Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/August 1893/Learn and Search
|LEARN AND SEARCH.|
By Prof. RUDOLPH VIRCHOW.
OUR university has during its existence, now for more than eighty-two years, celebrated the beginning of a new university year in a peculiarly solemn manner. This October day is the one among the festivals it observes which invites it to enter into self-contemplation, to a review of its acquired results, to a testing of the ways it has struck out, and again to the consideration of new problems and to a look into the future. Have we solved the problems that are set before us? Have we made a faithful use of the means for training youth for the highest objects of the state and of manhood? Can we surely expect that the hopes which we and the Fatherland have built on our work will be realized? It is incumbent on the new rector to be the interpreter of these problems. But whose mouth is eloquent enough to give common expression to the often widely diversified thoughts of his associates? How few of us succeed in obtaining even only a general view of the ever newly changing phases of single special branches! None of us, we often confess, is a bearer of all knowledge. Each of us can do no more, with the best will, than judge from the point of view of his own branch, of his own single experience out of the whole course of studies at the university. Hence the temptation is pressing to make his own branch rather than the generality of the studies the subject of his review. I shall endeavor to avoid this rock.
The confidence of my associates has called me to this high position forty-six years after I entered this faculty as a privat docent, and after I have been active forty-three years as an ordinarius in a foreign university and here. Great changes have taken place, not only in public affairs, but also in knowledge—greater than in hundreds of years before. All the single fields of human activity have been transformed, many fundamentally, or at least subjected to the incisive attacks of criticism. How could one who has participated busily in public life have passed through so great experiences without realizing it and without disturbance? Yet university life is not isolated amid the general intellectual life of the people. We are obliged to look around from our instruction upon instruction in general, the elementary and preparatory instruction which youth eager to learn bring to us, as well as upon the instruction in the various higher or technical schools, one after another of which has developed the intelligible effort to be, or at least to be called, a high school. To the lower institutions the university is a perpetual association to prepare their pupils so that they shall receive our instruction with full understanding; for the higher schools, it is a model after which they may shape their methods and regulations. On the other hand, the university is called upon to introduce to the state and society successive new generations of young, well-prepared men, who, filled with arranged knowledge, impelled by moral earnestness, preserve and bear the sacred flame of learning through all the perplexities and dark passages of daily life.
There was a time when this sublime position of the university was not only generally recognized, but was also distinguished by great prerogatives. Many of them have since been lost. We have, perhaps, only temporarily, but still happily, passed the days when the strongest attacks were made against the universities and the narrowest limitations were imposed on their freedom. But we will not forget that even this university, which was founded in the most difficult period, in order, according to the word of its founder, King Friedrich Wilhelm III, to be “the nursery of a better future,” was subjected to a suspicious and close watch. Various motives worked together to bring about this unhappy condition. One of them, and one which you, dear fellow-laborers, may contemplate with advantage, lay in the behavior of many of the students, and consisted in a widespread misunderstanding of the purpose of the study and the position of the student.
No less a person than Johann Gottlieb Fichte first occupied the position from which I speak to-day. In the memorable address “On the One Possible Disadvantage of Academic Freedom” (Ueber die einzig mögliche Störung der akademischen Freiheit), which he delivered as the first chosen rector of our university on October 19, 1811, he spoke the significant words, worthy of being taken to heart: “He only is a student who just studies.” With prophetic mind he described whither the course tends, when the student, instead of making it his chief purpose to learn, instead of “sinking, as he ought, his whole thought and mind in learning,” spends his time in nursing antiquated traditions of a special privileged condition of students and in maintaining supposed prerogatives. It is sufficient to refer to this address, which every student may be advised to read. Fichte at that time expressly disclaimed speaking of conditions which existed at this university, but referred to the cases of other universities; and the earnestness of his admonitions reveals that he regarded the danger as menacing, and, in fact, as so menacing, that he saw in it the “one possible disadvantage of academical freedom.”
The severe crisis which came on a few years later and involved all the German universities has at last passed away, and it has, as we recognize with thanks, left unscathed the two chief features for which we have every reason to be proud in a comparison with other nations of Europe—freedom in teaching and freedom in learning. Teachers and pupils have still that independence and self-reliance which promote vigilant responsibility and exclude strange control. The freedom in teaching in particular, which was preserved till the dissolution of the German Empire through the special concessions of the emperor and the nobles, has in our time become a constitutional right. The free choice of the rector by the regular professors has also remained to us, and the corporate character of the university has not been attacked.
