Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/30

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men, and to note their conclusions as to the probable responsibility of these agents. In most of the points considered his own opinions have been guided by and subordinated to theirs.


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THE SCIENCE OF THE PRESENT PERIOD.[1]

By EMIL DU BOIS-REYMOND.

WHILE the memorial days of Frederick the Great and of Leibnitz turn the view of the Academy back to the times of its origin and of its new birth, this festival directs its vision upon the present.

Whoever, having a nature like that of an academician of the old school, prefers to live a contemplative life far from the tumult of the market and the strife of the forum, or even from the stimulating competition of the lecture-room, intent only on the accumulation of the treasures of knowledge, the solution of intellectual problems, the enlargement of his inner circle of thought, he might well at this period long for the undisturbed rest and the quieting gloom of a middle-age Benedictine cell. Happy monks of Monte Casino and of Montserrat! Concealed in the turbid wake of the people's flood, you looked down from your peaceful height upon the world, whose strife and anxieties troubled you not.

But the gates were opened, the walls fell long ago. The bright daylight casts an incongruous illumination upon the rubbish and dust of Faust's study-room. The inexorable to-day no longer allows a peaceful dream-life. We need no Mephistopheles to tempt us into an active career; we are seized with a thousand hands, some rude, some caressing, and the steam-horse instead of the enchanter's cloak is our servant. Our only trouble is to resist these calls, to keep our senses in the whirl that carries us along, to perform the outer work imposed upon us and still be true to the inner work which is our real calling. We can no longer, like our peers of old, freely follow our personal inclinations, only exercising the gifts which God has bestowed upon us. From childhood we belong to the state. Every condition of exemption has vanished. Examinations, military service, and the duties of citizenship, are common to all; and, while one ought not wholly to shun the duties of politics, he may regret the exaggerated prominence which its fruitless excitements, its ephemeral triumphs, and its sharp partisan strifes, have assumed in the culture-life of the day.

And how little quickening, in many respects, is this life of the latest fashion! The hydra of morbidly exaggerated patriotism raises

  1. Address delivered on the Emperor's birthday, in the Academy of Sciences, at Berlin, March 23, 1882.