Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/39

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29
SPECIALIZATION IN SCIENCE.

training, to grope in as complete a childish ignorance of natural things as the narrowest specialists in the service. That we of the present day in Germany have made so little advance in obtaining for science its proper place in education is certainly not least due to the reserve which our learned men usually observe with reference to questions of public life, and especially to their voluntary burial of themselves in special fields.

It is persistent application to special work that naturally forces the student so far away from all contact with things without, and which, while it makes him a monarch on his own little field, frequently also makes his circuit too narrow and himself too self-important. It is not my purpose to condemn the specializing of science, and occupation with a single branch, in themselves. The more a man studies one thing, the more he sees in it; and the investigator who has engaged himself assiduously with one object sees in it a whole world, in the view of which all other things pass from notice. It is a joy to work in this way on one's own field, and it is also necessary for every one to undergo rigorous schooling in such exercises, especially previous to appearing before the world with any general treatise. Tendencies like that of contemporary science toward specializing are naturally inevitable. The time will come again in which the pressure will in like manner impel students, sifting out the now concluded results of science, to work them up into a whole.

It is, however, not doubtful that the majority of students, so far at least as they are public teachers, to-day go too far in their specializing. Whoever uninterruptedly looks upon a single thing year after year learns no more of the whole. Not alone that the view over science is wholly lost to him, but even in his own branch is such a man at last no longer able to be at home. It is almost the fashion to-day, as among the zoologists and botanists, for example, no longer to make themselves acquainted with entire animals and plants. At all events, many zoologists of the day—and the same is the case with the botanists in their sphere—have hardly ever accurately examined an animal as a whole; but they have with the microtome dissected ever so many animals of a group into fine slits, have pulled them to pieces with the needle under the microscope, and have described their observations in monographs. Every one who has done this kind of work in any considerable degree, as has the present writer, must know that while it is going on there is not much time left for the learning of other things. I will not go too deeply into the merits of the work in itself—it must be done. But I hold that in the immediate present it has become too exclusively predominant.

Hand-in-hand with the exaggeration of special work goes the growing inability to write understandingly to the general public. The German student appears only too often to think that he must present his subject in the most difficult phraseology, excessively interlarded