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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/474

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE SCIENCE OF OBSERVATION.
By CHARLES LIVY WHITTLE.

THIS is an era of observation; in many fields and in divers countries the study of Nature from a strictly scientific standpoint is being prosecuted with results which are rapidly increasing our knowledge of the universe. This modern growth has come about as the natural rebound of the suppressed energy that has been held forcibly under subjugation during the last two thousand years, at a time when the closing echoes of the warfare between the literal interpretation of the Scriptures and science have ceased.

A review of this long battle with the forces of the Catholic and Protestant churches on the one hand, arrayed against a relatively few investigators, scattered through the last ten centuries, on the other hand, shows a record on which none can look without regret. As far as we are able to learn, there was little opposition to the study of science before the collection and translation of the old manuscripts now constituting the Alexandrian version of the Bible and the consequent upbuilding of the Jewish church. The remains of ancient Egyptian civilization show that science prior to that period, as measured by the discoveries in physics and astronomy, had attained no inconsiderable prominence; and had this people endured until the present time, uninfluenced by the strife that for many centuries racked the inhabitants of the eastern hemisphere, we should to-day be far more advanced in our understanding of the universe.

In the more progressive countries, at least, the breaking of the shackles in which the investigating mind had been imprisoned for so long has led not only to a greater number of scientific workers, but also to an increase in the fields of observation. The methods of investigation have likewise undergone a transformation. In place of deductive reasoning, even as late as a few decades in the past, conclusions and generalizations are now founded on lines of thought more largely inductive. Men of middle age are able to recall the time when even our leading institutions of learning required instruction in several branches of science to be given by one teacher. It was possible twenty-five years ago for a man of great ability to master the essentials of the leading sciences and to teach them, but under the present stimulus for investigation no one can hope to excel in more than one subject. It has thus come about that in place of the many-sided teacher of science we now have in our larger universities specialists in every subject. As the work of research progresses, the specialist—for example, in geology—is compelled by the increased scope of the information on his subject to select one branch