Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/30

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

with this, the defenders of the present regime would point out, in addition, that there are other English institutions where the poorer classes may be educated, that Cambridge and Oxford are not only not bound to take upon themselves this task, but that they actually subserve a higher purpose and one just as necessary to the development of English science and letters and to the education of the English intellect by specializing in another direction. The good of a philosopher's lifelong reflections, they would say, is not always manifest, but the teachers who instruct the nation's youth are themselves dependent for rational standpoints upon the labor of the greater teacher, and they act as the instruments of communication between the most learned and the unlettered. So Oxford and Cambridge are the sources from whose fountains of wisdom and culture flow streams supplying all the academic mills of Britain, which in their turn are enabled to feed the inhabitants. It would be absurd, they maintain, to insist that the streams and the mills could equally well fulfill the same functions. Cambridge and Oxford instruct just so far as so doing is compatible with what for them is the main end—the furthering of various kinds of research and the offering of all sorts of inducements in order to keep and attract the interested attention of classical butterflies and scientific worms. How well they succeed in this noble ambition is known throughout the civilized world.

Mr. G, H, Darwin, a son of Charles Darwin, has recently had occasion to mention the enormous scientific output of Cambridge University. After saying that the Royal Society is the Academy of Sciences in England, and that in its publications appear accounts of all the most important scientific discoveries in England and most of those in Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of Europe, he goes on to state that he examined the Transactions of this society for three years and discovered that out of the 5,480 pages published in that time 2,418 were contributed by Cambridge men and 1,324 by residents.

In view of these facts, and despite the shortcomings of this university as a teaching institution, it is to be hoped that private generosity will answer her appeal for financial assistance. Her laboratories are a mine of research, and it is in them and in the men who conduct them that Cambridge is perhaps most to be admired.

The Cavendish Laboratory of Physics, where Clerk-Maxwell and afterward Lord Rayleigh taught, and which is at present in the hand of their able successor, J. J. Thomson, is a building of considerable size and admirably fitted out, but the rapidly increasing number of young physicists who are being allured by the working facilities of the place, and by the fame of Professor Thomson, is