Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/324

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servation," he wrote to Wallace. Still more interesting is the fact that the inheritance of his grandfather's tendency toward speculation took the direction of evolution, for before the close of the eighteenth century Erasmus Darwin gave the world in poetical form his belief in a complete evolutionary system as well as the first clear exposition of what is now known as the Lamarckian hypothesis. But in the grandson hypotheses were constantly held in check by the determination to put each to the severe test of observation. Darwin speaks of his father, Robert, as the most acute observer he ever saw, and attributes to him his intense desire to understand the reasons of things; from him came caution and conservatism. He says in his "Autobiography":

I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis (however much beloved), and I can not resist forming one on every subject, as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.

If the "poet is born not made," the man of science is surely both born and made. Bare as was Darwin's genius, it was not more rare than the wonderful succession of outward events which shaped his life. It is true that Darwin believed with his cousin Francis Gal ton that education and environment produce only a small effect upon the mind of any one, but Darwin underestimated the force of his educational advantages just as he underestimated his own powers, and this because he thought only of his book and classroom life at school, at Edinburgh and at Cambridge, and not of his broader life. It was true in 1817, as to-day, that few teachers teach and few educators educate. It is true that those were the dull days of classical and mathematical drill. Yet look at the roster of Cambridge and see the men it produced. From Darwin's regular college work he may have gained buit little, yet he was all the while enjoying an exceptional training. Step by step he was made a strong man by a mental guidance which is without parallel, by the precepts and example of his father, for whom he held the greatest reverence, by his reading of the poetry of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Milton, and the scientific prose of Paley, Herschel and Humboldt, by the subtle scholarly influences of old Cambridge, by the scientific inspiration and advice of Henslow, by the masterful inductive influence of the geologist Lyell, and by the great nature panorama of the voyage of the Beagle.

The college mates of Darwin saw more truly than he himself what the old university was doing for him. Professor Poulton of Oxford, believes that the kind of life which so favored Darwin's mind has largely disappeared in English universities, especially under the sharp system of competitive examinations; yet this is still more truly the atmosphere of old Cambridge to-day than of any of our American colleges. It would be an interesting subject to debate whether we