Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/502

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
488
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

be grave or gay, moral or immoral, social or unsocial, keen or visionary—in short, he may exemplify any trait of human nature, except the traits of ignorance and stupidity. He must be intelligent and educated, methodical and exact; apart from these qualifications he may resemble any other man, chosen from any other vocation. Indeed, his nearest analogue is the so-called man of business, and the chief distinction between the two is that one deals with unfamiliar, the other with familiar things.

The direct tendency of the scientific training is to develop as fully as possible the positive traits which have been mentioned. Each science is a body of systematic, well-organized knowledge, with clear fundamental principles and distinct outlines. The study of science is a continual discouragement of obscurity or vagueness; it is a discipline in the statement and solution of definite problems, and it trains one to see things as they are, apart from all irrelevancies. The technicalities of science, so bewildering to the layman, are merely aids to exactness, avoidances of circumlocution—in short, they are practical devices whereby labor is saved. Economy of effort is one of the features in which the scientific training excels.

The results of such a training vary, of course, with the individual, and depend upon his personal peculiarities. A broad man is broadened by it; a narrow man shuts himself up within the limits of a specialty. To some extent specialization is necessary, but there is a wide difference between the man who sees only his own province and one who realizes its relations to other fields. The same distinction is found in commercial life, and with the same results. The specialist in money, in stocks, in iron, or in cotton may be just as narrow as the specialist in stars, or reactions, or insects, and know little or nothing of any subject outside his own. Neither narrowness nor breadth of view is monopolized by any vocation. The mere fact that men of science rarely devote their attention to accumulating wealth does not prove them to be unpractical. They are not, as a rule, careless or thriftless in money matters; they are as likely to handle their financial affairs intelligently as any one else, but their main business lies in other directions. If seldom a millionaire, the man of science is still more seldom a bankrupt. In wild speculation the so-called practical man takes the lead, and anything which bears the trade mark of electricity, from the electrical refining of sugar to the extraction of gold from sea water, can secure from otherwise shrewd financiers the support which a worker in science would contemptuously refuse to give. A few years ago the would-be rain-makers obtained the money for their experiments from men of business, and from Congress even, in spite of advice based upon scientific knowledge, and failure was the in-