Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/August 1885/Editor's Table
THERE are multitudes who still remember, with vivid pleasure, the brilliant course of scientific lectures delivered in 1872, in several of our chief cities, by Professor John Tyndall, of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. They made a strong impression at the time, and impelled many young persons to give greater prominence to science in their studies. But there was another and a more special influence exerted by these lectures in accordance with the deeper purpose of Professor Tyndall. The public mind was favorably affected by them in regard to the claims of pure or theoretic science. We plume our-selves on being very practical in this country, and by "practical" we generally mean the opposite of theoretical—that which issues in tangible and immediate use. Professor Tyndall showed that this is a mistaken view. He was not complaisant toward the lower motives from which science is so generally pursued; and insisted strongly upon the more elevated considerations by which the students of science should be animated. He enforced, with much impressiveness, the important lesson that to yield its noblest results science must be studied for the simple love of truth and the extension of our knowledge of Nature, leaving its utilitarian benefits to follow as they always will when new light has been thrown upon any important group of phenomena. The un-selfish pursuit of science for these nobler ends was urged by Professor Tyndall upon our young men with great earnestness and something of the inspiration of religious conviction; yet none realized at the time how firm and far-reaching was his purpose, nor how lasting was to be the influence of his work in this direction in this country.
When Professor Tyndall was solicited to come to America, and told what a golden harvest he could reap by lecturing here, he invariably replied that no consideration of the kind would have any weight in inducing him to accept the invitation. "If I come to you," he would say, "it must be because my friends in the United States desire it, and think that I could be of service in the cause of American science; but I will not lecture for the sake of money, nor would I bring away a dollar of the proceeds of my labor." And when the lectures closed, true to his purpose, he left all of the money he had earned, above expenses incurred, for the promotion of scientific education among American youth. But this was not all: he devoted the money to the advancement of the distinctive ideas which he had illustrated in his lectures, by appropriating it to the assistance of such young men as desire to devote themselves to original scientific study and research. He left it in care of three trustees, the income to be expended in aid of American students of tested ability, who might wish to avail themselves of the higher opportunities of scientific culture available in the European universities.
But there were difficulties attending the carrying out of this plan which prevented the full realization of its advantages. Several students were aided, and with great satisfaction; but it was not so easy to find the young men who had the proper qualifications to be entitled to the benefits of the trust. There were, of course, plenty of them, but the finding them out was more of a task than had been anticipated. The trustees were scattered, and were busy men, having little time for correspondence, while the employment of a paid secretary was impracticable. As a consequence, the income accrued faster than it was consumed, and, as the money had been fortunately invested, it at length accumulated to so considerable an amount as to make some change desirable in the policy to be further pursued. It became apparent that the purpose Professor Tyndall had in view could be better accomplished through the agency of permanent educational institutions, having among their objects the promotion of higher scientific study. The trustees corresponded with Professor Tyndall, who concurred with this view, and it was then resolved to terminate the existing arrangement by transferring the Tyndall fund back to the possession of the donor, to be distributed to such institutions as he might select. The original amount—thirteen thousand dollars—had increased to thirty-two thousand four hundred dollars; and Professor Tyndall decided to divide this sum in three equal amounts, to be given, one to Columbia College, of New York; one to Harvard University, of Cambridge; and one to the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, for the foundation of three permanent scholarships in physical science, and for the benefit of students desiring to prepare themselves for the work of original research either at home or abroad, as the authorities of the respective institutions might decide.
This princely benefaction to American science will thus be memorable in future times, not only for its magnitude, but from the impressive circumstances of its origin. The money represents the contributions of the American people, given for the enjoyment of one of the most striking and instructive courses of scientific lectures ever delivered in this country. It represents also the earnings of one of the most gifted and high-minded scientific men of this generation, who contributed half a year's labor to the preparation and delivery of the lectures. The fund is consecrated to the perpetual carrying out of the scientific conceptions and principles inculcated in these discourses, so that the intellectual influence so strikingly initiated thirteen years ago will be an enduring power in the higher scientific education of this country for all time. Three of our leading collegiate institutions will be in competition with each other to administer these scholarships in the spirit in which they have been founded, to maintain their high-class character, which will be evinced by the quality of the men they turn out, and who, by their accomplishments, will do lasting honor to the illustrious scientist whose name and fame are treasured in the hearts of many thousands of the American people.
The Boston "Journal of Education" complains of the persistent assaults made upon "the graded school system" of this country, and attributes very evil motives to those by whom the alleged assaults are conducted. It finds "a considerable class of the clergy of all sects laced up in the mediæval European notion that the priest has a divine right to supervise all schools, overriding even the claim of the family, and resenting the claim of the whole people to supervise education as a godless presumption." It mentions also "a growing class of scientists, scholars, and literary people" as "putting on European airs, and claiming the exclusive right, as educational experts, to control the schools." Next, there is an exclusive social class bent on "forcing its own lines of artificial distinction into the school-room." The moneyed class, again, wants to regulate education with a view to keeping the "common herd" out of the poor-house; while labor-reformers want to have the interests of the mechanic and operative classes specially considered.
