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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 66/November 1904/Utilitarian Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 66‎ | November 1904

UTILITARIAN SCIENCE.[1]
By President DAVID STARR JORDAN,

LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY.

IT falls to my lot to-day to discuss very briefly, in accordance with the program of this congress, some of the common features of utilitarian science, with a word as to present and future lines of investigation or instruction in some of those branches of the applications of knowledge which have been assigned to the present division.

Applied science can not be separated from pure science, for pure science may develop at any quarter the greatest and most unexpected economic values, while, on the other hand, the applications of knowledge must await the acquisition of knowledge, before any high achievement in any quarter can be reached. For these reasons, the classification adopted in the present congress, or any other classification of sciences into utilitarian science and other forms of science, must be illogical and misleading. Whatever is true is likely sometime to prove useful, and all error is likely to prove sometime disastrous. From the point of view of the development of the human mind, all truth is alike useful and all error is alike mischievous.

In point of development pure science must precede utilitarian science. Historically, this seems to be not true; for the beginnings of science in general, as alchemy, astrology and therapeutics, seem to have their origin in the desire for the practical results of knowledge. Men wanted to acquire gold, to save life, to forecast the future, not for knowledge's sake, but for the immediate results of success in these directions. But even here accurate knowledge must precede any success in its application, and accuracy of knowledge is all that we mean by pure science. Moreover, as through the ages the representatives of the philosophies of the day, the a priori explanations of the universe, were bitterly and personally hostile to all inductive conclusions based on the study of base matter, men of science were forced to disguise their work under a utilitarian cloak. This is more or less true even to this day, and the greatest need of utilitarian science is still, as a thousand years ago, that this cloak should be thrown off, and that a larger and stronger body of workers in pure science should be developed to give the advance in real knowledge on which the thousands of ingenious and noble applications to utilitarian ends must constantly depend.

It is a fundamental law of psychology that thought tends to pass over into action. Applied science is knowledge in action. It is the flower of that highest philanthropy of the ages by which not even thought exists for itself alone, but must find its end in the enlargement of human control over matter and force or the amelioration of the conditions of human life.

The development of all science has been a constant struggle, a struggle of fact against philosophy, of instant impressions against traditional interpretations, of truth against 'make-believe' For men are prone to trust a theory rather than a fact; a fact is a single point of contact; a theory is a circle made of an infinite number of points, none of them, however, it may be, real points of contact.

The history of the progress of science is written in human psychology rather than in human records. It is the struggle of the few realities or present sense impressions against the multitude of past impressions, suggestions and explanations. I have elsewhere said that the one great discovery of the nineteenth century—forestalled many ages before—was that of the reality of external things. Men have learned to trust a present fact or group of facts, however contradictory its teachings, as apposed to tradition and philosophy. From this trust in the reality of the environment of matter and force, whatever these may be, the great fabric of modern science has been built up. Science is human experience of contact with environment tested, set in order, and expressed in terms of other human experience. Utilitarian science is that part of all this knowledge which we can use in our lives, in our business. What is pure science to one is applied science to another. The investigation of the laws of heredity may be strictly academic to us of the university, but they are utilitarian as related to the preservation of the nation or to the breeding of pigs. In the warfare of science the real in act and motive has been persistently substituted for the unreal. Men have slowly learned that the true glory of life lies in its wise conduct, in the daily act of love and helpfulness, not in the vagaries fostered by the priest or in the spasms of madness which are the culmination of war. To live here and now as a man should live constitutes the ethics of science, and this ideal has been in constant antithesis to the ethics of ecclesiasticism, of asceticism and of militarism.

The physical history of the progress of science has been a struggle of thinkers, observers and experimenters against the dominant forces of society. It has been a continuous battle, in which the weaker side in the long run is winner, having the strength of the earth behind. It has been incidentally a conflict of earth-born knowledge with opinions of men sanctioned by religion; of present fact with preestablished system, visibly a warfare between inductive thought and dogmatic theology.

The real struggle, as already indicated, lies deeper than this. It is the effort of the human mind to relate itself to realities in the midst of traditions and superstitions, to realize that Nature never contradicts herself, is always complex, but never mysterious. As a final result all past systems of philosophy, perhaps all possible systems, have been thrown back into the realm of literature, of poetry, no longer controlling the life of action, which rests on fact.

