Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/316

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ing. He must have a fair knowledge of mechanics, experimental physics, and chemistry; he ought to (I would almost again say he must) be able, besides English, to read at least French and German with facility—assuredly, if he cannot, he will labor with much toil and sorrow—and the more mathematics he knows, with the present rapid importation of quantitative ideas into biological science, the better for him; and for certain special branches of biological work there are other special needs. No mistake is more disastrous than the idea that a man can be a botanist and nothing more; a zoölogist, and nothing more; a physiologist, and nothing more. It is true that no one can be master of all the physical sciences, but it is none the less true that hardly one of them can be entirely neglected by the biologist. Animals and plants are, after all, material objects, and live in accordance with the laws that govern matter; but the manifestations of these laws are so often obscured and complicated by the conditions in which they occur in living things, that the understanding of them is only to be got at by approaching them through their simpler manifestations in inorganic bodies. But, apart from that, definite knowledge of various sciences is constantly required by the biologist. How can one ignorant of physics have any real appreciation of the statement that the transmission of a nervous impulse is accompanied by a molecular alteration in the structure of a nerve-fibre, one sign of which is a certain very definite and peculiar alteration in its electrical properties; or how can one ignorant of chemistry grasp the fundamental statement that muscular work is in the long-run dependent on the breaking down of complex chemical molecules into simpler and more stable ones? How can the zoölogist or botanist scientifically study the distribution of animals and plants in space, unless he has a knowledge of physical geography; or in time, unless he knows something of geology? I need not prolong the list.

Furthermore, no one can properly study any branch of biology without some knowledge of its other divisions. The fundamental laws of animal and vegetable life are identical, and only fully realized by comparison; so, while the scientific botanist, to fully appreciate the facts of his own science, must be something of a zoölogist, so must the zoölogist know something of plants: no one living being or group of living beings can be properly understood by itself. To take other examples: how is the morphologist to deal with such problems as those presented to him by rudimentary organs, unless he know something of the functions of parts, which is the special domain of physiology; or, how is he to understand the influence of external conditions in the production and preservation of variations in force, without, again, this knowledge of function? And, as regards the physiologist, he has frequently to search the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms not only to discover those forms which give him the best opportunity of studying certain phenomena, but also to get at those