Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/169

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163
BIOLOGY IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

acter and extent of the variations, the interrelations with other species—these are things rarely mentioned in accounts of species described from our area.

The reason for this state of affairs is evident enough. Nearly everything has been done, until quite recently, by naturalists who resided in the eastern states. It is true that many of them visited the west, but usually to hurriedly gather together such miscellanea as came in their way, to take them home and there study them at their leisure, or turn them over to the appropriate specialists. Very little was done on the ground, except by a few resident naturalists, who were usually at a disadvantage because of the absence of libraries and museums. Even to this day, one comes across that deep reluctance to form independent conclusions, born of the feeling that in biology, as in other things, the wise men of the east hold the keys of knowledge. It is exactly the attitude which Americans of the eastern states, a hundred years ago, used to show to the naturalists of Europe.

Eastern science is the mother of that of the west, and European science is its grandmother. May this relationship never be forgotten; but the time must come when the young fellow will stand for himself. I think and hope that this time is rapidly approaching, and therefore regard with more than ordinary interest the new developments in the educational institutions, which begin (only begin!) to make intellectual independence in biology a possibility.

Such talk as this is not mere bombast; such wishes are not merely born of that mania for supremacy which afflicts so many peoples. We do not wish to do any more than look after our own affairs, and that we surely are entitled to do. The point is that, after all, biology is the study of living things, and the descriptions of museum specimens are only preliminary to the most important part of the work. It is utterly impossible that the innumerable problems raised by different aspects of our fauna and flora (biota, let us say, after Stejneger) can ever be solved except on the ground. And our eastern friends—they have their own region, very far from being exhausted, besides having to look after material from all sorts of countries where there are no resident naturalists, or very few, and adequate facilities are not even in prospect. I am not proposing a sort of Monroe Doctrine in biology. Professor Underwood, not very long ago, did advocate something of this kind; proposing that Europeans should attend to their own flora, or at least to that of their own hemisphere, while Americans looked after American plants. This, if I understood it rightly (and it was plainly put!), was not a very defensible proposition; for imagine the results of the two halves of the circumpolar flora being studied entirely apart! Indeed, one has only to examine existing publications to see numerous ill results of this provincialism—and it is provincialism, though one's province be as large as the two Americas. So far from wishing to