Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/526

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IN choosing a subject for this address I have availed myself of the kindly usage which permits a sectional president to divert the attention of his hearers into those lines of inquiry which he himself is accustomed to pursue. Nevertheless, in taking the facts of breeding for my theme, I am sensible that this privilege is subjected to a certain strain.

Heredity—and variation too—are matters of which no naturalist likes to admit himself entirely careless. Every one knows that, somewhere hidden among the phenomena denoted by these terms, there must be principles which, in ways untraced, are ordering the destinies of living things. Experiments in heredity have thus, as I am told, a universal fascination. All are willing to offer an outward deference to these studies. The limits of that homage, however, are soon reached, and, though all profess interest, few are impelled to make even the moderate mental effort needed to apprehend what has been already done. It is understood that heredity is an important mystery, and variation another mystery. The naturalist, the breeder, the horticulturist, the sociologist, man of science and man of practise alike, have daily occasion to make and to act on assumptions as to heredity and variation, but many seem well content that such phenomena should remain forever mysterious.

The position of these studies is unique. At once fashionable and neglected, nominally the central common ground of botany and zoology, of morphology and physiology, belonging specially to neither, this area is thinly tenanted. Now, since few have leisure for topics with which they can not suppose themselves concerned, I am aware that, when I ask you in your familiar habitations to listen to tales of a no man's land, I must forego many of those supports by which a speaker may maintain his hold on the intellectual sympathy of an audience.

Those whose pursuits have led them far from their companions can not be exempt from that differentiation which is the fate of isolated groups. The stock of common knowledge and common ideas grows smaller till the difficulty of intercommunication becomes extreme. Not only has our point of view changed, but our materials are unfamiliar, our methods of inquiry new, and even the results attained accord little with the common expectations of the day. In the progress of sciences