This conflict of tendencies in the individual has become a conflict among individuals as each is governed by a dominant impulse. The cause of tradition becomes that of theology;—for men have always claimed a religious sanction for their own individual bit of cosmic philosophy. Just as each man in his secret heart, the center of his own universe, feels himself in some degree the subject of the favor of the mysterious unseen powers, so does society in all ages find a mystic or divine warrant for its own attitude towards life and action, whatever that may be.

The nervous system of man, inherited from that of the lower animals, may be regarded as primarily a means of making locomotion safe. The reflex action of the nerve center is the type of all mental processes. The sensorium, or central ganglion, receives impressions from the external world representing, in a way, various phases of reality. The brain has no source of knowledge other than sensation. All human knowledge comes through human experience. The brain, sitting in darkness, has the primary function of converting sensory impressions into impulses to action. To this end the motor nerves carry impulses outward to the muscles. The higher function of nerve action, which we call the intellect, as distinguished from simple reflex action and from instinct, is the choice among different responses to the stimulus of external realities. As conditions of life become more complex, the demands of external realities become more exacting. It is the function of the intellect to consider and of the mind to choose. The development of the mind causes and permits complexity in external relations. Safety in life depends on choosing the right response to external stimulus. Wrong choice leads to failure or to death.

From the demands of natural selection results the intense practicality of the mental processes. Our senses tell us the truth as to external nature, in so far as such phases of reality have been essential to the life of our ancestors. To a degree, they must have seen 'things as they really are' else they should not have lived to continue the generation. Our own individual ancestors through all the ages have been creatures of adequate accuracy of sensation and of adequate power of thought. Were it not so they could not have coped with their environment. The sensations which their brains translated into action contained enough of absolute reality to make action safe. That our own ordinary sensations and our own inductions from them are truthful in their essentials, is proved by the fact that we have thus far safely trusted them. Science differs from common sense mainly in the perfection of its tools. That the instruments of precision used in science give us further phases of reality is shown by the fact that we can trust our lives to them. We find it safer to do so than to trust our unaided senses.

While our senses tell us the truth as to familiar things, as rocks and trees, foods and shelter, friends and enemies, they do not tell us the whole truth: they go only so far as the demands of ancestral environment have forced them to go. Chemical composition our senses do not show. Objects too small to handle are too small to be seen. Bodies too distant to be reached are never correctly apprehended. Accuracy of sense decreases as the square of the distance increases. Sun and stars, clouds and sky, are in fact very different from what they seem to the senses.

In matters not vital to action, exactness of knowledge loses its importance. Any kind of belief may be safe, if it is not to be carried over into action. It is perfectly safe, in the ordinary affairs of life, for one who does not propose to act on his convictions to believe in witches and lucky stones, imps and elves, astral bodies and odic forces. It is quite as consistent with ordinary living to accept these as objective realities as it is to have the vague faith in microbes and molecules, mahatmas and protoplasm, protective tariffs and manifest destiny, which forms part of the mental outfit of the average American citizen to-day. Unless these conceptions are to be brought into terms of personal experience, unless in some degree we are to trust our lives to them, unless they are to be wrought into action, they are irrelevant to the conduct of life. As they are tested by action, the truth is separated from the falsehood, and the error involved in vague or silly ideas becomes manifest. As one comes to handle microbes, they become as real as bullets or oranges and as susceptible of being manipulated. But the astral body covers only ignorance and ghosts vanish before the electric light.

Memory pictures likewise arise to produce confusion in the mind. The record of past realities blends readily with the present. Men are gregarious creatures and their speech gives them the power to add to their own individual experiences the concepts and experiences of others. Suggestion and conventionality play a large part in the mental equipment of the individual man.

About the sense impressions formed in his own brain each man builds up his own subjective universe. Each accretion of knowledge must be cast more or less directly in terms of previous experience. By processes of suggestion and conventionality the ideas of the individual become assimilated to those of the multitude. Thus myths arise to account for phenomena not clearly within the ordinary experiences of life. And in all mythology the unknown is ascribed not to natural forces, but to the action of the powers that transcend nature, that lie outside the domain of the familiar and the real.

