Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/517

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

TYNDALL'S LECTURES IN NEW YORK.

PROF. TYNDALL'S course of lectures in New York has met with a success that is commensurate with the reputation of the lecturer, and the interest of the subject which he selected for popular elucidation. One of the largest halls in the city has been densely crowded throughout the course of six lectures by the most cultivated and intelligent people of New York and the adjacent towns, and he has been listened to with close and absorbing attention throughout. The first lecture tests a man's reputation, and its degree of success is a measure of the desire to see as well as to hear him. As a result, the first performance often dissipates a reputation. The second lecture tests character and capacity, and an extended course applies the test still more rigorously. Had Prof. Tyndall given but a single lecture, however large may have been his audience, it might have been considered as gathered by curiosity; but when a vast auditorium, like that of the Cooper Institute, is packed to the last by the ablest men in all the professions—science, law, medicine, divinity, and education—with many of our strongest and shrewdest men of business, and a large proportion of our most cultivated ladies, the verdict is unequivocal and assured, and the highest compliment possible is paid to the genius and power of the teacher. No such assemblages as have greeted Prof. Tyndall, and followed him with sustained enthusiasm through his course, have ever before been gathered in New York.

But one interpretation can be given to this success, and that is the growing interest in matters of science, and the increasing appreciation of ability in its expounders. If it be said that the auditors were in search of mere pleasurable excitement, it comes to the same thing, for the pleasurable excitement is derived from a prolonged scientific demonstration. Something was due to the attractiveness of the experiments, and much to the felicity of the professor's manner, but there were abundant and gratifying indications of an earnest desire to comprehend the argument, and get a thorough understanding of the phenomena presented. The strength of this feeling has been put to a significant test in the present case. Just before sailing, Prof. Tyndall had exposed himself to the reprobation of a large class of the community by consenting to introduce to the public Dr. Thompson's paper proposing the so-called prayer-gauge. He thus became an object of bitter attack from religious quarters, and so considerable was the feeling aroused that it was said by many the step he had taken would cost him his American audiences. But the strength of public prejudice was over-estimated, and the progress of liberal feeling forgotten. Twenty-five years ago it would have been different; but such has been the conquest of prejudice, and the enlargement of ideas, that Prof. Tyndall's lecture-rooms, in all the cities where he has spoken, have been filled to overflowing with those who are prepared to accept science on its own merits, without mixing up with it questions of theology.

Another circumstance deserves mention in relation to the success of Prof. Tyndall's lectures in New York. His audience came together upon the bare announcement that he would give them a course of lectures. There were none of the usual trumpetings of managers—puffs, placards, show-bills, portraits in the windows, staring sensa-