Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/190

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180
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

only a large and high university can command, is necessary to allow him the fullest development.

And this is specially so in our science of physics. In the early days of physics and chemistry, many of the fundamental experiments could be performed with the simplest apparatus. And so we often find the names of Wollaston and Faraday mentioned as needing scarcely anything for their researches. Much can even now he done with the simplest apparatus; and nobody, except the utterly incompetent, need stop for want of it. But the fact remains that one can only be free to investigate in all departments of chemistry and physics, when he not only has a complete laboratory at his command, but a friend to draw on for the expenses of each experiment. That simplest of the departments of physics, namely, astronomy, has now reached such perfection that nobody can expect to do much more in it without a perfectly equipped observatory; and even this would be useless without an income sufficient to employ a corps of assistants to make the observations and computations. But even in this simplest of physical subjects, there is great misunderstanding. Our country has very many excellent observatories: and yet little work is done in comparison, because no provision has been made for maintaining the work of the observatory; and the wealth which, if concentrated, might have made one effective observatory which would prove a benefit to astronomical science, when scattered among a half-dozen, merely furnishes telescopes for the people in the surrounding region to view the moon with. And here I strike the keynote of at least one need of our country, if she would stand well in science; and the following item which I clip from a newspaper will illustrate the matter:

"The eccentric old Canadian, Arunah Huntington, who left $300,000 to be divided among the public schools of Vermont, has done something which will be of little practical value to the schools. Each district will be entitled to the insignificant sum of $10, which will not advance much the cause of education."

Nobody will dispute the folly of such a bequest, or the folly of filling the country with telescopes to look at the moon, and calling them observatories. How much better to concentrate the wealth into a few parcels, and make first-class observatories and institutions with it!

Is it possible that any of our four hundred colleges and universities have love enough of learning to unite with each other and form larger institutions? Is it possible that any have such a love of truth that they are willing to be called by their right name? I fear not; for the spirit of expectation, which is analogous to the spirit of gambling, is strong in the American breast, and each institution which now, except in name, slumbers in obscurity, expects in time to bloom out into full prosperity. Although many of them are under religious influence,