Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/110

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greatly if he guarded himself against a too great absorption and isolation in his investigation of a limited field of study, by giving conscious attention to the presentation of his results in the best possible form for their full appreciation by so many of the rest of the world as may be interested in them; for he would be thereby placed in a more sympathetic relation with at least some of the rest of humanity, from whom he might otherwise remain too long estranged. Success in this effort is greatly promoted if the student recognizes the essential differences between investigation, which tends to isolate him from the world, and presentation, which ought to bring him into relation with it. The chief of these differences may be here pointed out, with particular relation to geographical problems.

Investigation.—During the progress of an investigation the student is properly enough alone with his subject for a large part of his time, whether he is in the field, the laboratory or the library. This is quite as it should be, for if during this period his attention is much distracted by outside matters, he can not develop a single-minded concentration of his best efforts on his work; he can not form that close intimacy with his problem which comes from uninterrupted association with it. Several weeks or months may be devoted to reaching his conclusions, and during this period the student may rightly enough find himself increasingly absorbed in his work and correspondingly withdrawn from outside relations; but he must remember that isolation does not involve secrecy. The pleasure of progress and discovery is increased by sharing it with appropriate companions. If some ideas are thus planted in better soil than that from which they sprang, let the larger growth that they reach there cause rejoicing, not envy; for as Gilbert has so well said in an admirable essay on "Scientific Method": "It is only the man of small caliber who has no ideas to spare, and secretiveness in matters of science is ordinarily a confession of weakness."[1]

In the course of progress, facts and theories are come upon in an irregular and unforeseen order; only towards the close of his work is the student in a position to reconsider everything that he has learned and to give it all a well-ordered arrangement. During his advance he must ever be alert in discovering new facts, open-minded towards new ideas, critical of every statement, jealously watchful of his mental independence, judicial in reaching conclusions: but in all these activities, his work should be carried on for the most part alone, for only when isolated is he sufficiently thrown on his own resources; and only when thus depending on himself can he learn whether he is really able to carry on an independent investigation. His opinions may fre-

  1. G. K. Gilbert, "The Inculcation of Scientific Method by Example," Amer. Journ. Sci., XXXI., 1886, 284-299.