Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/397

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
393
THE HALO OF A HUNDRED YEARS

contemporary recognition; of Dalton, who, working as a private teacher at Manchester, was first appreciated in the University of Glasgow; of George Green, the self-taught Nottingham genius, who anticipated Gauss in elaborating the general mathematical theory of potential function, and who was also made known to European science by my alma mater; of Boole, who, though the founder of the science of invariants, taught in "venture" schools at Doncaster and Lincoln, and never climbed higher than the professorship of mathematics at an inconspicuous Irish college;[1] of Faraday and Joule, whose pertinacious, unaided labors were also rated first at their real worth in the University of Glasgow; of the Yorkshire shepherd, Dawson, who made Senior wranglers at Sedbergh in the last years of the eighteenth century. All these men—and I might name others, like the classical succession of English philosophers—were personalities, not ranking officers in a national syndicate of scientific feudalism. Darwin stood latest in their wonderful, and characteristically English, line. The Englishman's passion for independence, his desire for the free play of idiosyncrasy, may account for this. More powerful, in my judgment, is the fact that the pursuit of science had not become a profession, and with the astonishing consequences noted so caustically by Brewster, in 1830.

The great inventions and discoveries which have been made in England during the last century have been made without the precincts of our universities. In proof of this we have only to recall the labours of Bradley, Dollond, Priestley, Cavendish, Maskelyne, Rumford, Watt, Wollaston, Young, Davy and Chenevix; and among the living to mention the names of Dalton, Ivory, Brown, Hatchett, Pond, Hersehel, Babbage, Henry, Barlow, South, Faraday, Murdoch and Christie; nor need we have any hesitation in adding that within the last fifteen years not a single discovery or invention of prominent interest has been made in our colleges, and that there is not one man in all the eight universities of Great Britain who is at present known to be engaged in any train of original research.[2]

(A research club takes due note, I hope!) Science lay in far deeper debt to the unusual endowment of individuals than to the patronage of academies, or the fostering stimulus of universities, true to the highest trust of education. In this connection, then, note finally that Darwin's character furnished an ideal instrument for the continuation of this process, more Anglicano.

On the intellectual side, Darwin's character presented a combination, unique in modern times at least, of extensive knowledge, profound sagacity and deliberative caution. His mastery over detail simply overwhelms one. His sense for relationship and consequent power to detect a single principle, no matter how confusing the multiplied phenomena

  1. Queen's College, Cork.
  2. Quarterly Review, Vol. XLIII., p. 327. This article led to the foundation of the British Association. Cf. "The English Utilitarians," Leslie Stephen, Vol. I., pp. 47 f., 112.