Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/686

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AMONG the pioneers and master minds in the domain of natural science, during the first half of the nineteenth century, several have risen far above their contemporary co-laborers, and have attained to heroic prominence; while a few, transcending the limits of their own period, have largely contributed to giving shape and character to their time, opened and entered upon novel paths or new fields of inquiry, and thereby have immortalized their life-work, and their name in history's imperishable record. Among these sovereigns of science ranks Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg, whose labors and researches for more than sixty years have connected his name with the most illustrious scientific discoveries of modern times.

Ehrenberg was the son of a Lutheran minister, and was born April 19, 1795, at Delitsch, in Prussia. Having received a classical education at home, and at the famous Schulpforte Gymnasium, he entered the University of Leipsic in 1815 as a student of theology. During the three years' course of theology, he also occupied himself with the study of natural sciences, and, through his increasing interest in the wonders of the creation, took up the study of medicine in 1818 at the University of Berlin, then as now the greatest and foremost of German universities. His efforts and researches were soon directed toward the investigation of the minute organisms and the ultimate forms and phenomena of organic life. Since the time of that first remarkable triumvirate, Malpighi, Grew, and Leeuwenhoek, who toward the close of the seventeenth and in the opening of the eighteenth century had laid the scientific foundations of the microscopical method of investigation, hardly any substantial addition, beyond those awakening mere curiosity, had been made to the observations of those eminent investigators. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Dutrochet, Mirbel, Saussure, and Knight had inaugurated a more searching investigation into anatomy and physiology. Link, Treviranus, and Rudolphi followed with still more elaborate and comprehensive researches, and paved the way to the discoveries early attained and rapidly accumulated by Ehrenberg's genius and industry. His master mind discerned the disconnected facts and details of his material in the light of uniformity and generalization. In lieu of the then prevailing belief in generatio equivoca, one of the first achievements of Ehrenberg was an account of a long series of investigations, at once strikingly acute, thorough, and convincing, of a large number of fungi, demonstrating that they, no less than the higher vegetable organisms, originated from seeds. He soon explored the cryptogamic flora of the environs of Berlin, and published a series of