It would be entirely a mistake, however, to think that these great writers and teachers who influenced the medieval universities so deeply and whose works were the text-books of the universities for centuries after, only had the principles of physical and experimental science and did not practically apply them. As a matter of fact their works are full of observation. Once more, the presumption that they wrote only nonsense with regard to science comes from those who do not know their writings at all, while great scientists who have taken the pains to study their works are enthusiastic in praise. Humboldt, for instance, says of Albertus Magnus, after reading some of his works with care:
It is with regard to physical geography of course that Humboldt is himself a distinguished authority.
Humboldt's expression that he found some exceedingly acute remarks on the organic structure and physiology of plants in Albert the Great's writings will prove a great surprise to many people. Meyer, the German historian of botany, however, has reechoed Humboldt's praise with emphasis. The extraordinary erudition and originality of Albert's treatise on plants drew from Meyer the comment:
These men, it may be remarked, come three centuries after Albert's time. A ready idea of Albert's contributions to physical science can be obtained from his life by Sighart, which has been translated into English by Dixon and was published in London in 1870. Pagel, in Puschmann's "History of Medicine," already referred to, gives a list of the books written by Albert on scientific matters with some comments which are eminently suggestive, and furnish solid basis for the remark that I have made, that men's minds were occupied with nearly the same problems in science in the thirteenth century as we are now, while the conclusions they came to were not very different from ours, though reached so long before us.