Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/189

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185
INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS OF RESEARCH

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The third, happening to grasp the "squirming trunk within His hands," declared the elephant to be "very like a snake"; the fourth, feeling "about the knee," thought the elephant seemed "very like a tree"; the fifth, "chancing to touch the elephant's ear," described him as being "very like a fan," and when within the scope of the sixth came the swinging tail, the fact that the elephant "is very like a rope" was to him proved beyond dispute.

And so these men of Indoostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong.
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

And now, if you will permit me to slightly alter the poet's last verse, so as to point the moral to our own selves:

How oft in scientific wars
We disputants are seen
To rail in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean.
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of us has seen!

 

What is Research?

In this day of encyclopedias numerous and ponderous, one is often struck with the fact that in spite of the manifest care and conscientious thought bestowed by the responsible editors, the omissions and evidences of discontinuity of treatment, and lack of recognition of the prime purposes of the compilation, are as noteworthy as the imposing array of the results of our steadily advancing knowledge is startling. For a philosophic treatment—one fully appreciative of that which the student really requires, not only to enlighten him with regard to a particular subject, but also to stimulate him to research where it is most needed—I frequently get more satisfaction out of the older encyclopedias than from our modern ones, even though they can but present the status of the subject up to the time they were written.

As an illustration, take the word "research," appearing in our topic of this evening, or any of the associated terms—"discovery," "experiment," "investigation" and "observation." Turning to the index volumes of the ninth and tenth editions of the "Encyclopedia Britan-