Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/69

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57
BEGINNINGS IN SCIENCE AT MUGBY SCHOOL.

then, except astronomy, was more or less speculation. Nobody would call Linnæus's system of botany a science, although it was very useful and introductory; nor was geology, zoölogy, nor chemistry. Scientists had only been playing, like children, in the vestibule of the great temple. It may be that we ourselves have not advanced far within the precincts — at least those who study these subjects a hundred years hence may think so. But, at any rate, the amount of knowledge extant concerning the world in which we live, and its ancient and modern inhabitants, is vast compared with what it was when the present century commenced.

At Mugby School, science was an important and also a welcome subject. How welcome it was is best indicated by the fact that the boys got up a Natural History Society among themselves. This was really a self-imposed task, done. out of school-hours. Some of the principal teachers encouraged the lads by becoming members; not that they knew much of natural history or scientific subjects (some of them, indeed, knew nothing at all, and actually learned a good deal from the boys themselves).

Of course, the society was founded on the best models. It was not a bit behind the famous "Royal Society of London" in its equipment. It had its president and vice-president, and its committee were called "the council."

PSM V35 D069 Scale of chub.jpg
Fig. 1. — Scale of Chub.

It also published, for the world's benefit, abstracts of the short papers the boys read — the abstracts being nearly as long as the papers. Although its members were not numerous, they felt they bore the weight of the dignity of the society on their shoulders; and, as they were too boyish-manly to be priggish, the training did them no harm.

Well, the society was divided into sections. One section was appointed to collect the plants of the neighborhood — that is, those obtainable during the school half-holidays; another to collect butterflies and moths; a third, beetles; a fourth, birds; a fifth, fossils, etc. They were to publish lists of the plants, birds, insects, and fossils of the district in the "Society's Proceedings"; for, of course, the latter was the name given to the abstracted papers.