Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/519

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE FROM 1836 TO 1886.

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE FROM 1836 TO 1886.
By GRANT ALLEN.

FIFTY years ago, science was still inchoate. Much had already been done by the early pioneers. The ground had been cleared; the building-materials had been in part provided; the foundations had been duly and ably laid; but the superstructure as yet had hardly been raised a poor foot or two above the original level. The work of the last half-century has been twofold. On one side it has been accumulative merely: new stocks of organizable material—the raw bricks of science—have been laid up, as before, ready to the call of the master-mason, but in far greater profusion than by any previous age. On the other side it has been directive and architectonic; the endless stores of fact and inference, thus dug out and shaped to the hand by the brick-makers of knowledge in a thousand fields, have been assiduously built up by a compact body of higher and broader intelligences into a single grand harmonious whole. This last task forms, indeed, the great scientific triumph of our epoch. Ours has been an age of firm grasp and of wide vision. It has seen the down-fall of the anthropocentric fallacy. Cosmos has taken the place of chaos. Isolated facts have been fitted and dovetailed into their proper niche in the vast mosaic. The particular has slowly merged into the general, the general into still higher and deeper cosmical concepts. We live in an epoch of unification, simplification, correlation, and universality. When after-ages look back upon our own, they will recognize that in science its key-note has been the idea of unity.

Fifty years ago, there were many separate and distinct sciences but hardly any general conception of science at large as a single, rounded, and connected whole. Specialists rather insisted pertinaciously on the utter insularity of their own peculiar and chosen domain. Zoölogists protested, with tears in their eyes, that they had nothing to do with chemistry or with physics; geologists protested with a shrug of their shoulders, that they had nothing to do with astronomy or with cosmical genesis. It was a point of honor with each particular department, indeed, not to encroach on the territory of departments that lay nearest to it. Trespassers from the beaten path of the restricted science were prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law. And within the realm of each separate study, in like manner, minor truths stood severely apart from one another; electricity refused to be at one with magnetism, and magnetism was hardly on speaking terms with the voltaic current. Organization and subordination of part to whole had scarcely yet begun to be even aimed at. The sciences were each a huge congeries of heterogeneous