Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/25

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19
WHAT WE OWE TO AGASSIZ

sist that the objective study of the brain should begin in the primary school,[1] and I look forward — however undeservedly — to the period when no other subject need claim my attention. At times, however, I speculate as to what part of the nether world is paved with ignored advice and neglected opportunities.

His helpful attitude toward prospective teachers was exhibited in the following incidents. After my appointment to Cornell University in October, 1867, he arranged for me to give at the Museum a course of six "University Lectures," and warned me to prepare for them carefully because he should give me a "raking down." He attended them all (at what interruption of his own work I realize better now) and discussed them and my methods very frankly with me.

A year later, while at Ithaca, he attended several of my lectures upon physiology, although they broke up his forenoons and the subject did not interest him particularly. After one he expressed his approval of its simplicity and the absence of hifalutin,[2] and advised me to counteract the effect of lecturing by investigation. Another lecture dealt with the structure and functions of the heart, for the illustration of which we had excellent charts and models although not, at that time, any actual specimens. I believed that I had done very well, and accompanied him down the hill toward his hotel in the hope that he would say something complimentary. All he said was, "After lecturing upon a subject I have found it a good plan to go to work and study it some more." Then he began to talk of the glacial scratches upon a big rock that we passed. The justice of his criticism was equal to the delicacy of its conveyance.

The work done by me here in 1871-3 upon the brains and embryos of domesticated animals has been referred to already as one of the indirect benefits conferred by Agassiz upon this university. His satisfaction with the results evidently led him to make a most honorable overture and invitation. On the seventeenth of November, 1872, he wrote a letter beginning: "I wish I could have you permanently in Cambridge as professor in connection with the Museum and the University. The first thing to know is whether such a plan would suit you and under what conditions you could accept a proposition, etc." The matter was discussed at more length in letters dated December 7, 1872, and September 10, 1873. It has never been mentioned before by me, but there seems to be no longer reason for reticence.

The second letter contained also the invitation to be one of the instructors at the summer school already mentioned on p. 12. He

  1. Upon this point see my papers in Science, December 17, 1897, p. 903, and May 26, 1905, p. 814.
  2. This, the only approach to slang that I recall from his lips, doubtless referred to my introduction of a somewhat far-fetched quotation from Shakespeare in an address before the Harvard Natural History Society, reproduced in the American Naturalist, Vol. I., p. 421; it was my first and last transgression of the kind.