D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

The Popular science monthly (Volume 19) online

. (page 33 of 110)
Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 33 of 110)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

familiar that the most abstruse principles seem like every-day facts ;
and his illustrations, drawn from the ordinary and homely experi-
ences of common life, are so clear, pat, and to the point, that one can
neither fail to feel their force nor forget their application. With
farmers, be they great landholders or humble peasants, his informa-
tion and explanations are always i)lain, attractive, practical, and suited
to the occasion and the men. And everywhere he is the earnest, la-
borious, learned, and reverent student, the kindly, faithful instructor,
and the worthy man.

Among the especial services Stockhardt has rendered as teacher
and promoter of science is one which, perhaps, is best illustrated in his
text-book of chemistry (" Schule der Chemie "), the setting forth of the
idea that the right way to teach science is by bringing the student
into direct contact with nature, by making him an observer, an inves-
tigator, and thus his own best teacher. In the preface to the twelfth
edition of this book, he says :

Experiments must be the foundation of theory. "With them the beginner
*iioul<l learn to observe, reflect, and judge; from them he should himself unfold
the general chemical relations and truths ; he should himself discover, and in
this way by his own efforts, along with manual dexterity, acquire an intellectual
])Ossession also. Every experiment and every fact observed therein will thus
be to him a conquest, and will incite to new exertion.

Accordingly the book abounds with simple experiments to be made
with apparatus which any student may get and handle, and is yet suf-
ficient to illustrate, enforce, and impress the truths that are taught,
and, what is better, to enable the learner to find the highest inspira-
tion in working out the truths himself. How useful this system of in-
struction, as thus set forth by Stockhardt, has proved, may be inferred
from the wide circulation of the book as mentioned above, and the
facts that sets of apparatus put up to go with it were sent to all parts
of Germany, to p]ngland, and to Russia, and that a depot for their sale
was established in New York.

Of StOckhardt's greatest work, the promotion of agricultural sci-
ence, perhaps the best idea may be got from his " Chemical Field-
Sermons," which show his methods of popularizing science, and espe-
cially from his journal, " Der chemische Ackersmann," in which both
his popular treatises and his scientific investigations have been pub-

As a discoverer, Stockhardt, though well known, is outranked by
other agricultural chemists of his time. Liebig, the father of agricult-
ural chemistry, Wolff, Ilenneberg, Knop, Nobbc, Stohmann, Kilhn,
and others in Germany, Boussingault in France, and Lawes and Gil-


bert in England, have each, perhaps, given the world more of new
truth than he. Stockhardt's chief labor has been to teach, to popu-
larize, to encourage, and thus to promote science, and, withal, to help
in its application to practical life. In this great work of mediating
between science and the people for whose benefit science is, among
those who have done most for agriculture, no man, except, perhaps,
Justus Liebig, excels Julius Stockhardt.

An inkling of the spirit in which Stockhardt's labors for agricult-
ure has been performed he has himself given us, perhaps unwittingly,
in the illustration on the cover of his journal, " Der chemische Ack-
ersmann " (" The Chemical Husbandman "). In the center is a rural
scene. In the foreground, cattle and sheep are feeding in the com-
fort of a peaceful autumn day. Farther away, a reaper is laying down
his sickle by the waving grain to follow the heavy load that is trun-
dling homeward from the field. In another field a plowman has left
his plow in the furrow, while he and his tired horses are enjoying a
brief period of rest. Close by him are the bags of guano and bone-
dust to replace the precious ingredients of plant-food that have been
carried away with the harvest. Beyond is the little village, with its
steep-roofed cottages, and the village church surrounded by shade-
trees and surmounted by the tower whose bell calls the inhabitants to
morning work, to vesper rest, and to Sabbath worship. Directly in
front the ground has been cut away, and reveals, in the deep recesses
toward which the roots of trees and herbs are seen to penetrate, a
strange laboratory where imps and kobolds are busy with furnace and
crucible, retort and mortar, test-tube and balance, as it were, working
over the materials and concocting the compounds that are to be gath-
ered up by the plants, and make the fruit to reward the tiller of the
soil. Between this occult laboratory and the farm-work that is going
on above are the words " Praxis mit Wissenschaft " (" Practice with
science "). But this scene and motto are not all of the picture, nor do
they typify the whole of the spirit of Stockhardt's life and work.
Above are clouds with sunbeams streaming brightly through them
upon the earth below, and on them is written, "An Gottes Segen ist
Alles gelegen " (" On God's blessing all depends ").





