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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/573

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ADDRESS BEFORE THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION.

reflections on the meaning of what he had observed, without which the complicated movements of the heart could not have been analyzed, their significance determined and the circulation of the blood in a continuous stream definitely established. Early in the present century, Carl Ernst von Baer, the father of embryological research, showed the importance which he attached to the combination of observation with meditation by placing side by side on the title page of his famous treatise 'Ueber Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere' (1828) the words Beobachtung und Reflexion.

Though I have drawn from biological science my illustrations of the need of this combination, it must not be inferred that it applies exclusively to one branch of scientific inquiry; the conjunction influences and determines progress in all the sciences, and when associated with a sufficient touch of imagination, when the power of seeing is conjoined with the faculty of foreseeing, of projecting the mind into the future, we may expect something more than the discovery of isolated facts; their coordination and the enunciation of new principles and laws will necessarily follow.

Scientific method consists, therefore, in close observation, frequently repeated so as to eliminate the possibility of erroneous seeing; in experiments checked and controlled in every direction in which fallacies might arise; in continuous reflection on the appearances and phenomena observed, and in logically reasoning out their meaning and the conclusions to be drawn from them. Were the method followed out in its integrity by all who are engaged in scientific investigations, the time and labor expended in correcting errors committed by ourselves or by other observers and experimentalists would be saved, and the volumes devoted annually to scientific literature would be materially diminished in size. Were it applied, as far as the conditions of life admit, to the conduct and management of human affairs, we should not require to be told, when critical periods in our welfare as a nation arise, that we shall muddle through somehow. Recent experience has taught us that wise discretion and careful provision are as necessary in the direction of public affairs as in the pursuit of science, and in both instances, when properly exercised, they enable us to reach with comparative certainty the goal which we strive to attain.

 

IMPROVEMENTS IN MEANS OF OBSERVATION.

While certain principles of research are common to all the sciences, each great division requires for its investigation specialized arrangements to insure its progress. Nothing contributes so much to the advancement of knowledge as improvements in the means of observation, either by the discovery of new adjuncts to research, or by a fresh adaptation of old methods. In the industrial arts, the introduction of a new