Popular Science Monthly/Volume 75/December 1909/Environment and Productive Scholarship
|ENVIRONMENT AND PRODUCTIVE SCHOLARSHIP|
By Dr. W. J. HUMPHREYS
WASHINGTON, D. C.
TO say that ours is the best age the world has ever known is to state a simple truth. Even though we can claim for literature no living Homer, nor Dante, nor Shakespeare; for art no Phidias, nor Michel Angelo, nor Rubens; for moral suasion no Confucius, nor Zoroaster, nor Mahomet, still the statement is true. True because for the west as well as for the far east this is the age of Meiji—the age of enlightenment. True because man to-day has more knowledge than ever before of the laws of the universe in which he is placed, and because this knowledge is power; the power by which he brings inanimate nature to his aid; the power that determines his efficiency and fixes his place on the scale of civilization. It is this knowledge, slowly gained through the ages, and his ability to use it, that raises man above the plane of the mere animal and gives him dominion over all the earth and its creatures.
He alone has discovered even so simple a thing as how, by putting the half burned logs closer together and by adding fresh fuel, to keep burning the fire that, like himself, many an animal enjoys but knows not how to obtain; a discovery that has been of incalculable benefit to him and will be. And so too each additional discovery, by the fuller knowledge and wider control of nature it brings, marks a gain in the struggle for life and for happiness. It lays broader and deeper the foundation upon which our arts and our civilization are based, and stamps, therefore, the discoverer as a benefactor of the human race.
There is no intention here to imply that people without originality are necessarily useless. In fact, they are very far from being so, for the practise of the arts is the end of science, and for this one does not need in the least to be original. Nevertheless, all material progress does depend absolutely upon the investigator and the inventor; upon that rare man, the genius that discovers the secrets of nature, and upon that host of skillful men who cleverly use these discoveries in devising mechanical and other means of meeting every-day needs.
Science, as just implied, is not an end within itself, at least not an important one, for it is the bringing of nature's forces to our service, the application of her laws to the development of useful arts, and not the abstract knowledge of the laws themselves, that chiefly concerns mankind; and, therefore, being cognizant of only its mediate benefactors, the public gives its laurels and its material rewards to the inventor and the manufacturer, rather than to the investigator and the scholar. But in this, as in so many other things, the decision of the majority is wrong and the judgment of the public not to be trusted. Some praise may very well be given to the manufacturer and a great deal more to the inventor, for the work of each is essential to the good of the public; but, after all, the real honor is due the investigator who, by patient research and keenness of insight, discovered the laws that made possible the invention and its uses. Only let some genius discover electrical waves and in time there will be devised many systems of wireless telegraphy, or let the mysterious X-ray and how to produce it be revealed and soon there will be hundreds of clever devices for its practical use. And so it is through all the arts and all the sciences, where there is one to lead and discover there are many to follow and apply, and countless millions to enjoy. A Newton, a Darwin, a Pasteur, rarely is found, but wherever he may be there are, besides himself, many others who can and who do perform the necessary, but always secondary, function of turning his discoveries to every-day uses so that all mankind, as long thereafter as the race may last, can live more securely and more happily.
It is man's power of investigation and of discovery that enables him to bring the forces of nature to his aid, without which help he would perish wholly or at best live only as the beasts of the forest. It is science that makes two blades of grass grow where but one grew before, and this is basic, for by it we conquer in the struggle for existence. It is basic because self-preservation is everywhere and always the first law of nature, and because whatever else happens, and before any higher development is possible, our physical needs must be provided for.
The author fully concurs in every claim that can be made for the intellectual and the moral uplift due to the beautiful and the artistic, whether in literature, music, painting or any other form whatsoever in which they can find expression; but these are apart from his present discussion which concerns the knowledge of nature's laws and their application to human affairs. Neither is he unmindful of nor without appreciation for the great good, other than material, that follows in the wake of scientific study and investigation. He believes that the declaration: "The truth shall make you free," is as applicable and as necessary to things intellectual as to things spiritual; but he also holds that those truths of nature that aid in providing for our daily needs are just as effective as any others in freeing the human mind from the bondages of fear and of superstition, and that therefore only those truths that offer definite applications, and those essential to a better understanding of nature and a fuller control of her forces, are really worthy to be sought after patiently and diligently.