It has been plain to man in all ages that he is surrounded by forces stronger than himself, invisible and intangible, inscrutable in their real nature, but terribly potent to produce results. He can not easily trace cause and effect in dealing with these forces; hence it is natural that he should doubt the existence of relations of cause and effect. As the human will seems capricious because the springs of volition are hidden from observation, so to the unknown will that limits our own we ascribe an infinite caprice. All races of men capable of abstract thought have believed in the existence of something outside themselves whose power is without human limitations. Through the imagination of poets the forces of nature become personified. The existence of power demands corresponding will. The power is infinitely greater than ours; the sources of its action inscrutable: hence man has conceived the unknown first cause as an infinite and unconditioned man. Anthropomorphism in some degree is inevitable, because each man must think in terms of his own experience. Into his own personal universe, all that he knows must come.

Recognition of the hidden but gigantic forces in nature leads men to fear and to worship them. To think of them either in fear or in worship is to give them human forms.

The social instincts of man tend to crystallize in institutions; even his common hopes and fears. An institution implies a division of labor. Hence, in each age and in each race men have been set apart as representatives of these hidden forces and devoted to their propitiation. These men are commissioned to speak in the name of each god that the people worship or each demon the people dread.

The existence of each cult of priests is bound up in the perpetuations of the mysteries and traditions assigned to their care. These traditions are linked with other traditions and with other mystic explanations of uncomprehended phenomena. While human theories of the sun, the stars, the clouds, of earthquakes, storms, comets and disease, have no direct relation to the feeling of worship, they can not be disentangled from it. The uncomprehended, the unfamiliar and the supernatural are one and the same in the untrained human mind; and one set of prejudices can not be dissociated from the others.

To the ideas acquired in youth we attach a sort of sacredness. To the course of action we follow we are prone to claim some kind of mystic sanction; and this mystic sanction applies not only to acts of virtue and devotion, but to the most unimportant rites and ceremonies; and in these we resent changes with the full force of such conservatism as we possess.

It is against limited and preconceived notions that the warfare of science has been directed. It is the struggle for the realities on the part of the individual man. Ignorance, prejudice and intolerance, in the long run, are one and the same thing. In some one line at least, every lofty mind throughout the ages has demanded objective reality. This struggle has been one between science and theology only because theological misconceptions were entangled with crude notions of other sorts. In the experience of a single human life there is little to correct even the crudest of theological conceptions. From the supposed greater importance of religious opinions in determining the fate of men and nations, theological ideas have dominated all others throughout the ages; and in the nature of things, the great religious bodies have formed the stronghold of conservatism against which the separated bands of science have hurled themselves, seemingly, in vain.

But the real essence of conservatism lies not in theology. The whole conflict, as I have already said, is a struggle in the mind of man. From some phase of the warfare of science no individual is exempt. It exists in human psychology before it is wrought in human history. There is no better antidote to bigotry than the study of the growth of knowledge. There is no chapter in history more encouraging than that which treats of the growth of open mindedness. The study of this history leads religious men to avoid intolerance in the present, through a knowledge of the evils intolerance has wrought in the past. Men of science are spurred to more earnest work by the record that through the ages objective truth has been the final test of all theories and conceptions. All men will work more sanely and more effectively as they realize that no good to religion or science comes from 'wishing to please God with a lie.'

It is the mission of science to disclose—so far as it goes—the real nature of the universe. Its function is to eliminate, wherever it be found, the human equation. By methods of precision of thought and instruments of precision of observation and experiment, science seeks to make our knowledge of the small, the distant, the invisible, the mysterious as accurate, as practical, as our knowledge of common things. Moreover, it seeks to make our knowledge of common things accurate and precise, that this accuracy and precision may be translated into action. For the ultimate end of science as well as its initial impulse is the regulation of human conduct. Seeing true means thinking right. Bight thinking means right action. Greater precision in action makes higher civilization possible. Lack of precision in action is the great cause of human misery; for misery is the inevitable result of wrong conduct. 'Still men and nations reap as they have strewn.'

A classic thought in the history of applied science is expressed in these words of Huxley: 'There can be no alleviation of the sufferings of man except in absolute veracity of thought and action, and a resolute facing of the world as it is.' 'The world as it is,' is the province of science. 'The God of the things as they are, is the God of the highest heaven.' And as to the sane man, the world as it is is glorious, beautiful, harmonious and divine, so will science, our tested and ordered knowledge of it, be the inspiration of art, poetry and religion.

