Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/30

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20
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF SOME DECEASED SAVANTS.
By CARL VOGT.

THEY die in such rapid succession! You hardly have time, after returning from a funeral, to think about who is to be the successor of the lamented dead, when you hear of the demise of another illustrious colleague. The members of the Paris Academy of Sciences can scarcely find competent successors for the dead celebrities among the few representatives of the new generation; yet the places of those celebrities must be filled, although everybody knows that the new men will but poorly fill those places. Leverrier, Becquerel, Regnault, Claude Bernard—where are the names among the younger savants that equal them, or that might be hoped one day to eclipse their predecessors?

I was fortunate enough to be personally acquainted with these four men, and hence I may be permitted to add to the numerous notices that have been written of their signal scientific achievements some impressions which I have retained from my personal intercourse with them.

In the years 1834 and 1835 I worked as a very young student of medicine in Liebig's laboratory at Giessen—in the summer of 1834 only now and then, but later continually—with the firm determination of turning my back upon medicine as soon as possible, and of becoming a professional chemist. The former resolution I succeeded in carrying out, but I had to leave the chemical career, originally from want of means. At that time only a few young men worked in the laboratory—among them a mercurial, gay Frenchman, who was known all over Giessen on account of a large yellow spot upon his elegantly-made blue coat. Demarçay—that was the name of our Parisian—refused to remove the spot, which had been caused by some sort of acid, nor would he cast the coat aside. In Giessen, he said, there was no tailor competent to mend or only to imitate a Paris-made garment. One day Liebig entered the laboratory with a slender little Frenchman, who wore the same kind of blue coat, but without a spot, and introduced him to us as M. Regnault, a student of the Paris School of Mines, who was to familiarize himself here with organic analysis, then the hobby of savants. Demarçay was of dark complexion, with raven-black hair, witty, and fond of practical jokes; Regnault was ruddy and fair, with long, light-colored hair, grave, but confiding. He spoke German very well, and, as he had a seat by my side, we were not long in becoming good friends. He was the perfect type of a rather delicate North-German or Scandinavian youth whom you might have almost taken for a boy of fifteen, so slight and fragile was his form, so amiable and pleas-