Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/80

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76
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
UTILITARIAN SCIENCE.[1]
By President DAVID STARR JORDAN,
LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY.

IT falls to my lot to-day to discuss very briefly, in accordance with the program of this congress, some of the common features of utilitarian science, with a word as to present and future lines of investigation or instruction in some of those branches of the applications of knowledge which have been assigned to the present division.

Applied science can not be separated from pure science, for pure science may develop at any quarter the greatest and most unexpected economic values, while, on the other hand, the applications of knowledge must await the acquisition of knowledge, before any high achievement in any quarter can be reached. For these reasons, the classification adopted in the present congress, or any other classification of sciences into utilitarian science and other forms of science, must be illogical and misleading. Whatever is true is likely sometime to prove useful, and all error is likely to prove sometime disastrous. From the point of view of the development of the human mind, all truth is alike useful and all error is alike mischievous.

In point of development pure science must precede utilitarian science. Historically, this seems to be not true; for the beginnings of science in general, as alchemy, astrology and therapeutics, seem to have their origin in the desire for the practical results of knowledge. Men wanted to acquire gold, to save life, to forecast the future, not for knowledge's sake, but for the immediate results of success in these directions. But even here accurate knowledge must precede any success in its application, and accuracy of knowledge is all that we mean by pure science. Moreover, as through the ages the representatives of the philosophies of the day, the a priori explanations of the universe, were bitterly and personally hostile to all inductive conclusions based on the study of base matter, men of science were forced to disguise their work under a utilitarian cloak. This is more or less true even to this day, and the greatest need of utilitarian science is still, as a thousand years ago, that this cloak should be thrown off, and that a larger and stronger body of workers in pure science should be developed to give the advance in real knowledge on which the thousands of ingenious and noble applications to utilitarian ends must constantly depend.

It is a fundamental law of psychology that thought tends to pass over into action. Applied science is knowledge in action. It is the

  1. Address at the International Congress of Arts and Science, St. Louis, September, 1904.