Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/653

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HOW A NATURALIST IS TRAINED.

HOW A NATURALIST IS TRAINED.
By J. S. KINGSLEY, Sc.D.

EVERY trade, every profession, has its own peculiar methods of procedure, which, while not kept secret, are still unknown to the general public. This ignorance is due to several causes, among which may be mentioned a lack of interest and a lack of any simple account of the processes involved. If one not educated to the legal profession be told the facts in a certain case, and then be turned loose in a large law library, how long would it take him to work up a brief? How would he know what books to consult, where to find decisions bearing on the cases in question, or, when found, how to interpret them, and ascertain their exact relations to the subject in dispute?

There is probably just as much mystery surrounding the way in which the naturalist investigates the secrets of Nature, yet the true student has not the slightest desire to conceal his methods; but, on the other hand, is perfectly willing, even glad, to tell how he arrived at his results to any one who wishes to hear. The student, on first entering a biological laboratory, thinks he has an easy task before him. All that he has to do in order to become a naturalist is to see and to remember what he sees. In a few days this confidence gives way to a spirit of despair. He begins to realize that observation is not so easy as he thought, and that the structures so distinctly shown in anatomical plates arc not so readily discovered in the object before him. He becomes satisfied that in science, as in the other departments of knowledge, there is no royal road to learning. Gradually he acquires the methods, and knowing them his knowledge increases. What at first seemed an impossible task is seen to be really easy, and things at first invisible are soon as plain as day. At first sight it would seem difficult to take an egg only 1100 of an inch in diameter, and cut it into slices in any desired manner, and yet it is an every-day operation to section such an egg and convert it into fifty slices.

It is the purpose of this article to tell in general terms the way in which a naturalist, and especially a zoölogist, arrives at his results. To give exact details would expand this article to a large volume and render it extremely abstruse and technical, while a mere outline will be much shorter and (the writer hopes) more interesting. Within the past few years the methods of study and tendencies of biological thought have undergone an immense development; and although each of the nearly four hundred colleges and universities in the United States pretend to give instruction in botany and zoology, there are really less than a dozen where the student can obtain a good and solid foundation in the biological sciences as they exist to-day.

Until school-life begins, a child is a good observer, but the whole