Project Canterbury















Published by the Academy








Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007



The following address was prepared rather for the ear than for the eye. The familiar and somewhat colloquial style which characterizes it is scarcely appropriate to this more permanent form, and it is due both to the author and to the public to say that it is retained only at the request of those who are responsible for its publication.

NEW YORK, April 22d, 1880




This the second of the two courses of lectures, given during the current season, under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences. I have been asked to take part in it, not, (as must be obvious enough to this audience), because of any scientific qualifications for such a task, but because the presence and the participation here of a layman in science may help to set before the public the wider scope and larger aim for which the Association exists.

In pursuance of that purpose, it may be worth while briefly to review the history of the Association, and to indicate what it hopes to do by a brief recapitulation of what, thus far, it has done.

It can not be a matter of indifference to us who are New Yorkers, that the Institution, whose guests we are this evening, has sturdy roots, running down and back into an honorable--if not greatly venerable--past, and that in a community which is supposed, especially by those wise men who come to us from our own East, to be given over to money-making and money-squandering, there should be a Society which, for more than a generation, has been devoted [1/2] to the pursuit of science in its most generous spirit, and to the dissemination of knowledge in its widest sense.

In the year 1818, there was incorporated in the city of New York a Society known as the Lyceum of Natural History. A few professional men and others then resident in this city, had become interested in the study of Natural History, and, previous to the date which I have just mentioned, had associated themselves for that purpose in a somewhat private and informal way. The Republic was then scarcely thirty years old. New York had been crippled by the war of the Revolution, and again by that of the year 1812 ; the population of this island was but a mere handful of people compared with its inhabitants to-day ; the community was engrossed in the struggle of developing a new life in the paths of trade and commerce, and in repairing the losses which had accumulated through its past misfortunes. It is difficult to conceive a condition of things less calculated to create the calm and unvexed atmosphere in which the student is born, and a love of generous learning bred and nurtured. But the instincts of an inherited culture were strong in the breasts of some New Yorkers, and there were others, through whose ancestral lineage no glories of hereditary learning trailed, who still looked at life with that native wisdom which sees in the secrets of nature a challenge to the curiosity and a worthy theatre for the discipline and education of the intellect. The meagre records still surviving of the Lyceum of Natural History, have not preserved the names of these men, but the memory of them still survives and must be fresh, I think, in the minds of some who hear me to-night. Among the incorporators of the Lyceum was Professor John Torrey, whose name will long endure as one of the most eminent among all those [2/3] that have been connected with the history of American science. Professor Torrey was a profound student, an untiring investigator, and in the domains of botany, mineralogy and chemistry a successful explorer and discoverer. But he was more: for beside the gift of a preeminent insight into nature, he had the still rarer gift of communicating something of that insight to others. He was not merely an enthusiast himself but he knew how to kindle enthusiasm in his pupils, and because of this rare power he drew about him hundreds of young men to whom scientific studies acquired an interest which made them in turn students and explorers scarcely less enthusiastic than their gifted preceptor.

It was through the agency of Professor Torrey, Dr. John Jay and others like-minded, that the New York Lyceum of Natural History came to have a corporate existence. The Association speedily attracted to its fellowship large numbers of Naturalists and others, who won renown for themselves and for their country. They made these first stirs or birth throes of scientific life in America known to men of science beyond the sea, and if, to-day, our scientific schools and scholars are both known and honored abroad, we unlettered traders of Manhattan may comfort ourselves with the recollection that among the earliest achievements which won for us such recognition were those of the Lyceum of Natural History in the city of New York. It had at one time a Museum of its own filled with interesting and, in many instances, rare and unique specimens. It had a library in which was to be found one of the best collections of books upon subjects relating to Natural Science then existing in this country. Unfortunately, the former was destroyed by fire, the Lyceum lost at one blow both its home and some of its choicest treasures, and in that [3/4] catastrophe the Society received a blow from which it has scarcely even yet rallied. Happily, its library was preserved, and through the courtesy of the Directors of the American Museum of Natural History has now a place of safe deposit in Central Park. The New York Academy of Sciences has become the heir and successor of the Lyceum of Natural History, and to-day, upon a somewhat broader basis, invokes the sympathy and cooperation of the citizens of New York.

