Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/314

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the scientific world, the present must seem a specially opportune time for founding a biological school. At no previous period has such an interest been taken in biological problems, or have so many earnest workers been in the field—never before has so rich a harvest been in view. This is mainly owing to the promulgation of two great ideas within the last few years. On the morphological side we have the doctrine of evolution applied to living forms, and especially as definitely put forward by the theory of the origin of species by natural selection; while on the physiological side we have the doctrine of the conservation of energy, and its extension to the play of forces in living organisms. It matters not whether these theories be correct representations of the facts or not, or whether increase of knowledge confirms or upsets them—in any case they have been of incalculable importance in stimulating work and in giving a present and direct significance to its results. I can imagine no time for the biologist to live in which would be more interesting than the coming half-century, or none in which he will have a greater incentive to study; he seems to have almost within his grasp the solution of problems of the widest significance.

 

Those of us directly concerned in the administration of the biological laboratory here, are charged with the fulfillment of two duties: we have to make provision for the advancement of knowledge, and for its diffusion: we are to find accommodation and assistance for both investigators and students; while we must not suffer those engaged in research to be crowded out by beginners, neither must the beginners be overlooked in providing for those to whom they are one day to succeed. The liberal space at our disposal will permit us, at any rate for the present, to accommodate both classes of workers, without risk of the extermination of either. Meanwhile I have, then, to occupy your time with a few words on two subjects: on biological research, and on biological teaching.

One hears a good deal talked nowadays of scientific research, and among it a good deal of what I cannot but think mischievous nonsense about the peculiar powers required by scientific investigators. To listen to many, one would suppose that the faculty of adding anything whatever to natural knowledge was one possessed by extremely few persons. I believe, on the contrary, that any man possessed of average ability and somewhat more than average perseverance, is capable, if he will, of doing good original scientific work. Any hardworking and commonly intelligent man, who likes his profession, will make a good soldier, or lawyer, or doctor, though that combination of powers which makes the great general, or the great jurist, or the great physician, is given to but few.

So it is with the pursuit of Science: assuredly not every one of her followers, very probably not one among us now present, will be-