Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/266

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256
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
SKETCH OF SIR DANIEL WILSON.

By HORATIO HALE.

THE late President of Toronto University was distinguished not only for his educational work and his achievements in science, literature, and art, but also for the happy combination in his mind and character of qualities which are commonly deemed incongruous. An ardent votary of science, prepared to follow every investigation of Nature to the utmost limit of actual knowledge, and to welcome every accession to this knowledge, he was equally firm in maintaining his belief in the religion which explained to him those mysteries of the universe that lay beyond this limit. Strongly conservative of ancient landmarks in his quality of artist and antiquary, he was in education and in politics fearlessly liberal and progressive. Endowed with an energy of will and an intellectual power which inevitably brought him to the leadership of any enterprise or institution in which he took part, he was at the same time utterly devoid of personal ambition, and shrank from titular honors with the same earnestness with which some are wont to seek them. Generous almost to a fault and careless of the arts of money-making, his natural foresight and indefatigable industry preserved him from the pecuniary troubles by which scholars and writers are too often hampered, and secured for him throughout his life that good fortune for which poor Burns vainly sighed, "the glorious privilege of being independent."

Sir Daniel Wilson was born in Edinburgh on the 3d of January, 1816. His father, Archibald Wilson, was a merchant of that city; his mother was a woman of rare natural gifts, who fostered in her children the love of knowledge which they inherited from her. Of a large family, only four — two sons and two daughters — survived to mature age. The sons, George and Daniel, both proved to possess talents which insured them early distinction. George, a physician, became Regius Professor of Technology in the University of Edinburgh and Director of the Industrial Museum of Scotland. Though he died at the early age of forty-two, he had already gained a European reputation. To his biography, written by his sister, Daniel contributed reminiscences which are of interest as indicating the existence in childhood of tastes which afterward became prominent. "Edinburgh," he writes, "was the scene of all our youthful years, and that itself was no unimportant element in life's training. Among my earliest recollections are scramblings on Arthur's Seat, where we knew every cleft and gully. A Saturday's ramble carried us away to old Roman Cramond, where the sculptured eagle of the legionaries of the second cen-