Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/February 1904/Comrades in Zeal
|COMRADES IN ZEAL.|
By DAVID STARR JORDAN,
PRESIDENT OF LELAND STANFORD JR. UNIVERSITY.
THE Society of Sigma Xi was founded in 1880 at Cornell University. Its godfather was Henry Shaler Williams, and its name, σπουδῴν ξυνῴνητ, companions in zealous research, comrades in zeal, indicates as well as two words can, even in that wonderful language of the Greeks, the purpose of the society. It was intended to bind together scientific thought and action, the workers in pure science and those who dignify it by its application to human affairs.
The society has now its chapters in 16 American universities. Its members number upwards of 2,500, about 500 of them active, that is, still lingering about the university which is the center of the collective efforts of Sigma Xi, the rest scattered over the world in the various avocations appropriate to the zealous comradery.
The society of Sigma Xi stands for the glory of research, the joy of knowing, the uplift which comes from 'seeing things as they really are,' and the doing the thing that such seeing shows us ought to be done. Its essence is in Huxley's phrase the 'fanaticism for veracity,' the zeal for fair play, that would not have even the least of nature's records slurred over or wrongly interpreted. It stands at the same time for the zeal for action, for the strenuous use of the knowledge already acquired in the affairs of men. For pure science and applied science it finds place alike, for each has its roots in independent research, and in each the fanaticism for veracity is fundamental to the highest work. Its purpose is to excite this fanaticism for veracity, and zeal for action among the university students of America, and to foster it by means of the fellow-feeling among free spirits, 'Gemeingeist unter freien Geistern,' which was once declared to uphold scholarship in Germany.
For the Sigma Xi is a university organization dealing with university men, and not directly with any others. Moreover, the society is not the university itself. It is a small part of any one institution—a large part only when taken in the aggregate. It gives no material aids to scholarship. It builds no laboratories, establishes no libraries, endows no fellowships, offers no prizes, grants no honors worthy of the name. In its elections it picks out youth of promise, enlisting them as privates in its service. It undertakes to crown no achievement. It works through one channel only, that of comradery in research. We are Spudon Xynones—fellow pilgrims in a joyous land—full of glorious scenes, broad outlooks and repaying experiences. But the way we travel is beset with many difficulties both within and without. There are many temptations to turn aside from the main quest, from the large joys to the immediate successes, and the number of those who to the end remain Xynones is far less than the number who first strike out on the trail. These temptations are internal for the most part. The response to them depends on the man, not on anything outside of him. They are the intrinsic factors in his scientific evolution. But there are also extrinsic factors which undermine zeal and discourage enthusiasm. These extrinsic factors are sometimes potent, though relatively few, while the influence of the intrinsic factors decimates our band; wherefore we conclude that the individual in science is more than the environment. Men of research are born more often than made, but those well born may be spoiled or half-spoiled in the making. To prevent this, to keep the ranks firm, it is well for us to stand together, as comrades in zeal, and when necessary, as to-night, we may whistle bravely to keep up our courage.
And in standing together, it is well for men interested in one line of research not to look down on those whose taste or capacity favors some other. So long as it is real, research is the real thing, and one line may come as near the heart of things as another. Whence it is not good for the experimenter to look down on the systematist, the student of exact sciences on the mathematics of the imagination, the physicist on the psychologist, the chemist on the engineer, the engineer on the economist, the biologist who thinks in terms of chemistry only on the biologist who finds vital force a convenient temporary conception while searching for underlying causes, or any class on any other class, each being a loyal follower of the clue which has come into his hands. To be sure, not all is science which takes that name. 'Science falsely so called' is known to all of us as well as to the theologian. Of course, the name of science, even the name of research, is borrowed for purposes utterly at variance with science. Trade-marks which have a value are always imitated. With all that in the long run, there comes to be a science of non-science when even christian science and psychical research will ultimately find a place in the pigeon-holes of investigation.
In general, scientific research may be divided into four or five great classes.
Experiment.—The purpose of experiment is to test laws, to find out how things work. We arrange the conditions, nature does the rest, and our part of the process is to find out what the rest is. In the old days experiment was easy—to let fall an apple, to rub the hair of a cat, to bring a nail near a magnet. Nature would take advantage of the situation and give us a hard answer to an easy question. We have not only to note what she does, but to find out why she does it, or rather why she doesn't do the reverse; for so perverse is nature that she never does any one thing unless she is cut off from doing all other possible things. It never rains when it could possibly do anything else; it is never clear when it could possibly rain. It has been shown that the crab runs sidewise, because such is the perverse nature of the crab, that if it could possibly run in any other way it would do so. The crab is a chip of the great block of Mother Nature. She is so perverse that she never does anything save when she has to. It is no easy thing to say why the limitations we find through experiment are inherent in the very nature of things.
