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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/525

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MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS.

cheques in this manner; or, to put the matter In a more dignified form, how comes it that, in the words of Schiller,[1]

Mit dem Genius steht die Natur im ewigen Bunde
Was der eine verspricht, leistet die andre gewiss'?

The question is as old as science, and the modern tendencies with which we have been occupied have only added point to it. II is plain that physical science has do answer; its policy indeed has been to retreat from a territory which it could not securely occupy. We are told in some quarters that it is vain to look for an answer anywhere. But the mind of man is not wholly given over to physical science, and will not be content forever to leave the question alone. It will persist in its obstinate questionings, and, however hopeless the attempt to unravel the mystery may be deemed, physical science, powerless to assist, has no right to condemn it.

I would like, in conclusion, lo read to you n characteristic passage from that address of Stokes in 1862 which has formed the starting-point of this discourse:

"In this section, more perhaps than in any other, we have frequently to deal with subjects of a very abstract character, which in many cases can be mastered only by patient study, at leisure, of what has been written. The question may not, unnaturally be asked, If investigations of this kind can best be followed by quiet study in one's own room, what is the use of bringing them forward in a sectional meeting at all? I believe that good may be done by public mention, in a meeting like the present, of even somewhat, abstract investigations; but, whether good is thus done, or the audience merely wearied to no purpose, depends upon the judiciousness of the person by whom the investigation is brought forward."

It might be urged that these remarks are as pertinent now as they were forty years ago, but I will leave them on their own weighty authority. I will not myself attempt to emphasize them, lest some of my hearers should be tempted to retort that the warning might well be home in mind, not only in the ordinary proceedings of the section, but, in the composition of a presidential address!


  1. Applied by Herschel to the discovery of Neptune.