THERE is urgent need for more gen-
eral and efficient association for
popular scientific improvement. In pol-
itics, in religion, in philanthropy, in re-
form, and in the original extension of
science, the key of influence and the se-
cret of success are cooperation ; and this
is the agency to which we must look for
the popular cultivation of science. The
best form of associative action for the
promotion of self-education in science is,
undoubtedly, the field club, and we are
gratified to observe that these excellent
organizations are multiplying and doing
admirable work. We called attention
some months since to the proceedings
of the Ottawa Club, and are glad now
to be able to report the successful or-
ganization of a similar club in Buffalo.
It is an outgrowth of the botany and
geology classes in the Central High
School of that city. These classes have
for several years made excursions into
the country surrounding Buffalo, under
the direction of their able instructor,
Professor Charles Linden. The work-
ing Field Club was organized in the
spring of 1880, with over forty mem-
bers, and proved successful from the
beginning. Professor Linden, the di-
rector, is an ardent student and a
skillful instructor, and seems to have
imbued the members with much of his
own enthusiasm for science. The field
meetings have been attended on all oc-
casions by a majority of the members.
In order to systematize their work,
the club is organized into sections in
botany, geology, and entomology, and
they are now busy in providing cases
to arrange and preserve whatever has
been collected in the field. Several
members have nearly complete collec-
tions of the local flora and of geologi-

cal specimens representing the forma-
tions of the vicinity ; the entomological
branch, which begins work this spring
under the direction of Professor Kelli-
cott, of the State Normal School, will no
doubt make rapid progress during the
coming season and contribute to the in-
creasing success of the club.

Experience has shown that these
organizations are only too often ephem-
eral, and are generally weakened by
the prolonged interruption of winter
when the excitement passes off, and
they need to be freshly stimulated every
spring. But there is interesting winter
work as well as summer work in sci-
ence. The Buffalo club has there-
fore held its meetings all along during
the winter in the spacious library of
the Society of Natural Sciences. At
these semi-monthly meetings papers
have been read before the club, fol-
lowed by their discussion, and an exhi-
bition of specimens necessary to illus-
trate all the main points upon which
beginners are in relative ignorance.
When needed, the calcium light and
screen have been used to enhance the
interest of illustration. The meetings
have been well attended by the mem-
bers, their friends, and local scientists ;
they have been profitable for instruc-
tion, and have kept up an unbroken
solicitude for the success of the associ-

The twelve papers read at the semi-
monthly meetings in the past season
were published in the Buffalo " Daily
Courier," and were well worthy of
being laid before the public. We have
been favored with the reports, and have
read them all with interest. They are,
of course, not of equal merit, nor equal-
ly relevant to the strict objects of the
club; but, as a whole and as a first



trial, they are admirable. Perhaps the
best of the essays are those on "The
Gorge of the Niagara," "Alaska,"
" The Catskill Mountains," " Coal," and
"The Tulip-Tree." As the club grows
older, the thought of its members will
no doubt be more concentrated upon
objects within their immediate field of
observation, and these will become the
subjects of exposition at the winter
meetings. It would be well, indeed, if
members would take up lines of obser-
vation to be pursued during the sum-
mer, with special reference to their dis-
cussion at the winter gatherings of the
club. By taking notes and reading up
on the subject chosen, and doing the
literary part at convenient intervals,
the work would be deliberately and
carefully done, and, while the student
carried on his own self-instruction, the
club would be a gainer by improving
the standard of its winter performances.

AoyosTiCTsyr at uabvard.

The students of Harvard Univer-
sity have been canvassed to ascertain
their religious opinions. It has been
suspected that tliis institution, so long
the headquarters of Unitarian liberal-
ism, has become pervaded by atheism
and agnosticism. But it is now found
that the believers in these doctrines are
virtually nowhere in this great estab-
lishment, and that in fact it is drifting
away from rationalistic Unitarianism in
the direction of pronounced orthodoxy.

