Popular Science Monthly/Volume 28/November 1885/Relations of Science to the Public Weal I

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By Sir LYON PLAYFAIR, K. C. B., M. P., F. R. S.


I. VISIT TO CANADA.—Ladies and Gentlemen: Our last meeting at Montreal was a notable event in the life of the British Association, and even marked a distinct epoch in the history of civilization. It was by no mere accident that the constitution of the Association enabled it to embrace all parts of the British Empire. Science is truly catholic, and is bounded only by the universe. In relation to our vast empire, science as well as literature and art are the common possession of all its varying people. The United Kingdom is limited to 120,800 square miles, inhabited by thirty-five million people; but the empire as a whole has eight and one half million square miles, with a population of three hundred and five millions. To federate such vast possessions and so teeming a population into a political unit is a work only to be accomplished by the labors and persistent efforts of perhaps several generations of statesmen. The federation of its science is a subject of less dimensions well within the range of experiment. No part of the British Empire was more suited than Canada to try whether her science could be federated with our science. Canada has lately federated distinct provinces, with conflicting interests arising from difference of races, nationalities, and religions. Political federation is not new in the history of the world, though it generally arises as a consequence of war. It was war that taught the Netherlands to federate in 1619. It was war which united the States in America; federated Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, and unified Italy. But Canada formed a great national life out of petty provincial existences in a time of profound peace. This evolution gave an immense impulse to her national resources. The Dominion still requires consolidation in its vast extent, and applied science is rapidly effecting it. Canada, with its great expanse of territory, nearly as large as the United States, is being knit together by the iron bands of railways from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Pacific Ocean, so that the fertile lands of Ontario, Manitoba, Columbia, and the Northwestern Territories will soon be available to the world. Still, practical science has much to accomplish. England and France, with only one fifth the fertile area of Canada, support eighty million people, while Canada has a population not exceeding five million.

A less far-seeing people than the Canadians might have invited the applied science which they so much require. But they knew that without science there are no applications. They no doubt felt with Emerson—

"And what if Trade sow cities
Like shells along the shore,
And thatch with towns the prairie broad
With railways ironed o'er;
They are but sailing foam-bells
Along Thought's causing stream,
And take their shape and sun-color
From him that sends the dream."

So it was with a far-reaching foresight that the Canadian Government invited the British Association for the Advancement of Science to meet in Montreal. The inhabitants of Canada received us with open arms, and the science of the Dominion and that of the United Kingdom were welded. We found in Canada, as we had every reason to expect, men of manly and self-reliant character, who loved not less than we did the old home from which they had come. Among them is the same healthiness of political and moral life, with the same love of truth which distinguishes the English people. Our great men are their great men; our Shakespeare, Milton, and Burns belong to them as much as to ourselves; our Newton, Dalton, Faraday, and Darwin are their men of science as much as they are ours. Thus a common possession and mutual sympathy made the meeting in Canada a successful effort to stimulate the progress of science, while it established, at the same time, the principle that all people of British origin—and I would fain include our cousins in the United States—possess a common interest in the intellectual glories of their race, and ought, in science at least, to constitute part and parcel of a common empire, whose heart may beat in the small islands of the Northern seas, but whose blood circulates in all her limbs, carrying warmth to them, and bringing back vigor to us. Nothing can be more cheering to our association than to know that many of the young communities of English-speaking people all over the globe—in India, China, Japan, the Straits, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape—have founded scientific societies in order to promote the growth of scientific research. No doubt science, which is only a form of truth, is one in all lands, but still its unity of purpose and fulfillment received an important practical expression by our visit to Canada. This community of science will be continued by the fact that we have invited Sir William Dawson, of Montreal, to be our next president at Birmingham.

