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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/80

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76
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it. Its membership was reduced by order of the king to six and a director for each of the four classes, or twenty-eight in all. From 1799 to 1806 there were no important changes in either the constitution or the by-laws of the academy. But while wars were waging and political storms were brewing its members led a quiet and peaceful life and made some contributions of real value to the learning of the world. The French Academy at this time was far in advance of that in Berlin in scientific work.

But there were thoughts of a university in Berlin even in the dark days of the French invasion, and as early as 1800. The observatory was rebuilt at the expense of the academy. Wulff of Halle was induced to come to Berlin and work in it. In 1800 Humboldt, then absent in South America, was made an honorary member, and on his return to Berlin in 1805 he became an active member. Kotzebue was received in 1800, and Thaer was induced to leave Hannover for Berlin in order that he might join the physical class of the academy. He was the author of a system of law which proved of great value for Prussia. Professor Thalles of Bonn, a famous mathematician, was also brought to Berlin and received into the academy. As early at 1788 Johannes von Müller, the well-known historical writer, became a foreign member, though afterwards he made friends with Napoleon and turned his back on his country. Perhaps it was on account of aversion to philosophical opinions which their author deemed epoch-making, as well as to dislike of the man, that Fichte, though brought forward by very influential persons, was rejected as a member of the academy. But he was permitted to deliver his lectures in the winter of 1804—5 in its hall. These lectures were a kind of negative preface to the 'Reden,' or addresses to the German people, made a year or so later, which did so much to arouse and unite them in their struggle for liberty. Alexander von Humboldt proposed and secured the election of Ermann, the physicist, and of von Busch, the geologist, as extraordinary members of the academy. Not long after Buttmann, the grammarian, became an active member, and with him, by order of the king, Count Lahndorff, the poet. Before the war began on July 31, 1806, i. e., prior to the disaster at Jena, Goethe, Cuvier, Brooks and Hendenberg were made honorary members.

The proceedings of the academy the next six years were fundamental for its future life and activity. In the two Humboldts it seemed as if the spirit of Leibniz had revived, as if they possessed his extensive general knowledge, his love for the sciences, his power of organization, his leadership and his ability to meet and overcome difficulties. There were other able men in the academy, but at this time the two Humboldts were its leaders. The defeated king was at Königsberg, whence he made known his wish that Prussia seek to recover what had been