Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/715

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

a desire to increase the cultivation and augment the influence of science by bringing larger portions of the community within reach of scientific facilities, and making more familiar the intercourse of men devoted to scientific labors. Numerous societies already existed for the promotion of research, both special and general, but they were local in their operations, while their members met their fellow-workers in different cities but rarely, and multitudes of educated people were not brought within the circle of scientific influence. Yet the number of these societies attested that the work of scientific investigation had taken deep root. Scientific knowledge had become greatly extended, and this led, by the inevitable course of things, to the necessity of more efficient and comprehensive organization for its further increase and diffusion. With the growing sense of the general importance, and the augmenting influence of science in society, there was a strengthening desire to share its work and its advantages, and this naturally led to association upon a new basis, better adapted to the new conditions. The British Association, instead of taking root in one locality, was constituted as a migratory body that should hold its annual sessions, of a week's duration, successively in the different cities of the United Kingdom. It was announced at the first meeting that, while contemplating no interference with the ground occupied by other institutions, its objects shall be "to give a stronger impulse and a more systematic direction to scientific inquiry—to promote the intercourse of those who cultivate science in different parts of the British Empire, with one another and with foreign philosophers—to obtain a more general attention to the objects of science, and a removal of any disadvantages of a public kind which impede its progress."

These objects of the Association have been well fulfilled in its history. It has been a power in England for the accomplishment of the purposes designated. It has attracted multitudes of capable men to devote themselves to scientific pursuits. It has systematized and promoted observation and research in various fields, and has lent efficient pecuniary assistance to many workers who were without the means for investigation. Its career has been coincident with the highest scientific activity in all civilized countries, and it has lent its powerful co-operation in bringing out many of the grand scientific results that will make the last half-century memorable in scientific history. The British Association has, moreover, been administered from the beginning in a liberal spirit and with enlarged views. While mainly devoted to the extension and the improvement of scientific knowledge, it has never been afraid to express its sympathy with the popular aspects of scientific questions, and it has wisely lent its influence for the encouragement and general promotion of scientific education. Perhaps no higher testimony could be afforded of the excellence of its plan, the value of its labors, and its adaptation to the requirements of the period, than the fact that it has been successfully imitated both in the United States and in different Continental countries.

The coming of this body across the Atlantic to hold one of its annual sessions in Montreal, while quite in accordance with its established policy of enlarging the field of scientific influence, is such a signal stroke of expansion as fitly to make an epoch in its beneficent career. It does not, indeed, overpass the limits of the British Empire, but it migrates to a new continent, and if not to a foreign, at least to a distant and a different people. It seems to us, therefore, that, to reach the highest utility of the occasion, it should be be made subservient to the more systematic organization of international agencies for the promotion of science. While in itself but a transient event, it