And experimentation is no longer easy. All the obvious questions have been asked. All the obvious answers have been analyzed into infinite difficulties. It takes a master mind to devise a new problem. It takes almost infinite neatness and delicacy of touch to arrange the scenery, and infinite patience to wait for the result. To examine ten thousand minute eggs of a sea-urchin to see if perchance one has been fertilized in some impossible way, so as to eliminate all side conditions from an intricate problem—this requires enthusiasm and patience of a new order, a fanaticism for veracity not rewarded by the ringing of bells nor by scarlet sashes nor a coat with green palms. It can only be encouraged by the comradery of free-spirits, who value the fragment of truth which these methods bring, and who respect the man who gives his time and strength to know a little truth—to know it, not to guess it. Fanaticism for veracity—this is a good word, and those who heed it need all encouragement.
What we wish to encourage is not a specific achievement, but rather a habit of mind. To see clearly, to see deeply, to see with an understanding heart—this is the nature of research. It is not compilation, it is not publication, it is not the formation of curves, nor the giving of new names, nor the stacking up of columns of figures, though each or any of these may lie along the way as necessary accompaniments, as much a part of a piece of research as a walking-stick or a hat band is a part of a journey. 'Fanaticism for veracity' covers the whole matter, and as fanatics of a new order, F. F. V., with a new significance, we rally together under the sign of Sigma Xi.
Comrades in zeal for truth, we care enough for accuracy to sacrifice for it our money, our time, and even, if necessary, some of us give our lives for it. Enough of us have done so to show what the others of the brotherhood would do if placed under like circumstances or if subjected to like demands.
But experiment is not all of science. A large part of the work of scientific research must be simply descriptive, the attempt to record things in the world as they are—just as they are. It is dealing with nature in a static way, the record of experiments of nature herself, so long in trying, that we do not recognize her movement at all. Wherefore descriptive science seems less exhilarating than experimental science. It has less movement to it; for nature does not seem to move, and we need not as we watch her; yet static knowledge lies at the foundation of most discoveries in dynamic nature. We must know the plants and animals of any given region and know them exactly before we can study migrations and movements, the origin of faunas, the distribution of forms. The movements in geologic time are best traced by the shells which the rocks carry with them, and these shells admit of no experiment, have no apparent dynamic significance. Descriptive anatomy precedes physiology and interprets it; embryology interprets anatomy, but to a like degree anatomy interprets embryology. Ecology, the study of life histories, interprets all these and is explained by them. According to Lubbock, the knowledge of the habits of animals, their reaction to stimuli, external and internal, is the final end of zoological science.
It has been a fashion of the fin du siècle sort, a fad of the last end of the last century, for workers in other lines to look down on systematic zoology and systematic botany. They would know the general structure and relations of animals and plants in a great large way, but were infinitely bored by the details, and especially by those of the larger forms, those which can not be sliced and imbedded in Canada balsam. This feeling is unworthy of large-minded men. As I said just now, it is not good form in science for one set of workers to look down on another. The varied details of systematic science embody the fanaticism for veracity of the men who have worked them out. It is, after all, the man who does the minute work who advances science. Anybody can devise new groupings of large lines of facts. The man who found out the least true detail about the heart of the lancelet, even the man who found a new kind of lancelet in the sands of the Bahamas, contributed more to science than the men who gave new names to the class of lancelets in their new schemes of vertebrate classification. As if Leptocardii were not good enough, we have these little creatures called Acrania, Pharyngobranchii, Cephalochorda or Cirrostomi. We all know that the lancelet is headless, that it has gill slits around the throat, a nerve cord where its head ought to be, and cirri about its mouth, but we knew that when they were Leptocardii or merely lancelets, and these new names merely cumber the books without adding at all to our knowledge.
Linnæus once said, with the fine sarcasm of the ancients: 'Tyro novit classes, magister fit species.' Any beginner can define classes of plants. It takes a master to work out the species. Any beginner can see things in the large; all the world does that; but only the master can get down to details. He can shut his eyes to all outside, and can make from nature a faithful transcript. It has been said that all advance in knowledge is really quantitative. We must come down to micro-measurements if we are to see more deeply than others have seen, if we are to add to the store of human knowledge.
