Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/328

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are valuable assistants in support of the vortex theory which he advances. I hope at an early date to supplement this article with some still more interesting examples of the photography of electrical discharges.




PSYCHOLOGICAL science has reached a sort of understanding in these recent years of the individual and of the social setting in which he customarily disports himself; and the duty now devolves upon it of dealing with the exceptions to the rule. No one will be disposed to deny certainly that the genius is in some way exceptional; and if any instance can, by showing what society is not, cast light on what it is, the genius is the man to question. So it is my purpose in this paper to endeavor to understand him, as far as may be, without putting ourselves in his shoes; for apart from the inherent difficulty of assuming his exceptional role, it may for another reason be more comfortable not to do so, for under the exceptions to our social rule we are forced to include also these other extremes found in the weak-minded and the insane.

The facts about the genius seem to indicate that he is a being sui generis. Common mortals stand about him with expressions of awe. The literature of him is embodied in the alcoves of our libraries most accessible to the public, and even the wayfaring man, to whom life is a weary round, and his conquests over Nature and his fellows only the division of honors on a field that usually witnesses drawn battles or bloody defeats, loves to stimulate his courage by hearing of the lives of those who put Nature and society so utterly to rout. He hears of men who swayed the destinies of Europe, who taught Society by outraging her conventions, whose morality even was reached by scorn of the peccadilloes which condemn the ordinary man, to whom might makes right, and homo mensura omnium. Every man has in him to some degree the hero-worshiper, and gets inflamed somewhat by reading Carlyle's Frederick the Great.

Of course, this popular sense can not be wholly wrong. The genius does accomplish the world movements. Napoleon did set the destiny of Europe, and Frederick did reveal, in a sense, a new phase of moral conduct. And the truth of these things is just what makes the enthusiasm of the common man so healthy and stimulating. It is not the least that the genius accomplishes that