There is a great propensity in this
coimtry to count up and see who is
ahead. Next to the prime national
question, " How many dollars ? " the
American soul yearns to know "How
many votes? " Wherever two or three
are gathered together, just before elec-
tion, they are sure to count noses on
the nominations. That there should
also be a curiosity to know who is los-
ing, who is gaining, and who leads, in
the sphere of religious rivalry, is not sur-
prising, for with our people, next after

money-getting and politics, sectarian
concernments have the most urgent
claims. So the Harvard students were
questioned as to their spiritual prefer-
ences, with the following results : " Col-
lege and Law School, 972 men; agnos-
tics, 26; atheists, 7; Baptists, 42; Chi-
nese, 1 ; Christians, 2 ; Dutch Eeform-
ers, 2 ; Episcopalians, 275 ; Hebrews,
10; Lutheran,!; Methodists, 16 ; non-
sectarian, 97; orthodox Congregation-
al, 173 ; Presbyterians, 27 ; Quakers, 2 ;
Pwoman Catholics, 33 ; Swedenborgians,
20; Unitarians, 214; Universalists, 18;
not seen, 6." There has been a great
deal of comment and no little congrat-
ulation on these unexpected results, but
there is one aspect of the matter that
we have not seen noticed.

From the point of view of agnosti-
cism there are but two parties in the col-
lege, the 26 adherents to that view, and
the 9-iO who do not accept it. The ag-
nostic ground is that religion, in so far
as it is supernatural, transcends human
intelligence, so that man can really know
nothing beyond the phenomenal and
the finite. He may imagine much, and
believe much, and fancy that he knows,
but strictly tested it turns out that his
conjectures are not knowledge in the
true and proj)er sense. The position
of the agnostic, in short, in regard to
other worlds or spheres of existence be-
yond time, space, and the course of nat-
ure, is briefly this: "I know nothing
and you know nothing, we neither of us
can know anything, and we had better
modestly confine our thoughts to the
universe which we can know."

Now, as there are only 26 that take
this grouBd, it is only fair to suppose
that the other 940 take other and op-
posite ground ; that is, they claim to
Jcnow in regard to the religious matters
of which they profess belief — claim, in-
deed, that their religious knowledge is
the most clear and certain of alj their

The Harvard agnostic replies: "The
condition and course of things in our



university do not look like it. Let us
test your claim by reference to that re-
ligious doctrine which is here regarded
as of leading importance. The lowest
and most rudimentary form of intel-
ligence undoubtedly relates to num-
bers. No human beings have ever been
found so incapable that they could not
count a little, if no more than three or
four fingers. At the very dawn of in-
telligence there must arise a perception
of the diflerence between one object
and two or three objects. Knowledge
may be said to begin here, and, as it
agrees with all experience, it is beyond
all other knowledge exact, fundamental,
and sure. Now, when you undertake
to rise above nature and experience, and
pass into the realm beyond, what suc-
cess have you in the application of your
primary numerical ideas ? Is the infinite
object of worship one, two, three, or
twenty ? Our students are divided over
the question ; and the fluctuations that
are observed in regard to it do not
favor the noti<m that it rests on real
knowledge. The mass of our students
are not agnostics. They say they know.
But, while 214 of them declare that the
Divine Being is a unit, 589 of the rest
deny this simple proposition, and say
that the Divine Being is three or some-
thing like it. Since the third century
the Church has been quarreling over
the application -of the most elementary
arithmetic to the object of divine wor-
ship, and the swaying of opinion now
indicated in Harvard University shows
that the question is just as unsettled as
ever. But if men can not agree in ap-
plying the very first and simplest steps
of numeration in the transcendental
sphere, can they bo said to have any
real 'knowledge' of it, and how can
they succeed better in the application of
higher ideas ? "

