Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/105

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
101
THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

LORD AVEBURY AND THE PASSING OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

During the nineteenth century, England was clearly the leading nation of the world. Previously it had been rivaled by Italy and France, even by Austria and Spain; now it has to contend for supremacy with Germany and the United States; soon Russia and China will be added; perhaps the Balkan states and Japan. The races which successively invaded the British islands were of fine stock; their struggles and their union left a people of high quality. In the development of the applications of science England took the lead, owing to the genius of its people, the convenient supply of iron and coal and the maritime situation. Vast wealth was accumulated, the most able and vigorous of its people being the most successful. Innumerable families were established with inherited ability and wealth. From them came the great men who gave distinction to the Victorian era.

Four years ago, after comments on Darwin and Tennyson in view of the centenary of their births, it was here remarked: "The greatness of the Victorian era is now represented among the living by men of science—Hooker, Wallace, Avebury, Huggins, Galton." Only Wallace is now left, still vigorous in body and mind at the age of ninety years. One after the other the world lost Lister, Huggins and Galton; Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker died on December the tenth last, in his ninety-fifth year; Lord Avebury died on May 28 at the age of seventy-nine years.

Avebury—not every reader of the works of Sir John Lubbock will recognize him under the name he bore in the peerage—was not among the greatest men of the nineteenth century, but there is no finer example of the performance of the Victorian era. Like Hooker lie inherited from his father superior natural ability directed to scientific work and at the same time ample wealth. He was perhaps without peer as an amateur, nor is he likely to have a successor. He is known for a long series of scientific and literary books which attained circulations in English and foreign editions running into the hundreds of thousands. As a neighbor and friend of Darwin 's at Down he may have been influenced by him in his work on natural history, beginning with "The Prehistoric Times" and "Ants, Bees and Wasps." Equally popular with his works on anthropology, entomology and botany were his "Scenery of England" and "Scenery of Switzerland," and his books of literary philosophy, such as "The Pleasures of Life" and "The Beauties of Nature."

While writing so many books concerned with science and letters and while most active in scientific and educational organization—he was president of the British Association at its jubilee meeting and president of a long list of scientific societies—Avebury conducted the banking business which he inherited from his father. He published important brochures on currency and commerce and had large influence in the financial world. At the same time he was an active member of parliament, taking special interest in questions of education and social reform, as in initiating the movement for early closing and public holidays.

Avebury so completely represented many aspects of the Victorian era that his death typifies the passing of that great period in history. Rule by the best and work for love of the work are