Several other privileges, indeed, which originated in the time when the student body was almost sovereign and the customs of the middle ages determined the form of the student's life, exist no more. The academical jurisdiction has been reduced to a few disciplinary rights; our scepters, which were conspicuous on days like this, are more ornaments than real insignia of power. The student is now in full sense subject to the civil law. He is a citizen like the others, and he knows that he has no other privilege than the right of freedom to learn preserved to him on the ground of what he represents, and the right won by proficiency in university studies of obtaining money and a part of the highest positions in the state. In other respects we have no academical freedom different from general civic freedom. The student has no special right. The academical citizen like the citizen of the state looks for the source of his right in the constitution of the state. But this constitution has given him more rights than he formerly had; especially the right, under limitations prescribed by the constitution and the law, to participate in political life without being subjected to any exceptional rule.
Therefore, dear fellow-students, take the sincere counsel to pursue learning as your first and most important object, with full knowledge of all its results and with devoted earnestness. Self-evident as this advice may seem to be, experience teaches that it can not be repeated too often and too impressively. This is true as well for the later semesters as for the first. The more difficult and comprehensive the branch the entering student selects, the earlier should the methodical study begin, for the instruction of the later semesters is comprehended only on the basis of the earlier instruction. The temptation to the young student first to enjoy academical freedom in not-learning is certainly very great. To one who passes from the constraint of the gymnasium into the golden freedom of the university it is a privilege to stretch his limbs and to conduct himself without regard to later things. We all know this, and are accustomed to exercise “academical indulgence” toward this way of using academical freedom. But there must be limits to this indulgence, for it is not really academical freedom as we understand it and as the state should understand it. “Academical freedom” does not mean “freedom in not-doing” or “freedom in pleasure, or in the gratification of the passions,” but “freedom to learn.” This is real academic freedom, and the university has been opened to students for its exercise.
Neither teachers nor scholars should forget that the object of the university is a very high one, namely, general scientific and ethical cultivation and full knowledge of the special branch pursued. Once at least in his life, at the close of his university career, the cultivated young man should be so far advanced that his knowledge, especially in his own branch, should correspond with the average condition of scientific research. If he does not succeed in that, there is little hope that he will ever become an honored specialist in the circle of his associates. He has every prospect of continuing a bungler all his life. Let no one, therefore, be deceived: only in exceptional cases does a period of freedom to learn like that normally possessed by the academical citizen return in later life.
To the exercise of this freedom the desire to learn is essential before everything else. Whoever desires to learn at the university will have to decide at once what and how he will learn. The indifferent pupil shirks this decision. His choice does not really concern the kind of learning; it wavers principally between learning and not-learning. The university possesses no means of compulsion to enforce learning. The means of discipline and regulation at its command are not adequate to secure participation in instruction; only the medical faculty has in its examinations obligatory provisions which are adapted to secure a certain order in the succession of lectures and exercises. Yet experience teaches that complete success can not be reached without the desire to learn. How can this desire be aroused?
In so large a university as ours the personal influence of the teacher on individual students is naturally very limited; only special conditions can enable him to form close relations with a smaller circle of hearers, or exceptionally with single hearers. His influence is, therefore, chiefly exercised upon the mass of students, and he often first learns from a later examination how little of this influence the individual has received. We can declare with pleasure that the number of hearers who followed the instruction with ardor and success, even with distinguished success, is not small. But it would be a mistake to conceal the fact that the complaint of the teacher very often is that his trouble has been in vain. Many go further, and assert that a progressive diminution in the work accomplished by the students may be remarked.
This is especially the case in those branches the substance of which is all strange to the newly entered student, and is endowed with an oppressive copiousness of new ideas, as, for example, in jurisprudence and medicine. Precisely in these branches is the course of the student in the first semester often decisive for his whole development, and indeed for his whole after life. For in them one lecture is built methodically on another, and no one can properly understand the superstructure without having become acquainted with the substructure in all its parts. Else there arises a piece-work of fragmentary knowledge without proper foundation. All the teacher's later influence can not fill up the gaps.
