Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/556

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there are such things as types of form among animals and vegetables, and for the purpose of getting a definite knowledge of what constitutes the leading modifications of animal and plant life it is not needful to examine more than a comparatively small number of animals and plants.

Let me tell you what we do in the biological laboratory in the building adjacent to this. There I lecture to a class of students daily for about four and a half months, and my class have, of course, their text-books; but the essential part of the whole teaching, and that which I regard as really the most important part of it, is a laboratory for practical work, which is simply a room with all the materials arranged for ordinary dissection. We have tables properly arranged in regard to light, microscopes, and dissecting-instruments, and we work through the structure of a certain number of animals and plants. As, for example, among the plants we take a yeast-plant, a Protococcus, a common mould, a Chara, a fern, and some flowering plant; among the animals, we examine such things as an amoeba, a Vorticella, and a fresh-water polyp. We dissect a star-fish, an earth-worm, a snail, a squid, and a fresh-water mussel. We examine a lobster and a crawfish, and a black-beetle. We go on to a common skate, a codfish, a frog, a tortoise, a pigeon, and a rabbit, and that takes us about all the time we have to give. The purpose of this course is not to make skilled dissectors, but to give every student a clear and definite conception, by means of sense-images, of the characteristic structure of each of the leading modifications of the animal kingdom; and that is perfectly possible, by going no further than the length of that list of forms which I have enumerated. If a man knows the structure of the animals I have mentioned, he has a clear and exact, however limited, apprehension of the essential features of the organization of all those great divisions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms to which the forms I have mentioned severally belong. And it then becomes possible for him to read with profit, because, every time he meets with the name of a structure, he has a definite image in his mind of what the name means in the particular creature he is reading about, and therefore the reading is not mere reading. It is not mere repetition of words; but every term employed in the description, we will say, of a horse or of an elephant, will call up the image of the things he had seen in the rabbit, and he is able to form a distinct conception of that which he has not seen as a modification of that which he has seen.

I find this system to yield excellent results, and I have no hesitation whatever in saying that any one who has gone through such a course attentively is in a better position to form a conception of the great truths of biology, especially of morphology (which is what we chiefly deal with), than if he had merely read all the books on that topic put together.