Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/595

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

MARCH. 1886.


 

BIOLOGICAL TEACHING IN COLLEGES.[1]
By WILLIAM G. FARLOW,

PROFESSOR OF CRYPTOGAMIC BOTANY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

THE general use of the word biology in this country dates from a period scarcely more remote than ten or twelve years ago, and, even at the present day, in spite of the fact that a good many of our schools and colleges announce courses on the subject, and even the newspapers occasionally discuss its popular aspects, the question is not unfrequently asked by persons generally well informed, What is biology? The question is not easily answered, for, if we say that biology is nothing but the essence of botany and zoölogy—which is the fact—then the inquirer not unreasonably asks why we now hear so much about biology, while we formerly heard only of botany and zoology, and the inference is that biology is nothing but a fine-sounding word newly coined to take the place of what used to be called natural history. This is in a certain sense true, but biology means rather natural history as it is, than natural history as it used to be, studied. It is to natural history—I use the terms as adopted in this country, without considering what their original application may have been—it is to natural history what reform is in politics: as reform seeks to elevate existing parties by forcing them to correct abuses and to infuse new life by discussing questions of the day rather than past issues, 80, under the guise of biology, the attempt has been made to infuse new life into natural history by substituting for the exclusively descriptive study of plants and animals a broader science which shall include also histology, physiology, and the history of development.

  1. Read before the Society of Naturalists of the Eastern United States.