Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/617

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597
RECENT PROGRESS OF NATURAL SCIENCE.
THE RECENT PROGRESS OF NATURAL SCIENCE.
I.

ON the occasion of the celebration at Breslau of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Prof. Goeppert's presidency of the Silesian Society for National Culture, Prof. Ferdinand Cohn delivered an address, characterized by eloquence of the highest kind, on the above subject. As the wanderer, he said, who is climbing toward a high mountain-peak, feels from time to time the desire to stand still a little, and look back on the way over which he has passed, to enjoy the wider outlook which he gains from his higher stand-point, so, he thinks, there are moments in the uninterrupted progress of science, when we long in some measure to strike a balance, and see how much acquired property the present puts aside as useless, how much it uses only for temporary purposes, and how many enduring acquisitions have been made.

Dr. Cohn refers, no doubt with justice and some pardonable pride, to the foremost place held by Germany, during the last quarter of a century, in the march of science. At the same time he awards due praise to other European states, and above all to England, which, during that time and more particularly at present, he thinks, abounds in men of the highest eminence, whose scientific achievements stand prominently out on account of their astonishing energy, clearness, depth, and independence of thought. Still, we cannot but admit that Dr. Cohn is right in asserting that Germany is free from the dilettanteism which abounds in this country, and that as a rule science in Germany is both far more wide-spread and far more thorough than it is among ourselves, and that the opportunities furnished there to all classes for scientific study at the ordinary educational establishments have until recently left us almost nowhere. But, happily, signs of the beginning of the end of this state of things among us are becoming rife.

After briefly referring to the intellectual awakening of Germany along with the rest of Europe at the time of the Reformation, and showing how this start forward was, especially in the case of Germany, in a great measure frustrated by the Thirty Years' War, Dr. Cohn pays a high and justly-merited tribute to France, and especially to Paris, on account of the supreme place she took during the first thirty or forty years of the present century in nearly all the sciences. The glory of France in this direction has, however, he thinks, departed, and Germany is becoming daily more and more the intellectual centre of the world. Had Dr. Cohn written his lecture now, he might have somewhat modified his language; for, within the last few months, the signs have been many, that in the direction of science the French are determined to try to hold their own with the foremost in Europe. Their professors are prosecuting an amount of research which puts our