Pure science and utilitarian science merge into each other at every point. They are one and the same thing. Every new truth can be used to enlarge human power or to alleviate human suffering. There is no fact so remote as to have no possible bearing on human utility. Every new conception falls into the grasp of that higher philanthropy which rests on the comprehension of the truths of science. For science is the flower of human altruism. No worker in science can stand alone. None counts for much who tries to do so. He must enter into the work of others. He must fit his thought to theirs. He must stand on the shoulders of the past, and must crave the help of the future. The past has granted its assistance, to the fullest degree of the most perfect altruism. The future will not refuse; and, in return, whatever knowledge it can take for human uses, it will choose in untrammeled freedom. The sole line which sets off utilitarian science lies in the limitation of human strength and of human life. The single life must be given to a narrow field, to a single strand of truth, following it wherever it may lead. Some must teach, some must investigate, some must adapt to human uses. It is not often that these functions can be united in the same individual. It is not necessary that they should be united; for art is long, though life is short, and for the next thousand years science will be still in its infancy. We stand on the threshold of a new century; a century of science; a century whose discoveries of reality shall far outweigh those of all centuries which have preceded it; a century whose glories even the most conservative of scientific men dare not try to forecast. And this twentieth century is but one—the least, most likely—of the many centuries crowding to take their place in the line of human development. In each century we shall see a great widening of the horizon of human thought, a great increase of precision in each branch of human knowledge, a great improvement in the conditions of human life, as enlightenment and precision come to be controlling factors in human action.

In the remaining part of this address I shall discuss very briefly some salient features of practice, investigation and instruction in those sciences which in the scheme of classification of this congress have been assigned to this division. In this discussion I have received the invaluable aid of a large number of my colleagues in scientific work, and from their letters of kindly interest I have felt free to make some very interesting quotations. To all these gentlemen (a list too long to be given here) from whom I have received aid of this kind I offer a most grateful acknowledgment.

 

Engineering.

The development of the profession of engineering in America has been the most remarkable feature of our recent industrial as well as educational progress. In this branch of applied science our country has come to the very front, and this in a relatively short time. To this progress a number of distinct forces have contributed. One lies in the temperament of our people, their motive force, and their tendency to apply knowledge to action. In practical life the American makes the most of all he knows. Favoring this is the absence of caste feeling. There is no prejudice in favor of the idle man. Only idlers take the members of the leisure class seriously. There is, again, no social discrimination against the engineer as compared with other learned professions. The best of our students become working engineers without loss of social prestige of any sort. Another reason is found in the great variety of industrial openings in America, and still another in the sudden growth of American colleges into universities, and universities in which both pure and applied sciences find a generous welcome. For this the Morrill Act, under which each state has developed a technical school, under federal aid, is largely responsible. In the change from the small college of thirty years ago, a weak copy of English models, to the American university of to-day, many elements have contributed. Among these is the current of enlightenment from Germany, and at the same time the influence of far-seeing leaders in education. Notable among these have been Tappan, Eliot, Agassiz and White. To widen the range of university instruction so as to meet all the intellectual, esthetic and industrial needs of the ablest men is the work of the modern university. To do this work is to give a great impetus to pure and to applied science.

Two classes of men come to the front in the development of engineering: the one, men of deep scientific knowledge, to whom advance of knowledge is due, the other the great constructive engineers; men who can work in the large and can manage great enterprises with scientific accuracy and practical success. Everywhere the tendency in training is away from mere craftsmanship and towards power of administration. The demands of the laboratory leave less and less time for the shop. "Two classes of students," says a correspondent, "should be encouraged in our universities: First, the man whose scientific attainments are such that he will be able to develop new and important processes, the details of which may be directly applied. This type of man is the scientific engineer. The other is the so-called practical man, who will not only actually carry on engineering work, but may be called on to manage large enterprises. If his temperament and ability are such as to give him a thorough command of business methods and details, while he is in addition a good engineer, he will find a field of great usefulness before him on leaving the university. The university should encourage young men to undertake the general executive work necessary to handling men and in the many details of large enterprises. The successful man of this character is necessarily a leader and the university should recognize that such a man can be of great influence in the world, if he is thoroughly and broadly educated."

