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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/204

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

would be necessary to do more than retail what others had produced. Apparently not to any extent. Scholars we had, to be sure, mainly in the direction of history, and some literary men. We had indeed already produced inventors in the mechanical arts, men of wonderful alertness of mind, who gave a character to the national genius, and did much to help us to the industrial supremacy that we to-day possess. But the pursuit of searching into the laws of nature, with the object of advancing the stock of knowledge of the human race, was then hardly thought of. Who had made the great discoveries which were the chief distinction of the nineteenth century? In some cases persons of private means, sometimes physicians, but more and more professors in the universities of Germany, France, England and Italy, and the smaller countries of Europe. In these countries it has always been assumed that the greatest intellectual activity would be found among professors in the universities, who would be expected, as a matter of course, to produce those fruits in the way of new knowledge that would make the glory of the nation. Thus we find Napoleon, reforming everything in France, surrounding himself with a scientific galaxy of the greatest brilliancy, feeling that this, no less than military success, was for the glory of France. Germany, hardly recovered from the effects of the Napoleonic wars, set about founding new universities or strengthening old ones, and their professors were constantly adding to knowledge in every direction. The spirit of work and of research was the characteristic spirit of the German university. Germany was in this way attaining that intellectual primacy that no other nation may to-day dispute her. In the meantime the universities of England were lagging behind the scientific movement, and ours were still well in the rear of them. It was not until after the successful prosecution of the Franco-Prussian war that the appearance of Germany on the stage as a political world-power began to call our attention to the real source of her power, and finally the wave struck us. Young men then began to go to Germany and to drink in inspiration at the fountain whence it flowed so freely. When my colleague, Professor Story, reached Berlin in 1871 he found few Americans, but on my own arrival fifteen years later the stream had swollen to a goodly number, although it had by no means reached its flood. The advent of the hundreds or thousands of young Americans returning from Germany full of the enthusiasm for production, which it is impossible to avoid catching there, began to have a very decided influence on our academic ideals, and our universities opened their eyes to the fact that there was no reason why we, too, should not contribute to the increase of knowledge.

Let me not be misunderstood, nor accused of claiming too much for the influence of Germany. I know that there are to-day personalities potent in the educational world who alternately pooh-pooh and