Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/125

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113
SKETCH OF M. PIERRE E. BERTHELOT.

rison . That flint, which now serves me in the office of a paper-weight, is far ruder, simpler, and more ineffective than any weapon or implement at present in use among the lowest savages. Yet with it, I doubt not, some naked black fellow, by the banks of the Thames, has hunted the mammoth among unbroken forests two hundred thousand years ago and more; with it he has faced the angry cave-bear, and the original and only genuine British lion (for everybody knows that the existing mongrel heraldic beast is nothing better than a bastard modification of the leopard of the Plantagenets). Nay, I have very little doubt in my own mind that with it some aesthetic ancestor has brained and cut up for use his next-door neighbor in the nearest cavern, and then carved upon his well-picked bones an interesting sketch of the entire performance. The Du Mauriers of that remote age, in fact, habitually drew their society pictures upon the personal remains of the mammoth or the man whom they wished to caricature in deathless bone-cuts. The other paper-weight is a polished neolithic tomahawk, belonging to the period of the mound-builders, who succeeded the Glacial epoch, and it measures the distance between the two levels of civilization with great accuracy. It is the military weapon of a trained barbaric warrior as opposed to the universal implement and utensil of a rude, solitary, savage hunter. Yet how curious it is that, even in the midst of this "so-called nineteenth century," which perpetually proclaims itself an age of progress, men should still prefer to believe themselves inferior to their original ancestors, instead of being superior to them! The idea that man has riser is considered base, degrading, and positively wicked; the idea that he has fallen is considered to be immensely inspiring, ennobling, and beautiful. For myself, I have somehow always preferred the boast of the Homeric Glaucus, that we, indeed, maintain ourselves to be much better men than ever were our fathers.—Cornhill Magazine.

 
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SKETCH OF M. PIERRE E. BERTHELOT.

UNTIL a few years ago, investigation in organic chemistry was pursued almost wholly by the road of analysis. As Gerhardt wrote in his treatise: "The chemist did everything in opposition to living Nature. He burned, destroyed, and worked by taking apart, while the vital force operated by synthesis or putting together, to reconstruct the edifice which chemical forces would destroy." The chemist was, in fact, a great destroyer. He could isolate the essence from a flower, and could destroy that essence and determine its chemical composition, but he was powerless to reconstruct the destroyed perfume, and could not even conceive that such a thing was possible. It is the chief title to fame of M. Berthelot that he introduced the