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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/207

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AMERICA'S INTELLECTUAL PRODUCT

pretty evident that our product is as yet hardly what we might justly expect considering the stress we lay on education and the amount of money we spend.

What is to be done in order to change this state of things, and to relieve the United States from the aspersion of mediocrity in intellectual achievement? Is it not our plain duty to urge in season and out of season the importance of research, and to insist upon it as the main concern of every occupant of a university or college position? I put this not only on the ground of duty to our country in order to maintain her position with self-respect among the other nations, but on account of its preeminent importance as a vitalizing and energizing influence on teaching. If the public does not take a great interest in the doings of the colleges and the professors, is it not because of the fact that the professors do not produce that crop of fruit that may fairly be expected of them? How can the public become enthusiastic over professors whom they consider in the light of pedagogues paid to hear the young men say their lessons, and to repeat over to them what they themselves have read in the books of others? Will not that teacher make a far greater impression on the student if he knows that he is continually occupied in work that is his own individual creation and that is increasing the sum of human knowledge? There is no doubt that the absolutely essential quality in a teacher is enthusiasm, without which it is impossible to exert any inspiration. Who is so likely to possess this quality sine qua non as the man who is continually occupied in the engrossing task of wringing her secrets from nature, or drawing new conclusions that his powers of reasoning have enabled him to perceive for the first time? I well remember my first impressions on arriving in Germany. After an experience of five years as student and instructor in Cambridge, where it was considered (among the students, for I will not do the professors the injustice of making them responsible) good manners not to be warmly interested in anything in particular, the entrance into a community where every one was tremendously interested in the piece of work on which he was engaged, and was not ashamed to talk of it, where there were persons enough studying the same subject to make discussion attractive, and where, after a morning in the laboratory, one would adjourn to a restaurant and talk shop all through dinner, this was to me a tonic like the effect of a cold bath. I shall never forget the first time I saw the great Helmholtz. In my anxiety to secure a place in his laboratory, I committed the breach of etiquette of calling on him at his house instead of at the laboratory. Ushered into his study, I found him standing at work at his desk, from which he turned and transfixed me with those piercing eyes. Never in my life have I felt so small and insignificant, knowing myself to be in the presence of the greatest scientist alive. During