However, the possible usefulness of an investigation is a point to be considered, if ever at all, in determining what question to take up and how to attack it, for the scientific genius investigates, as the poet writes, along any line that appeals to him. In a sense he can not help it, for to him research and experiment are life and happiness; he is still a boy who has never outgrown young life's curiosity and the joy of seeing new things, nor has he outgrown the stimulus of companionship, the necessity for playmates. He obeys instinctively that best of advice given and followed by Rowland of experimental fame: "Do something to it, man, do something to it and something will happen," and therefore once his investigation is begun he seldom stops to consider of what use the results may be; nor is this often to be regretted since whatever his discoveries, it is practically certain that some day they will have many and unsuspected applications. It was Helmholtz who, to satisfy his own apparently idle curiosity, determined why a cat's eye glows, or as we say, looks green in the dark. But out of this investigation, which to the practical man would appear utterly trivial and useless, came not only knowledge that shattered certain superstitious fears, but even the ophthalmoscope that every year helps to save the sight of thousands of human beings.
This beautiful illustration of the unsuspected results of scientific work is scarcely more than typical, for however keen the zest of investigation, however glorious the hour of discovery, these joys of the few are as nothing in comparison with the sum total of the peace of intellectual freedom and of the pleasures of physical comfort their labors provide for the multitudes of every living nation and of all future generations. And therefore it would seem that, of all people, those who, by their persistent labors and by the keenness of their intellect, make the world more fruitful and nature more the servant of man, would be honored and encouraged; that they would be sought after and put in those positions that would enable them to do their work best, and where they could exert the greatest influence upon others by inspiring as many as possible to emulate their example. And indeed this in some measure is the happy state of affairs in the cultured centers of the old world; and it is there that nearly all the power that comes of knowledge had its origin.
That which makes human progress possible, that which has given us our present civilization, and points the way to a higher, should command our unqualified admiration and our every encouragement. And in so far as they depend upon our knowledge of the laws of the universe in which we are placed and from which we can not escape, in so far as they depend upon our luxuries and upon the means of providing our necessities, of protecting ourselves from plague and from pestilence —in so far as they depend upon making the world more fruitful and therefore the abode of a more numerous and happier people—so far as civilization and progress depend upon all these things, just so far they depend absolutely upon the labors of the creative scholar, upon the work of the investigator, the seeker after and the discover of nature's truths and nature's laws. It matters not how firmly the man of affairs establishes some new and important industry, nor how readily the public accepts what he has to offer, whether the convenience of modern lighting, the facilities of wireless and of other methods of communication, or any of the thousands of things that steam and electricity can supply, every one traces back beyond the artisan and the financier to the oft forgotten investigator but for whose labors there would be occasion for neither, and even kings could not have as a luxury that which all the world now deems a necessity.
It is absolutely essential to our future progress, nor can this be emphasized too strongly, that we appreciate the inestimable value of pure research; that we realize the futility without it of every effort to advance, and the certainty with it of the creation of new industries, the finding of new comforts and the improvement of man's every condition: and it is equally essential that on realizing this we have the courage to act according to our convictions.
Let us then humbly and honestly inquire what part we Americans as individuals, as communities and as a nation are taking in this the chief labor of the human race for its existence and for its betterment. The average individual, if he is honest with himself, is not likely to feel very proud of his own achievements or of those of his community, nor even satisfied with the earnestness of his efforts; and therefore as a nation we are not able to point with pride to the part we have taken in scientific investigations. Good work has been done and is being done in an increasingly large amount, but on the whole, as a nation, we are not doing our duty in this respect, for our productiveness, relative to our numbers, falls far short of that of most of our mother countries, such as England, Prance, Germany and Holland, and besides many of the more important discoveries that we claim were made by men of foreign birth.