Doubtless the difficulty of the matter contributes to make beginners waver in their zeal; and yet it is the beginners on the gaining of whom all depends. Does the responsibility for a pause in learning occurring so often in the first semester rest upon the university teaching? Such a reproach can not be raised, even on the strictest investigation, and it has not been raised to my knowledge, at least not in a corresponding generality. On the contrary, all the considerations lead to the question of preparatory training. This point is at this instant engaging most extensive consideration. The attention of all cultivated persons, and no less of the Government, is directed to the question of what changes in the instruction in the higher schools are demanded in order to reach that measure of preparatory training which can assure a wholesome progress in the studies of the universities. It would far pass the scope of my address to discuss this highly important question in all its parts. The debate goes on concerning the subjects of instruction, the amount of time which should be given to each, the method of teaching, and finally the amount of work to be laid upon the students, and also upon the teacher. The experience of the university teacher has been large enough to enable him to form a judgment upon the majority of these questions. It will be sufficient for the present discussion to touch upon only a few of the less frequently mentioned points.
The university teacher has before everything else two demands to make upon the higher schools, which are in close connection with each other. He should require that the abiturients bring with them the desire to learn and the capacity for independent work. The proof of positive knowledge of any particular sort should give way to these demands. Individual faculties will make various requisitions with reference to them; but it will be hard to show a serious difference concerning the main point.
The desire to learn is originally present in every normally endowed child. We daily witness the joy of the infant when he succeeds in comprehending a new thing or perceives some new action of his organs. His pleasure increases with every advance that he makes. This property is innate. How it is exercised is in the first place dependent on the condition of his organs. Many diversities of behavior appear among children early, according as they are limited by inborn, and often inherited, differences in their faculties.
Is this property peculiar to children alone? Surely not. It abides in the man till his mature age, provided his organs are normal, and as long as no disturbance or interruption by outer influences intervenes. What pleasure does even the learned man experience when a new field of knowledge is unlocked to him; even in his old age, how enlivened is his thirst for learning when he succeeds in getting a glance into new series of phenomena of Nature or of the human mind which had been previously incomprehensible or inaccessible to him! How does it happen that young, cultivated men, under training to become academical freemen, escape this general human property? It is in them without doubt, but has not rarely been repressed by some objectless treatment. Then the thing to be done is not to call it out for the first time, but to revivify it.
From the desire to learn, when well directed, is developed the desire for knowledge. Not satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, with the perception of a phenomenon, the desire to learn urges on to the understanding of it. It searches for the connection of phenomena and processes, their history and causes, and is never quite satisfied till it has grasped their genetic and causal relations. This is the mark of a real desire for knowledge. With it comes the beginning of research. A disposition to investigate can be recognized in the child to the extent that it divides the object it has in hand into its parts and tries to put them together again into a whole; or it imitates a movement, to learn what it must do to bring it about. Training thus finds all the elements present; it has only to use them and direct them in methodical ways. This comes to pass when attention is fixed on the connections, interest is stimulated, the study is directed to the principal fact and diverted from the subsidiary ones.
We can now raise the question, Does this take place in our schools? Even in the lower schools the desire for learning is so greatly perverted that with no small portion of our people, not the love of knowledge, but only its lowest form, curiosity, is cultivated—that disposition which is satisfied with a superficial and therefore incomplete comprehension, following which attention is directed to new objects. Thus, an innate and naturally worthy property is misdirected and brought to a form of expression which is at least purposeless and not rarely injurious.
When the love of knowledge is awakened in the childish mind and the child is also led to a consideration of genetic and causal relations, attention should be directed to historical events. With right that instruction which points at most to a more formal transmission of precepts—religious instruction—is not limited to mere dogmatic teaching, but seeks in sacred history a means of learning. But nothing is so highly adapted to such teaching as what is called natural history, in which real objects are dealt with, and genetic processes may be immediately demonstrated. Our Folk schools are making daily progress in observational instruction, and it is only to be desired that the application of mere pictures may be supported by illustrations from real objects.
In the higher schools teaching of the languages has had the lion's share from the beginning. As the gymnasia grew out of the Latin schools of the middle ages, the preference of Latin has remained their constant inheritance. The Greek, the introduction of which is due to the humanists, has taken a place by its side. This circumstance has had the happy result, we thankfully recognize, for enlightened Europe, of gaining for all those peoples who have had a part in it a common basis of cultivation which has contributed more than anything else to promote mutual understanding and the feeling of fellowship. During a long time the general use of the Latin language by the learned has in the most opportune manner facilitated the intercourse of all literary men.
