Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/260

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254
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE ENGINEERING MIND.
By J. C. SUTHERLAND,
RICHMOND, QUE., CANADA.

IN a fragment of autobiography written some years before his death, Mr. Huxley said:

But, though the Institute of Mechanical Engineers would certainly not own me, I am not sure that I have not all along been a sort of mechanical engineer in partibus infidelium. I am now occasionally horrified to think how very little I ever knew or cared about medicine as the art of healing. The only part of my professional course which really and deeply interested me was physiology, which is the mechanical engineering of living machines; and notwithstanding that natural science has been my proper business, I am afraid there is very little of the genuine naturalist in me. I never collected anything, and species work was always a burden to me; what I cared for was the architectural and engineering part of the business, the working out the wonderful unity of plan in the thousands and thousands of diverse living constructions, and the modifications of similar apparatuses to serve diverse ends.

Those who have read, however, the intensely interesting 'Life and Letters' of Huxley by his son, will recall that at the very close of his career, when driven to the continent in search of health, he took to collecting gentians and determining their species, with great enthusiasm. The physical enjoyments of the search, as well as the pleasure of recognizing each new species that he ran across, were doubtless added to the more direct pleasure he derived from observing the distribution of the genus and the adaptations that the different species had undergone.

At the same time, Huxley's analysis of the foundation of his intellectual pleasure serves to indicate a special 'note' of modern culture; or rather that part of modern culture which has been most profoundly affected by scientific thought. The age, at its best, is the age of the engineering mind. By this is not meant merely that it is an age of vast engineering feats and of a remarkable development of the engineering profession, but that a distinct habit of thought which may be called both with convenience and propriety the 'engineering mind,' is deeply influencing modern culture and is steadily preparing the way for the realization of a better ideal in popular education. The capable engineer computing to a nicety the elements of his bridge structure, the botanist studying the wonderful mechanism for the dispersal of seeds on the withered autumn weeds, the captain