Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/194

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solar system, the proportions which the various elements in that system bear to one another, have long been known. The distance of the sun itself is known within limits of error, relatively speaking, not very considerable. Were the meas- uring rod we apply to the heavens, based on an estimate of the sun's distance from the earth, which was wrong by (say) three per cent., it would not, to the lay mind, seem to affect very materially our view either of the distribution of the heavenly bodies or of their motions. And yet this information, this pieee of celestial gossip, would seem to be that which was chiefly expected from the successful prosecution of an investi- gation in which whole nations have interested themselves.

But tho no one can, I think, pretend that science does not concern itself, and properly con- cern itself, with facts which are not in them- selves, to all appearance, illustrations of law, it is undoubtedly true that for those who desire to extract the greatest pleasure from science, a knowledge, however elementary, of the leading principles of investigation and the larger laws of nature, is the acquisition most to be desired. To him who is not a specialist, a comprehension of the broad outlines of the universe as it presents itself to the scientific imagination, is the thing most worth striving to attain.

But when we turn from science to what is rather vaguely called history, the same principles of study do not, I think, altogether apply, and 166

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