Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/462

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438
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that their monarchy had stood without material change for 10,000 years. There is much reason for believing that their religion and polity were about the same for at least 3,000 years, and for presuming that they must have been very slow in reaching that condition. The farther we look back into history, the longer we find the intervals between the permanent improvements of culture. The present age is resplendent not less for the magnitude of its inventions and discoveries than for the speed with which they have crowded upon one another's heels, and have been carried round the world. No previous time has approached ours in its achievements, and, if ever any force of culture deserved apotheosis, it is steam.

 

ON THE BACKWARDNESS OF THE ANCIENTS IN NATURAL SCIENCE.
By CARL VON LITTROW.
[1]

I CAN hardly be mistaken in holding that the ceremonies attending the installation of a rector of our university chiefly concern the students. Thus only can I account for the fact that on the one hand the newly-installed officer is burdened with the unpleasant duty of listening to a history of his own life, and, on the other, that he is required to deliver an address whose sole purpose is to make known the ground he occupies in science and in his teaching. His colleagues, to whom he is indebted for his election, of course have no need to be informed where he stands, while the students oftentimes have but scant opportunity of knowing what manner of opinions are held by him. Hence it is that my words are addressed first of all to you, my young friends.

Those nations of antiquity which so long freely and unchallenged have borne the title of "classical," owe to their mastery of form whatever right they have to that honorable epithet. While we must regard our predecessors in culture as being the best patterns in all that regards form, we may nevertheless of ourselves assert that in the investigation of matter, and in the arts of making it subservient to man, we in turn equally or even to a greater degree surpass the ancients. This condition of things is indeed nothing but one phase of the strife between the real and the ideal—a strife which, fortunately for mankind, is never altogether allayed. That in nearly every department of art—taking this terra in its widest sense—we are on the whole the miserable Epigoni of the ancients, is universally admitted,

  1. Inaugural Address on his installation as Rector of the University of Vienna. Translated by J. Fitzgerald, A. M.