Mo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint Louis.

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ship, and they are fourfold. There was, first, the personal contact
between the scholarly public and the leaders of thought; there was,
secondly, the first academic alliance between the United States and
Europe; there was, thirdly, the first demonstration of a world con-
gress crystallized about one problem; there was, fourthly, the unique
accentuation of the thought of unity in all human science; and each
of these four movements will be continued and reinforced by the pub-
lication of these proceedings.

The first of these four features, the contact of the scholarly public
with the best thinkers of our time, had, to be sure, its limitations. It
was not sought to create a really popular congress. Neither the level
of the addresses, nor the size of the halls, nor the number of invita-
tions sent out, nor the general conditions of a world's fair at which
the expense of living is high and the distractions thousandfold,
favored the attendance of crowds. It was planned from the first that
on the whole scholars and specialists should attend and that the army
should be made up essentially of officers. If in an astronomical section
perhaps thirty men were present, among whom practically every one
was among the best known directors of observatories or professors of
mathematics, astronomy, or physics, from all countries of the globe,
much more was gained than if three thousand had been in the audi-
ence, brought together by an interest of curiosity in moon and stars.
For the most part there must have been between a hundred and two
hundred in each of the 128 sectional meetings, and that was more
than the organizers expected. This direct influence on the inter-
ested public is now to be expanded a thousandfold by the mission
work of these volumes. The concentration of these hundreds of
addresses into a few days made it in any case impossible to listen to
more than to a small fraction; these volumes will bring at last all
speakers to codrdinated effectiveness; and while one hall suffered
from bad acoustics, another from bad ventilation, and a third from
the passing of the intermural trains, here at least is an audience in
which nothing will disturb the sensitive nerves of the wilUng follower.

But much more emphasis is due to the second feature. The Con-
gress was an epoch-making event for the international world of
scholarship from the fact that it was the first great undertaking in
which the Old and the New Worlds stood on equal levels and in which
Europe really became acquainted with the scientific life of these
United States. The contact of scholarship between America and Eu-
rope has, indeed, grown in importance through many decades. Many
American students had studied in European and especially in German
universities and had come back to fill the professorial chairs of the
leading academic institutions. The spirit of the Graduate School and
the work towards the Doctor's degree, yes, the whole productive


scholarship of recent decades had been influenced by European ideals,
and the results were no longer ignored at the seats of learning through-
out the whole world. European scholars had here and there come as
visiting lecturers or as assimilated instructors, and a few American
scholars belonged to the leading European Academies. Yet, whoever
knew the real development of American post-graduate university life,
the rapid advance of genuine American scholarship, the incomparable
progress of the scientific institutions of the New World, of their libra-
ries and laboratories, museums and associations, was well aware that
Europe had hardly noticed and certainly not fully understood the
gigantic strides of the country which seemed a rival only on commer-
cial and industrial ground. Europe was satisfied with the traditional
ideas of America's scientific standing which reflected the situation of
thirty years ago, and did not understand that the changes of a few
lustres mean in the New World more than under the firmer traditions
of Europe. American scientific literature was still neglected; Ameri-
can universities treated in a condescending and patronizing spirit
and with hardly any awareness of the fundamental differences in the
institutions of the two sides. Those European scholars who crossed
the ocean did it with missionary, or perhaps with less unselfish, inten-
tions, and the Americans who attended European congresses were
mostly treated with the friendliness which the self-satisfied teacher
shows to a promising pupil. The time had really come when the con-
trast between the real situation and the traditional construction
became a danger for the scientific life of the time. Both sides had to
suffer from it. The Americans felt that their serious and important
achievements did not come to their fullest effectiveness through the
insistent neglect of those who by the tradition of centuries had
become the habitual guardians of scientific thought. A kind of feeling
of dependency as it usually develops in weak colonies too often
depressed the conscientious scholarship on American soil as the result
of this undue condescension. Yet the greater harm was to the other
side. Once before Europe had had the experience of surprise when
American successes presented themselves where nothing of that kind
was anticipated in the Old World. It was in the field of economic
life that Europe looked down patronizingly on America's industrial
efforts, and yet before she was fully aware how the change resulted,
suddenly the warning signal of the "American danger" was heard
everywhere. The surprise in the intellectual field will not be less.
The unpreparedness was certainly the same. Of course, there cannot
be any danger of rivalry in the scientific field, inasmuch as science
knows no competition but only cooperation. And yet it cannot be
without danger for European science if it willfully neglects and reck-
lessly ignores this eager working of the modern America. For both
sides a change in the situation was thus not only desirable, but neces-


sary; and to prepare this change, to substitute knowledge for ignor-
ance, nothing could have been more effective than this Congress of
Arts and Science.