II. Science and the State.—I can not address you in Aberdeen without recollecting that when we last met in this city our president was a great prince. The just verdict of time is that, high as was his royal rank, he has a far nobler claim to our regard as a lover of humanity in its widest sense, and especially as a lover of those arts and sciences which do so much to adorn it. On September 14, 1859, I sat on this platform and listened to the eloquent address and wise counsel of the Prince Consort. At one time a member of his household, it was my privilege to co-operate with this illustrious prince in many questions relating to the advancement of science. I naturally, therefore, turn to his presidential address to see whether I might not now continue those counsels which he then gave with all the breadth and comprehensiveness of his masterly speeches. I found, as I expected, a text for my own discourse in some pregnant remarks which he made upon the relation of science to the state. They are as follows: "We may be justified in hoping. . . that the Legislature and the state will more and more recognize the claims of science to their attention; so that it may no longer require the begging-box, but speak to the state like a favored child to its parent, sure of his paternal solicitude for its welfare; that the state will recognize in science one of its elements of strength and prosperity, to foster which the clearest dictates of self-interest demand."

This opinion, in its broadest sense, means that the relations of science to the state should be made more intimate because the advance of science is needful to the public weal.

The importance of promoting science as a duty of statecraft was well enough known to the ancients, especially to the Greeks and Arabs, but it ceased to be recognized in the dark ages, and was lost to sight during the revival of letters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Germany and France, which are now in such active competition in promoting science, have only publicly acknowledged its national importance in recent times. Even in the last century, though France had its Lavoisier and Germany its Leibnitz, their Governments did not know the value of science. When the former was condemned to death in the Reign of Terror, a petition was presented to the rulers that his life might be spared for a few weeks, in order that he might complete some important experiments, but the reply was, "The republic has no need of savants." Earlier in the century the much praised Frederick William of Prussia shouted with a loud voice, during a graduation ceremony in the University of Frankfort, "An ounce of mother-wit is worth a ton of university wisdom!" Both France and Germany are now ashamed of these utterances of their rulers, and make energetic efforts to advance science with the aid of their national resources. More remarkable is it to see a young nation like the United States reserving 150,000,000 acres of national lands for the promotion of scientific education. In some respects this young country is in advance of all European nations in joining science to its administrative offices. Its scientific publications, like the great paleontological work embodying the researches of Professor Marsh and his associates in the Geological Survey, are an example to other Governments. The Minister of Agriculture is surrounded with a staff of botanists and chemists. The Home Secretary is aided by a special Scientific Commission to investigate the habits, migrations, and food of fishes, and the latter has at its disposal two specially constructed steamers of large tonnage. The United States and Great Britain promote fisheries on distinct systems. In this country we are perpetually issuing expensive commissions to visit the coasts, in order to ascertain the experiences of fishermen. I have acted as chairman of one of these Royal Commissions, and found that the fishermen, having only a knowledge of a small area, gave the most contradictory and unsatisfactory evidence. In America the questions are put to Nature, and not to fishermen. Exact and searching investigations are made into the life-history of the fishes, into the temperature of the sea in which they live and spawn, into the nature of their food, and into the habits of their natural enemies. For this purpose the Government gave the co-operation of the navy, and provided the Commission with a special corps of skilled naturalists, some of whom go out with the steamships, and others work in the biological laboratories at Wood's Holl, Massachusetts, or at Washington. The different universities send their best naturalists to aid in these investigations, which are under the direction of Mr. Baird, of the Smithsonian Institution. The annual cost of the Federal Commission is about forty thousand pounds, while the separate States spend about twenty thousand pounds in local efforts. The practical results flowing from these scientific investigations have been important. The inland waters and rivers have been stocked with fish of the best and most suitable kinds. Even the great ocean which washes the coasts of the United States is beginning to be affected by the knowledge thus acquired, and a sensible result is already produced upon the most important of its fisheries. The United Kingdom largely depends upon its fisheries, but as yet our Government have scarcely realized the value of such scientific investigations as those pursued with success by the United States. Less systematically, but with great benefit to science, our own Government has used the surveying expeditions, and sometimes has equipped special expeditions to promote natural history and solar physics. Some of the latter, like the voyage of the Challenger, have added largely to the store of knowledge; while the former, though not primarily intended for scientific research, have had an indirect result of infinite value by becoming training-schools for such investigators as Edward Forbes, Darwin, Hooker, Huxley, Wyville Thomson, and others.

