Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/477

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.



��suit over the value of his services, he was asked who was the greatest living pliysicist, ho replied that he was. On being askea afterwards if this did not seem rather egotistical, he answered: ' I had to tell the trutn, I was testify- i ing under oath.' His personality was attractive to those who knew him well and understood his supreme absorption in his own work. To others he doubt- less seemed self-centered, somewhat unsympathetic and undemonstrative. FitzGerald appears to have had ex- actly the opposite characteristics. Physiognomy is extremely illusive, but the portraits here given seem to indi- cate the individualities of the two men. FitzGerald was unselfish and self-sac- rificing almost to a fault. Dr. Menden- hall tells us in his commemorative address that Rowland did not know even approximately how many students he had, and on being asked what he would do with them, replied: 'Do with them? — I shall neglect them.' But he adds : ' To be neglected by Rowland was often, indeed, more stimulating and inspiring than the closest personal supervision of men lacking his genius and magnetic fervor.' FitzGerald sac- rificed his research work to teaching, to administration ' and to helping others ; he was always ready to give his ideas to students and to his friends. He took no interest in questions of priority and scientific credit. Rowland

��spoke of ' professors degrading their chairs by the pursuit of applied sci- ence.' FitzGerald said that it was a small matter whether the human race got to know about the ether now or litty years hence, but that it was a vital matter that present scientific ignorance should not continue for a generation.

FitzGerald tended to devote himself more and more to humaa affairs, giv- ing much time to the Irish Education Board and visiting this country to observe our schools ; but the memorial volume containing his collected papers shows that he did contribute greatly to our knowledge of the ether. He was almost the first to appreciate fully Maxwell's work and to carry it for- ward, his memoir ' On the Electro- magnetism of the Reflection and Re- fraction of Light,' presented before the Royal Society in 1888, being accepted as a classic. Many of his other papers contain important contributions and suggestions, and the addresses should be of interest to all those who are able to appreciate the great forwai'd ad- vance in our views on the nature of electricity and the constitution of matter. It may be noted as of inci- dental interest that FitzGerald did not go to school as a boy; his father was an eminent bishop, and his mother a sister of the mathematical physicist. Professor Johnstone Stoney.

�� �