Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/517

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
501
LITERARY NOTICES.

science," "sham science," and "science falsely so called;" but truly does the Rev. Joseph Cook's "Biology" answer to their ideal of a genuine thing? And must we not conclude, from the way they praise it, that our orthodox friends are rather hard pressed for championship?

 

 

OPENING OF THE MUSEUM.

It is not often that we get so much momentous thought in so narrow a compass as was furnished by Professors Eliot and Marsh, in their addresses at the recent opening of the American Museum of Natural History in this city. President Eliot, of Harvard, summed up in a few weighty words the grandest characteristic of modern science, and pointed out two of its most profound and far-reaching results. The completion of a new Museum of Natural History seemed the fitting occasion to recognize that science has given a kind of new birth to the human mind—a new method and spirit of thought in essential contrast with the old dogmatic dispensation. This grand result, not yet very widely recognized, and where recognized not yet very courageously avowed, nevertheless many times out-weighs in import all the material conquests of scientific research. The doctrine of heredity, in its comprehensive application to man and social institutions, and the doctrine of continuity in Nature, and the slow unfolding of higher and better conditions, are credited with an exalted place among the later achievements of the scientific mind. We cannot forbear expressing our gratification at so unqualified an indorsement from such a distinguished source, and on such a conspicuous occasion, of ideas which The Popular Science Monthly has earnestly sought to diffuse ever since it was started.

Prof. Marsh made a telling appeal for the encouragement of original scientific work. He called attention to the danger that such museums are liable to degenerate into mere shows, and pointed out that their higher service is to facilitate, encourage, and keep alive, that spirit of investigation by which alone knowledge is developed and perfected. His suggestions were pertinent and timely, and it is to be hoped they will be heeded, and that due provision will be made for students who wish to engage in the promotion of original work.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Elements of Geology: A Text-Book for Colleges and for the General Reader. By Joseph Le Conte, Professor of Geology in the University of California. 903 Illustrations. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 588. Price, $4.

Sir John Herschel has somewhere remarked that, in the vastness and sublimity of its leading ideas, geology is the rival of astronomy; for, as the latter has to deal with immeasurable space, the former opens the conception of immeasurable time. There is a splendor about the science of celestial phenomena that is, of course, unrivaled; but there is a deep fascination about the history of the development of our planet that comes from the immensity of the periods involved, the stupendous scale of the changes that have taken place, and the practical results derived from our knowledge of the constitution of the earth's crust.

These noble elements of the science must ever give geology a powerful claim upon the attention of cultivated people, and they have gained for it, and will secure to it, a leading place in all our higher courses of study. But scientific education is yet in its infancy, and its incorporation with the traditional culture has thus far been very much a matter of accident, caprice, or indifference. Geology has perhaps suffered more than any other science from the unsettled state of the relations between scientific and literary culture. Not that the subject has been neglected, but it has been treated without judicious and adequate preparation. We have had admirable elaborate works for the information of professional geologists and the training of students who design to become geologists; and we have had excellent