Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/264

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252
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST.[1]

By Prof. EMIL DU BOIS-REYMOND.

IT is one of the lamentable consequences of the rapid expansion of human knowledge in this century that, while the power of comprehension and the adaptability of individuals continue essentially the same, the division of knowledge and mental labor is ever increasing. The paths which scholars and investigators follow are constantly becoming narrower, tending toward more contracted goals, and more distinctly separated; and in our historical view of recent times we regretfully miss such Briarean giants as he whose memorial day we are celebrating. Men like Leibnitz not only give by their wide vision and comprehensive power a conception of the human intellect in its highest manifestations; not only does a mutual fructification of different departments of knowledge take place in their minds through the meeting of different views; not only do they form, like an academy, a bond of union between accomplished labors in widely separated regions of knowledge; but, while they extend its efficacy in many directions more accessible to the common people, they create a wider participation in it than had formerly been given. In their person, mankind honors science; and they therefore endure in the general recollection as memorial stones of human progress after the waves of oblivion have long surged over the names of the makers of the most meritorious single investigations. Let us not delude ourselves. The only member of the Physico-mathematical Section of the Academy to whom a public monument has been erected, Alexander von Humboldt, owes that distinction not to the professional efforts by which his memory is kept alive in these halls, but to the grand recollections which his eloquent pictures of nature, the inspiration toward the true and the good that radiated from him, and his incomparable world-survey, have heaped around his name.

A second member of the Physico-mathematical class is shortly to be commemorated by a monument in one of the public places of our city — a man who, while his fame can not be measured with that of Humboldt, is comparable with that eminent prototype in the universality of his mental interests, the diversity of his work, and the place which he occupied as between two nations — our Adelbert von Chamisso. It is not, however, as a naturalist and traveler that Chamisso is to receive a monument, but for his other talents and excellences. We, his successors in this body, can not, however, refrain from recollecting on this occasion the side by

  1. Address delivered in the Berlin Academy of Sciences on the anniversary of Leibnitz's birthday, June 28, 1888.