It is not very agreeable to have to admit this state of affairs, but only the ignorant fail to see their own faults, and only the coward refuses to admit them. The wise thing to do is to admit them frankly—at least to one's self—and the courageous thing is to begin promptly and persistently to do one's full duty as he sees it.
It would be well if possible to learn the cause of this generally admitted rarity of American discoveries, so that as in the case of a disease a remedy can be intelligently sought for. It can not be attributed to race difference, since we are of the same stock that produces so much more on the other side of the ocean. Nor can it be attributed to lack of means, for we boast of the greatest wealth of any nation of this or of any past age, and to our universities we make gifts whose princely magnificence astounds the world. Neither is it due to our mad rush in business, our striving after wealth, for in general our greatest business centers, our wealthiest cities, are the principal sources of our original contributions to knowledge; while that very part of our country which has always boasted its superiority to the sordid things of mammon, to the littleness of business strife, and prided itself upon its intelligence, upon its scholarship, its leisure and its devotion to the greatest good of its own people, is the least productive of creative work—in some of the more important sciences even practically sterile.
Here then, in the south, that cause, whatever it is, has its greatest influence, and can therefore the more certainly be determined. Surely though, this mortifying, this deplorable state of affairs does not have to exist, for the south long ago showed her ability in meeting and mastering great political, military, and judicial problems, and she has to-day as splendid a class of people, as earnest, as capable, as sensitive and as self sacrificing as has any country on the face of the earth, the very qualities essential to scientific achievements. Why then do her people accomplish so little of this kind of work, and why have they no voice in the councils of our national scientific societies?
But first to show that these statements are true. In Science for December 18, 1908, is given the names of the presidents and secretaries for the Baltimore meetings of a number of scientific organizations—the American Association for the Advancement of Science, its several sections, and twenty-four other societies—in all, seventy-eight names, and just one is from south of the Potomac and the Ohio. Even the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology was officered by men from north of the Potomac. Surely then the voice of the south is faint in the councils of our scientific organizations; nor has she even a single representative in the whole of the National Academy. But this is not intended in the least as a criticism of any of these societies or of the excellent men they have chosen to represent them. It is a simple statement of the facts, so astonishing, however, that if generally realized they could not help arousing that healthy determination that leads to better things.
During the past twelve years the author has had the pleasure of attending many of the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, sections A and B, of the American Physical Society and of the Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America, but in all this time, except for an occasional contribution from one university, rarely ever heard a paper that was written in what are known as the southern states. He has repeatedly heard papers, often excellent ones, written at northern universities by men of southern birth, but seldom, if ever, a paper by a northern man in a southern university.
This great inequality, even when the men are the same, in productive scholarship between the northern and the southern parts of our country can have but one explanation—difference in environment; and it explains too the inferior part we as a nation are taking in preparing the way for any real advance in civilization.
It is the stimulus of his environment, as every creative scholar knows, that is chiefly responsible for the quantity and even in large measure for the quality of all the original work he does, and as our educational institutions, equipped with their splendid libraries, museums and laboratories, are the only places where men are supposed to give their entire time to knowing things and to training others to know, therefore the tone, as we say, of its universities, their attitude towards science, is the chief determining cause of the part any nation takes in adding to the sum of human knowledge and of human power; and therefore too it is properly expected of them that they shall seek the highest type of scholarship, and constantly maintain that peculiar environment that stimulates to creative work. The spirit of its community of course has more or less influence on the work of every university, but it is never of first importance, for each takes the institution in its midst for a model, and as no one rises to the level of his ideal, so too no community equals even in sterile scholarship, much less productive, that of its university. In the main this spirit of the community is but that of its own college reflected in a modified and enfeebled form. Of course there are good and bad reflectors, but everywhere the important thing is the quality and intensity of the central light. In fact the public, whose business is the making of money and the getting of bonds, can not be expected to be so enthusiastic about these higher things as are educational institutions whose very existence is for the development of brains and the training of hands, and therefore for some time to come the university is likely to remain, as it has been in the past, the source of much the greater part of all original knowledge, in spite of the fact that at present there is an increasing amount coming from governmental and from business laboratories, for both these latter, necessarily, are greatly restricted in their fields of operation. Business men wish conducted investigations that promise immediate financial returns to themselves, and investigators that do this class of work have something of the same restrictions thrown about them that hedge in the advertising poet whose inspiration is a special brand of soap; and mighty little of a first class order has ever come from either source. Government institutions, though allowing a greater latitude than do business firms in the investigations selected, often feel compelled to have for their object immediate returns that will encourage congress and the country to continue their support, and only too frequently does this lead to insistent calls for "copy," as though the investigator could submit at stated intervals original ideas and finished results with the same regularity that the farmer can raise a new crop of pumpkins. There remain the special laboratories of the Carnegie Institution that are an inspiration to all the world, but even here the investigator is not so free as is the university professor to follow whithersoever his tastes and his talents may lead, and, besides, even these laboratories have not the opportunity that the university has of fixing the lives of men, of molding public opinion and of determining the destiny of our country.
