Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/272

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The interest with which Dumas recounts this incident, which brought his stay in Geneva to a somewhat sudden termination, leaves no doubt as to the deep impression which the short intercourse with Alexander von Humboldt had made upon his mind. We have here, indeed, one more illustration of the peculiar predilection of the German savant for youthful inquirers, of the sagacity with which he discovered rising talent, and of the irresistible fascination which no one was able to withstand. It is well known what a powerful patron he proved to Liebig, who has left us a charming account of his first acquaintance with the famous traveler; and it is certainly worthy of note that two inquirers, whose labors subsequently carried them to the head of chemical science, should each have been befriended on the very threshold of his career by the same master mind, so that in later years they never ceased to acknowledge in affectionate terms the debt of gratitude which they owed to Alexander von Humboldt. Dumas's removal to Paris took place in 1823.

If a legitimate desire to become acquainted with the leading men of science of that day was one of the principal motives in determining Dumas to leave Geneva, his wishes were gratified far beyond his most sanguine expectations. Nothing could have surpassed the kindness with which the young aspirant was received by the very men to whom he had hitherto been looking up with mingled feelings of reverence and awe. As an illustration of the sympathetic interest which the most illustrious savants of the period accorded to the labors of their youthful fellow-workers in the field of science, Dumas is fond of describing his own début in the Academy of Sciences. Having read a joint paper of his and Prévost's on muscular contraction, he had modestly retired into the embrasure of a window (as would become his age), when a member of the Academy—a veteran with white hair and a most dignified countenance—rose on the other side of the table and walked up to him. "Monsieur Dumas, will you do me the honor of dining with me on Wednesday next?" he asked the astonished young chemist in a most formal manner. Nothing could be more natural than to accept so kind an invitation. After an exchange of a few polite words Dumas's new friend gravely retired to his place, receiving everywhere unequivocal marks of the greatest respect. "With whom am I to dine?" asked Dumas of one of his neighbors. "Do not you know M. de Laplace?" was the answer. And not only did Dumas dine, with Laplace, but he learned with lively interest that the illustrious astronomer had retained a sort of passion for physiological inquiries ever since he had jointly worked with Lavoisier on animal heat and respiration.

In 1824 Dumas married Mdlle. Hermine Brongniart, daughter of Alexandre Brongniart, the illustrious geologist, and sister of his friend Adolphe Brongniart. The union was a most happy one. Dumas's career in Paris has been one of remarkable productiveness and brilliancy. His researches in organic chemistry, so thoroughly begun in