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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/501

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THE MAN OF SCIENCE IN PRACTICAL AFFAIRS.

THE MAN OF SCIENCE IN PRACTICAL AFFAIRS.
By F. W. CLARKE.

THE human mind is addicted to the creation of types, a process which implies classification and generalization of a somewhat low order. Some prominent feature of the thing classified is selected for emphasis, and there is often a degree of exaggeration which leads, in the end, to caricature. John Bull, Brother Jonathan, the Jew of the comic papers, and the stage Irishman are examples of this tendency. So, too, a profession or occupation is summed up in one conventional character, with a little truth distorted as if seen reflected from the surface of a curved mirror. The likeness is there, but unlike the reality. The individual embodiment of the type is rarely, if ever, encountered.

The man of science deals with questions which commonly lie outside of the range of ordinary experience, which often have no immediately discernible relation to the affairs of everyday life, and which concentrate the mind upon apparent abstractions to an extraordinary degree. Accordingly, the scholar, the scientific investigator, is typified as an elderly dreamer in spectacles, who is so uncouth, so self-forgetful, so absent-minded, and so ignorant of practical matters as to be hardly more than a child. He is one to be cared for and humored, like an imbecile—treated with some consideration, perhaps, on account of his learning, but never to be trusted in the transaction of business nor in the administration of public affairs. With him, as an antithesis, is contrasted the practical man, who knows whither his steps are tending, who has learned to control others, and who never dreams of abstractions during office hours, if indeed he troubles himself about them at all. The one is thought to be vague, visionary, and unpractical; the other is deemed efficient, precise, prompt, and clear. Has this distinction any basis in reality? Do scientific pursuits disqualify a man for administrative responsibility?

These questions, like all other legitimate questions, are to be answered by evidence, and the popular impression is entitled to no weight whatever. This evidence is to be found by a study of the thing itself, the man of science as he actually is; by an examination of the training which he receives, the character of the work which he does, and the results which he accomplishes. By this method it will be found that the supposed type is purely imaginary, that the workers in science exhibit all the variations which are found in any other group of occupations, that the human race as a whole is their only symbol or representative. The man of science may