Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/180

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170
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
A PLEA FOR PURE SCIENCE.[1]
By the late Professor HENRY A. ROWLAND,
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY.

THE question is sometimes asked us as to the time of year we like the best. To my mind, the spring is the most delightful; for nature then recovers from the apathy of winter, and stirs herself to renewed life. The leaves grow, and the buds open, with a suggestion of vigor delightful to behold; and we revel in this ever-renewed life of nature. But this cannot always last. The leaves reach their limit; the buds open to the full, and pass away. Then we begin to ask ourselves whether all this display has been in vain, or whether it has led to a bountiful harvest.

So this magnificent country of ours has rivalled the vigor of spring in its growth. Forests have been levelled, and cities built, and a large and powerful nation has been created on the face of the earth. We are proud of our advancement. We are proud of such cities as this, founded in a day upon a spot over which, but a few years since, the red man hunted the buffalo. But Ave must remember that this is only the spring of our country. Our glance must not be backward; for however beautiful leaves and blossoms are, and however marvelous their rapid increase, they are but leaves and blossoms after all. Rather should we look forward to discover what will be the outcome of all this, and what the chance of harvest. For if we do this in time, we may discover the worm which threatens the ripe fruit, or the barren spot where the harvest is withering for want of water.

I am required to address the so-called physical section of this association. Fain would I speak pleasant words to you on this subject; fain would I recount to you the progress made in this subject by my countrymen and their noble efforts to understand the order of the universe. But I go out to gather the grain ripe to the harvest, and I find only tares. Here and there a noble head of grain rises above the weeds; but so few are they, that I find the majority of my countrymen

  1. This address by Prof. H. A. Rowland, whose recent death all men of science deplore, was given before the Section of Physics of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1883. It is here republished as a tribute to his memory, demonstrating as it does his keen intellect and strong personality. While the state of American science in 1883 was scarcely as backward as might be supposed from reading this address, there has certainly been a remarkable advance in the past eighteen years. In this advance Rowland was one of the great leaders. — Editor.