Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/441

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435
NATURE AND MAN.

NATURE AND MAN.[1]
BY EDWIN RAY LANKESTER, M.A., Hon. D.Sc., F.R.S.,

HON. FELLOW OF EXETER COLLEGE, DIRECTOR OF THE NATURAL HISTORY DEPARTMENTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM, LATE LINACRE PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.

IT is the pride of our ancient universities that they are largely, if not exclusively, frequented by young men of the class who are going to take an active part in the public affairs of the country—either as politicians and statesmen, as governors of remote colonies, or as leaders of the great professions of the church, the law and medicine. It would seem, then, that if these universities attached a greater, even a predominant, importance to the studies which lead to the knowledge and control of nature, the schools would follow their example, and that the governing class of the country would become acquainted with the urgent need for more knowledge of the kind, and for the immediate application in public affairs of that knowledge which exists.

It would seem that in Great Britain, at any rate, it would not be necessary, were the universities alive to the situation, to await the pressure of democracy, but that a better and more rapid mode of development would obtain; the influential and trusted leaders of the community would set the example in seeking and using for the good of the state the new knowledge of nature. The world has seen with admiration and astonishment the entire people of Japan follow the example of its governing class in the almost sudden adoption of the knowledge and control of nature as the purpose of national education and the guide of state administration. It is possible that in a less rapid and startling manner our old universities may, at no distant date, influence the intellectual life of the more fortunate of our fellow citizens, and consequently of the entire community. The weariness which is so largely expressed at the present day in regard to human effort—whether it be in the field of politics, of literature, or of other art, or in relation to the improvement of social organization and the individual life—is possibly due to the fact that we have exhausted the old sources of inspiration, and have not yet learnt to believe in the new. The 'return to nature,' which is sometimes vaguely put forward as a cure for the all-pervading 'taedium' of this age, is perhaps an imperfect expression of the truth that it is time for civilized man not to return to the 'state of nature' but to abandon his retrospective


  1. Concluding part of the Romanes Lecture, delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, on June 14, 1905.