On the great chart made by the descriptive naturalist the experimenters locate their work. As well try to study geography without maps as to work at the great problems of geographic distribution, without correct faunal lists of species. To study wisely the origin of species, the evolution of forms without knowing species, many species, and knowing them as species, is impossible, as many naturalists have clearly shown by the method of awful example. To fill out the great chart of the descriptive chemists, experiments in chemistry are carried on, and in some degree the same condition holds for physics, astronomy and the other sciences. The word science has been defined as knowledge set in order. A large adjunct of research, even if it be not part of research itself, is the work of setting knowledge in order. Very often the man who brings clearness out of confusion has contributed more to science than the discoverer of the facts with which he deals. It takes a high order of mind to sift the evidence, to brush aside the cobwebs, to bring forth the truth. To do this well, one should have large experience with creative work. It was not the least of Darwin's merits that he was able to deal with the records of thousands of men, to bring out clearly what these records showed, though not one of the actual discoverers even dimly suspected the meaning of their work. At the same time Darwin was not once deceived by the errors of other men. Each record he accepted from some one else remains unimpeached to this day. To set knowledge in order requires a master in the value of evidence, and for this reason the authors of index, record, anzeiger and bibliography should be held in esteem in science. To do this work one must know how to do it, and to know how is to have had already a large experience in the kind of work which the index or bibliography is designed to help.
Setting in order the results of research may not demand as high an order of genius as is needed to push forward the line of advance, yet most great investigators have found relating their own work to the work of others a welcome as well as a necessary task. It is the duty of every investigator to enable his successors to start farther along than he was able to do. To enter into the work of others implies that our predecessors have smoothed the path and cleared the way to further advances. Whence the experimenter should not look down on the bibliographer or even the compiler, providing that these do their work with a master's mind and conscience. Good work in the poorest fields is better than bad work in the richest. The progress of science depends not so much on the field actually worked, not even on the method chosen, but rather on the brains, conscience and courage a man puts into his work.
Another line of work is that of invention, the application of the discoveries of science to human needs. It is the fashion to decry science of this sort as commercial, and to speak with scorn of the financial rewards which await those who are successful in its pursuit.
But I am glad that the Sigma Xi finds room for the creative engineer. In its last analysis the ultimate purpose of knowledge is the regulation of human conduct. The end of knowing is doing, and the justification of scientific research is that it makes life more comfortable, saner and richer. It is true that pure science must precede creation, but into some form of creative art all experimental science sooner or later finds its way. "We may then welcome the engineer as an inseparable companion in the domain of science, comrade in zeal, diverging in method, but loyal to fanaticism to the truth he can touch and feel.
Highest of all lines of scientific work, most difficult of all, and withal most susceptible of degeneration, is the study of causes and relations. This work is closely connected with all other forms of research; for every fact observed points us to the consideration of its cause.
Each fact must be the resultant of some adequate force. 'The globe is transparent law, not a mass of facts.' So Emerson tells us. Law is the expression of the relation of cause and effect. Nothing would be as it is, could it by any possibility have been something else. Nothing is variable in the universe save the wayward human will, and that only because its stimuli and reactions are too finely balanced to be measured by our instruments of precision.
Each peculiarity of structure, each character or quality of individual or species, has a meaning or a cause. It is the work of the investigator to find this meaning as well as to record the fact. "One of the noblest lessons left to the world by Darwin," Frank Cramer says, "is this, which to him amounted to a profound, almost religious, conviction, that every fact in nature, no matter how insignificant, every stripe of color, every tint of flowers, the length of an orchid's nectary, unusual height in a plant, all the infinite variety of apparently insignificant things, is full of significance." For him it was an historical record, the revelation of a cause, the lurking place of a principle.
For this reason, every line of work leads back to a causal interpretation. Every fact clamors for it. This is the strongest impulse which urges the devotee of science, the comrade in zeal, and his only danger is that he respond to these calls prematurely. The ultimate end of scientific research is found in prophecy, not in proclamations of the mystic order, but in such mastery of the solid ground of the present that we can tread with firm step on the solid ground of the future, 'the action of existing causes.' This interprets all that has been; foretells all that is to be. The value of all facts is found in their relation to such interpretation and such prophecy. It is the function of prophecy, as Dr. Wilhelm Ostwald has shown, which distinguishes the new civilization from the old, 'and the word which expresses this difference is science.' "The height of any civilization," says Dr. Ostwald, "may be directly measured by the thoughtfulness with which the prophets of civilization understand their calling and are able to predict this future. In the struggle for existence the man will be most efficient who can answer these questions: what will happen? and with what certainty, more accurately than his fellow men."
