Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/200

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196
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

answer come out?" Do we not at times attempt to put wrong premises into nature's machinery and then expect correct answers?

We can not close this section better than by quoting the following passage from the address of the first president of this society, Joseph Henry, given on November 24, 1877:

The general mental qualification necessary for scientific advancement is that which is usually denominated 'common sense,' though, added to this, imagination, induction, and trained logic, either of common language or of mathematics, are important adjuncts. Nor are the objects of scientific culture difficult of attainment. It has been truly said that the "seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them."

Henry's insistence on the application in our scientific work of "common sense" reminds one of Clifford's apt definition of science as being "organized common sense."

 

Publication of Results of Research Work

We come next to the question of publication of the results of research. I think it may be taken as almost axiomatic that whatever is worthy of investigation should be made known in some effective manner, so as to reach without question those concerned. The multiplicity of literature on any one subject or even on any small portion thereof is nowadays such that the worker finds it utterly impossible to keep abreast of publications, even those in his own field, to say nothing of kindred ones.

He is forced more and more to rely on abstracts—at least in so far as to direct him to that which he unquestionably must consult in the original, if possible. In my own particular line of work I rarely find that an abstract supplies all that is needed, and I almost invariably prefer to work directly with the original. I have heard similar statements from workers in other fields.

If it be true, then, that the investigator usually finds it necessary to consult the original publications, the next conclusion to be drawn is that the publication of any research work should, in general, be of such form and size as to permit the widest distribution possible, not only among the libraries and the principal seats of learning, but also among the workers and institutions immediately interested.

The scientific worker generally does not possess the means to purchase or to construct the instruments he requires for the prosecution of his work, and a book bearing in any way on the line of work to be pursued is as much to be considered part of his equipment as the purely mechanical tools. Indeed, I was told by the late von Bezold that Wilhelm Weber set his laboratory students to work by telling them, "Here are the instruments, and there are the Annalen der Physik; now go to work." The man of science usually wants his