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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

ASPECTS OF MODERN BIOLOGY[1]
By Professor T. D. A. COCKERELL

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO

DURING the latter part of August, last year, the International Zoological Congress met at Boston. This circumstance was not very widely heralded by the press, nor did it make an impression on the public mind at all comparable to that ordinarily produced by any serious crime. Nevertheless, it was an event of the first importance, this gathering of the zoological forces of all civilized countries to take stock of the progress of the science and exchange fraternal greetings.

To present any summary of the things said and done at that meeting is neither desirable nor possible at the present time; but it may be useful to consider what it all meant—where zoology now stands, and what it stands for.

Most typical, perhaps, of the whole trend of zoological thought was the address of Professor William Bateson, of Cambridge University. It dealt with the subject of genetics; the genesis of things, cells, individuals, species. It told of sequences actually observed rather than contemporaneous facts arranged in rows. The methods advocated were experimental, the range of investigation was the whole field of life.

At the same time, the geneticologist did not refuse to recognize the value of the other methods of research. Said Professor Bateson: "When morphology was a new idea, everything was sacrificed to its pursuit. Physiology, systematics, all were discarded as useless lumber. Let us not repeat that short-sighted mistake. In the wider survey which we are attempting we shall need all these things. If we are to understand rightly the phenomena of specific difference—to take that problem only—we shall be glad of anything that the systematist can tell us, and of many deductions of pure physiology."

The old natural history is having a new birth, with new hopes and aspirations, but with the same unity of interest and of purpose. With the growth of science, specialization was necessary and desirable. Yet as time went on and zoology not only grew apart from botany, but the various branches of zoology seemed to have different languages, it appeared as if a tower of Babel would result. Even the systems of nomenclature for genera and species, ostensibly the same throughout, came to differ appreciably in different departments; and the various


  1. Lecture delivered before the Scientific Society of the University of Colorado, January 20, 1908.