Now, we must confess that we fail to see that the account given by our contemporary—presuming it to be correct—of the views of the several classes mentioned bears out the statement that these classes are persistently assaulting the graded school system. So long as the school system belongs to the domain of politics, as it does, so long will it be open to criticism from any and every quarter. The humblest individual in the community has a right to express his opinion as to how public money should or should not be spent; but we are not cognizant of any efforts that are being made to undermine the "graded" system as such. That it is desirable to have educational institutions of every grade, from the lowest to the highest, no sensible person is likely to deny; though some might raise the question as to whether enforced taxation is the proper means of obtaining funds for certain kinds of education. If our contemporary thinks that even to raise such a question is to show hostility to the cause of education, we must beg leave to differ from him. Time was when no one could imagine that anybody not a foe to religion could propose to sever church from state; but at present the great majority, in this country at least, hold that the severance is decidedly in the interest of religion. It may be said to be all but universally agreed that people are quite able to provide themselves with religion without any help from the state; and, moreover, that the article they provide for themselves is likely to be a considerable improvement on what the state has ever doled out. Well, it may require a far greater stretch of radicalism to hold that people could also provide themselves with intellectual enlightenment without state assistance; but we are not prepared to say that he who takes up this position is necessarily either a "crank" or an enemy of society. The fact is, that the article from which we have quoted betrays just a soupçon of the bureaucratic spirit which naturally develops itself in connection with all state management. Those who control the schools in the name of "the whole people" do not like the clergy to have any special views of their own in regard to the moral aspects of public-school education. They do not relish the criticisms of "scientists, scholars, and literary people" who venture to find the educational machine rather too much of a machine, and its work slightly wanting in organic variety. They want to be allowed to run the machine in the way most convenient to themselves and most favorable to large visible results. We do not question for a moment that much of sincere endeavor after the best results accompanies the administration of the official system; but we do mean that, in every official system, the official or bureaucratic spirit is a constantly growing force, and must tend to a stereotyping of methods and to a more or less barren uniformity in the minds molded under its influence. The time may come when it will be seen to be as much in the interest of true intellectual liberty that education should be freed from state trammels as it is now seen to be in the interest of religious liberty that the state should abstain from interference in the spiritual concerns of the people. Meantime it is a clear sign of the development of the bureaucratic spirit in connection with education when criticism from any quarter is looked on with an evil eye, and when "scientists, scholars, and literary people," and all others who have any special views of their own on the subject, are more or less politely warned off the premises.
There is little need of evidence to show the popularity of war, yet the reprobation it meets with from the growing moral sense of the world sometimes puts its advocates upon strange defenses of it. Though always a dire calamity, war is in certain circumstances to be defended as a necessity; but those who make it a business are rarely contented to leave it on this ground. The brutal bluntness of the member of Parliament who advocated war in a distant English province, and, upon being pressed for his reasons, replied, "Why, d—n it, I have two sons in the army!" is not often emulated; even those who are interested in it as a vocation seek plausible excuses for it.
Lieutenant-Commander Goodrich, of the United States Navy, for example, writes, in the "Century Magazine": "I am not sure, however, that it is not well once in a while to assert ourselves as standing on a right because it is right, and as prepared to maintain it at any cost." It would seem the dictate of a wise statesmanship, on a matter of such supreme importance, to lay down the principles that should govern a nation, in resorting to war, as an established and inflexible policy. But Lieutenant Goodrich seems to think that war may be desirable, once in a while, anyhow or on its own account, or as a display of power, without reference to its usual provocations.
War is generally regarded as a last brutal resort, when the higher agencies of reason and diplomacy have failed, and the resources of civilization to keep the peace have broken down; but Von Moltke maintains that war is itself a natural and permanent element of civilization, and that the hope of ending it is equally illusive and undesirable.
But the most curious attempt to throw a glamour over the intrinsic abominations of war, and make it seem a thing worthy of admiration, is made by the "Spectator," which maintains that, in the systematic and professional killing of men on a vast scale, which constitutes war, there is a peculiar "intellectual charm." The "Spectator" intimates that Christians of the feminine type, and sentimental people who vividly realize the horrors of battle, may
shrink from the system; but it says that "war, as such, has for cultivated mankind a distinct intellectual charm." The terrible fascination is admitted, but how its charm can be qualified as distinctly intellectual does not appear. The "Spectator" expatiates on the tremendous interests staked in war, which may involve the national fate, and be of immense moment to citizens; but, then, it goes on to say, "Wars which are not ours interest us nearly as much as those which are." The truth is, war appeals not so especially to the intellect as to the deeper life-instincts of humanity. Men are thrilled by the excitement of war with no regard to their culture. There is no more "intellectual charm" in war than in any great crime or catastrophe or the coming of cholera. It is probable, indeed, that the "Spectator" has here committed itself to the very opposite of what is true. It is impossible to think of the intellectual classes as such, people of cultivated sensibilities, except as repelled and shocked instead of being charmed by war; while, on the contrary, the distinctively uncultivated classes are most profoundly stirred and attracted by it. The admiration of war is indeed the deepest among savages and barbarians, with whose undeveloped natures it is in harmony. The recent war experiment of the "Century Magazine" is said to have doubled its circulation; will it be claimed that the hundred thousand new patrons that have been found in addition to its former readers, are to be ranked as especially intellectual and cultivated, or are they not probably quite of the opposite kind?