"We need," says another correspondent, "men possessing a better general training than most of those now entering and leaving our engineering schools. We need more thoroughly trained teachers of engineering, men who combine theoretical training with a wide and constantly increasing experience, men who can handle the factors of theory, practice and economics."

"Technical education," says another correspondent, "should look beyond the individual to the aggregate, and should aim to shape its activities so as to develop at the maximum number of points sympathetic and helpful relations with the industrial and engineering interests of the state. This means careful and steady effort towards the coordination of the activities of the technical school with the general condition of industry and engineering as regards its raw materials, its constructive and productive operations, its needs and demands with regard to personnel and its actual or potential trend of progress."

The coming era in engineering is less a period of discovery and invention than of application on a large scale of principles already known. Greater enterprises, higher potentialities, freer use of forces of nature, all these are in the line of engineering progress.

"The realm of physical science," says a correspondent, "has become to the practical man a highly improved agricultural land, whereas in earlier days it was a virgin country possessing great possibilities and exacting but little in the way of economic treatment."

In all forms of engineering, practise is changing from day to day; the principles remain fixed. In electricity, for example, the field of knowledge 'extends far beyond the direct limits or needs of electrical engineers.'

"The best criticism as to engineering education came formerly almost entirely from professors of science and engineering. To-day the greatest and most wholesome source of such criticism comes from those engaged in practical affairs. We have begun a regime wherein coordinated theory and practise will enter into the engineering training of young men to a far greater and more profitable extent than ever before."

"The marvelous results in the industrial world of to-day," says a correspondent, "are due largely to the spirit of 'usefulness, activity, and cooperation' that exists in each community of interests and which actuates men employing the means which applied science has so bountifully accorded. I know of no greater need of engineering education in our country to-day than that its conduct in each institution should be characterized by the same spirit of usefulness, activity and cooperation."

In mining, as in other departments of engineering, we find in the schools the same growing appreciation of the value of training at once broad, thorough and practical, and the same preference for the university-trained engineer in preference to the untrained craftsman.

The head of a great mining firm in London writes me that 'for our business, what we desire are young men of good natural qualifications, thoroughly trained theoretically without any so-called practical knowledge unless this knowledge has heen gained by employment in actual works.'

On the pay-roll of this English firm I find that five men receive salaries of more than $20,000. All these are graduates of technical departments of American universities. Seventeen receive from $6,000 to $20,000. Nine of these were trained in American universities, one in Australia and two in England, while five have risen from the ranks.

In the lower positions, most have been trained in Australia, a few in England, while in positions bearing a salary of less than $2,500, most have risen from the ranks.

"Given men of equal qualifications," says the director of this firm, "the man of technical training is bound to rise to the higher position because of his greater value to his employer. As a rule, also, men who have been technically trained are, by virtue of their education, men who are endowed with a professional feeling which does not to the same extent exist among those men who have risen from the rank and file. They are therefore more trustworthy and especially in mining work, where premium for dishonesty exists, for this qualification alone they are bound to have precedence. We do not by any means wish to disparage the qualifications of many men who have risen from the ranks to eminent positions, but our opinion may be concentrated in the statement that even these men would be better men had they received a thorough technical training."

The progress of chemical engineering is parallel with that in other departments of technology. Yet the appreciation of the value of theoretical training is somewhat less marked, and in this regard our manufacturers seem distinctly behind those of Germany.

"The development of chemical industries in the past history of the United States," says a correspondent, "was seriously delayed by the usually superficial and narrow training of the chemist in the colleges. Thus managers and proprietors came to undervalue the importance of chemical knowledge. The greatest need at present in the development of chemical industries is an adequate supply of chemists of thorough training to teach manufacturers the importance in their business of adequate chemical knowledge. Epoch-making advances in chemical industry will spring from the brain of great chemists, and to ensure the production of a few of these, the country must expect to seed lavishly and to fertilize generously the soil from which they spring. Germany has learned the lesson well: other nations can not long delay."

