Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/409

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395
THE HISTORY OF A DOCTRINE.

fact that through its aid nature obeys us more and more; proving itself by such, material evidence as is found in the practical applications of the doctrine, in the triumphs of modern photography, in the electric lights in our streets, and in a thousand ways which I will not pause to enumerate.

And here I might end, hoping that there may be some lessons for us in the history of what has been said. I will venture to ask the attention to one more, perhaps a minor one, but of a practical character. It is that in these days, when the advantage of organization is so fully realized, when there is a well-founded hope that by co-operation among scientific men knowledge may be more rapidly increased, and when in the great scientific departments of government and elsewhere there is a tendency to the formation of the divisions of a sort of scientific army—a tendency which may be most beneficially guided—that at such a time we should yet remember that, however rapidly science changes, human nature remains much the same; and (while we are uttering truisms) let us venture to say that there is a very great deal of this human nature even in the scientific man, whose best type is one nearly as unchanging as this nature itself, and one which can not always advantageously be remodeled into a piece of even the most refined bureaucratic mechanism, but will work effectively only in certain ways, and not always at the word of command, nor always best in regiments, nor always best under the best of discipline.

Finally, if I were asked what I thought were the next great steps to be taken in the study of radiant heat, I should feel unwilling to attempt to look more than a very little way in advance. Immediately before us, however, there is one great problem waiting solution. I mean the relation between temperature and radiation; for we know almost nothing of this, where knowledge would give new insight into almost every operation of nature, nearly every one of which is accompanied by the radiation or reception of heat, and would enable us to answer inquiries now put to physicists in vain by every department of science, from that of the naturalist as to the enigma of the brief radiation of the glowworm, to that of the geologist who asks as to the number of million years required for the cooling of a world.

When, however, we begin to go beyond the points which seem, like this, to invite our very next steps in advance, we can not venture to prophesy; for we can hardly discriminate among the unlimited possibilities which seem to open before a branch of knowledge which deals especially with that radiant energy which sustains, with our own being, that of all animated nature, of which humanity is but a part. If there be any students of Nature here, who, feeling drawn to labor in this great field of hers, still doubt whether there is yet room, surely it may be said to them.