Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/40

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36
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

EXPANSION OF THE USEFULNESS OF NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUMS
By Professor THOMAS H. MONTGOMERY, Jr.
THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

LIFE consists, to a large degree, in adjustments and responses, with institutions as well as with individuals, and the new conditions that these create must be faced in their turn. With every active growth there is branching out and so arise innumerable interlacings and entanglements of activities, one overlapping and interweaving with the next. The whole history of thought shows how subjects that once were to great extent isolated have spread out and crossed, until they compose a tangled web of endeavor, and consequently we can no longer define our sciences sharply, for each of them mingles with others on all sides. Indeed the borderlands of any science, the points where it joins with another, now make up the most interesting and promising fields of research. Thus biology at one angle passes over into medicine, at another into psychology, at another into sociology, one little corner threatens to join with mathematics, and at nearly every turn it meets with physics and chemistry. He would be a rash man who would try to-day to present a rigid classification of the sciences, they being in such a flux and flow of change; indeed they are coming more and more to constitute a unit.

But each worker has to select a particular part of this web for his study, for the reason that no man can undertake the whole; it once was that a strong mind could grasp the entire web, like as the mother spider controls all lines of her snare, but now the web is so great and complex that we single workers are like spiderlings upon it, each looking for his own particular little gnat. We single laborers associate ourselves together according to our tastes, so as to favor interchange of thoughts, thus forming societies, academies and the various other kinds of institutions, and the time has come when these different institutions should cooperate and partition out the work to be done by each, so that there may be as little waste and as little duplication as possible. For while there may be as great difficulty in characterizing institutions as in defining sciences, nevertheless mutual cooperation and division of labor have come to be a necessity.

Probably the oldest European association of naturalists was the academy, a grouping of followers around a gifted thinker. In the days of Greece such academies usually had no habitation, but the disciples