In the United Kingdom we are just beginning to understand the wisdom of Washington's farewell address to his countrymen, when he said: "Promote as an object of primary importance institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened." It was only in 1870 that our Parliament established a system of national primary education. Secondary education is chaotic, and remains unconnected with the state, while the higher education of the universities is only brought at distant intervals under the view of the state. All great countries except England have Ministers of Education, but this country has only ministers who are the managers of primary schools. We are inferior even to smaller countries in the absence of organized state supervision of education. Greece, Portugal, Egypt, and Japan have distinct Ministers of Education, and so also among our colonies have Victoria and New Zealand. Gradually England is gathering materials for the establishment of an efficient education minister. The Department of Science and Art is doing excellent work in diffusing a taste for elementary science among the working-classes. There are now about seventy-eight thousand persons who annually come under the influence of its science classes, while a small number of about two hundred, many of them teachers, receive thorough instruction in science at the excellent school in South Kensington, of which Professor Huxley is the dean. I do not dwell on the work of this Government department, because my object is chiefly to point out how it is that science lags in its progress in the United Kingdom owing to the deficient interest taken in it by the middle and upper classes. The working-classes are being roused from their indifference. They show this by their selection of scientific men as candidates at the next election. Among these are Professors Stuart, Roscoe, Maskelyne, and Rücker. It has its significance that such a humble representative of science as myself received invitations from working-class constituencies in more than a dozen of the leading manufacturing towns. In the next Parliament I do not doubt that a Minister of Education will be created as a nucleus round which the various educational materials may crystallize in a definite form.

III. Science and Secondary Education.—Various Royal Commissions have made inquiries and issued recommendations in regard to our public and endowed schools. The commissions of 1861, 1864, 1868, and 1873 have expressed the strongest disapproval of the condition of our schools, and, so far as science is concerned, their state is much the same as when the Duke of Devonshire's commission in 1873 reported in the following words: "Considering the increasing importance of science to the material interests of the country, we can not but regard its almost total exclusion from the training of the upper and middle classes as little less than a national misfortune." No doubt there are exceptional cases and some brilliant examples of improvement since these words were written, but generally throughout the country teaching in science is a name rather than a reality. The Technical Commission which reported last year can only point to three schools in Great Britain in which science is fully and adequately taught. While the commission gives us the consolation that England is still in advance as an industrial nation, it warns us that foreign nations, which were not long ago far behind, are now making more rapid progress than this country, and will soon pass it in the race of competition unless we give increased attention to science in public education, A few of the large towns, notably Manchester, Bradford, Huddersfield, and Birmingham, are doing so. The working-classes are now receiving better instruction in science than the middle classes. The competition of actual life asserts its own conditions, for the children of the latter find increasing difficulty in obtaining employment. The cause of this lies in the fact that the schools for the middle classes have not yet adapted themselves to the needs of modern life. It is true that many of the endowed schools have been put under new schemes, but, as there is no public supervision or inspection of them, we have no knowledge as to whether they have prospered or slipped back. Many corporate schools have arisen, some of them, like Clifton, Cheltenham, and Marlborough Colleges, doing excellent educational work, though as regards all of them the public have no rights, and can not enforce guarantees for efficiency. A return just issued, on the motion of Sir John Lubbock, shows a lamentable deficiency in science teaching in a great proportion of the endowed schools. While twelve to sixteen hours per week are devoted to classics, two to three hours are considered ample for science in a large proportion of the schools. In Scotland there are only six schools in the return which give more than two hours to science weekly, while in many schools its teaching is wholly omitted. Every other part of the kingdom stands in a better position than Scotland in relation to the science of its endowed schools. The old traditions of education stick as firmly to schools as a limpet does to a rock; though I do the limpet injustice, for it does make excursions to seek pastures new. Are we to give up in despair because an exclusive system of classical education has resisted the assaults of such cultivated authors as Milton, Montaigne, Cowley, and Locke? There was once an enlightened Emperor of China, Chi Hwangti, who knew that his country was kept back by its exclusive devotion to the classics of Confucius and Mencius. He invited five hundred of the teachers to bring their copies of these authors to Peking, and, after giving a great banquet in their honor, he buried alive the professors along with their manuscripts in a deep pit. But Confucius and Mencius still reign supreme. I advocate milder measures, and depend for their adoption on the force of public opinion. The needs of modern life will force schools to adapt themselves to a scientific age, Grammar-schools believe themselves to be immortal. Those curious immortals—the Struldbrugs—described by Swift, ultimately regretted their immortality, because they found themselves out of touch, sympathy, and fitness with the centuries in which they lived.

