Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/202

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192
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE SPIRIT AND METHOD OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY.[1]
By Professor J. P. LESLEY.

MY FRIENDS: I have the honor to address you this evening as an association of representatives of American science in all its branches—as students of the sky and all its elemental forces, of the earth and all its mineral constituents, of the animal and vegetable kingdoms in their past and present ages, of the history and constitution of the human race—and I may be easily pardoned for some trepidation in view of the drafts you may have drawn in advance on my slender exchequer. I have lain awake o' nights, like my predecessors, reflecting how I should meet my liabilities. And like them, no doubt, I find myself poorer than when, a year ago, I contracted them. You would scorn to receive in payment my promissory notes or mortgages on my castles in Spain. You will accept nothing but gold and silver, in bullion or in coin; and that is what troubles me.

There were once halcyon days for orators: the world of knowledge limited, and canopied with rosy clouds of curious speculation; the birds of fancy singing in every bush; the dew of novelty glittering on the fields. Science was then an early morning stroll with sympathetic friends, uncritical and inexpert, to whom suggestions were as good as gospel truths. Then, such a reunion as this to-night was a sort of picnic-party, at some picturesque place on the shore of the unknown, hilarious and convivial.

All that has passed away. The sun of science now rides high in heaven, and floods the earth with hot and dusty light. What was once play has turned to serious toil. Shadows are short. Objects present themselves in well-defined and separated shapes for critical examination. The few and early risers have become a multitude. The tumult of occupations distracts the studious observer. No one lends ear to chit-chat. All are hurried. Critics abound. "Say what you want, and go; or tell us something absolutely true and useful," is the introduction to every conversation. Morning, noon, and night, men demand, not the agreeable, but the necessary. The age of romance in science is part of the forgotten past. The new world has grown gray-haired in fifty years, intolerant of the irresponsibility, the sportiveness, the poetry, the music, the superstitions, the affections, of its youth; dealing only in hard facts, and in their causes and consequences; weighing and measuring all things; analyzing all things; collating, comparing, and classifying; insisting upon investigation at all points; formulating rigid laws; scoffing at the unseen and unknowa-

  1. Address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Ann Arbor, August 26, 1885, by the retiring President of the Association. Reprinted from "Science."