Wherever then any country is to blame for its barrenness in scientific ideas and results, this blame attaches to her universities. If a community in which a university is situated is without interest in matters of a scientific nature it is because the university itself cares but little for such things and does less.
As stated above, the south is the least productive of original work of any part of our country, and the fault lies at the doors of the southern universities—as the following several illustrations will make clear—the institutions whose duty it is to train by precept and by example. A good instance emphasizing this point is the case of a certain southern man whose name is well known to the scientific world because of his investigations while in the north. On finally accepting, after much hesitation, a position in one of the oldest and best of the southern universities he remarked pathetically in regard to his scientific career—"I am going now to be laid upon the shelf for the rest of my life." And, while he is an ornament to the faculty of which he is a member, as he would be to any other, he fully understood and correctly judged the lethal effect on all scientific aspirations of his boyhood environment,
Where the mocking bird calls to dreams of fair women,
And the soul drifts on in a somnolent ease.
But lest this be regarded as a mere isolated case, due to the peculiarities of a single individual, it may be well to describe the attitude towards creative work maintained by the heads of certain institutions.
One of these, the president of one of the largest institutions in the south, has more than once assured the writer that he regarded investigation on the part of professors as a thing which took just that much time from the students, and that therefore it should not be encouraged—a fallacy that once obtained, but outgrown more than a century ago, at one of the great northern colleges. And the pity of it is this man's opinion clearly is having an influence on his institution, for in certain of the sciences it is about as much heard of as is the Imperial University of Timbuctoo.
The president of another institution of almost boundless claims (this applies to both), when he was on the point of closing a contract with a really capable man, so runs the information from this man himself, invited him to take part in a prayer meeting. This was declined on the ground that, while a regular church attendant, he was not an active church worker. He was then informed that this particular institution raised up christian young men (by implication others did not), and that he, the president, regarded active work in the Young Men's Christian Association on the part of a professor as of more importance than his teaching.
From a certain standpoint this view of the situation may be logical enough; at any rate, the Young Men's Christian Association, in its moral uplift of college life, has a noble function to perform and per forms it well; but still there is good authority for rendering unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and if the chief purpose of a secular college is to train the intellect, then surely the main duty of its professors is to know their own specialities, to work in them and to teach them.
So delicately sensitive a thing as the creative instinct, the uncompromising devotion to truth, even though it conflict with fond notions, seldom thrives in a sectarian college, whether honestly sectarian, sectarian everywhere except in the catalogue, or only sectarian for advertising purposes. The open-minded investigator would be wholly out of place, even miserable, in such an environment, and often, as in this particular case, is informed that his services are not wanted. Such institutions are of but little credit to any church and less to real scholarship. Science and religion are not on the same plane; they deal with totally different things by entirely different methods, and therefore can no more conflict or agree than mathematics can conflict with morals. Consequently any attempt to unite the two is wholly illogical and can lead to nothing but utter confusion. A man of course may be both religious and scientific, but science is no part of his religion, however much the life he lives may be better and more useful because of his science.
