Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/313

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299
THE STUDY AND TEACHING OF BIOLOGY.

to take this course by the fact that our present year's work is confessedly of a tentative nature: one main object of it being to enable us to decide upon what lines we are to go forward in the future; and I believe it may facilitate decision on some points if we have before us, as a sort of basis for discussion, a definite statement of views on the subject, no matter how imperfect such statement may be in itself, or how much the opinions expressed in it may afterward be found to require modification. What I propose, therefore, is not simply to tell you what are our arrangements for this year, but also to put before you some thoughts as to what I think we ought to do in the time to come. It is, I am sure, unnecessary for me to dilate at any length, before this audience, upon the interest and importance of biological studies. However contributory to our culture and welfare other studies may be, biology has, and ever must have, a very special interest of its own: it alone deals with the living organisms which surround us, and which are the only things that share with us that wonderful collocation and interaction of natural forces which we call life. Biology, too, includes within its range the study of man himself, so far as one side of his nature is concerned; and, as regards his mental and moral qualities, the psychologist and sociologist have already begun to recognize that the progress of their sciences is closely bound up with the development of certain branches of biology. As regards its practical value I might set forth at length the indebtedness of scientific medicine and of sanitary science to biology; but I prefer not to recommend the study to you by such considerations. This is a university: and the object of a university, I take it, is directly to promote liberality of thought and culture, and only indirectly to concern itself with the practical advancement of material welfare. It is concerned rather with the acquirement of a knowledge of principles than with their practical applications; although, in connection with it, it may have subsidiary schools where those who have already learned the principles may acquire a practical knowledge of various arts. Nevertheless it is true that, if we devote ourselves to the higher objects, the rest will be added unto us; for it is one of the great glories of all the physical sciences that, while second to none in the training which a study of them gives to all the faculties of the mind—in the promotion of large and liberal ideas, and in the gratification of that longing to "know," which is the noblest characteristic of the human intellect—they at the same time, as a by-thing, but constantly, contribute to the increase of man's comfort, and to the material prosperity and happiness of his race. Those who advance our knowledge of the laws of animal and vegetable life may work without any immediate outlook to the advancement of medicine, hygiene, and agriculture, but such advancement constantly follows and springs from their work, and will ever do so.

To those who are in any degree acquainted with the state