Even if we abstract from the not inconsiderable number of those
European scholars who followed naturally in the path of the invited
guests, and if we consider merely the function of these invited par-
ticipants, the importance of the procedure is evident. More than a
hundred leading scholars from all European countries came under
conditions where academic fellowship on an equal footing was a neces-
sary part of the work. There was not the slightest premium held out
which might have attracted them had not real interacademic interest
brought them over the ocean, and no missionary spirit was appealed
to, as everything was equally divided between American and foreign
contributors. It was a real feast of international scholarship, in
which the importance and the number of foreigners stamped it as
the first significant alliance of the spirit of learning in the New and the
Old Worlds. And it was essentially for this purpose that the week of
personal intermingling in St. Louis itself was preceded and followed
by happy weeks of visits to leading universities. Almost every one
of those one hundred European scholars visited Harvard and Yale,
Chicago and Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Pennsylvania, saw the
treasures of Washington and examined the exhibitions of American
scholarship in the World's Fair itself. The change of opinion, the dis-
appearance of prejudice, the growth of confidence, the personal inter-
collegiate ties which resulted from all that, have been evident since
those days all over Europe. And it is not surprising that it is just
the most famous and most important of the visitors, famous and im-
portant through their width and depth of view, whose expression
of appreciation and admiration for the new achievements has been

We insisted that the effectiveness of the Congress showed itself in
two other directions still : on the one side, there was at last a congress
with a unified programme, a congress which stood for a definite
thought, and which brought all its efforts to bear on the solution of
one problem. There seemed a far-reaching agreement of opinion that
this new principle of congress administration had successfully with-
stood the test of practical realization. Mere conglomerations of un-
connected meetings with casual programmes and unrelated papers
cannot claim any longer to represent the only possible form of inter-
national gatherings of scholars. More than that, their superfluous
and disheartening character will be felt in future more strongly
than before. No congress will appear fully justified whose printed
proceedings do not show a real plan in its programme. And the
consciousness of this mission of the Congress will certainly be again
reinforced by the publication of these volumes, inasmuch as it is


evident that they represent a substantial contribution to the know-
ledge of our time which would not have been made without the
special stimulating occasion of the Congress.

And, finally, whether such a congress is held again or not, the
impulse of this one cannot be lost on account of the special end to
which all its efforts have been directed: the unity of scientific know-
ledge. We had emphasized from the first that here was the centre
of our purposes in a time whose scientific specialization necessarily
involves a scattering of scholarly work and which yet in its deepest
meaning strives for a new synthesis, for a new unity, which is to give
to all this scattered labor a real dignity and significance; truly
nothing was more needed than an intense accentuation of the internal
harmony of all human knowledge. But for that it is not enough that
the masses feel instinctively the deep need of such unifying move-
ments, nor is it enough that the philosophers point with logical argu-
ments towards the new synthesis. The philosopher can only stand by
and point the way; the specialists themselves must go the way. And
here at last they have done so. Leaders of thought have interrupted
their specialistic work and have left their detailed inquiries to seek
the fundamental conceptions and methods and principles which bind
all knowledge together, and thus to work towards that unity from
which all special work derives, its ijieaning. Whether or not their
cooperation has produced anything which is final is a question almost
insignificant compared with the fundamental fact that they cooper-
ated at all for this ideal synthetic purpose. This fact can never lose
its influence on the scholarly effort of our age, and will certainly find
its strongest reinforcement in this unified publication. It has ful-
filled its noblest purpose if it adds strength to the deepest movement
of our time, the movement towards unity of meaning in the scattered
manifoldness of scientific endeavor with which the twentieth century
has opened.





As we look at the assemblage gathered in this hall, comprising so
many names of widest renown in every branch of learning, — we
might almost say in every field of human endeavor, — the first in-
quiry suggested must be after the object of our meeting. The answer
is, that our purpose corresponds to the eminence of the assemblage.
We aim at nothing less than a survey of the realm of knowledge, as
comprehensive as is permitted by the limitations of time and space.
The organizers of our Congress have honored me with the charge of
presenting such preliminary view of its field as may make clear the
spirit of our undertaking.