In the vast range of the applications of science to agriculture, the same general statements hold good. There is, however, no such general appreciation of the value of training as appears in relation to the various branches of training, and the men of scientific education are mostly absorbed in the many ramifications of the Department of Agriculture and in the state agricultural colleges and experiment stations. There are few illustrations of the power of national cooperation more striking than those shown in the achievements of the Department of Agriculture. I have no time to touch on the varied branches of agricultural research, the study of the chemistry of foods and soils, the practise of irrigation, the fight against adulterations, the fight against noxious insects, and all the other channels of agricultural art and practise. I can only commend the skill and the zeal with which all these lines of effort have been followed.

The art of agriculture is the application of all the sciences. Yet 'agricultural education,' writes a correspondent, 'has not yet reached the dignity of other forms of technical education.'

"The endowment of the science of agricultural research in the United States is greater than in any other country. The chief fault to be found is in striving too rapidly for practical applications and in not giving time enough for the fundamental research on which these applications must rest. The proportion of applied agricultural science in agriculture is too great in this country. While we do not need fewer workers in applied agricultural science, we do need more workers who would devote themselves to fundamental research."

Two branches of applied science not specifically noticed in our scheme of classification seem to me to demand a word of notice. One is selective breeding of plants and animals; the other, the artificial hatching of fishes. By the crossing of animals or plants not closely related, a great range of variety appears in the progeny. Some of these may have one or more of the desirable qualities of either parent. By selection of those possessing such qualities a new race may be formed in a few generations. The practical value of the results of such experiments can not be over-estimated. Although by no means a modern process, the art of selective breeding is still in its infancy. Its practise promises to take a leading place among the economically valuable applications of science. At the same time, the formation of species of organisms under the hand of man throws constant floods of light on the great questions of heredity, variation and selection in nature, the problem of the origin of species.

In this connection I may refer to artificial hatching and acclimatization of fishes, the work of the United States Bureau of Fisheries and of the fish commissions of the different states. There are many species of fish, notably those of the salmon family, in which the eggs can be taken and fertilized by artificial processes. These eggs can be hatched in protected waters so that the young will escape many of the vicissitudes of the brook and river, and a thousand young fishes can be sent forth where only a dozen grew before.

 

Medicine.

In the vast field of medicine I can only indicate in a few words certain salient features of medical research, of medical practise, and of medical instruction in America.

In matters of research, the most fruitful line of investigation has been along the line of the mechanism of immunity from contagious diseases. To know the nature of microorganisms and their effect on the tissues is to furnish the means of fighting them. 'The first place in experimental medicine to-day' says Dr. W. H. Welch, 'is occupied by the problem of immunity.' That medicine is becoming a scientific profession and not a trade is the basis of the growing interest of our physicians in scientific problems, and this again leads to increased success in dealing with matters of health and disease. The discovery of the part played by mosquitoes in the dissemination of malaria, yellow fever, dengue, elephantiasis and other diseases caused by microorganisms marks an epoch in the study of these diseases. The conquest of diphtheria is another of the features of advance in modern medicine, and another is shown in the great development of surgical skill characteristic of American medical science. But the discoveries of the last decades have been rarely startling or epoch-making. They have rather tended to fill the gaps in our knowledge, and there remain many more gaps to fill before medical practise can reach the highest point of adequacy. The great need of the profession is still in the direction of research, and research of the character which takes the whole life and energy of the ablest men demands money for its maintenance. We need no more medical colleges for the teaching of the elements. We need schools or laboratories of research for the training of the masters.

In the development of medicine there has been a steady movement away from universal systems and a priori principles, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, from blind empiricism, with the giving of drugs with sole reference to their apparent results. The applications of science—all sciences which deal with life, with force and with chemical composition—must enter into the basis of medicine. Hence the insistent demand for better preliminary training before entering on the study of medicine. "Only the genius of the first order," says a correspondent, "can get on without proper schooling in his youth. What our medical investigators in this country most need is a thorough grounding in the sciences, especially physics and chemistry."

