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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/251

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247
PRACTICAL VALUE OF PURE SCIENCE

funds, then calls for more. If an institution does not receive an increasing amount each year, it is not only standing still, but it is also going backward, for it gets more and more behind the times. Practical men are quite right in inquiring whether there is going to be some return to them out of this expenditure, and we have to answer them truthfully. Universities and museums and libraries, the centers of scientific activity, have enormous mouths that are always agape, like overgrown nestling birds. You put money into them, but you do not get money back, at least not directly. This point is very certain and there is no use trying to hide it. But what you do get back are ideas, new ideas. Much of the work represented by such institutions is scientific, and if you endow them you help to increase the ideas that make possible practical ends. You will notice that I have not been arguing for the prosecution of applied science, more properly, the applications of science, for the value of this is apparent to all. I have been speaking for the pursuit of pure science, because it is the necessary forerunner to any new practical application. This is the fact I wish to drive home because it is seldom understood. Scientists themselves often do not realize it, but think that pure science should be studied, even if it can never be made to touch the needs of human life. Men who are not scientists are apt to shrug their shoulders and to say that science may be interesting to some, but that they can not see the use of it and consequently can not see the value of education in pure science. So long as this remains the point of view, higher education and research must have the old hard road to travel. But if we will open our eyes to the fact that even pure science is really of useful value, and its history is proof of this, then the standing objection to higher education will be removed.