But our Harvard agnostic pushes the
case still further. He can say: "We
have among us 275 Episcopalians, who,
with the other orthodox students, make
up 589 professed Trinitarians. They are

not agnostics, because they 'know'
about this matter ; and they are not Uni-
tarians, because they are certain that
hypothesis implies a false application
of primary arithmetic in the premises.
They reject the idea of unity applied
to the Deity as false, and condemn it
as wicked, and maintain that the true
hypothesis is that of tri-personality, or
of three Divine persons in the Godhead.
But when any one of the '589' is
pushed a little to explain himself, and
make his alleged 'knowledge' clear,
he says, ' Forbear ! it is a great mystery,
above poor human reason,' and that we
are not required to understand it. But
that is rank agnosticism ! A mystery is
simply that which can not be known.
So our Trinitarians, who begin by de-
claring their 'knowledge' of the Di-
vine nature, when cross-questioned,
take a ready refuge in the unknow-


The great movement of the century
to modernize education, and make it
conform to the progress of knowledge, is
most conspicuously illustrated in Eng-
land. An old, vigorous, advancing na-
tion, leading in the multifarious work
of civilization, and at the same time
dominated by conservative habits, and
maintaining two ancient, rich, and pow-
erful universities, rooted in the most
venerable traditions, England has been
well situated for the display of those im-
portant changes in which educational
progress consists. The tendency of the
old universities was to check the growth
of thought by a slavish devotion to the
learning of antiquity. The spirit of the
modern study of nature penetrated them
but slowly. Bacon protested against
scholastic verbalism, and called men
back from the study of words to the
study of things. The progress was oat-
side of England's great seats of learn-
ing; and, when it had become palpable
that they were behind the age and



would not do the work demanded, other
universities had to be established more
in harmony with the state of knowl-
edge. Various institutions were organ-
ized, notably the University of London,
which accepted more modern standards
of scholarship, and gradually recognized
the claims of science as a means of ed-
ucation and a basis of university hon-
ors. The conflict between ancient and
modern studies has continued and is
still rife, but there is no doubt as to how
the battle is going. "We gave an ac-
count not long ago of the newly-organ-
ized Mason College, in which the com-
prehensive educational scheme is based
upon science, and the old learning
is passed by. We observe that an-
other important step is taken in the
same direction by the reorganization of
Owens College, which is now known
as Victoria Universit}-. The students
of this college have hitherto mostly
taken their degrees at the London Uni-
versity. But the right to confer de-
grees is now granted to the new uni-
versity, and in drawing up their plans
of study the governing body have been
guided by the most liberal and enlight-
ened views of education. They have
openly repudiated the old superstition
that all minds are alike and ought to
pursue the same studies, and they pro-
ceed, in the language of the Vice-Chan-
cellor, Dr. Greenwood, " upon the fun-
damental notion that a man of capacity
ought to be encouraged to devote him-
self with a certain amount of concen-
tration to some particular or definite
branch of arts or science study." Of
course, students can come to Victoria
University and take its best degrees
without knowing Latin and Greek.
There are various courses, and the
standard of attainment is to be high
and thorough, but Latin and Greek are
no longer indispensable to the acqui-
sition of university honors. We have
been a long time arriviug at the very
common-sense view expressed by Mr.
Jacob Bright in a discussion on the pol-

icy of the university in respect to clas-
sics, that " it seemed to him extraordi-
nary if the whole field of science and
learning of various kinds apart from
Latin and Greek were not enough to
form the basis of a sound education."


Ox Tuesday evening, April 5th, Pro-
fessor Helraholtz, of the University of
Berlin, gave the Faraday Lecture before
the Chemical Society at the Royal Insti-
tution, As might have been expected,
he was greeted by a distinguished au-
dience. Professor Roscoe presided, and,
before introducing the eminent Ger-
man physicist, presented him with the
Faraday Medal. The address, notes of
which were furnished by Professor
Helmholtz to the London press, is re-
produced in our pages, and will be care-
fully read by all interested in chemi-
cal physics. It is, perhaps, the most
weighty and significant tribute to the
genius of Faraday that has yet been
made ; aud at the same time it is itself
no slight contribution to physico-chem-
ical theory. It was stated that Faraday,
although not a mathematician, had an-
ticipated with great sagacity the results
of electro-chemical research by the
trained mathematicians of the present
generation. Professor Helmholtz's orig-
inal speculations were thus referred to
by Dr. Roscoe : " Upon Faraday's well-
known law of electrolysis he has founded
a new electro-chemical theory which re-
veals to us chemists conclusions of the
utmost importance. He tells us, as the
result of the application of the modern
theory of electricity to Faraday's great
experimental law, that the atom of
every chemical element is always united
with a definite, unvarying quantity of
electricity. Moreover — and this is most
important — that this definite amount of
electricity attached to each atom stands
in close connection with the combining
power of the atom which modern chem-
istry terms quantivalence. For, if the