One more illustration; probably the best of all for showing the deplorable state of affairs at perhaps many an institution in all sections of the country, for there are echoes of it from every quarter. Not long ago the president of a leading southern university was charged with the troublesome duty of finding several new men for his faculty, and in the course of his inquiries let it be understood that a man with research aspirations and first-class attainments was not desired, and made the astonishing statement, in support of his position, that a research man is seldom ever a teacher. What he really wanted, he said, was men that would mix with the boys and with the people of the state—a clever shoe drummer might have met these conditions.
As mixing with the people suggested a kind of missionary work for the purpose of winning popular favor, he was asked if he was not limited by public sentiment to draw his faculty from his own state. No, he said, fortunately not, as his state furnished no men of sufficient scholarship.
Now right here are brought together the cause we are looking for and its effect. This university does not wish men of first-class attainments given to original work. Its environment must therefore be stifling to every creative effort; and this is the cause that produces such a disastrous effect upon the state that it can furnish no men sufficiently trained (and note that high attainments are not required) to fill the chairs in its own institutions. In the name of reason how can it be expected to? And so long as this condition continues what possible hope is there that it will ever be able to do any better?
The writer does not advocate exclusive use of home talent. On the contrary, he urges very general exchange, but when a state has nothing suitable for its own use exchange is impossible—it can only import.
If scholarship is worth while, if knowledge is of any value, and research productive of good, then this condition of affairs is utterly intolerable. The change to a better simply must and will be made, for no community high-minded, sensitive and capable as the south is will do anything other than welcome an honest description of things as they are, and then wherever not creditable set about to correct them.
In this case the task is a difficult one, but the need of it more than manifest, and the task weighs first and heaviest upon the presidents of the universities. Power implies duty, and theirs in the main is the power to shape the destiny of their institutions, and through them of the communities, the states and the nation of which they are a vital part.
Wherever the president of an institution gives no hearty encouragement to first-class attainments, wherever creative ability is held to disqualify a man for a position in a university rather than to be the first essential, at that place is stagnation and death in all that stimulates the scholar to his noblest efforts, and at best only a lot of weary taskmasters driving to their unwilling grinds so many human phonographs that give back just what they have taken down of the words of another.
It may not be the university president of the south that is to blame for the origin of the sterile condition of scholarship in his section, but it is to him we must look for the needed change. He may find the labor difficult, but it is possible and that is sufficient. He can not claim that his students are without the ability to follow the leadership of a master, for in the north and in Europe, wherever they have the chance, they do follow masters, and follow them to a purpose. Nor can paucity of material equipment any longer be claimed, since many of the southern institutions are equipped far beyond the extent indicated by the results turned out, and have been for a long while. Indeed for many kinds of creative work the necessary equipment is not great, and besides there are a number of sources from which the capable and the active often can secure substantial aid. Then, too, cooperation with one or another of the various scientific bureaus of the national government is eminently practical and because of the many mutual benefits earnestly to be desired. The physicist, for instance, if so inclined, can with but small expense take up the studies of atmospheric electricity, sky polarization, insolation, or any one or more of the many other interesting meteorological phenomena that are always with him, but which are not yet fully understood. In no other way could he add more to the advancement of his own subject, while at the same time he would be enriching the science of meteorology and thereby improving the art of forecasting. This is only one of many possible suggestions for even the physicist, and similar ones could be made in connection with other branches of science. No man need believe there is nothing for him to do, nor no one to appreciate and help him—provided only that he will make it evident by his works that he deserves encouragement and would profitably use any material assistance.