Certain tendencies characteristic of the science of our day clearly
suggest the direction of our thoughts most appropriate to the oc-
casion. Among the strongest of these is one toward laying greater
stress on questions of the beginning of things, and regarding a know-
ledge of the laws of development of any object of study as necessary
to the understanding of its present form. It may be conceded that
the principle here involved is as applicable in the broad field before ^
us as in a special research into the properties of the minutest or-
ganism. It therefore seems meet that we should begin by inquir-
ing what ag_eiic3L, about the remarkable development
oTscience to which the world of to-day bears witness. This view is re-
cognized in the plan of our proceedings, by providing for each great
department of knowledge a review of its progress during the century
that has elapsed since the great event commemorated by the scenes
outside this hall. But such reviews do not make up that general
survey of science at large which is necessary to the development of
our theme, and which must include the action of causes that had
their origin long before our time. The movement which culminated


in making tlie nineteenth century ever memorable in history is the
outcome of a long series of causes, acting through many centuries,
which are worthy of especial attention on such an occasion as this.
In setting them forth we should avoid laying stress on those visible
manifestations which, striking the eye of every beholder, are in no
danger of being overlooked, and search rather for those agencies whose
activities underlie the whole visible scene, but which are liable to be
blotted out of sight by the very brilliancy of the results to which they
have given rise. It is easy to draw attention to the wonderful qualities
of the oak; but from that very fact, it may be needful to point out
that the real wonder lies concealed in the acorn from which it grew.

Our inquiry into the logical order of the causes which have made
our civilization what it is to-day will be facilitated by bringing to
mind certain elementary considerations — ideas so familiar that
setting them forth may seem like citing a body of truisms — and
yet so frequently overlooked, not only individually, but in their
relation to each other, that the conclusion to which they lead may be
lost to sight. One of these propositions is that psj^chical rather than
material causes are those which we should regard as fundamental in
directing the development of the social organism. The human
intellect is the really active agent in every branch of endeavor, —
the primum mohile of civilization, — and all those material mani-
festations to which our attention is so often directed are to be re-
'garded as secondary to this first agency. If it be true that "in the
world is nothing great but man; in man is nothing great but mind,''
then should the keynote of our discourse be the recognition of this
first and greatest of powers.

Another well-known fact is that those applications of the forces
of nature to the promotion of human welfare which have made our
age what it is, are of such comparatively recent origin that we need
go back only a single century to antedate their most important fea-
tures, and scarcely more than four centuries to find their beginning.
It follows that the subject of our inquiry should be the commence-
ment, not many centuries ago, of a certain new form of intellectual

Having gained this point of view, our next inquiry will be into the
nature of that activity, and its relation to the stages of progress
which preceded and followed its beginning. The superficial observer,
who sees the oak but forgets the acorn, might tell us that the special
qualities which have brought out such great results are expert
scientific knowledge and rare ingenuity, directed to the application
of the powers of steam and electricity. From this point of view the
great inventors and the great captains of industry were the first
agents in bringing about the modern era. But the more careful
inquirer will see that the work of these men was possible only through


a knowledge of the laws of nature, which had been gained by men
whose work took precedence of theirs in logical order, and that
success in invention has been measured by completeness in such
knowledge. While giving all due honor to the great inventors, let
us remember that the first place is that of the great investigators,
whose forceful intellects opened the way to secrets previously hidden
from men. Let it be an honor and not a reproach to these men, that
they were not actuated by the love of gain, and did not keep utilita-
rian ends in view in the pursuit of their researches. If it seems that in
neglecting such ends they were leaving undone the most important
part of their work, let us remember that nature turns a forbidding
face to those who pay her court with the hope of gain, and is respons-
ive only to those suitors whose love for her is pure and undefiled.
Not only is the special genius required in the investigator not that
generally best adapted to applying the discoveries which he makes,
but the result of his having sordid ends in view would be to nar-
row the field of his efforts, and exercise a depressing effect upon his
activities. The true man of science has no such expression in
his vocabulary as "useful knowledge." His domain is as wide
as nature itself, and he best fulfills his mission when he leaves to
others the task of applying the knowledge he gives to the world.

We have here the explanation of the well-known fact that the
functions of the investigator of the laws of nature, and of the in-
ventor who applies these laws to utilitarian purposes, are rarely
united in the same person. If the one conspicuous exception which
the past century presents to this rule is not unique, we should prob-
ably have to go back to Watt to find another.

From this viewpoint it is clear that the primary agent in the
movement which has elevated man to the masterful position he now
occupies, is the scientific investigator. He it is whose work has de-
prived plague and pestilence of their terrors, alleviated human suffer-
ing, girdled the earth with the electric wire, bound the continent
with the iron way, and made neighbors of the most distant nations.
As the first agent which has made possible this meeting of his re-
presentatives, let his evolution be this day our worthy theme. As we
follow the evolution of an organism by studying the stages of its
growth, so we have to show how the work of the scientific investi-
gator is related to the ineffectual efforts of his predecessors.

