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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/247

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A STUDY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY SUCCESS.

A STUDY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY SUCCESS.
By Professor EDWIN GRANT DEXTER,

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS.

SOMEONE has said, with more or less philosophical insight, that all questions resolve themselves into three classes: those of the 'What,' the 'How,' and the 'Why.' In this paper it is primarily a question of the 'How' that is considered. How have the men and women, who in the opening year of this twentieth century are prominently in the public eye, achieved the success in their various vocations which has placed them there? What have been the stepping-stones to that success? How can we follow in their footsteps? The biographies of great men have done much to answer this question, still they leave much unsaid. The tow-path and the flat-boat do not furnish nowadays the shortest route to the eminence upon which the ambitious youth has fixed his eye, and he wants more guide posts by the way.

In an attempt to discover the general route to that goal, I have studied a few facts from the lives of many, rather than many facts from the lives of a few. The basis of the study is 'Who's Who in America' for 1900. This book, of which the edition of 1900 was the first, is for America what the English volume of the same name has been for England for more than half a century, namely, an address book of living celebrities—if we give this term considerable extension—containing a brief biographical sketch of each. This includes in most cases date of birth, particulars as to schooling, present profession and address, together with any unusual accomplishment or public service. The edition of 1900 contains 8,602 names and in my study of them the first three biographical facts mentioned were considered. I shall say nothing in defense of the criterion of success which I am here taking: that is, mention in 'Who's Who.' On what constitutes real success in life probably no two of us could agree. It would, however, be acceded by all who are familiar with the book, that although it fails to mention many who are as worthy a place in its pages as are some who appear there, it is nevertheless true that each whom it has mentioned has attained a degree of eminence which warrants the assertion that, at least before the public, success has crowned his efforts to a degree not achieved by the ordinary run of mankind.

Whatever success may mean, it would be safe to say that it depends upon two things: nature and nurture. On the nature side of the