Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/716

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tender intellect shooting up in like manner, with the perceptive faculties all alive at top; and they, too, seem to think that Nature has made a mistake, and so they treat the mind as the child treats his bean-plant, and turn it upside down to make it grow better. They bury the promising young buds deep in a musty mould formed of the decay of centuries, under the delusion that out of such débris they may gather some wholesome nourishment; when we know all that they want is the light and warmth of the sun to stimulate them, and the free air of heaven in which to unfold themselves. What heartless cruelty pursues the little child-martyr every day and all the day long, at home or at school alike; in this place bidden to mind his book and not to look out of the window—in that, told to hold his tongue and to remember that children must not ask questions! A lash from a whalebone-switch upon the tender little fingers too eagerly out-stretched could not sting more keenly, or be felt with a sharper sense of wrong, than such a rebuke coming across the no less eagerly extended tentacles of the dawning and inquiring intellect.

Now, a system of education founded on a principle like this is not going to fit men to engage successfully in that hazardous game of life in which, in Prof. Huxley's beautiful simile, we are all of us represented as playing with an unseen antagonist, who enforces against us relentlessly every minutest rule of the game, whether known to us or not. Still less can it fit them to bring to light new rules of this difficult game, never yet detected by any human intelligence. Yet it is precisely of this kind of men that the world has present need. For, grand as are the triumphs of scientific investigation already achieved, it is impossible to doubt that there are still grander yet behind to reward the zealous laborers of the time to come. I know that it sometimes seems to us otherwise; I know that the very grandeur of the achievements of the past makes us sometimes doubtful of the future; for it is generally true that the portals of Nature's secret chambers, yet unexplored, are only dimly discernible before they are unlocked.

I remember a time—it is now long gone by—when this skeptical feeling as to the possibilities of large scientific progress in the time to come was extremely prevalent—so prevalent that a learned professor of a neighboring: college thought it worth his while to combat, in an energetic public address, the discouraging notion that Nature has no longer any important secrets to yield. Subsequent history has magnificently corroborated his argument. For that was a time when, as yet, no Faraday had drawn a living spark from the lifeless magnet; no Daniell, or Grove, or Bunsen, had given us an enduring source of electro-dynamic power; no Ohm had taught us how to measure such a power when obtained; no Bessel had detected the parallaxes of the fixed stars; no Adams or Leverrier had thrown his grapple into space, and felt the influence of an unseen planet trembling, to use the