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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/368

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE ENDOWMENT OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.
By RICHARD A. PROCTOR.
I.

THERE are questions admitting, when viewed in the abstract, of but one answer, which yet, considered in their practical aspect, present difficulties that are almost, if not wholly, insuperable. Among them must be reckoned one which before long will attract, as it preeminently deserves, the attention of the nation—the question whether it is desirable that the investigation of natural facts, regarded as a vocation, should be publicly endowed.

When I say that but one answer can be given to this question, viewed in the abstract, I draw two distinctions: 1. I consider only the question whether science deserves public recognition; and, 2. I suppose the question submitted only to those who can properly consider it—those, namely, who are at least acquainted with scientific methods, if not versed in scientific subjects. To many it may probably appear a matter of small importance whether science advance or stand still. The general public scarcely recognizes the position which Science has already taken, still less the position she is about to take. Men do not perceive that the gradual advance of science must modify the condition of the human race, not in material matters alone, but even more by its influence on the feelings and emotions. In the course of time—and of no very long time, if future progress accords with present promise—the motives now most potent among men will yield to worthier influences, arising from clearer insight into physical, physiological, and psychological laws. Science, using the word in its best sense, has now a limited extension; but it is as a leaven in the midst, by which the whole lump will be leavened. In the mean time, men attend, as of yore, to matters which they regard as far more important than the growth and spread of knowledge—matters which have made up the history of the nations during many centuries, but have tended little to the advancement of mankind. Political plotting and counter-plotting, within each nation and among different nations; the preparation and employment of armaments thus rendered necessary; legislation by which class distinctions are strengthened and class dislikes intensified; the working out of social arrangements barbaric in origin and absurd in most of their developments; controversies over religious questions more or less closely associated with primeval superstitions—these and such as these are the occupations to which the world mainly devotes the energies not absorbed in the general struggle for existence. Science, in the mean while, conscious of its strength and certain of its future, can afford to wait, "Its development," as