Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/34

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

person possessing certain peculiarities set the fashion, and it has been imitated to this day." And again: "Great models for good or evil sometimes appear among men who follow, them either to improvement or degradation." This is said to be one of the chief agents in "nation-making," but a much better one seems to be the affinity of like for like, which brings and keeps together those of like morals, or religion, or social habits; but both are probably far inferior to the long-continued action of external Nature on the organism, not merely as it acts in the country now inhabited by the particular nation, but by its action during remote ages and throughout all the migrations and intermixtures that our ancestors have ever undergone. We also find many broad statements as to the low state of morality and of intellect in all prehistoric men, which facts hardly warrant, but this is too wide a question to be entered upon here. In the concluding chapter, "The Age of Discussion," there are some excellent remarks on the restlessness and desire for immediate action which civilized men inherit from their savage ancestors, and how much it has hindered true progress; and the following passage, with which we will conclude the notice of Mr. Bagehot's book, might do much good if, by means of any skilful surgical operation, it could be firmly fixed in the minds of our legislators and of the public:

"If it had not been for quiet people, who sat still and studied the sections of the cone; if other people had not sat still and worked out the doctrine of chances, the most 'dreamy moonshine,' as the purely practical mind would consider, of all human pursuits; if 'idle star-gazers' had not watched long and carefully the motions of the heavenly bodies—our modern astronomy would have been impossible; and, without astronomy, 'our ships, our colonies, our seamen,' all that makes modern life, could not. have existed. Ages of quiet, sedentary, thinking people were required before that noisy existence began, and without those pale, preliminary students it never could have been brought into being. And nine-tenths of modern science is, in this respect, the same; it is the produce of men whom their contemporaries thought—dreamers who were laughed at for caring for what did not concern them—who, as the proverb went, 'walked into a well from looking at the stars'—who were believed to be useless, if any one could be such. And the conclusion is plain that, if there had been more such people; if the world had not laughed at those there were; if, rather, it had encouraged them—there would have been a great accumulation of proved science ages before there was. It was the irritable activity, 'the wish to be doing something,' that prevented it. Most men inherited a nature too eager and too restless to find out things; and, even worse—with their idle clamor they disturbed the brooding hen, 1 they would not let those be quiet who wished to be so, and out of whose calm thought much good might have come forth. If we consider how much good science has done, and how much it is doing for mankind, and, if the over-activity of men is proved to be the cause why science came so late into the world, and is so small and scanty still, that will convince most people that our over-activity is a very great evil."

In the second work, of which we have given the title, the veteran botanist, Alphonse de Candolle, sets forth his ideas on many subjects