The condition has now become different, very different; and even those who, fully recognizing the highly beneficial influence of the classical languages upon European civilization, desire a continuance of their study, must grant that it is impossible to restore the old relations. The national languages have come into their natural right, and much as we may deplore the increasing polyglot character of learned works, and evidently as it concerns us that we are not qualified to read a multitude of excellent treatises in the original, we must still recognize that no power in the world is competent to produce a change within a conceivable time. Our literary schools only exceptionally furnish graduates who can speak Latin or write a fluent Latin essay; and the universities have been forced, contrary to their inclination, to remove the Latin language from their courses of instruction and from practical use. The confusion of tongues has entered the learned world and secured its sanction.
It was from the beginning on the weak side of the humanistic institutions that they preferred Latin. It must be conceded that they could not do otherwise. They found the Latin the universal language of the Church and the land. They were Latin schools. They simply continued what had been the general praxis through a thousand years of exercise. But they received with it an element of weakness. For the classical writers of Rome were far behind those of Greece in their achievements; indeed, the best among them owed their culture to Greek predecessors, and the schools of Athens always held the first rank in the esteem of men. Their teachings constitute the background of all literary achievement. Our Western civilization has received its most peculiar moving thoughts, its current forms, from Grecian literature. Homer, Aristotle, and Plato have continued to be the teachers of the peoples till our days.
The balance of decision in this conflict is now swinging hither and thither. Professional interest in the Latin has declined since the Greek writers have been read again in the original, yet the Latin language has remained the principal subject of instruction. Its reach, however, has constantly become less. Since the use of language as such has steadily diminished, we have let rhetoric drop and have limited ourselves more and more to grammar. Indeed, grammatical teaching has gradually become so predominant that even the Latin essay has been reduced to a pious desire. We have thus reached a turning point with the classical languages. Schooling in grammar is not that aid to continuous growth which our youth need. It does not produce that desire to learn which is an essential preliminary to independent advancement; on the other hand, it is evident that it has become an object of aversion to many pupils, and perhaps for more parents. Greek has already been half surrendered. No one expects any longer that the mass of the pupils coming from the schools shall be so far advanced as to be qualified to take up the independent reading and explanation of the Greek writers. Medical men had apparently the most reason for regret, for their science is the only one which has grown up during more than two thousand years uninterruptedly on the basis of the Greek writings. But it can not be denied that Hippocrates and Galen offer so few points of touch with present doctors, although these piously adhere to the Greek terminology, that the study of them is of the least significance to the understanding of pathological processes. The real value of Greek literature, moreover, lies not in its technical parts, but rather in the philosophical and poetical departments, the influence of which in cultivation is for the moment underestimated.
An important innovation has meanwhile taken form in the philological department, which we may proudly praise as eminently a German achievement: I mean the study of comparative linguistics. With it a properly genetic element became valid even in philology. Wonderful results, of inestimable value in the history of human civilization, are now in prospect. Ever new researches keep the probability in view that comparative linguistics will continue to be a regular constituent of the higher education. But it will evidently be attainable in its details only to university students. The decision of what shall be prescribed to the higher schools concerns, therefore, only the two classical and the modern languages. The university teacher has, in respect to this decision, to insist that, whatever language is prescribed, it shall be so taught that the pupil shall learn to work independently in it, and that he preserve his pleasure in the work. It remains to be seen whether new methods of teaching will promote this object.
We can now show upon this subject that there are other fields of teaching, the methods of which have been so well shaped out that they are in a condition completely to carry out what is needed. They are mathematics, philosophy, and the natural sciences. They have, on the one hand, so rich and diversified a content that they ever stimulate the love of knowledge anew, and on the other hand they are so well adapted to an ever more extensive cultivation as to afford a rich opportunity for genuine research. It is thus made clear that occupation with them affords the young mind so sure a preparatory training that it can make itself at home with peculiar ease in every faculty.
Instruction in the branches we have named, at least in their elements, was introduced long ago in our higher schools. Only the measure of the knowledge which should be prescribed as the purpose of this instruction has been variously fixed at different times. The opinions of teachers as well as of the controlling state officers have frequently changed; and the excessive tendency of these men toward the philological course at last always borne against the extension of the designated branches. Only the extreme necessity of satisfying the demands of the rapidly advancing technical interest and the industries gaining strength evenly with it, irresistibly forced concessions, and when it was believed that these could not be carried in the humanistic institutions, a separation was decided upon. Hence arose the polytechnic schools and the gymnasia, and as a further result the technical high schools.
