Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/482

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have separated by the breadth of great States or even by the width of America. Its social meetings have often been as gainful as delightful. Here the youth just across the threshold of geology or astronomy has met the veteran explorer or observer, and thenceforward his work has known the ardor of discipleship; there are men now eminent in American science who recall as among their first inspirations the noble and kindly faces of Henry, Gray, Guyot, and Agassiz at association meetings. There is always a good deal in the mind of a man of science that he does not care to commit to a formal report or a dignified text-book; his appraisals of the current literature of his special field, his suggestive criticisms of the latest audacities of theory, his shrewd guesses as to what next awaits the discoverer, are only for those who meet him face to face. Not seldom a thinker or an experimenter in a remote corner of the country cherishes a hypothesis or proposes an apparatus intended to solve an old difficulty in a new way. At an association meeting he finds the mechanician or the chemist, who of all men can best disabuse his mind of its harbored fallacy, or point out how for success his project must be modified. And many men prosecute masterly work at lonely outposts, or, worse still, in populous centers of uninterested people; they are spared a withering sense of isolation in finding at the yearly muster that it is after all a goodly army in which they are enlisted. In so far, too, as the association has managed to keep specialists of eminence in its ranks, they receive at the annual assemblies not less benefit than the tyros. The observer with microscopic slides or test-tubes constantly at his eye is refreshed when he meets at the council table and the general session his peer of the geologic hammer or the telescope. Nor must the benefits be forgotten which the association has conferred upon men of affairs drawn into its audiences and interested in its work. They have seen somewhat of the unselfish labor in breaking new ground which must go before the sowing and reaping we know as industry and business. Hence have arisen generous gifts for research—which might well be multiplied; and, apart from any question into which gain or gift can enter, the association has done noble work in bringing to the people a glimpse, at least, of that inspiring ray which ever gilds truth as it emerges from the unknown.

Much that can be said of the good born of this association's meetings is true of those of many societies for research, education, or reform, which year by year and almost month by month spring into existence. Let us glance at one or two cases where a small band of earnest men have been able to do great things, not for science, but for righteousness. The Civil-service Reform Association, founded by George William Curtis and his friends