What is the effect on the general broad-mindedness of man by this extreme specialization so necessary for the production of the best and most far-reaching results? Is the modern specialist more narrow-minded than the generalist of a century or two ago? In view of our opening statement that the prime instrument of research is, after all, the mind, the question is, as you see, not an irrelevant one. We find statements occasionally made which would imply an affirmative answer to our question; but I, for one, would most emphatically protest against such an inference. I should maintain that the specialist, other things being equal, is likely to be a broader man than he who has no specialty, but simply a general knowledge of some particular science. The reason for my positive statement would be found in the fact mentioned, that the greatest part of the research work to-day is being done on the border-lands of the general sciences; for he who wishes to take part in this very active competition must needs be far better equipped than the mere generalist. The physical chemist, to be most successful, must have a very intimate knowledge of both physics and chemistry, and the more mathematical skill he possesses the better. The astrophysicist must be a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, besides being an astronomer. And so with regard to the geophysicist.
Only a few names need be cited—like those, for example, of Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin, von Helmholtz, Mascart—to support the contention that the broadest physicists are, as a rule, those who have regarded their laboratory experiments and deductions therefrom merely as a means to an end, not an end in themselves, and who have accordingly sought to apply the knowledge gained to the solution of some of the great problems affecting the general welfare of man. There is the greatest need in this country of well-trained and well-equipped physicists in the solution of the many perplexing problems of the earth's physics with regard to the phenomena of seismology, vulcanology, meteorology, geodesy, atmospheric electricity, terrestrial magnetism, etc. When the investigator makes the attempt to apply some of his laboratory facts to geophysical and cosmical phenomena, he has opened to himself a world of which he never dreamed; he finds zest in familiarizing himself with the fundamental facts of other sciences in which until now he could take no interest.
Methods of Research; Discovery of Laws
The methods in general have already received treatment in connection with the foregoing topics. It is always interesting to know what was the precise course followed in the discovery of a great law. However, no two investigators have ever pursued, or at least but rarely, precisely the same paths, and we must therefore be content with the