Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/30
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
tion was born. I can still see Wurtz, with, captivating animation and almost feverish activity, pacing the floor with precipitate steps and picturing to lis what he thought our society ought to be and what it has become. He pointed out the priceless advan- tage to be derived from these meetings, to be held in all parts of France. "We shall," he said, "seek out modest local students living far from the center to meet us and make known the results of their investigations ; we shall draw the most timid of them into the scientific current, and shall thus be able to exalt our be- loved country in the eyes of the scientific world." Now, the only witness of that first and modest meeting, I believe that I am the interpreter of the feeling of you all in paying one more tribute to the memory of these our first and illustrious co-laborers.
In addressing you I purpose to inquire what zoology was, what it is with some, and what it should be. The science of ani- mals of a hundred years ago and that of to-day resemble each other but little. Comparing them and seeking the cause of the great differences, we recognize a few leading facts which I have selected, and of which I will speak. In the former time, when so many reforms were in preparation, and when excited minds were looking for other objects on which to utilize their activ- ity than our sciences, always calm and independent of revolu- tions as they ought also to be of politics, natural history held but a small place in men's thoughts. In 1789 Linnaeus and Buffon had only recently died, and their names were still radiant with the splendor of their living brilliancy ; they dominated as abso- lute masters, and summarized in themselves all of zoology. Yet in their minds and works they resembled each other but little. Linnaeus, precise, methodical, a classifier first of all, brought order and clearness into the minutest details of the things of nature, and, as he proposed a concise and easy language, his influence be- came so preponderant that Haller complained of his tyranny. If the reform of the scientific language which Linnaeus worked out imposed itself with such force, it was because it answered to one of the needs of the moment. The simplicity, facility, and espe- cially the opportuneness of his nomenclature were the cause of its great success ; and it should be added that its value was so great that we have not yet sensibly departed from the rules on which it was founded.
The opposite of Linnaeus, Buffon took pleasure in broadly drawn descriptions and pictures ; and, when he treated of general considerations, he animated them with a powerful inspiration. A profound thinker, regarding science from an elevated point of view, he engrosses and subjects us. Who among us does not rec- ollect the enthusiasm with which he has read some of the passages in the " Epochs of -Nature " ? By his reasoning and in the conse-