As there is no use clamoring for an instrument of more compass and power until we have made up our mind as to the tune. Professor Huxley, in his evidence before a Parliamentary Committee in 1884, has given a time-table for grammar-schools. lie demands that out of their forty hours for public and private study ten should be given to modern languages and history, eight to arithmetic and mathematics, six to science, and two to geography, thus leaving fourteen hours to the dead languages. No time-table would, however, be suitable to all schools. The great public schools of England will continue to be the gymnasia for the upper classes, and should devote much of their time to classical and literary culture. Even now they introduce into their curriculum subjects unknown to them when the Royal Commission of 1868 reported, though they still accept science with timidity. Unfortunately, the other grammar-schools which educate the middle classes look to the higher public schools as a type to which they should conform, although their functions are so different. It is in the interest of the higher public schools that this difference should be recognized, so that, while they give an all-round education and expand their curriculum by a freer recognition of the value of science as an educational power in developing the faculties of the upper classes, the schools for the middle classes should adapt themselves to the needs of their existence, and not keep up a slavish imitation of schools with a different function. The old classical grammar-schools may view these remarks as a direct attack upon them, and so it is in one sense, but it is like the stroke of Ithuriel's spear, which heals while it wounds.

The stock argument against the introduction of modern subjects into grammar-schools is that it is better to teach Latin and Greek thoroughly rather than various subjects less completely. But is it true that thoroughness in teaching dead languages is the result of an exclusive system? In 1868 the Royal Commission stated that even in the few great public schools thoroughness was only given to thirty per cent of the scholars, at the sacrifice of seventy per cent who got little benefit from the system. Since then the curriculum has been widened and the teaching has improved. I question the soundness of the principle that it is better to limit the attention of the pupils mainly to Latin and Greek, highly as I value their educational power to a certain order of minds. As in biology the bodily development of animals is from the general to the special, so is it in the mental development of man. In the school a boy should be aided to discover the class of knowledge that is best suited for his mental capacities, so that, in the upper forms of the school and in the university, knowledge may be specialized in order to cultivate the powers of the man to their fullest extent. Shakespeare's educational formula may not be altogether true, but it contains a broad basis of truth:

"No profit goes, where is no pleasure ta'en;
In brief, sir, study what you most affect."

The comparative failure of the modern side of school education arises from constituting it out of the boys who are looked upon as classical asses. Milton pointed out that in all schools there are boys to whom the dead languages are "like thorns and thistles," which form a poor nourishment even for asses. If teachers looked upon these classical asses as beings who might receive mental nurture according to their nature, much higher results would follow the bifurcation of our schools. Saul went out to look for asses, and he found a kingdom. Surely this fact is more encouraging than the example of Gideon, who "took thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with these he taught the men of Succoth."[2] The adaptation of public schools to a scientific age does not involve a contest as to whether science or classics shall prevail, for both are indispensable to true education. The real question is whether schools will undertake the duty of molding the minds of boys according to their mental varieties. Classics, from their structural perfection and power of awakening dormant faculties, have claims to precedence in education, but they have none to a practical monopoly. It is by claiming the latter that teachers sacrifice mental receptivity to a Procrustean uniformity.

