Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/156

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the vibrios which provoke the butyric-acid fermentation. This is most simply illustrated by the following beautiful observation of Pasteur: You know the way of looking at these small organisms through the microscope. A drop of the liquid containing them is placed upon glass, and on the drop is placed a circle of exceedingly thin glass; for, to magnify them sufficiently, it is necessary that the microscope should come very close to the organisms. Round the edge of the circular plate of glass the liquid is in contact with the air, and incessantly absorbs it, including the oxygen. Here, if the drop be charged with bacteria, we have a zone of very lively ones. But through this living zone, greedy of oxygen and appropriating it, the vivifying gas cannot penetrate to the centre of the film. In the middle, therefore, the bacteria die, while their peripheral colleagues continue active. If a bubble of air chance to be inclosed in the film, round it the bacteria will pirouette and wabble until its oxygen has been absorbed, after which all their motions cease. Precisely the reverse of all this occurs with the vibrios of butyric acid. In their case it is the peripheral organisms that are first killed, the central ones remaining vigorous while ringed by a zone of dead. Pasteur, moreover, filled two vessels with a liquid containing these vibrios: through one vessel he led air, and killed its vibrios in half an hour; through the other he led carbonic acid, and after three hours found the vibrios fully active. It was while observing these differences of deportment fifteen years ago that the thought of life without air, and its bearing upon the theory of fermentation, flashed upon the mind of this admirable investigator.

And here I am tempted to inquire how it is that during the last five or six years so many of the cultivated English and American public, including members of the medical profession and contributors to some of our most intellectual journals, could be so turned aside as they have been from the pure well-spring of scientific truth to be found in the writings of Pasteur? The reason I take to be, that, while against unsound logic a healthy mind can always defend itself, against unsound experiment without discipline it is defenseless. To judge of the soundness of scientific data, and to reason from data assumed to be sound, are two totally different things. The one deals with the raw material of fact, the other with the logical textures woven from that material. Now, the logical loom may go accurately through all its motions, while the woven fibres may be all rotten. It is this inability, through lack of education in experiment, to judge of the soundness of experimental work, which lies at the root of the defection from Pasteur.

I will cite an example of this mistake of judgment. Between the large-type articles and the reviews of the Saturday Review essays on various subjects are interpolated. On Alpine slopes and in the calm of summer evenings, while reading these brief essays, I have been