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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/512

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

progress of science than the composition of a dozen monographs on isolated points. For proof one need only point to the treatises of Salmon himself, or recall (in another field) the debt which we owe to such books as the 'Treatise on Natural Philosophy' and the 'Theory of Sound,' whose authors are happily with us.

A modest but most valuable worker has passed away in the person of Professor Allman. His treatise on the history of Greek geometry, full of learning and sound mathematical perception, is written with great simplicity and an entire absence of pedantry or dogmatism. It ranks, I believe, with the best that has been done on the subject. It is to be regretted that, as an historian, he leaves so few successors among British mathematicians. We have amongst us, as a result of our system of university education, many men of trained mathematical faculty and of a scholarly turn of mind, with much of the necessary linguistic equipment, who feel, however, no special vocation for the details of recent mathematical research. Might not some of this ability be turned to a field, by no means exhausted, where the severity of mathematical truth is tempered by the human interest attaching to the lives, the vicissitudes and even the passions and the strife of its devotees, who through many errors and perplexities have contrived to keep alive and trim the sacred flame, and to hand it on burning ever clearer and brighter?

Of the various subjects which fall within the scope of this section there is no difficulty in naming that which at the present time excites the widest interest. The phenomena of radioactivity, ionization of gases, and so on, are not only startling and sensational in themselves, they have suggested most wonderful and far-reaching speculations, and, whatever be the future of these particular theories, they are bound in any case deeply to influence our views on fundamental points of chemistry and physics. No reference to this subject would, I think, be satisfactory without a word of homage to the unsurpassed patience and skill in the devising of new experimental methods to meet new and subtle conditions which it has evoked. It will be felt, as a matter of legitimate pride, by many present, that the University of Cambridge has been so conspicuously associated with this work. It would therefore have been natural and appropriate that this chair should have been occupied, this year above others, by one who could have given us a survey of the facts as they at present stand, and of their bearing, so far as can be discerned, on other and older branches of physics. Whether from the experimental or from the more theoretical and philosophical standpoint, there would have been no difficulty in finding exponents of unrivaled authority. But it has been otherwise ordered, and you and I must make the best of it. If the subject can not be further dealt with for the moment, we have the satisfaction of know-