The universities are changing their traditions more rapidly than the schools. The via antiqua which leads to them is still broad, though a via moderna, with branching avenues, is also open to their honors and emoluments. Physical science, which was once neglected, is now encouraged at the universities. As to the seventy per cent of boys who leave schools for life-work without going through the universities, are there no growing signs of discontent which must force a change? The civil service, the learned professions, as well as the army and navy, are now barred by examinations. Do the boys of our public schools easily leap over the bars, although some of them have lately been lowered so as to suit the schools? So difficult are these bars to scholars that crammers take them in hand before they attempt the leap; and this occurs in spite of the large value attached to the dead languages and the small value placed on modern subjects. Thus, in the Indian Civil-Service examinations, 800 marks as a maximum are assigned to Latin, 600 to Greek, 500 to chemistry, and 300 to each of the other physical sciences. But, if we take the average working of the system for the last four years, we find that, while sixty-eight per cent of the maximum were given to candidates in Greek and Latin, only forty-five per cent were accorded to candidates in chemistry, ?and but thirty per cent to the other physical sciences. Schools sending up boys for competition naturally shun subjects which are dealt with so hardly and so heavily handicapped by the state.

Passing from learned or public professions to commerce, how is it that in our great commercial centers, foreigners—German, Swiss, Dutch, and even Greeks—push aside our English youth and take the places of profit which belong to them by national inheritance? How is it that in our colonies, like those in South Africa, German enterprise is pushing aside English incapacity? How is it that we find whole branches of manufactures, when they depend on scientific knowledge, passing away from this country, in which they originated, in order to ingraft themselves abroad, although their decaying roots remain at home?[3] The answer to these questions is that our systems of education are still too narrow for the increasing struggle of life.

Faraday, who had no narrow views in regard to education, deplored the future of our youth in the competition of the world, because, as he said with sadness, "our school-boys, when they come out of school, are ignorant of their ignorance at the end of all that education."

The opponents of science education allege that it is not adapted for mental development, because scientific facts are often disjointed and exercise only the memory. Those who argue thus do not know what science is. No doubt an ignorant or half-informed teacher may present science as an accumulation of unconnected facts. At all times and in all subjects there are teachers without æsthetical or philosophical capacity—men who can only see carbonate of lime in a statue by Phidias or Praxiteles; who can not survey zoölogy on account of its millions of species, or botany because of its 130,000 distinct plants; men who can look at trees without getting a conception of a forest, and can not distinguish a stately edifice from its bricks. To teach in that fashion is like going to the tree of science with its glorious fruit in order to pick up a handful of the dry fallen leaves from the ground. It is, however, true that, as science-teaching has had less lengthened experience than that of literature, its methods of instruction are not so matured. Scientific and literary teaching have different methods; for, while the teacher of literature rests on authority and on books for his guidance, the teacher of science discards authority and depends on facts at first hand, and on the book of Nature for their interpretation. Natural science more and more resolves itself into the teaching of the laboratory. In this way it can be used as a powerful means of quickening observation, and of creating a faculty of induction after the manner of Zadig, the Babylonian described by Voltaire. Thus facts become surrounded by scientific conceptions, and arc subordinated to order and law.

It is not those who desire to unite literature with science who degrade education; the degradation is the consequence of the refusal. A violent reaction—too violent to be wise—has lately taken place against classical education in France, where their own vernacular occupies the position of dead languages, while Latin and science are given the same time in the curriculum. In England manufacturers cry out for technical education, in which classical culture shall be excluded. In the schools of the middle classes science rather than technics is needed, because, when the seeds of science are sown, technics as its fruit will appear at the appointed time. Epictetus was wise when he told us to observe that, though sheep eat grass, it is not grass but wool that grows on their backs. Should, however, our grammar schools persist in their refusal to adapt themselves to the needs of a scientific age, England must follow the example of other European nations and found new modern schools in competition with them. For, as Huxley has put it, we can not continue in this age "of full modern artillery to turn out our boys to do battle in it, equipped only with the sword and shield of an ancient gladiator." In a scientific and keenly competitive age, an exclusive education in the dead languages is a perplexing anomaly. The flowers of literature should be cultivated and gathered, though it is not wise to send men into our fields of industry to gather the harvest when they have been taught only to cull the poppies and to push aside the wheat.

