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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/388

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372
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

A SHORT HISTORY OF SCIENTIFIC INSTRUCTION.[1]
By J. NORMAN LOCKYER, K. C. B., F. R. S.

THE two addresses by my colleagues, Professors Judd and Roberts-Austen, have drawn attention to the general history of our college and the details of one part of our organization. I propose to deal with another part, the consideration of which is of very great importance at the present time, for we are in one of those educational movements which spring up from time to time and mold the progress of civilization. The question of a teaching university in the largest city in the world, secondary education, and so-called technical education are now occupying men's minds.

At the beginning it is imperative that I should call your attention to the fact that the stern necessities of the human race have been the origin of all branches of science and learning; that all so-called educational movements have been based upon the actual requirements of the time. There has never been an educational movement for learning's sake; but of course there have always been studies and students apart from any of those general movements to which I am calling attention; still we have to come down to the times of Louis Quatorze before the study of the useless, the même inutile, was recognized as a matter of national concern.

It is perhaps the more necessary to insist upon stern necessity as being the origin of learning, because it is so difficult for us now to put ourselves in the place of those early representatives of our race that had to face the problems of life among conditionings of which they were profoundly ignorant: when night meant death; when there was no certainty that the sun would rise on the morrow; when the growth of a plant from seed was unrecognized; when a yearly return of seasons might as well be a miracle as a proof of a settled order of phenomena; when, finally, neither cause nor effect had been traced in the operations of Nature.

It is doubtless in consequence of this difficulty that some of the early races have been credited by some authors with a special love of abstract science, of science for its own sake; so that this, and not stern necessity, was the motive of their inquiries. Thus we have been told that the Chaldeans differed from the other early races in having a predilection for astronomy, another determining factor being that the vast plains in that country provided them with a perfect horizon.

The first historic glimpses of the study of astronomy we find


  1. An address delivered at the Royal College of Science on October 6, 1898.