The instruction in medicine, a few years ago almost a farce in America, has steadily grown more serious. Laboratory work and clinical experience have taken the place of lectures, the courses have been lengthened, higher preparation for entrance has been exacted, though in almost all our schools these requirements are still far too low, and a more active and original type of teacher has been in demand. Even yet, so far as medical instruction is concerned, the hopeful sign is to be found in progress rather than in achievement. A college course, having as its major subjects the sciences fundamental to medicine, is not too much to exact of a student who aspires to be a physician worthy of our times and of the degree of our universities. First hand knowledge of real things should be the key-note of all scientific instruction. "Far more effort is now made," writes a correspondent, "in both the preparatory and the clinical branches to give the student a first hand knowledge of the subject. This tendency has still a long way to travel before it is in danger of being overdone. The practical result of this tendency is that the cost of education per student is greatly increased and the profits of purely commercial schools are thereby threatened. This forms, doubtless, the main source of the objection made by the weaker and less worthy schools to better methods of instruction. We need well endowed schools of medicine that may carry on their work unhampered by the necessities of a commercial venture. Medical schools now exist in great numbers, many of them can not keep up with modern requirements, and necessarily their salvation lies in antagonizing everything in the nature of more ample and more expensive training."

Another correspondent writes, emphasizing the value of biologic studies: "The final comprehension of bodily activity in health and disease depends on knowledge of living things from ovum to birth, from birth to maturity, and from maturity to old age and death. Anything less than such fundamental knowledge requires constant guessing to fill up the gaps, and guesses are nearly always wrong."

In many regards, even our best schools of medicine seem to show serious deficiencies. The teaching of anatomy is still one of the most costly, as well as least satisfactory, of our lines of work. A correspondent calls attention to the fact that in making anatomy 'practical' in our medical schools 'we expended last year $750,000 in the United States, twice the amount expended in Germany, with as a result neither practical anatomy nor scientific achievement.' "Anatomy," he continues, "should be made distinctly a university department, on a basis similar to that of physics and chemistry. Unfortunately, university presidents still stand much in the way of the development of anatomy, for many of them seem to think that almost any one who wears the gown is good enough to become a professor of anatomy. Repeatedly have I witnessed the appointment of a know-nothing when a recognized young man might have been had for half the money." Our forces are dissipated, the fear of things scientific has destroyed even the practical in this noble old mother science which is still giving birth to new sciences and to brilliant discoveries.

Among other matters too much neglected are personal hygiene, a matter to which the physician of the past has been notoriously and joyously indifferent. Especially is this true as regards the hygiene of exercise and the misuse of nerve-affecting drugs.

Public sanitation as well deserves more attention. "The demand for adequately trained officers of public health is not what it should be, and our public service as a whole is far below that of European countries. Both public opinion and university authorities are responsible for this condition."

The hygiene of childhood, in which line great advances are made, is still not adequately represented in most of our medical colleges, and the study of psychiatry and nervous disturbances in general is not sufficiently lifted from the realm of quackery. "Not only," says a correspondent, "should psychiatry be taught in every medical school, but it should be taught from a clinical standpoint. Every city in which there are medical schools should have a psychopathic hospital for the reception of all cases of alleged insanity and for their study, treatment and cure. Such a hospital should contain, also, a laboratory for the study of normal and of pathological psychology. I am convinced that progress in normal psychology will be made chiefly through the study of abnormal conditions, just as physiology has profited so enormously through the work of the pathologist."

A word should be said for veterinary medicine and its achievements of enormous economic value in the control of the contagious diseases of animals. The recent achievements of vaccination against the southern cattle fever and against tuberculosis, the eradication of the foot and mouth disease among other matters, have demanded the highest scientific knowledge and the greatest skill in its practical application.

Unfortunately, veterinary science lacks in this country adequate facilities for research and instruction. "Practically," says a correspondent, "the veterinary sciences in the United States are leading a parasitic existence. We are dependent almost wholly upon the results of investigation and teaching of European countries, notably Germany and Denmark. The value of the live-stock industry here is so tremendous that almost every state in the Union should have a well-equipped veterinary school supported by public funds. There is but one veterinary school in the United States that has anything like adequate support." That this is true shows that our farmers and stock-raisers are very far from having an adequate idea of one of the most important of their economic needs.

 

Economics.

