Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/557

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539
ON THE STUDY OF BIOLOGY.

The connection of this discourse with the Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus arises out of the exhibition in that collection of aids to our laboratory-work. Such of you as have visited that very interesting collection may have noticed a series of diagrams and of preparations illustrating the structure of a frog. Those diagrams and preparations have been made for the use of the students in the biological laboratory. Similar diagrams and preparations, illustrating the structure of all the other forms of life we examine, are either made or in course of preparation. Thus the student has before him, first, a picture of the structure he ought to see; secondly, the structure itself worked out; and if, with these aids, and such needful explanations and practical hints as a demonstrator can supply, he cannot make out the facts for himself in the materials supplied to him, he had better take to some other pursuit than that of biological science.

I should have been glad to have said a few words about the use of museums in the study of biology, but I see that my time is becoming short, and I have yet another question to answer. Nevertheless, I must, at the risk of wearying you, say a word or two upon that important subject of museums. Without doubt, there are no helps to the study of biology, or rather to some branches of it, which are, or may be, more important than natural-history museums; but, in order to take this place in regard to biology, they must be museums of the future. The museums of the present do not do by any means so much for us as they might do. I do not wish to particularize, but I dare say many of you seeking knowledge, or in the laudable desire to employ a holiday usefully, have visited some great natural-history museum. You have walked through a quarter of a mile of animals well stuffed, with their long names written out underneath them; and, unless your experience is very different from that of most people, the upshot of it all is that you leave that splendid pile with sore feet, a bad headache, and a general idea that the animal kingdom is a mighty maze without a plan. I do not think that a museum which brings about this result has done all that may reasonably be expected of such an institution. What is needed in a collection of natural history is, that it should be made as accessible and as useful as possible on the one hand to the general public, and on the other to scientific workers. That need is not met by constructing a sort of happy hunting-ground of miles of glass cases, and, under the pretense of exhibiting everything, putting the maximum amount of obstacles in the way of those who wish properly to see anything.

What the public want is easy and unhindered access to such a collection as they can understand and appreciate; and what the men of science want is similar access to the materials of science. To this end the vast mass of objects of natural history should be divided into two parts—one open to the public, the other to men of science, every day, and all day long. The former division should exemplify all the more