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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/83

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THE PRUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCE.

measure responsible for the work of his class, the nature and amount of which he determined. In addition to presiding at the meetings of his own class, each secretary in turn presided for a period of three months at the general meetings of the academy. Treatises receiving the prize were regarded as the property of the academy and those deemed worthy of favorable mention could be printed by it if it desired. But no paper could be printed except by a two thirds' vote of the whole academy. Out of the income of $7,000, the sum of $650 was set aside for emergencies and $700 for scientific purposes. Though cramped for means the academy was now better organized than ever. It had proved its right to live. In fact it had made a place for itself among the learned societies of the world. It had gained the respect and confidence of German scholars and was beginning to enjoy, as it had done in the time of Frederick the Great, the favor of the reigning sovereign and of his ministers of state. How this had gradually been done will be seen in a brief account of the work accomplished during the period under review.

This consisted to a very large extent in offering prizes and in deciding upon the merits of the treatises which these offers secured. The subjects discussed indicate the thought of the period. But the academy did more than read learned papers and determine their respective merits. In the sentiment it created, and by means of the topics it selected for consideration, it directed the thought of the time. Some of these topics may here be given. In 1786-87 the question to be answered was 'shall the mythology of the Greeks and the Romans be retained in modern poems, or that oldest German and northern doctrine of the gods, or the miracles of the Christian religion?' Such a question indicates unrest and dissatisfaction in the minds of some of the older poets of the time. Four years later Gedike asked the academy, 'what reason is there in the present condition of learning to look upon the ancient languages as the foundation of a liberal education, and would it be advantageous or disadvantageous for science to treat them no longer as a part of official instruction, but confine their study to a limited class of scholars?' Teachers, it was agreed by all, must learn them, but there were many, then as now, who doubted the value for all classes of pupils of training in the classical languages.

The king desired the discussion of what he was pleased to term more practical questions. For example: 'Was Brandenburg before the thirty years war better off or more populous than about 1740?' 'What was the influence of authors in the time of Louis XIV. upon the spirit and culture of the European nations?' The academy, however neutral it might desire to be, could not prevent its members from discussing the philosophy of Kant. Anxious as it was to be impartial, as a matter of fact not many of its members accepted the principles of Kant. They