"If we ask," continues Dr. Ostwald: "What is the most general force which has been active in historical times within our knowledge, and is still active, we recognize that it is the conquest of all intellectual fields by science. If we imagine the most primitive conditions in the development of mankind, we see that there is no doubt that the individual and the race which is finally successful in the struggle for existence is the one that learns to see most clearly into the conditions of the future and thus learns to influence them. There are conditions in which the war of physical force seems to settle the question; but even here we see skill, that is, the intellectual or scientific factor, offset a large part of the brute strength, and this factor increases as development advances. The greatest leaders of men have been those who saw most clearly into the future.
"Thus every political and moral organization is dependent upon biographical conditions; and these fields are evidently those which are destined to be irresistibly conquered by science."
To us, as 'prophets of civilization,' to use again Dr. Ostwald 's illuminating phrase, every line of scientific research has its danger—the danger of inadequacy. In causal interpretation, the impulse is toward superficiality, to premature proclamation of opinions issuing from the heart rather than sanctioned by the head, the tendency toward futile speculation, barren epistemology, or florid sentimentalism. While magister fit species, tyro novit classes, a beginner can frame great generalizations and a great many of them, which it would take a master of masters to define and sustain. *A flaw in thought an inch long'—this is a Chinese proverb—'may be felt for a thousand miles.' It is the flaw in thought, the flaw in fundamental conception, which distinguishes the sage in science from the speculative philosopher. In this matter we are fortunately not without adequate models. The boldest speculator in biology was also the one of all his century most careful as to his facts. In the twenty-five years of building the hypothesis of the origin of variety in life, Darwin scrutinized each least fact as though it were the center of the whole system. From which it followed that there was no unsound material in the fabric he built. And for this attention to each detail, rather than for the greatness of his final conception, we place Darwin first among the naturalists of all time. Other men had thought of natural selection, had imagined the survival of the fittest, had shown the divergence of forms of life under diverse environment. Only Darwin could show with the demonstration of ten thousand instances that this condition was naturally inevitable, that the origin of species was written in the very nature of things set in the creation of life.
As causal interpretation in weak hands degenerates into speculation, so are all other forms of research subject to deterioration. Experimenters are peculiarly subject to myopia, shortsightedness, narrowness, carelessness as to truth obtained in other ways, and indifference to the outlooks a broader horizon obtains. With all the intensive accuracy of the science of Germany, we have often to look to other countries, notably to England, for the broader view which sets each fact in place.
Systematic or descriptive work often finds its end in pedantry, the accumulation or the ostentation of meaningless knowledge, or in the forming of useless names and the gathering of pointless statistics. The work of setting in order often slides downward through easy stages of copying, compiling and dictionary work, work designed to 'hold the eel of science by the tail,' but which sometimes retains only the slime from that vivacious fish. Ecology too easily falls into sentimental personification of living organisms, not the study of Nature, but the cultivation of our own emotions regarding her. Inventive science degenerates into management of properties and science is lost in the search for salaries for holding down a job. For in engineering there is a subtle line, easily passed, which separates the comrade in zeal from the successful superintendent of a mine or foreman of a machine shop, just as in pure science there is a narrow line which distinguishes advance in knowledge from the simple keeping of what is already in our possession.
We must all rejoice in the steady increase of means for work in America, the multiplication of libraries, laboratories, museums, instruments of precision and facilities for publication, made ready to our hand. These will increase the output in science; they will improve its quality; but they will have little effect on the actual number of investigators.
I am forced to believe that investigators can not be made by opportunity only—merely made better. Not many who would have been investigators have been deterred by scanty means, by burden of work, by lack of encouragement. The impulse of the investigator, as his reward, must be within himself. His results may be incomplete, his product scanty, his outlook narrow, but he will not fail to bring forth after his own kind. A stalk of corn in stony soil may yield but little grain, but what there is will still be corn. You can not starve it down to oats nor feed it till it becomes a banana. I have no faith in the men who might have been productive investigators if they only had a chance. The world is the opportunity of the man who can seize it. All the true naturalist demands is to be born into it.
