Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/702

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
680
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

not, however, have failed to remark among yonr fellow-students great inequalities in their powers of observation, and great differences in the development of these powers under the very same system of instruction. And you may have noticed that, speaking generally, those classmates who have shown the best observing faculty have taken foremost places among their fellows. It is not a question of mere brain power. A man may possess a colossal intellect, while his faculty of observation may be of the feeblest kind. One of the greatest mathematicians of this century who, full of honors, recently passed away from us, had so little cognizance of his surroundings that many ludicrous stories are told of his childlike mistakes as to place and time.

The continued development of the faculty of prompt and accurate observation is a task on which you can not bestow too much attention. Your education here must already have taught you its value. In your future career the use you make of this faculty may determine your success or your failure. But not only have your studies in this college trained your observing powers, they have at the same time greatly widened the range of your mental vision by the variety of objects which you have been compelled to look at and examine. The same methods which have been so full of benefit to you here can be continued by you in after life. And be assured that in maintaining them in active use you will take effective means for securing success in the careers you may choose to follow.

But above and beyond the prospect of any material success there is a higher motive which will doubtless impel you. The education of your observing faculty has been carried on during your introduction to new realms of knowledge. The whole domain of Nature has been spread out before you. You have been taught to observe thousands of objects and processes of which, common though they may be, you had previously taken no note. Henceforth, wherever you may go, you can not wander with ignorant or unobservant eyes. Land and sea and sky, bird and beast and flower now awaken in you a new interest, for you have learned lessons from them that have profoundly impressed you, and you have discovered meanings in them of which you had never dreamed. You have been permitted to pass within the veil of Nature, and to perceive some of the inner mechanism of this world.

Thus, your training in science has not only taught you to use your eyes, but to use them intelligently, and in such a way as to see much more in the world around you than is visible to the uninstructed man. This widened perception might be illustrated from any department of natural science. Let me take, by way of example, the relation of the student of science toward the features and charms