Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/52

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42
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

inoculation against anthrax, hydrophobia, and perhaps some other diseases, which we owe to Pasteur, must be recorded as splendid victories over the countless legions of our infinitesimal foes. Results like these are the great glory of the scientific workers of the past century. Men may, perhaps, have overrated the progress of nineteenth-century research in opening the secrets of Nature; but it is difficult to overrate the brilliant service it has rendered in ministering to the comforts and diminishing the sufferings of mankind.

If we are not able to see far into the causes and origin of life in our own day, it is not probable that we shall deal more successfully with the problem as it arose many million years ago. Yet certainly the most conspicuous event in the scientific annals of the last half century has been the publication of Mr. Darwin's work on the Origin of Species, which appeared in 1859. In some respects, in the depth of the impression which it made on scientific thought, and even on the general opinion of the world, its momentous effect can hardly be overstated. But at this distance of time it is possible to see that some of its success has been due to adventitious circumstances. It has had the chance of enlisting among its champions some of the most powerful intellects of our time, and perhaps the still happier fortune of appearing at a moment when it furnished an armory of weapons to men, who were not scientific, for use in the bitter but transitory polemics of the day. But far the largest part of its accidental advantages was to be found in the remarkable character and qualifications of its author. The equity of judgment, the simple-minded love of truth and the patient devotion to the pursuit of it through years of toil and of other conditions the most unpropitious—these things endeared to numbers of men everything that came from Charles Darwin, apart from its scientific merit or literary charm. And whatever final value may be assigned to his doctrine, nothing can ever detract from the luster shed upon it by the wealth of his knowledge and the infinite ingenuity of his resource. The intrinsic power of his theory is shown at least in this one respect, that in the department of knowledge with which it is concerned it has effected an entire revolution in the methods of research. Before his time the study of living Nature had a tendency to be merely statistical; since his time it has become predominantly historical. The consideration how any organic body came to be what it is occupies a far larger area in any inquiry now than the mere description of its actual condition; but this question was not predominant—it may almost be said to have been ignored—in the botanical and zoölogical study of sixty years ago.

Another lasting and unquestioned effect has resulted from Darwin's work. He has, as a matter of fact, disposed of the doc-