Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/332

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

along, daintily and grotesquely, in the pointed shoes of the fourteenth century.

I linger on this subject of colleges because the example of other countries, and especially of Germany, proves to us that on them our hopes for the development of science must very largely rest. The scientific glory of Germany, not inferior in brilliancy to its military glory, is the creation of its university professors. Among them we find the great chemists and physicists, whose works we study with delight.

Our colleges must separate themselves from the mediæval, and assume thoroughly and sincerely the modern cast. Sincerely, I say, for not a few of them indulge in deception. They would have us believe that they teach physics when they have no modern apparatus; chemistry, when they have no laboratory; botany, without any garden, herbarium, or even drawings; geology, mineralogy, natural history, without any cabinets. So ignorant are some boards of trustees and faculties, that they hold such equipments as luxuries easily dispensed with. I have known some go so far as to affirm that as much money ought to be expended in teaching a few boys Latin and Greek as in giving a demonstrative and illustrated course of science, and even to act on that principle. In institutions under this kind of influence, you will always find that their whole weight is thrown toward the aesthetic. Whatever college honors there may be, whatever emoluments, pass in that direction; and, though through fear of public opinion science cannot be ignored, it is simply tolerated, not cultivated.

From our colleges we may in the second place turn to our scientific societies.

I have referred to the period at which the Greek language became cultivated in Western Europe. The first societies were those established in Florence by its admirers. In the Medicean gardens the lovers of Plato assembled to restore, under an Italian sky, the philosophy that had been extinguished in Athens, and to commemorate by a symposium the birthday of that illustrious man. There is a pleasure in associating with those whose thoughts are congenial to our own, in breathing an atmosphere in which the intellectual makes itself felt.

Very soon the example was imitated. Persons who had a love for science followed the example of those who had a love for letters. The Academia Secretorum Naturæ was instituted at Naples in 1560, by Baptista Porta, the inventor of the camera which photographers now so much use; the Lyncean Academy for the Promotion of Natural Philosophy, in 1603; the Royal Society of London, 1645; the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, 1666; the Berlin Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 1700. Leibnitz, the rival of Newton, was its first president.