For some lines of investigation, as every one knows, an expensive equipment is needed, but, as just explained, there are other things one may do, and besides that state is poor indeed that can not afford support to its university. Note what Germany did for her universities at the close of the Napoleonic wars, and what in turn the universities have done for her. Consider too the attitude of Japan when fighting the greatest battles of all history. Even the emperor's palace was without heat the whole winter long, but the Imperial University and every school of the empire was fully supported. It was when Port Arthur was still resisting stubbornly and all the issues of the war were unsettled that the eminent Kitazato, in company with many American scientists, first saw exhibited a certain new and important piece of research apparatus. The Americans expressed an admiration of and a desire for the apparatus, but each said that his department could not afford it. Kitazato, however, saw its value and recognized that an institution active in his specialty could not afford to do without it, and therefore ordered it at once and insisted upon the earliest possible delivery.
This is the spirit that within thirty years has made the University of Tokio one of the world's greatest centers of learning and of productive scholarship, and this is the spirit the absence of which has permitted that drowsy, contented introspection that is bringing Nirvana to many an American institution; and especially to those of the south.
O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see us!
The critic is frequently assured that his is an easy task, and told that if he wishes things different he must at least state clearly what he does want, and show how to get it. Now it is not desired that this article shall be taken as a criticism chiefly, but rather as an appeal for a larger quantity of high-class creative work, especially at our universities of every section. Nevertheless, a few suggestions, which the author knows to be practicable will be made.
But before suggesting what, in the author's opinion, are some of the things best to do to render our scholarship more profound and more productive it may be worth while, though it is humiliating to admit it, emphatically to call attention to a few things not to do. Don't merit contempt by cheaply exploiting the scholar's noblest work. Don't set unprepared young men to doing worthless pieces of drudgery—counting the hairs on the end of a white kitten's tail it may be—and then, after cheating them of their time, try to humbug them into believing that they have been profitably engaged upon important investigations. Don't let research flourish for advertising purposes in the catalogue when there is nothing of it in the laboratory. Dishonesty and humbugery in scholarship and in education probably are the meanest, because the most injurious, of all forms of rascality; and yet, though there should be none of it, who can be found willing to say that it is even uncommon?
America, as already stated, is not doing her share of creative work, and this inexcusable negligence is far more pronounced in the southern states than it is anywhere else, though no section is free from blame—no institution can claim to be ideal. This is not due to racial peculiarities, to want of material equipment, nor to an inordinate struggle for wealth, but chiefly to the atmosphere of the university, to the environment in which the university professor is placed and upon which he must depend for his daily intellectual stimulus.
For schools, academies and colleges that confine themselves strictly to elementary work, creative scholarship on the part of the teachers is not so imperative, but, as the reputation of every institution is that of the work it does and no more, therefore, in the case of those that wish to justify their claims to the title of university, let every important chair, irrespective of the present or prospective quantity of graduate work, be filled only by a man who has contributed something to the advancement of his subject, and who is likely to continue doing so. Such a man, because of his love for his specialty, and because of his thoroughness, usually is an enthusiastic teacher and often an inspiring one—the highest qualification. He who is not a research man seldom induces the love of knowledge in others—blood doesn't come from turnips.
In the name of civilization and of human progress let no position that presupposes scholarship and offers the sacred privilege of doing work be filled save by him who recognizes that in this case opportunity means duty. The ideal man is one who has a sympathetic appreciation for all sciences and a minute knowledge of his own specialty—one who knows something about everything and everything about something, for nothing short of this can give that accuracy and that resourcefulness essential to the solution of difficult problems, nor that alertness and breadth of view so necessary to the detection and to the understanding of new phenomena. To be sure, the ideal man seldom is found, but it is better to hunt long for the ideally good, than, as sometimes seems to be the case, quickly to secure the ideally bad.
This, then, the careful selection of his faculty, selection and promotion according to their productive ability (for by their fruits ye shall know them), is the president's first and greatest obligation. Nor is this impracticable, for it is the avowed and fruitful policy of the president of one of our leading universities, a policy fully approved by his board, and supported by the legislature to which he is responsible.