IV. Science and the Universities.—The state has always felt bound to alter and improve universities, even when their endowments are so large as to render it unnecessary to support them by public funds. When universities are poor. Parliament gives aid to them from imperial taxation. In this country that aid has been given with a very sparing hand. Thus the universities and colleges of Ireland have received about £30,000 annually, and the same sum has been granted to the four universities of Scotland. Compared with imperial aid to foreign universities such sums are small. A single German university like Strasburg or Leipsic receives above £40,000 annually, or £10,000 more than the whole colleges of Ireland or of Scotland. Strasburg, for instance, has had her university and its library rebuilt at a cost of £711,000, and receives an annual subscription of £43,000. In rebuilding the University of Strasburg eight laboratories have been provided, so as to equip it fully with the modern requirements for teaching and research.[4] Prussia, the most economical nation in the world, spends £391,000 yearly out of taxation on her universities.

The recent action of France is still more remarkable. After the Franco-German War the Institute of France discussed the important question, "Pourquoi la France n'apas trouvé d'hommes supérieurs au moment du péril?" The general answer was because France had allowed university education to sink to a low ebb. Before the great Revolution France had twenty-three autonomous universities in the provinces. Napoleon desired to found one great university at Paris, and he crushed out the others with the hand of a despot, and remodelled the last with the instincts of a drill-sergeant. The central university sank so low that in 1868 it is said that only £8,000 were spent for true academic purposes. Startled by the intellectual sterility shown in the war, France has made gigantic efforts to retrieve her position, and has rebuilt the provincial colleges at a cost of £3,280,000, while her annual budget for their support now reaches half a million pounds. In order to open these provincial colleges to the best talent of France, more than five hundred scholarships have been founded, of an annual cost of £30,000. France now recognizes that it is not by the number of men under arms that she can compete with her great neighbor Germany, so she has determined to equal her in intellect. You will understand why it is that Germany was obliged, even if she had not been willing, to spend such large sums in order to equip the university of her conquered province, Alsace-Lorraine. France and Germany are fully aware that science is the source of wealth and power, and that the only way of advancing it is to encourage universities to make researches and to spread existing knowledge through the community. Other European nations are advancing on the same lines. Switzerland is a remarkable illustration of how a country can compensate itself for its natural disadvantages by a scientific education of its people. Switzerland contains neither coal nor the ordinary raw materials of industry, and is separated from other countries which might supply them by mountain-barriers. Yet, by a singularly good system of graded schools, and by the great technical college of Zürich, she has become a prosperous manufacturing country. In Great Britain we have nothing comparable to this technical college, either in magnitude or efficiency. Belgium is reorganizing its universities, and the state has freed the localities from the charge of buildings, and will in future equip the universities with efficient teaching resources out of public taxation. Holland, with a population of four million, and a small revenue of £9,000,000, spends £136,000 on her four universities. Contrast this liberality of foreign countries in the promotion of higher instruction with the action of our own country. Scotland, like Holland, has four universities, and is not very different from it in population, but it only receives £30,000 from the state. By a special clause in the Scotch Universities Bill the Government asked Parliament to declare that under no circumstances should the parliamentary grant be ever increased above £40,000. According to the views of the British Treasury, there is a finality in science and in expanding knowledge.

The wealthy Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are gradually constructing laboratories for science. The merchant princes of Manchester have equipped their new Victoria University with similar laboratories. Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have also done so, partly at the cost of Government and largely by private subscriptions. The poorer Universities of Aberdeen and St. Andrews are still inefficiently provided with the modern appliances for teaching science.