In like fashion, splendid resources count for nothing till they fall into the right hands. The existence of a microscope or microtome is no guarantee that some one will use it. The presence of a collection is no sign that some one will study it. It requires courage and zeal to lay hold of anything, and these qualities do not always dwell in kings' houses. Generous facilities can not take the place of men, and the best working rooms in the world will not raise mediocrity into genius. Haeckel once said bitterly that the output of laboratories in biology was always in inverse ratio to the completeness of their appointments.
For there are always influences at work, extrinsic and intrinsic forces, as I said just now, which oppose the spirit of investigation. Among these I class all which tend to make investigation perfunctory and all those which crown achievement with worldly reward. I have known men in European museums to say deliberately: It is time to put out another paper. What is the easiest thing I can do? Meanwhile searching for the line of work which will yield the largest number of pages for the amount of energy put forth. Something of this sort results from the pressure of university publication committees. So many pages of original research demanded for each month in the calendar. Better not print at all than to make it a stated function. On the whole, I place the fellowship system as a discouragement to research. The real comrade in zealous learning is a man who can take care of himself. To get his own training where he can do it best, in his own way, at his own cost, is one of the best parts of his scientific training. The free lunch at the university tempts those who are hungry, the pedant, the place-seeker, the second-hand scholar—to the prejudice of the investigator. The kind of man who best passes examinations is not the original, the forceful, the creative scholar. He has something better than examinations to think about. It is not to the credit of the American university system that the number of doctors of philosophy—to borrow a suggestion from Dr. Jacques Loeb—each year corresponds almost exactly to the number of young men hired to study in the particular institution. So many fellowships, so many doctors of philosophy. Very few of these stall-fed scholars have the courage or the conscience to do independent work after the outside stimulus is withdrawn.
Within the walls of the academy the place of the investigator is not sure. Temptations assail him here from within and from without. One of the meanest is the impulse to acquire a reputation cheaply, to conduct his researches under the lime light, making great discoveries while the printer waits. Yet our newspapers are full of grave discussions of* the outgivings of these lackeys of science. Almost equally cheap is the temptation to publication for publication's sake, to have something in the market, something to serve at the show-down to show to the advantage of the writer or of his university.
On the other hand, the pressure of university duties often gradually extinguishes the investigator in developing the teacher. The college professor has many students to look after, many committee meetings to attend, many papers to read, many lectures to give, many whist parties to go through—many mouths to feed, while the apparatus rusts, the specimens gather mold or go to feed the Dermestes, while the half-begun manuscript is laid away for the season which never comes. Too often the young investigator, transplanted from the German hot-bed, with the easy success of the easy thesis, finds no adequate impulse to continue his work. Nobody cares for his conclusions, nothing depends on them. His place is secure and becomes more so from year to year, and at last instead of fanaticism for veracity, we find a mild form of approval of truth.
Besides all this there are many counterfeit presentments of investigation. Some years ago I had occasion to say:
"I am well aware that there is a cant of investigation, as of religion and all other good things. Germany, for example, is full of young men who set forth to investigate, not because they 'are called to explore truth,' but because research is the popular fad, and inroads into new fields the prerequisite to promotion. And so they burrow into every corner in science, philology, philosophy and history, and produce their petty results in as automatic a fashion as if they were so many excavating machines. Real investigators are born, not made, and this uninspired digging into old roots and 'Urquellen' bears the same relation to the work of the real investigators that the Latin verses of Rugby and Eton bear to Virgil and Horace. Nevertheless, it is true that no second-hand man was ever a great teacher. I very much doubt if any really great investigator was ever a poor teacher. How could he be? The very presence of Asa Gray was an inspiration to students of botany for years after he had left the class-room. Such a man leaves the stamp of his greatness on every student who comes within the range of his influence."
