Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/566
560 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
supplied the plastic materials of physiology as well as the plastic exudates of pathology. Such was the basis of the new biological method, if one can apply such an expression to a still incomplete doctrine, in 1842, when Huxley was beginning his medical studies at Charing Cross Hospital. It would lead too far afield were I to recount in this place how it happened that I myself, like Huxley, was early weaned from the pernicious doctrines of humoral pathology.
The Development of Biology. When Huxley himself left Charing Cross Hospital, in 1846, he had enjoyed a rich measure of instruction in anatomy and physiology. Thus trained, he took the post of naval surgeon, and by the time that he returned, four years later, he had become a perfect zoologist and a keen-sighted ethnologist. How this was possible anyone will readily understand who knows from his own experience how great the value of personal observation is for the development of independent and unprejudiced thought. For a young man who, besides collecting a rich treasure of positive knowledge, has practiced dissection and the exercise of a critical judgment, a long sea voyage and a peaceful sojourn among entirely new surroundings afford an invaluable opportunity for original work and deep reflection. Freed from the formalism of the schools, thrown upon the use of his own intellect, compelled to test each single object as regards properties and history, he soon forgets the dogmas of the prevailing system and becomes first a skeptic and then an investigator. This change, which did not fail to affect Huxley, and through which arose that Huxley whom we commemorate to-day, is no unknown occurrence to one who is acquainted with the history not only of knowledge, but also of scholars. We need only to point to John Hunter and Darwin as closely allied examples. The path on which these men have achieved their triumphs is that which biology in general has trodden with ever-widening strides since the end of last century — it is the path of genetic investigation. We Germans point with pride to our countryman who opened up this road with full con- viction of its importance, and who directed toward it the eyes of the world — our poet-prince Goethe. What he accomplished in particular from plants others of our fellow-countrymen achieved from animals — Wolf, Meckel, and our whole embryological school. As Harvey, Haller, and Hunter had once done, so these men began also with the study of the 'ovulum,' but this very soon showed that the egg was itself organized, and that from it arose the whole series of organic develop- ments. When Huxley, after his return, came to publish his funda- mental observations, he found the history of the progressive trans- formations of the contents of the egg already verified, for it was by now known that the egg was a cell, and that from it fresh cells and