Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/12

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tory of modern physics—as in the case of the correlation of forces and the undulatory theory of light—furnishes us with many instances of wise thoughts floating like downy seeds in the atmosphere until the moment has come for them to take root. And so it has been with the greatest achievement of modern thinking—the doctrine of evolution. Students and investigators in all departments, alike in the physical and in the historical sciences, were fairly driven by the nature of the phenomena before them into some hypothesis, more or less vague, of gradual and orderly change or development. The world was ready and waiting for Herbert Spencer's mighty work when it came, and it was for that reason that it was so quickly triumphant over the old order of thought. The victory has been so thorough, swift, and decisive that it will take another generation to narrate the story of it so as to do it full justice. Meanwhile, people's minds are apt to be somewhat dazed with the rapidity and wholesale character of the change; and nothing is more common than to see them adopting Mr. Spencer's ideas without recognizing them as his or knowing whence they got them. As fast as Mr. Spencer could set forth his generalizations they were taken hold of here and there by special workers, each in his own department, and utilized therein. His general system was at once seized, assimilated, and set forth with new illustrations by serious thinkers who were already groping in the regions of abstruse thought which the master's vision pierced so clearly. And thus the doctrine of evolution has come to be inseparably interfused with the whole mass of thinking in our day and generation. I do not mean to imply that people commonly entertain very clear ideas about it, for clear ideas are not altogether common. I suspect that a good many people would hesitate if asked to state exactly what Newton's law of gravitation is.

Among the men in America whose minds, between thirty and forty years ago, were feeling their way toward some such unified conception of nature as Mr. Spencer was about to set forth in all its dazzling glory—among the men who were thus prepared to grasp the doctrine of evolution at once and expound it with fresh illustrations—the first in the field was the man to whose memory we have met here this evening to pay a brief word of tribute. It is but a little while since that noble face was here with us and the tones of that kindly voice were fraught with good cheer for us. To most of you, I presume, the man Edward Livingston Youmans is still a familiar presence. There must be many here this evening who listened to the tidings of his death two years ago with a sense of personal bereavement. No one who knew him is likely ever to forget him. But for those who remember distinctly the man it may not be superfluous to recount the principal in-