Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/24

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16
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

high reputation in moral science; Manchester is renowned for her physics, chemistry, and engineering; and London for her medical schools. But Oxford and Cambridge are strong in many branches. Financially powerful, they are able to attract the majority of promising and eminent men, whence has resulted that remarkable coterie of unrivaled intellects through whom the above-named universities are chiefly known to the outer and foreign world. This characteristic has its opposite illustrated in the United States, where the tendency is centrifugal, no one or two universities or colleges having advantages so decided as inevitably to attract most of the best minds, and where, in consequence, the best minds are found scattered from California to Harvard and Pennsylvania.

PSM V56 D0024 J J Thompson.png
J. .J. Thomson, M. A., F. R. S., Trinity.
Professor of Experimental Physics.

The characteristic peculiar to Cambridge and Oxford, and which distinguishes them not only from American but also from all other universities in England and elsewhere, is the college system. Thus Cambridge is a collection of eighteen colleges which, though nominally united to form one institution, are really distinct, inasmuch as each is a separate community with its own buildings and grounds, its own resident students, its own lecturers, and Fellows — a community which is supported by its own moneys without aid from the university exchequer, and which in most matters legislates for itself. The system is not unlike the American Union on a small scale, with its cluster of governments and their relation to a supreme center. The advantages of this scheme might theoretically be very great. With each college handsomely endowed and, though managing its own affairs, entering freely, in addition, into those relations of reciprocity which make for the good of the whole, one can readily imagine an ideal academic commonwealth. And while the present condition of the university can scarcely be said to approximate very closely to such an academic Utopia, it yet derives from its