclusions based thereon, the reader is referred to the fourth volume of his reports as commissioner of internal revenue, published in 1869. His book on Recent Economic Changes, and the papers on The Principles of Taxation,