Another important thing the president can do—and one of our best college presidents did it for years—is to keep himself constantly informed, in a general way, of every investigation that is going on in his institution, and to encourage those who are doing this work, publicly and privately. This sort of encouragement costs but little, but, coming from him whose position and whose judgment command his highest respect, is of incalculable help to the weary, sensitive investigator. He needs to be cheered on by the knowledge that what he is doing is meeting, not indifference, but active encouragement by those to whom he is most responsible for what he does. The writer has known capable men to be timidly engaged on investigations about which it was almost impossible to get them to say anything at all. They acted as though nature was a huge bungle for which they were responsible and of which they therefore were heartily ashamed, or as if they were on the point of making some wonderful discovery which if suddenly revealed in its perfected form would startle the civilized world.
This frame of mind, harmful alike to the man himself and to his associates, is most unwholesome, and one from which the president, more than any one else, can help to free him, since it often originates in the real or supposed isolation of the victim in his work; a condition, as every scholar knows, inimical to creative activity, whether it be the isolation of positive loneliness, or that worse form, the isolation of uncongenial surroundings. And in this connection it should be remembered that because of the intensity and exhausting nature of his work, the research man needs pleasant surroundings and frequent diversions; conditions over which the president unfortunately has but little control, and which therefore should be given all the more careful consideration, if possible, in the original selection of the institution's location. The faculty of an isolated institution is itself in great measure isolated, and commonly the creative work one does in a desert, under the oppression of ennui, bears but little relation to what he can do when agreeably situated and surrounded by things intellectually stimulating. The investigator, imaginative like the poet, nervous and often overwrought, is sensitive, and, while easily elated, just as easily depressed; and therefore when no one takes an obvious interest in what he is doing, and there are no ready means of diversion, he tends to become morose, and keeps his thoughts to himself, where they are likely to find anything but cheerful company.
However, under all conditions let the investigator be encouraged to talk, let him join with his colleagues in the formation of a local science club for the free exchange of ideas, and there let him talk often and talk freely. It will aid greatly to clear up his own ideas—this explaining of things to others—and will help to keep him enthusiastic. In this way his light will not be hid under a bushel, but shine, as it were, from a hilltop where it will be of the greatest help to his neighbors. Because of this sort of encouragement and this sort of united effort and material support the creative work of every department and of every scholar in the entire institution will be greater in volume and better in quality.
The proper distribution of routine duties and responsibilities at any institution is an important question, and there is a numerical ratio, not a large one, either, between professors and students beyond which nothing can be properly done; but as far as possible let the research man be relieved of routine drudgery and worry of every type. Of course, however, if at the head of his department, he must have something to do with executive work, but this should be only of the most general nature and at infrequent intervals. The routine and the details of it should be left to others. Some one else can do this class of things as well and commonly better, for the mind that is in tune with the one is out of harmony with the other.
Finally let the professors be encouraged to attend the principal meetings of those societies to which they belong, or should belong, and not only to attend but whenever practicable to take with them suitable communications. They are certain to hear at these meetings many papers of interest, and their own communications will receive all that attention and respect they deserve. But far better than the information they will get from the papers heard, or from the discussion of their own, will be the enthusiasm inspired by the association thus secured, even though temporary, with the productive scholars of the entire country; an enthusiasm that welcomes difficulties and leads, through persistent attack, to their ultimate solution.
It can not be emphasized too strongly that quality of work depends upon efficiency of equipment, and that therefore as the professor is the most essential part of the university's equipment he at least must be kept free from rust and from corrosion. He must attend the meetings of scholars in his own line, where friendly mental friction will give him that alertness and enthusiasm that will increase the quantity of his work and improve the quality of every thing he does.
It may not be practicable for many institutions to follow the lead of a certain excellent college—one that deserves the name university—and set aside a sum of money to help pay the expenses of its representatives at these meetings; but those who can do it will find this an investment that will repay an hundredfold, in enthusiasm, in efficiency and in productiveness.
Frankly, as a nation, and especially in certain sections, we Americans have not been, and are not now, doing our share of original work; not taking our part in the creation of new arts and the promotion of civilization. But the case for us is far from hopeless; already here and there are signs of a true awakening, a realization that opportunity means duty. The past is not creditable, but the present bids us look confidently to the future when soon the sincere and capable alone will achieve success and recognition.