Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/863

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

THE INSOLENCE OF OFFICE.

Shakespeare, who knew a good deal, in enumerating some of the ills of life, coupled with "the insolence of office," "the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes." For a present-day commentary on these familiar texts we refer our readers to the article by Dr. E. W. Claypole, which appears in this number, under the title of Prof. G. F. Wright and his Critics. Prof. Wright is a man who has for many years past been devoting so much of his time as he could spare from other duties to the study of a certain class of geological phenomena—those connected with the so-called Glacial period. Not being aware that there was any apostolical succession in science, but thinking rather that it was a field which any one might enter and cultivate to the best of his ability, Prof. Wright did not seek any official consecration for his labors, but simply went ahead, read all he could read, saw all he could see, worked over his materials as carefully as he knew how, and after some time produced a book which had the good fortune to be favorably received both in this country and in Europe. This book was guarded in statement, modest in tone, and scientific in method and spirit. The learned world found a good deal in it that was of value, and general readers must have deemed it interesting, for, though only four years old, it has already passed into a third edition. There was nothing in this, one would suppose, to provoke the wrath or jealousy of other scientific workers. Nevertheless, in a certain quarter, wrath was stored up for the author; the storm center was at the national capital, and its core, if we may use the expression, was in the Geological Survey. Of all arrogant things in the world official science is perhaps the most arrogant, and of all obstructive things official science is perhaps the most obstructive. The gentlemen of the Survey, or a number of them at least, were outraged to think that, while they were pottering in the leisurely fashion natural to Government officials over the questions in which they deigned to interest themselves, a man like Prof. Wright, who devoted only a portion of his time to geology, should have the audacity to come forward and express his views on one of those questions. They did not at first attack his book on The Ice Age in North America, but they apparently determined to watch the subsequent movements of this dangerous man, and, if occasion offered, to empty on him the vials of their official displeasure. The occasion was given by the publication of his book on Man and the Glacial Period; and then, all along the line, began a withering—or what was meant to be a withering—fire of criticisms on the professor and his work as a geologist. His one unpardonable sin would seem to have been that he had taken the word of scientific prophecy out of the mouths of the priestly caste at Washington. Had he only kept silence, they would, in their own good time, have told the world as much as it was good for it to know about the Glacial epoch and the antiquity of the human race. But, by his untimely publications, he had disturbed their sacred broodings over these momentous problems, and made it necessary for them to raise a warning cackle—like the sacred geese of Rome—to save the citadel of scientific truth from sack and pillage. Is it any wonder that the cackle was noisy and harsh and unamiable? Under circumstances so distressful how could it be otherwise? Some samples of it are given in Dr. Claypole's article, which