Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/166

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154
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.


it could also only indirectly contribute to the blossoming of art. But it became, in the pursuit of its work from the first, the most important center of German knowledge as a whole. In reality the general enlightenment which had so often comforted the nation in its divisions, still remained spread over Germany to its salvation. In some points Berlin saw itself surpassed by small universities like that of Giessen. Between these and Berlin there was, however, always the difference that, while now and then some one or another small university would blaze up like a variable star to the first magnitude in some branch or another, to sink in a little while back into comparative obscurity, the sum of the aggrregated mental forces in the Berlin University and Academy was the same, or rather increased, from the beginning.

Almost simultaneously with the blossoming of the university, in alliance with the national rising, and favored by the growth of the city and its prosperity, there had also been developed here a real German culture, and a perhaps not very productive but cleverly critical society had collected whose influence on German intellectual life was more perceptible because of the preponderance with which Berlin had come out of the war for freedom. As far as the habitual influence of so many older centers of learning and the independent spirit of the Germans, hostile to centralization, permitted, Berlin henceforth maintained the rank of intelligence appropriate to it as the capital of the state. That illustrious circle of writers, artists, and actively sympathizing women is now inconceivable without the background of the Berlin University; without Schleiermacher and Frederick Augustus Wolf, Savigny and Carl Ritter, Boeckh and Lachmann, Buttmann and Bopp, Hegel and Gauss; and in this sense we may say, that, through the foundation of the university, William von Humboldt elevated Berlin to be the intellectual capital of Germany.

While the University of Berlin fully represented science in nearly every direction, every mental phase of the nation was likewise reflected in it. Here was fought out in jurisprudence the battle between the historical and the philosophical schools; here was seen, in theology, dogmatic reaction to give way to rationalism. Here unrestrained speculation continued to have its way for a long time, natural philosophy blew its last party-colored bubbles, and Goethe's Farbenlehre was taught ex cathedra. Here it was, also, that that host of men arose who, in connection with many illustrious minds still adorning the Fatherland, repaired the faults of philosophical error, and gave to natural science an activity which was full of consequence for the world as well as for Prussia and Germany, and which still continues. Is it necessary to name them, when so many of them are looking down upon us from these walls — Eilhard Mitscherlich, Heinrich and Gustav Rose, Encke and Poggendorff, Weiss and Lichtenstein, Ehrenberg and Johannes Müller, Dove and Gustav Magnus, and besides them the mathematicians, Lejeune-Dirichlet and Steiner, and later still