In our time we think of the process of development in nature as
one going continuously forward through the combination of the
opposite processes of evolution and dissolution. The tendency of our
thought has been in the direction of banishing cataclysms to the
theological limbo, and viewing nature as a sleepless plodder, en-
dowed with infinite patience, waiting through long ages for results.
I do not contest the truth of the principle of continuity on which


this view is based. But it fails to make known to us the whole truth.
The building of a ship from the time that her keel is laid until she is
making her way across the ocean is a slow and gradual process; yet
there is a cataclysmic epoch opening up a new era in her history. It
is the moment when, after lying for months or years a dead, inert,
immovable mass, she is suddenly endowed with the power of motion,
and, as if imbued with life, glides into the stream, eager to begin the
career for which she was designed.

I think it is thus in the development of humanity. Long ages
may pass during which a race, to all external observation, appears to
be making no real progress. Additions may be made to learning, and
the records of history may constantly grow, but there is nothing in
its sphere of thought, or in the features of its life, that can be called
essentially new. Yet, nature may have been all along slowly working
in a way which evades our scrutiny until the result of her operations
suddenly appears in a new and revolutionary movement, carrying
the race to a higher plane of civilization.

It is not difficult to point out such epochs in human progress. The
greatest of all, because it was the first, is one of which we find no
record either in written or geological history. It was the epoch when
our progenitors first took conscious thought of the morrow, first used
the crude weapons which nature had placed within their reach to
kill their prey, first built a fire to warm their bodies and cook their
food. I love to fancy that there was some one first man, the Adam
of evolution, who did all this, and who used the power thus acquired
to show his fellows how they might profit by his example. When
the members of the tribe or community which he gathered around
him began to conceive of life as a whole, — to include yesterday, to-
day, and to-morrow in the same mental grasp — to think how they
might apply the gifts of nature to their own uses, — a movement
was begun which should ultimately lead to civilization.

Long indeed must have been the ages required for the development
of this rudest primitive community into the civilization revealed to
us by the most ancient tablets of Egypt and Assyria. After spoken
language was developed, and after the rude representation of ideas
by visible, marks drawn to resemble them had long been practiced,
some Cadmus must have invented an alphabet. When the use of
written language was thus introduced, the word of command ceased
to be confined to the range of the human voice, and it became pos-
sible for master minds to extend their influence as far as a written
message could be carried. Then were communities gathered into
provinces; provinces into kingdoms; kingdoms into the great
empires of antiquity. Then arose a stage of civilization which we
find pictured in the most ancient records, — a stage in which men
were governed by laws that were perhaps as wisely adapted to their


conditions as our laws are to ours, — in which the phenomena of
nature were rudely observed, and striking occurrences in the earth
or in the heavens recorded in the annals of the nation.

Vast was the progress of knowledge during the interval between
these empires and the century in which modern science began. Yet,
if I am right in making a distinction between the slow and regular
steps of progress, each growing naturally out of that which preceded
it, and the entrance of the mind at some fairly definite epoch into an
entirely new sphere of activity, it would appear that there was only
one such epoch during the entire interval. This was when abstract
geometrical reasoning commenced, and astronomical observations
aiming at precision were recorded, compared, and discussed. Closely
associated with it must have been the construction of the forms of
logic. The radical difference between the demonstration of a theorem
of geometry and the reasoning of every-day life which the masses of
men must have practiced from the beginning, and which few even
to-day ever get beyond, is so evident at a glance that I need not
dwell upon it. The principal feature of this advance is that, by one
of those antinomies of the human intellect of which examples are not
wanting even in our own time, the development of abstract ideas
preceded the concrete knowledge of natural phenomena. When we
reflect that in the geometry of Euclid the science of space was
brought to such logical perfection that even to-day its teachers are
not agreed as to the practicability of any great improvement upon
it, we cannot avoid the feeling that a very slight change in the
direction of the intellectual activity of the Greeks would have led to
the beginning of natural science. But it would seem that the very
purity and perfection which was aimed at in their system of geometry
stood in the way of any extension or application of its methods and
spirit to the field of nature. One example of this is worthy of atten-
tion. In modern teaching the idea of magnitude as generated by
motion is freely introduced. A line is described by a moving point;
a plane by a moving line; a solid by a moving plane. It may, at first
sight, seem singular that this conception finds no place in the Euclid-
ian system. But we may regard the omission as a mark of logical
purity and rigor. Had the real or supposed advantages of introduc-

Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 15 of 68)