Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/557

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541
RELATIONS OF RESEARCH TO INVENTION.

the realm must naturally seem profitless. High aims count for little or nothing—results, and tangible results at that, are wanted.

It would be easy to multiply instances in illustration of my meaning. For example, iodine, discovered in 1812 by Courtois, was for many years a chemical curiosity. Why should any one waste his time in the study of so useless a body? To-day industries unknown to Courtois, born since his day, find in iodine one of their most necessary appliances. Photography, one of the arts in which iodine is useful, itself grew out of researches which were seemingly useless when made; and the camera, its most essential implement, was once only a philosopher's plaything. Investigations which had only the pursuit of truth for its own sake as a justification, brought rainbows of color out of coal; and coal-tar, not forty years ago a nuisance to be thrown away, is now a source of profit and prodigal of beauty. From the same hopeless material, through researches still unarmed at profit, have come the latest and best additions to our materia medica; and so again the methods of Science, as applied by her highest votaries, are vindicated by the fruits they bear. In short, every department of invention, every advance in civilization, owes much to the student; no industry is independent of the results won by purely abstract research. Even the most trivial details of modern life are affected by the work of the scientific investigator; luxuries and necessaries alike are influenced; and so obtrusively evident is this truth to most of us, that, taking it for granted, we daily ask, "What next?" Indeed, our gratitude to Science is often manifested in that cynical form which has been wittily defined as "a lively sense of favors yet to be received." We expect more in the future than we have realized in the past, and, as the marvels of the last century become commonplace, we look for new wonders which shall be even greater. The magic of the ancients is already outdone, and still the tide of discovery has not reached its flood. To preserve what we have gained, and to insure the promise of the years to come, is the problem before us. Speaking in the interest of future invention we may fairly ask, How best shall the work of investigation be furthered?

It is an old saying, and one partly true, that what has been, shall be. We may, therefore, consider through what agencies science has heretofore grown, and so recognize the foundations upon which building is possible. These agencies, briefly summarized, are as follows: First, individual enterprise; second, schools and universities; third, learned societies and endowments; fourth, government aid. Like nearly all classifications this list is imperfect, for it represents only one phase of the truth; and the several items, far from being distinct, shade into one another through many gradations of circumstance. Among them all, in-