London has one small Government college and two chartered colleges, but is wholly destitute of a teaching university. It would excite great astonishment at the Treasury if we were to make the modest request that the great metropolis, with a population of four million, should be put into as efficient academical position as the town of Strasburg, with 104,000 inhabitants, by receiving, as that town does, £43,000 annually for academic instruction and £700,000 for university buildings. Still, the amazing anomaly that London has no teaching university must ere long cease.

It is a comforting fact that, in spite of the indifference of Parliament, the large towns of the kingdom are showing their sense of the need of higher education. Manchester has already its university. Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, and Bristol have colleges more or less complete. Liverpool converts a disused lunatic asylum into a college for sane people. Cardiff rents an infirmary for a collegiate building. Dundee, by private benefaction, rears a Baxter College with larger ambitions. All these are healthy signs that the public are determined to have advanced science-teaching, but the resources of the institutions are altogether inadequate to the end in view. Even in the few cases where the laboratories are efficient for teaching purposes, they are inefficient as laboratories for research. Under these circumstances the Royal Commission on Science advocates special Government laboratories for research. Such laboratories, supported by public money, are as legitimate subjects for expenditure as galleries for pictures or sculpture; but I think that they would not be successful, and would injure science if they failed. It would be safer in the mean time if the state assisted universities or well-established colleges to found laboratories of research under their own care. Even such a proposal shocks our Chancellor of the Exchequer, who tells us that this country is burdened with public debt, and has ironclads to build and arsenals to provide. Nevertheless our wealth is proportionally much greater than that of foreign states which are competing with so much vigor in the promotion of higher education. They deem such expenditure to be true economy, and do not allow their huge standing armies to be an apology for keeping their people backward in the march of knowledge. France, which in the last ten years has been spending a million annually on university education, had a war indemnity to pay, and competes successfully with this country in ironclads. Either all foreign states are strangely deceived in their belief that the competition of the world has become a competition of intellect, or we are marvelously unobservant of the change which is passing over Europe in the higher education of the people. Preparations for war will not insure to us the blessings and security of an enlightened peace. Protective expenditure may be wise, though productive expenditure is wiser.

"Were half the powers which fill the world with terror,
Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error—
There were no need of arsenals and forts."

Universities are not mere storehouses of knowledge; they are also conservatories for its cultivation. In Mexico there is a species of ant which sets apart some of its individuals to act as honey-jars by monstrously extending their abdomens to store the precious fluid till it is wanted by the community. Professors in a university have a higher function, because they ought to make new honey as well as to store it. The widening of the bounds of knowledge, literary or scientific, is the crowning glory of university life. Germany unites the functions of teaching and research in the universities, while France keeps them in separate institutions. The former system is best adapted to our habits, but its condition for success is that our science-chairs should be greatly increased, so that teachers should not be wholly absorbed in the duties of instruction. Germany subdivides the sciences into various chairs, and gives to the professors special laboratories. It also makes it a condition for the higher honors of a university that the candidates shall give proofs of their ability to make original researches. Under such a system, teaching and investigation are not incompatible. In the evidence before the Science Commission many opinions were given that scientific men engaged in research should not be burdened with the duties of education, and there is much to be said in support of this view when a single professor for the whole range of physical science is its only representative in a university. But I hope that such a system will not long continue, for if it do we must occupy a very inferior position as a nation in the intellectual competition of Europe. Research and education in limited branches of higher knowledge are not incompatible. It is true that Galileo complained of the burden imposed upon him by his numerous astronomical pupils, though few other philosophers have echoed this complaint. Newton, who produced order in worlds, and Dalton, who brought atoms under the reign of order and number, rejoiced in their pupils. Lalande spread astronomers as Liebig spread chemists, and Johannes Müller biologists, all over the world. Laplace, La Grange, Dulong, Gay-Lussac, Berthollet, and Dumas, were professors as well as discoverers in France. In England our discoverers have generally been teachers. In fact, I recollect only three notable examples of men who were not—Boyle, Cavendish, and Joule. It was so in ancient as well as in modern times, the investigator a schoolmaster, as Dalton was, and as practically our professors are at the present time, with the duty of teaching all branches of their sciences, the mere elementary truths as well as the highest generalizations being compressed into a course, it is well that they should be brought into contact with the world in which they live, 60 as to know its wants and aspirations. They could then quicken the pregnant minds around them, and extend to others their own power and love of research. Goethe had a line perception of this when he wrote:

"Wer in der Weltgeschichte lebt,
Wer in die Zeiten schaut, und strebt,
Nur der ist werth, za sprechen und zu dichten."

Our universities are still far from the attainment of a proper combination of their resources between teaching and research. Even Oxford and Cambridge, which have done so much in recent years in the equipment of laboratories and in adding to their scientific staff, are still far behind a second-class German university. The professional faculties of the English universities are growing, and will diffuse a greater taste for science among their students, though they may absorb the time of the limited professoriate so as to prevent it advancing the boundaries of knowledge. Professional faculties are absolutely essential to the existence of universities in poor countries like Scotland and Ireland. This has been the case from the early days of the Bologna University up to the present time. Originally universities arose not by mere bulls of popes, but as a response to the strong desire of the professional classes to dignify their crafts by real knowledge. If their education had been limited to mere technical schools, like the Medical School of Salerno, which flourished in the eleventh century, length but not breadth would have been given to education. So the universities wisely joined culture to the professional sciences. Poor countries like Scotland and Ireland must have their academic systems based on the professional faculties, although wealthy universities like Oxford and Cambridge may continue to have them as mere supplements to a more general education. A greater liberality of support on the part of the state in the establishment of chairs of science, for the sake of science and not merely for the teaching of the professions, would enable the poorer universities to take their part in the advancement of knowledge.

I have already alluded to the foundation of new colleges in different parts of the kingdom. Owens College has worthily developed into the Victoria University. Formerly she depended for degrees on the University of London. No longer will she be like a moon reflecting cold and sickly rays from a distant luminary, for in future she will be a sun, a center of intelligence, warming and illuminating the regions around her. The other colleges which have formed themselves in large manufacturing districts arc remarkable expressions from them that science must be promoted. Including the colleges of a high class, such as University College and King's College in London, and the three Queen's Colleges in Ireland, the aggregate attendance of students in colleges without university rank is between nine and ten thousand, while that of the universities is fifteen thousand. No doubt some of the provincial colleges require considerable improvement in their teaching methods; sometimes they unwisely aim at a full university curriculum when it would be better for them to act as faculties. Still they are all growing in the spirit of self-help, and some of them are destined, like Owens College, to develop into universities. This is not a subject of alarm to lovers of education, while it is one of hope and encouragement to the great centers of industry. There are too few autonomous universities in England in proportion to its population. While Scotland, with a population of 3,750,000, has four universities with 6,500 students, England, with twenty-six million people, has only the same number of teaching universities with six thousand students. Unless English colleges have such ambition, they may be turned into mere mills to grind out material for examinations and competitions. Higher colleges should always hold before their students that knowledge, for its own sake, is the only object worthy of reverence. Beyond college-life there is a land of research flowing with milk and honey for those who know how to cultivate it. Colleges should at least show a Pisgah view of this land of promise, which stretches far beyond the Jordan of examinations and competitions.


  1. Inaugural address of the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at the Aberdeen meeting, September 9, 1885.
  2. Judges viii, 16.
  3. See Dr. Perkins's Address to the Society of Chemical Industry.—"Nature," August 6, 1865, p. 333.
  4. The cost of these laboratories has been as follows: Chemical Institute, £35,000; Physical Institute, £28,000; Botanical Institute, £26,000; Observatory, £25,000; Anatomy, £42,000; Clinical Surgery, £26,000; Physiological Chemistry, £16,000; Physiological Institute, £13,900.