Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/863

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SKETCH OF ALEXANDER WINCHELL.

Winchell was perhaps the very first man of science in America "who descended before popular audiences from that high-caste and stately but dry and unpopular style in which the older scientists had thought it fit to cloak the dignity of science. . . . He simplified zoölogical themes rather than popularized them, and lifted up his voice only . . . where the select appreciators of science were numerous enough to constitute an audience." Societies for scientific culture, summer institutes, and similar organizations, formed a large part of the audiences.

Prof. Winchell was a voluminous writer. The list of his books and papers in the American Geologist includes two hundred and fifty-five titles. A predominant idea running through his Christian Theology illustrated from Nature was that of the harmony between the indications and doctrines of science and the central doctrines of the Christian religion. A similar thought ran through several other of his works. His Geology of the Stars and his World Life were attempts to extend the history of the earth as recorded in the geological strata so as to include the whole lifetime of a world, or to present, as he said in the preface, "a thoughtful review of the processes of world formation, world growth, and world decadence." Many of the thoughts in these works were so novel that he was not able to get an expression of opinion upon them from his fellow-students. A large proportion of his books are scientific treatises for popular reading—vivacious, suggestive, embodying the accurate results of scientific investigation, sparkling with original thoughts, and well adapted to their purpose.

The burden of his educational labor, according to his biographer, lay in the direction of widening the avenues of natural science and of its introduction into secondary schools. "He insisted that the young student is more observing than reflective or analytic, that the education of the mind should be by an appeal to its most accessible and most powerful impulses, and that the influence of science on the human mind, especially in its formative stage, is more healthful to a normal growth, more conducive to moral rectitude, and more stimulating toward a right ambition, than any other field of knowledge. . . . He believed that there is as much mental and ethical culture to be derived from the study of natural science, when pursued with equal thoroughness and exactness, as from the study of Greek or Latin literature or of mathematics."