A final peace has not been reached in this way. Our age is in the midst of the fight over the claims of particular kinds of high schools. The call is ever anew rising for specially organized schools, and before everything for a far-reaching reform of gymnasial teaching. Not all these demands can be justified. The universities have in most cases not sustained the claims of the real schools for a general admission of their graduates. As we have already observed, the interests of the individual faculties in the kind of preparation of their students are not identical. Those faculties which look in their teachings for immediate support in philological aids can not declare themselves satisfied with a preparation which has pushed the ancient languages more or less into the background. Those to the understanding of whose branches the ancient languages as such contribute directly no essential part have to consider how far a full training in mathematics and science can furnish for their branches and for general cultivation as well an adequate substitute for the want of classical training. Experience has not supplied a decision on this point. It can be remarked only that among the foreigners who have been admitted to our classes are many who have not enjoyed a gymnasial training in our sense, and who yet attend the lectures with commendable interest and with evident good results.
There undeniably exists an essential difference in respect to the demands which individual faculties have to make on the preparation of those coming to them from the schools. The future must teach us whether a single kind of higher schools can satisfy these various demands. But a definite answer can already be given respecting one of them. If the classical languages are no longer competent to supply the unifying bond that formerly connected all the different directions of learned culture, a substitute for them can be found only in that golden triad of mathematics, philosophy, and science on the development of which all modern civilization touches.
It is a matter of secondary importance for this discussion whether the roots of this culture should be sought still further in the East, in Egypt or in Babylonia. The continuity of Western civilization actually begins for us on the western coasts of Asia Minor with those Ionian Greeks who first laid mathematical study of the heavenly bodies at the base of their discussions concerning the universe, and who produced the first natural philosophy, in which all that man knew about Nature was reduced to a harmonious picture. In this philosophy lies the actual beginning of that universal consideration of the world which has been significantly called “world wisdom,” and which has gradually led to a fundamental transformation of the old conceptions of the heavens and the earth and of man himself. That is the imperishable title of the Grecian philosophy to be held in honor.
The full comprehension of this fact arose very late among the Western peoples. When, after the fall of Constantinople, Greek scholars fled to Italy, and Greek literature spread rapidly at that time, when the humanists arose in Germany, and one university after another was founded, then the independent spirit of investigation first lifted itself up in all nations. Mathematicians and naturalists abounding in original strength appeared, and philosophers were soon active in adapting the conceptions of men to the new views and in grasping the fundamentals of intellectual life.
Right in the beginning of this memorable period appeared the man whose great achievement mankind has just been festively celebrating. Day before yesterday it was four hnndred years since Christopher Columbus descried the first land of that New World in which now many millions are joyously engaged in commemorating him. For him was the enviable fortune reserved of demonstrating at a stroke, by a bold experiment, the truth of the theory that the earth is round, and of opening at the same time to human enterprise the widest field that had ever been unlocked to it. Let us at this place bring the deserved offering to his genius and his energy. Let us not forget that with him, notwithstanding his mistakes, which have been perhaps made for the moment too prominent, a new era began—an era of new thought and new traffic.
Then mental activity prevailed everywhere; great mathematicians and physical astronomers of the first rank arose; the great reformation in the Church began, and the foundations of modern medicine were laid. We are still in the midst of the movement, but it is victorious everywhere. Our age has been called the scientific age. None of the humanities have escaped this influence. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which endeavored so earnestly to restrain it, has joined it; and an appointed representative of the Evangelical Church, our honored colleague Dillmann, a few years ago spoke in his rectoral address the strong words, “A church which can not bear the light of science, or which has to temper it with colored glasses, should be laid with the dead.” In fact, the modern doctrine of the universe is wholly built up on the ground of natural science, and nobody can seriously deny that it must be so.
The question is therefore permissible, whether the youth of our learned schools should not be advanced further than they are now in this new knowledge. It can be readily granted that there are still questions that have not yet been determined among the learned concerning the instruction that should be excluded from the schools and the instruction in specialties that should be reserved for the universities. But we may ask that a young man, credited with self-reliance enough to make good use of academical freedom, shall be in a condition to absorb without danger the leading facts of astronomy and biology. Can he be regarded as really mature when the whole world around him is to a certain extent closed to him? And how can university instruction effectively influence the young man if he is deprived of the instrument he needs in order to carry on his hard work?
He needs mathematics, not for its own sake, and not merely in order that he may understand the motions of the heavenly bodies; even physics has gradually become a mathematical science; and in chemistry and physiology it is becoming more and more necessary to carry out minute calculations. By their aid the student presses into the comprehension of the inner processes, and learns not only to estimate the measure of the living forces but also to calculate them in advance, in order afterward to adjust the practical using of them.
