Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/55

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By Professor WM. E. RITTER,


PROGRESS in science leads to ever greater, more multifarious minutiae of knowledge, and at the same time to ever clearer revelation of the close and vital interdependence among the different sciences. This characteristic of progress tends inevitably, for the individual investigator, toward an unyielding paradox. On the one hand, he is confronted by an ever increasing mass of detail, which necessitates ever narrower specialization, while, on the other hand, he is required to fit himself ever more thoroughly in an increasing number of sciences. See how it is faring with the zoologist, for example, since his case happens to be one of painful concreteness to the present writer. To enter this field by any of its numerous gateways with fair prospects of being able to achieve much, one needs to be armed to the teeth with weapons obtained in several other fields. In the first place, he ought to be a physiologist among physiologists, with all that implies of physics and chemistry. It is not enough that he be a zoologist with 'pretty fair training in physiology.' In the second place, he ought to handle the mathematician's weapons just as the mathematician himself handles them. Further, he can hardly get on without being geologist, oceanographer, meteorologist, one or another, depending on what aspect of zoology may be his chief interest. For the strict individualist in research it looks as though some of the sciences are in a way to progress themselves to a standstill before long. What is to be done about it?

It is becoming more and more obvious that in some of the sciences continued progress, particularly in certain directions, calls for the helping hand of workmen whose training and interests are not primarily in the science directly concerned, but in neighboring sciences. It is no longer possible for an investigator engaged upon some of the problems of science, however broad and thorough be his training in sciences other than his own, to use the tools borrowed from other fields with real effectiveness in his own field. It is a question not merely of preliminary training, but as well of point of view, to be reached only by continuous and long continued living in a particular realm of knowledge until a certain habit of mind peculiar to that realm has been acquired. This is the sort of help that every science, probably, certainly most sciences, must have from its neighbors. There