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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/178

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the absolute, was not favorable to science. Yet it enjoyed the confidence of the government and in many circles was accepted as true. But to Schleiermacher and not a few others its theories seemed fanciful and uncertain. Perhaps it was on account of their unwillingness to receive him into the academy that in 1826 he and a few others founded a society for scientific criticism with the three departments of philology, philosophy and history. This society, to which some distinguished men attached themselves who might otherwise have been in the academy, till some time after the death of Hegel was influential in Berlin. Regular sessions were held, and year books, two volumes each year, from 1827 to 1840, were published.

It was in this last year that the philosophical class, now reduced to two members, was given up, and its work transferred to the historical class, of which, since Buttmann had become too old to discharge its duties, Schleiermacher became secretary. During the first third of the century the philosophy of the absolute had the field. It was in the second third of the century that natural history and religion entered the lists against it and won the victory. And yet the reign of science in Berlin began with the return to that city in 1827 of Alexander von Humboldt, who had lived twenty years in Paris in close association with Liebig, Arago, Gay Lussac, Bonpland and Valenciennes, to all of whom he was warmly attached. At that time the academies of Paris were at the height of their fame, as eminent in their different fields as the university of Paris had been in the middle ages among the other universities of Europe. Humboldt had rare skill in gathering and grouping facts, and the publication of his 'Cosmos' was a great event in the scientific world. Yet its leaves were hardly dry from the press before its conclusions were outgrown. But the spirit and method of the book, writers like Harnack say, will survive.

The winter of Humboldt's return was full of excitement for learned circles in Berlin. In the university he lectured on the 'Cosmos,' and sixteen times he spoke on the physics of the world to an audience which filled the Singakademie and represented every class of society from the king to a stone mason.

Between 1830 and 1840 many of the more prominent and useful members of the academy passed away—Niebuhr, Seebeck, Rudolph, Schleiermacher, William von Humboldt,—and new men were added—Dirrichlet, Ranke the historian, Eichorn the critic, Hoffman the statesman, Graff, Stein, Johannes Müller, G. Rose, Gerhard, Dove the meteorologist, Poggendorf, Neander the church historian, and Magnus—every one of whom contributed not a little to the increase of knowledge and to the fame of the academy.

For some reason the physical class was now growing more rapidly than the historical class, for there had in reality ceased to be more than these two classes, and efforts were made in the early thirties to