Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/115

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SKETCH OF DR. WILLIAM WHEWELL.

ens, contains in a homely way the summing up of its philosophy. "Among other oddities we had a hurdle-race for strangers. One man—he came in second—ran a hundred and twenty yards and leaped over ten hurdles in twenty seconds, with a pipe in his mouth and smoking it all the time. 'If it hadn't been for the pipe,' I said to him at the winning-post, 'you would have been first.' 'I beg your pardon, sir,' he answered, 'but if it hadn't been for my pipe I should have been nowhere."—Gentleman's Magazine.

 
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SKETCH OF DR. WILLIAM WHEWELL.

DR. WILLIAM WHEWELL stands highest in the literary world as the historian of science. His "History of the Inductive Sciences" is not a mere bald narration of the facts and details of scientific progress, but is a philosophical treatment of the subject, which shows the growth and advancement of principles or general truths. It is, in fact, an elaborate historical review of the processes of generalization, such as had never before been attempted. This work stands eminent among the scientific contributions of the past age, both on account of its historic erudition and its trustworthy representation of the broad inductions of modern scientific inquiry. It is a permanent work of reference in every scientific library; and the extent to which it has influenced the philosophical mind of the age is well illustrated by the acknowledgment of John Stuart Mill: that, if Whewell had not written the "History of the Inductive Sciences," the "Logic, Ratio-cinative and Inductive," might never have appeared.

Dr. Whewell was born in Lancaster, May 24, 1794. His father was a joiner, and intended to have his son follow his trade. But while at school he showed such a remarkable talent for mathematics, together with evidences of more than ordinary ability in other branches, that it was decided to send him to Cambridge. He entered Trinity College, as Freshman, in 1813, at the age of nineteen. The following year he distinguished himself by winning the English Poetical Prize. He was graduated B. A. in 1816, with the honors of second wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos, was elected a Fellow, and soon afterward Tutor of Trinity College. He rapidly earned a reputation as a successful teacher, both in the class-room and as "coach," or private tutor.

He applied himself to mathematics and vigorously went to work to bring about a radical reform in the methods of teaching the physical sciences in England. In 1819 he published his first work, "An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics," designed for the use of students of the university. In 1820 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and we now find him contributing to the "Transactions" of