Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/273

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261
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF PROFESSOR DUMAS.

Geneva, were resumed and pursued with great ardor. He was the rival of Liebig, who so successfully cultivated the same field at the same time. But the two chemists, although often in sharp collision in their views, were ever firm, affectionate friends. Of their relation, Dumas remarked as follows:

"To find our way through these unexplored territories, we had neither compass nor guides, neither method nor laws. Each of us had been led to form ideas and to elaborate views peculiar to himself, which he defended with warmth and even with passion, but without any feeling of envy or jealousy. The discoveries to be made appeared to us without limit, and each was satisfied with his harvest. What we both had at heart was to stake the ground and to open roads, nor have I any doubt that, in reading my papers, Liebig felt the same pleasure which the perusal of his afforded me. If a new step had been taken, it was of little moment whether it had been made by the one or by the other, since it served us both on the road to truth." This generous feeling was heartily reciprocated by Liebig, who dedicated the German edition of his "Familiar Letters on Chemistry" to Dumas with the most cordial expressions of high regard.

It is impossible here even to name his scientific conquests. He early propounded new views of the atomic theory, which time has confirmed; and his experimental inquiries into the compound ethers laid the foundation of that branch of organic chemistry.

Dumas has been both a prolific and an elegant writer. His works present considerable variety, both as to the subjects discussed and to the form of treatment adopted. There are several elaborate treatises and a great many minor pamphlets. His academical notices, his official documents, his municipal reports, his festal speeches, his opening discourses, his commemoration addresses, his funeral orations, are countless, and they are all marked by an unusual degree of literary merit.

When the Republic was established in France, the President, Louis Napoleon, appointed Dumas Minister of Agriculture and Commerce; and when the Empire was established he became a Senator. His talents were now largely devoted to the public service, and he was the active spirit in numerous commissions in which his extensive and accurate knowledge was invaluable. With the overthrow of the Empire he returned to private life, and again resumed the scientific labors which have ever been his chief delight.