Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/317

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
303
THE STUDY AND TEACHING OF BIOLOGY.

fundamental ideas which lie at the base of his whole science. What general and broad ideas should we have of the contractility of protoplasm if we only knew it in the highly-specialized form of a muscular contraction; or of its irritability, if we only knew it as exhibited in the nervous apparatus of one of the higher animals? It is quite true that, without any breadth of knowledge, a man may collect, label, and store away thousands of plants; he may macerate and articulate the most beautiful skeletons; he may cut, stain, and mount, the most exquisite microscopic preparations: but assuredly he is not likely to do any work entitled to the name scientific; such mechanical work has its value, no doubt, but it is only preliminary to real scientific work—which latter requires wide knowledge and extended views, and is more valuable the broader the foundation on which it has been built up.

It is this mutual dependence of biological studies which appears to me the justification of grouping together, as we do here, the study of such a number of vast subjects in a single laboratory. By that means each investigator will receive knowledge and assistance from the other; under such a system the desirable intercommunication of ideas is rendered most easy; and we are most likely to escape that narrow specialism which every laboratory in the long-run has a tendency to get into. Of course, no one person is capable of giving detailed assistance in investigations in all the branches of biology; but our staff of professors will doubtless grow, and meantime we shall, I trust, by the associate and fellowship system of the university, have at all times among us well-qualified men in every branch of biology; so that no one fitted for the task, and earnest and willing in its prosecution, who may come here to undertake any special research, will fail to find some one able and willing to advise him when he needs advice, and to assist him when he needs assistance.

What we want here, then, is men with the requisite zeal and training for investigation—we care not whether classification, or morphology, or physiology, or any other branch of biology is their specialty; all we claim is that they shall be able to work, shall mean to work, and shall work—we shall give no quarter to the indolent or ignorant: the former we will not have on any terms, and the latter must enter for the preparatory courses, and will not be allowed to occupy tables set apart for research. Surely, if we select wisely, and find men to work faithfully, we may look forward with confidence to the time when we shall find ourselves in the condition of such laboratories as those of some of the German universities, where, on account of the high class of work, done in them, the ablest young men from all over the world beg for admission; where one finds, working side by side, men from every civilized nation, and where, in the presence of the great demand for admission, entry is esteemed a precious privilege.

As to the special aid which we can offer to those who come among us to engage in investigation, it will, of course, depend on two factors,