Arithmetic alone is not enough; thought is also necessary to comprehension. Many conceive that it is not necessary to make thought itself an object of learning; but there can not be success without methodical thinking. Unfortunately, logic is one of the studies that has almost been forgotten. At most of the schools one is supposed to have done enough if he occasionally expresses a logical theorem. How can one pursue psychology who has never become acquainted with the laws of thought? How can the complicated conditions of mental life be made perceptible to the outward view? The young doctor is a little more favorably situated in respect to this matter; but what can be expected of the jurist, the theologian, and the pedagogue? Respect for philosophy is already, at least, cultivated; that is much. The disposition to learn to think philosophically will then easily be yielded to.
And now, finally, the natural sciences. What profitable objects for learning and teaching do the descriptive sciences—botany, geology, and mineralogy—afford! It is a mistake to suppose that university teachers lay most weight on systematic knowledge. Not at all. The systematic method, it is true, is learned at the universities. It does no one harm to be able to learn and distinguish a certain number of plants, animals, or stones. But the instruction proper should consist in the training of the senses, especially of the sight and feeling. At present we have to lament that a large part of our students have no exact knowledge of colors, that they make false estimates of the forms of the objects they see, and they manifest no comprehension of the consistence and exterior constitution of bodies. Nothing should be easier than to cultivate an accurate judgment concerning color and form, if besides the comprehension of the body the representation of it by a simple or colored drawing, though it were only a sketch, were learned. Every one can make such knowledge useful. It is of great value to medical men, for diagnoses of the most important conditions are not rarely dependent upon it.
The experimental sciences, especially physics and chemistry, are also indispensable in school instruction, because more than all other branches they lead to the knowledge of the genetic and causal connection of the processes, and prepare for the methodical consideration of the more difficult problems of biology. It is evident that so long as general preparation for academical studies alone is considered, only the simpler and more easily understood experiments can be dealt with in them. But every pupil who goes out from the school should still, at least, have been introduced to these methods of studying Nature, in order to obtain a proper faculty of observation.
This enumeration of what belongs to a good preparation has been carried out to a considerable length, not because so many subjects have to be brought forward, but because in the present stage of the discussion of the relation of the university to the preparatory schools, the question of the measure of preparation that should be required for university instruction occupies the first place. In order to avoid mistakes, it may be added that to one who would limit himself to the study of his specialty, much of what has been named above may appear superfluous. But if the purpose was merely to secure a professional training, the universities would be superfluous. Then we might establish, as in France, separate ecoles, or as in England, special colleges, or as in the Roman Catholic Church, isolated convents. If we regard the university, as is our pride, to be more than an auxiliary to the professional schools, we must also demand an effective interworking of the faculties, a general scientific course by the side of the professional course. If this, to our great regret, does not exist to the extent it ought and might, the blame for it lies in that want of preparation which I have tried to sketch, and the remedy for which I expect to follow a more exact exposition of the actual conditions.
So long as this help is not found there will be nothing left but to take up in the universities much more elementary or, at least, preparatory teaching, which burdens and degrades the instruction, and which, though sufficient in a very few cases, fails to supply the defects of preparation. The university professor has the less time for such teaching, because the university is not merely an institution for learning, but also for investigation. It is that likewise in a double sense: first, because our nation is accustomed to see scientific investigators in the university professors; and, secondly, because the state and science expect us to train at least a certain portion of the students to be investigators. In this sense we call the attendants as well as the institutions of the university academical.
The ancient name of the academy, which has received from Plato the meaning of a scliool working for the highest objects of mental exertion, has been applied since the times of the Medici to designate, as against the professional schools and the teaching schools, unions of prominent thinkers and investigators for co-operative work. From them have proceeded the academies of sciences. A more recent age has produced besides these all possible sorts of academies which do not concern us here. The continuous investigation of scientific problems is the appointed chief purpose of only academies of sciences. But there are in Germany only three, at most four such academies, and they are far from sufficient to assure general progress over all the wide fields of science. A part of their function has thus fallen upon the universities, and they have performed it valiantly, sometimes gloriously. This is the reason why German university teachers demand more time than is required for the teaching in itself.
The universities have also an important function in the second direction, as I have said, in the training of new investigators and teachers. This is a very near duty, for only thus can that indispensable constituent of the teaching body, the position of privat docent, the nursery for future professors, be maintained and reproduced. Therefore, we should begin early to train independent workers from among the students.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly.
- Rector's address at the Friedrich Wilhelm's University, Berlin, October 15, 1892.