We may justify the inclusion of economics among the utilitarian sciences on grounds which would equally include the sciences of ethics and hygiene. It is extremely wise as well as financially profitable to take care of one's health, and still more so to take thought of one's conduct. The science of economics in some degree touches the ethics of nations and the 'wealth of nations,' a large factor in the happiness of the individuals contained within them, depends on the nation's attitude towards economic truths. Another justification of this inclusion is found in the growing tendency in our country to call on professional economists to direct national operations. On the other hand, our economists themselves are becoming more and more worthy of such trusts. The inductive study of their science brings them into closer contact with men and with enterprises. By this means they become students of administration as well as of economics. They realize the value of individual effort as well as the limitations which bound all sorts of executive work, in a republic. "Only a few years ago," writes a correspondent, "the teachers of economics were far more generally unfavorable critics of government work which interested them. They have become more and more disposed to cooperate at the beginning rather than to condemn at the end. Just as economics has taken a more kindly and hospitable attitude towards politics, so similarly has it towards business, as illustrated in the rapid rise of courses in commerce." The demand for trained economists in public affairs is 'compelling the teachers of economics more and more to seek contact with the men who are grappling face to face with economic problems.'

The relation of economic theory to administration is a subject on which there is much diversity of opinion. It is claimed by able authority that "Economic science, by becoming ultra-theoretical, has come into far closer touch with practical life than it ever attained before. Laws, the statement of which seems like a refinement of theory, determine the kind of legislation required on the most practical of subjects." On another hand, it is claimed by high authority that our country must have its own political economy. "The generalizations arising solely from the uniformity of human nature are so few that they can not constitute a science. The classical or orthodox Political Economy of England was conditioned from start to finish by the political problems it had to face. We are only beginning to acquire our national independence."

Still another view is that "all that has been achieved in the field of economics that is of any value, has been the result of logical analysis applied to the phenomena and experiences of every-day industrial life. The stages of past development can be determined and interpreted only in the light of this analysis. The lesson which the historical economist has never learned, is the importance of that principle, which lies at the bottom of the whole modern theory of evolution, and which was made use of by Lyell and Darwin, namely, the principle that historical changes of the past are to be accounted for by the long continued action of causes which are at this present moment in operation and can be observed and measured at the present day." "This," says my correspondent, "needs saying and resaying, until it is burned into the minds of all students of economics."

The recent progress of economics in America has lain in part in the development of economic theory by critical and by constructive methods. An important reason for welcoming the exact and critical study of economic theory is this: In the promulgation of imaginary economic principles the social and political charlatan finds his choice field of operation, just as the medical charlatan deals with some universal law of disease and its universal cure. The progress of science in every field discredits these universal principles with their mystical panaceas. There is all the more reason why in politics, as in medicine, those generalizations which deal with necessary laws or actually observed sequence of events should be critically and constructively studied.

In general, however, the progress of economics has followed the same lines as progress in other sciences, through a 'minute investigation and the application of principles already discovered or outlined by painstaking inquiry as to facts.' This method of work has been especially fruitful in the study of monetary problems, of finance, taxation and insurance, in the study of labor problems and conditions, in the study of commerce and in the study of crime and pauperism. In its development economics is, however, many years behind the natural sciences, a condition due to reliance on metaphysical methods and to the inherent difficulty in the use of any other.

"Economics," says a correspondent, "has been less successful than the material sciences in getting rid of the apparatus of metaphysical presumptions. The economist is still too eager to formulate laws that shall disclose the ultimate spiritual meaning of things instead of trying to explain how these things came to pass. He has profited in small degree by those lessons which the progressive evolutionary sciences have driven home in the past, in the methods of thinking of workers in other fields. Our science is still sadly behind the times in its way of handling its subject matter. The greatest and most important work of economic investigations is to make students see things as they are, to fit young men for the more highly organized business new conditions are ushering in, and give a better appreciation of the problems of government and a better training for participation in them."

Says another correspondent: "Training in research is in fact essential to every technical man. The young technologist will be confronted by new problems not covered by anything in literature or in his past experience. Training in research is training in the art of solving unsolved problems, and the practical man who has had discipline of that kind has a great advantage over his more conventional competitors. The Germans recognize this principle, and behold their marvelous industrial growth. The student in every department of science should be taught to think as well as to do."

The time must come when a man who has no training and no experience in research will not be called educated, whatever may be the range of his erudition. To unfold the secret of power is the true purpose of education.

  1. Address at the International Congress of Arts and Science, St. Louis, September, 1904.