amount of electricity belonging to the
monad atom be taken as a unit, then
that of the dyad atom is two, of the
triad atom, three, and so on. Hence,
then, thanks first to Faraday and now
to Ilelmholtz, chemists have now a new
and unlooked-for confirmation of one
of their most important doctrines from
the science of electricity."


Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects.

By H. Helmholtz. Translated by E.

Atkinson, Ph. D. Second Series. New

York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp.265.

Price, 81.50.

The first series of Helmholtz's lectures
met with the success which has induced Pro-
fessor Atkinson to translate an additional
volume of them. It is gratifying to know
that the translator feels himself justified in
this, as it shows a growing popular appreci-
ation of solid intellectual work in science.
The contents of this volume are considerably
varied, and represent the action of Helm-
holtz's mind upon widely different subjects.
The first paper is an in memoi-iam address
on Professor Gustave Magnus, who died in

1869. The essay is not a mere biographical
notice or an ordinary eulogy, but is rather
an analysis of the character and the scien-
tificlaborsof Magnus in connection with the
state of knowledge and circumstances of his
time, so that the paper becomes in some
respects an interesting portion of scientific

The second paper is " On the Origin and
Significance of Geometrical Axioms," and it
was a lecture delivered in Heidelberg in

1870. This discussion is not child's play,
but many will be attracted to master it be-
cause it breaks into the field of speculation
with regard to the different dimensions of

Artists will be interested in the ab-
stracts of five lectures " On the Relation of
Optics to Painting," which were delivered in
Cologne, Berlin, and Donn. After the intro-
ductory he takes up successively the subjects,
form, shade, color, and harmony of color.
His point of view is neither that of the
practical artist nor of the student of pict-

ures and schools of painting, but it is that
of the physiological optician who is master
of a subject. He shows in various ways
how a knowledge of the mode of perception
of the organ of vision may be of importance
to the artist.

Perhaps the most striking of all the pa-
pers is the lecture " On the Origin of the
Planetary System." So much is said about
the nebular hypothesis of Kant and La-
place in these evolutionary times, that many
will be glad to see the subject summed up
within a moderate compass, and by an au-
thoritative hand. No man is better prepared
by his broad scientific erudition and his
thorough mastery of mathematical and ex-
perimental physics than Professor Helm-
holtz to report on the present state of
knowledge regarding the origin of the plane-
tary system. But it was very far from the
author's intention to make a mere popular
statement of what former inquirers have
arrived at. As one of the founders of the
doctrine of the conservation of forces, he
may be said to have been an original con-
tributor to the nebular theory ; and he is
very pointed in his remarks on the grave
scientific significance of the inquiry. He
says, " Science is not only entitled, but is in-
deed beholden, to make such an investiga-
tion. For her it is a definite and important
question — the question, namely, as to the
existence of limits to the validity of the
laws of nature, which rule all that now sur-
rounds us ; the question whether they have
always held in the past, and whether they
will always hold in the future ; or whether,
on the supposition of an everlasting uni-
formity of natural laws, our conclusions
from present circumstances as to the past,
and as to the future, imperatively lead to
an impossible state of things ; that is, to
the necessity of an infraction of natural
laws, of a beginning which could not have
been due to processes known to us. Hence,
to begin such an investigation as to the
possible or probable primeval history of our
present world, is considered as a question
of science — no idle speculation, but a ques-
tion as to the limits of its methods, and as
to the extent to which existing laws are

Professor Helmholtz is of opinion that
our planetary system must sooner or later

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 33 of 110)