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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/280

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

increased in volume as to compel removal to more commodious quarters. Ten years of growth and uninterrupted prosperity followed, when Mr. Daniel Appleton, in 1848, retired from the now well-established firm, William H. Appleton, at the age of thirty-four, becoming its head, with his brothers John A. and Daniel Sidney as partners. In co-operation with these and other brothers who afterward entered the business, Mr. Appleton guided the operations of the firm for a period of nearly fifty years, successfully piloting it through several financial crises and carrying it to a foremost place among the publishing houses of America.

Besides the routine of an extensive publishing business, the history of the house during this time includes a number of large undertakings involving the expenditure of vast sums of money, and years of labor by many workers, and attended with risks that only the most farseeing business sagacity could justify. We may presume that the several members of the firm shared a common faith in the success of these great enterprises, but it is fair to infer that as the head of the house William H. Appleton took a leading part in their origin and execution. One of these ventures was the publication of the American Cyclopædia, which in its present revised form represents an outlay of over a million dollars and some ten years of time. Another undertaking, and the one that we wish more particularly to speak of here, was the extension of the business in the line of popular scientific publications.

Scientific circles in this country have never realized the debt they owe to D. Appleton and Company, and especially to William H. Appleton, in this regard. It is no exaggeration to say that the advance of science in the United States was hastened by more than a quarter of a century by the enlightened and courageous policy which led the firm to add this class of books to their lists at the time they did. Everything apparently was against it—nothing in its favor. Our scientific literature consisted mainly of a few text-books having only a limited sale. Science itself was an affair of laboratories and bug collectors, the one to be shunned and the other commiserated. The few utterances of scientific men having a bearing on the great questions of the right interpretation of Nature, man's relations to his fellows and to the world at large, social betterment, etc., that here and there arrested public attention were received with contemptuous sneers or scouted as the rankest infidelity. Few who are not past middle life will find it possible now to realize that this was the general attitude toward science forty years ago, but we have only to refer the reader to the writings of the time for abundant confirmation of our statements.

It was such conditions as these that the firm was called upon to face when considering the question of entering this new field of publication. All ordinary business instincts were against it. Scarcely a publisher either here or abroad would even listen to the proposal to risk his capital in such an enterprise. Nevertheless, Mr. Appleton, lending an appreciative ear to the arguments of the former editor of this journal and displaying his usual foresight, finally decided in favor of the project, which afterward resulted in the introduction of the works of Spencer, Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, Bain, Romanes, and other distinguished writers to American readers. A further step in the same direction, taken later, was the publication of the International Scientific Series, now numbering some eighty volumes. The scheme as originated and shaped by Professor