Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/630

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is purer and nobler than a life of money-making or political intrigue, and I would that I could so bring you to appreciate not only the nobility, but also the happiness, of such a life as to induce you to try to live it. Do you tell me that it is only granted to a few men to become scholars, and that you have been educated for some industrial pursuit? But remember, as I said before, that it is your special privilege to have been educated, to have added knowledge to your handicraft, and that this very knowledge, if kept alive so far as you are able, will ennoble your life. Knowledge, like the fairy's wand, ennobles whatever it touches. The humblest occupations are adorned by it, and without it the most exalted positions appear to true men mean and low.

Nor is it the extent of the knowledge, alone, which ennobles, but much more the spirit and aim with which it is cultivated, and that spirit and aim you may carry into any occupation however engrossing, and into any condition of life however obscure.

And let me add that what I have said is true not only of the individual, but also, and to an even greater degree, of the nation. Our people, for the most part, look upon universities and other higher institutions of learning as merely schools for recruiting the learned professions, and estimate their efficiency solely by the amount of teaching-work which they perform. But, however important the teaching function of the university may be, I need not tell you that this is not its only or chief value to a community. The university should be the centre of scientific investigation and literary culture, the nursery of lofty aspirations and noble thoughts, and thus should become the soul of the higher life of the nation. For this and this chiefly it should be sustained and honored, and no cost and no sacrifice can be too great, which is required to maintain its efficiency. And its success should be measured by the amount of knowledge it produces rather than by the amount of instruction it imparts.

Harvard College, by cherishing and honoring the great naturalist she has recently lost, has done more for Massachusetts than by educating hosts of commonplace professional men. The simple title of teacher, which in his last will Louis Agassiz wrote after his name, was a nobler distinction than any earthly authority could confer; but remember he was a teacher not of boys, but of men, and his influence depended not on the instruction in natural history which he gave in his lecture-room, but on his great discoveries, his far-reaching generalization, and his noble thoughts. Although that man died poor, as the world counts poverty, yet the bequest which he left to this people cannot be estimated in coin.

It is a sorry confession to make, but it is nevertheless the truth, that, if we compare our American universities, in point of literary or scientific productiveness, with those of the Old World, they will appear lamentably deficient. Let me add, however, that this deficiency arises