Besides all this, the work of research itself has its difficulties and its limitations. Too often fanaticism for veracity is subtly transformed into fanaticism for an idea—just plain fanaticism—the farthest removed from the open-mindedness which is the sole condition of knowing the proclaiming truth. To proclaim an error in good faith and then to discard it when the real truth appears, is a great strain on human nature. Hence research gives place to partisanship, and there are not many times when a man of science should be a partisan. When such times come, when we have the whole truth lined against all error, there is not much question as to the outcome of the struggle, and the investigator is not needed in the fight. He can afford to let the battle go on to its natural end while he forges new arms for new struggles in new places. There was no need for Darwin to combat the attacks made on the Darwinian theory. It could take care of itself. There were better things for the master to look after. In fact all scientific controversies are essentially unscientific. It is a little more than a century since the great war of the Plutonists and Neptunists was on in geology. The battle was not fought out by the doughty combatants on either side, but by men outside the struggle who brought new truths unknown to the controversialist. Desmarest mapped the volcanoes of Auvergne, and his answer to the question as to the origin of deposits was simply, 'Go and see.' The rocks will tell you. And in London the answer of Sedgwick and Murchison was not different. Let us make a geological map of England; then the rocks will tell us where they came from and the conditions of their deposit.
Yet whatever the discouragements within or without, we have in America two splendid sources of encouragement in scientific research. Ours is a motor country with a democratic people. Every impulse is toward action. Each thought finds its end in doing something. And this makes for zeal in science. It makes for the saving in time. It makes for singleness of heart. For to engage in scientific research is really to do something. It is not talk. It is not meditation. It has an end in view and this end must be reached by activity. Science is positive, aggressive, dynamic. It does not spring from lethargy, and the lands of physical inactivity are lands of scientific ignorance. To be in the forefront of action is a pledge of ultimate leadership in science. This pledge America has given and this she has begun to redeem. It is already true that no other country in the world has done so much as our own in scientific investigation carried on for the benefit of the people and at the people's expense.
The spirit of democracy favors the advance of science. Democracy seems at first to level, because it tears down all artificial props. All men start alike, and all ideas must struggle alike for existence. The tradition of a thousand years to a democracy, is, to borrow Huxley's phrase, 'but as the hearsay of yesterday.' And this should be true of all tradition in the face of truth. A truth is valued for what it is—nothing more. In a democracy truth stands on its own feet, as a man ought to, and it may be assailed from any side. Tradition does not help it, and there is no weight in authority. Democracy at least brings each one to his own. It is not a leveler. It is the great unequalizer, the power which makes each man equal to his own fate, regardless of the fate of all other men. And as no two men deserve the same in life, fair play must end in final inequality.
In the field in which I have worked, that of systematic zoology, it is easy to notice the influence of political conditions on the individual point of view. The American worker applies his rules regardless of whether they affect great men or small. He knows no tradition large enough to check the movement of science. Among the Scandinavians and the Dutch, in nations too small to obscure the democracy of learning, we find much the same feeling. In France, in Germany, even in England, the tradition of great names, the customs of great museums, largely outweigh the testimony of the things themselves. It has taken a long time to bring about in these countries the application of the simple and necessary law of priority in nomenclature. To this law all naturalists have assented in theory, but with the reserve of exceptions in favor of great men or the traditions of great museums. The willingness to adopt new views, to utilize new classifications, to see things in new lights, is, broadly speaking, in proportion to the spirit cf democracy by which a worker is surrounded. A perfect democracy means a perfect perspective—each man, each idea, each theory standing for what it is, with all the 'covering of make-believe thrown off.' For the zealous search in which we meet as comrades is the worship of the greatest God known to religion, the God of the things as they are. And here come the reasons why even the prophets of civilization should cultivate the virtue of modesty. The universe, of which we have explored a few points, is so gigantic in space, so monstrous in duration, that it baffles all our powers of collective thought to conceive of its existence. 'Time is as long as space is wide.' We can not picture the universe as limitless in space or in time, nor can we think of it as having bounds in distance or in duration. And with all its grandeur, it is so finely put together, so delicately adjusted, so eternally interdependent, that the smallest of all its parts is as large as the largest, that if another atom could be brought in from beyond the range of space and added to its infinite side, even if this were done only a moment after time should cease to be, the whole mass of eternity might be thrown from its bearings, its adjustment destroyed and the creation of aeons of evolution flung back into primitive chaos. Or again, may be not this, but something else might happen, for likely enough matter is nothing substantial at all, but each molecule merely the vortex of a whirling current of force. Wherefore, bearing on our scientific shoulders the vastness of a universe whose elements are unknowable, unthinkable, 'solid and substantial, vast and unchanging,' we may well, to-night, as Thackeray once said on a similar occasion, say, 'We may well think small beer of ourselves and pass around the bottle.'
- Address at the first annual banquet of the Honorary Society of Sigma Xi, St. Louis, December 31, 1903.