What is it, ladies and gentlemen, which would seem to entitle it to both? Neither the disciples of science nor its masters are very engaging personages to most of us. A vivacious young person, more fond of the drama than of the schoolroom, and more inclined to laughter than to scientific investigation, returned from the play one evening with the exclamation that she "had at length discovered the use of a Professor." In her schoolgirl days that serious and somewhat abstracted personage had appeared to her, she owned, simply as an invention of modern and somewhat mitigated torture. She never could understand his explanations (which, as she never pretended to listen to them, was not surprising), and, owing to the want of something or other in the atmosphere, his experiments would rarely "go off," as she expressed it. But when she went to the play she discovered, she said, that the Professor had his place, if not in science then in art. The dramatic author had introduced him, with signal success, in very ill-fitting garments, green spectacles and a shocking bad hat. He had an umbrella which he always kept dropping at the most inopportune moment, and he persistently interjected remarks which were deliciously irrelevant and hopelessly unintelligible. In a word declared this gay young creature, "evidently the Professor was created to be a foil, to throw the walking [4/5] gentleman and the engaging (and generally engaged) young heroine into more conspicuous and taking relief." And thus both the Professor and his pursuits became, like a haystack in the foreground, or a bit of mouldy leather in a picture, something which, by mere force of contrast lent to the rest of life an additional charm and grace!

It would, perhaps, be unjust to say, that all of us think of scientific men and their occupations in that way; but I think it is true that there are very few people who work so much outside of active and demonstrative sympathy, or who have so largely to content themselves with the reflection that study, like virtue, "is its own reward." There is one class of persons, though happily it is growing daily smaller, who regard scientific enquiries as only a thinly veiled form of downright atheism. To them a student who is simply turning over the pages of one of God's great volumes, I mean the volume of nature, (sometimes I think more reverently than some of us turn over the pages of that other volume which we call Revelation)--to such persons I say, a student of nature is simply and of deliberate purpose, a destroyer of the faith. They have apparently less confidence in the enduring character of God's truth than they have in the power of man's destructiveness, and it is the shame and dishonor of our modern Christianity that it has too often hurled invective instead of advancing argument, and imputed unworthy motives instead of disproving facts. I have no wish to be misunderstood here, and I will not be. There has been undoubtedly much in the attitude of scientific men, here and there, that has shown them, as individuals, to be hostile to revelation and sceptical as to its Author. But it has not always been considered that, when angry and contemptuous words have been hurled back from the battlements of science, it has [5/6] more than once been because they had been provoked by words still angrier and more contemptuous, spoken by those who professed to be ruled by a gentler sway and to follow a more benignant Master. I remember at this moment, as some of you may do, some words spoken at an annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held some years ago, I think in Scotland, first by Mr. Huxley and then by Mr. Tyndall. Those utterances gave a rude shock to the feelings and belief of large numbers of people; but it was not known, or if known was not remembered then, that they were provoked by an utterly unprovoked attack made by an English bishop, when neither of the men whom he assailed was present to defend himself, and when everything in the occasion made it impossible to contradict him. Once more, I say, let me not be misunderstood. I am not here as the defender or apologist of Messrs. Huxley and Tyndall. Men of science lose their tempers sometimes, and say hasty and regretable words like clergymen and other fallible people, but they have often had strong provocation, if not positive excuse, in the utterly unsympathetic and even aggressively hostile attitude of those whom they are striving to enlighten.

And then again, there is another class of persons to whom science is not so much an uninteresting, or an atheistic, as an unprofitable thing. They can see the use of philanthropy, for the philanthropist aims to help the poor, to rescue the degraded, to instruct the ignorant and to care for the neglected and the outcast. Charity opens her tender arms and little children gather at her side and take shelter beneath her ample robes. The shackle falls from the slave, and the scales from the eyes of the blind. And then, over against all the wealth and enterprise and luxury which are [6/7] the characteristics of our modern civilization, there rises so vast and so wretched an army of the diseased and the uncared for, that some of us think we cannot do too much to succor and relieve it. But the services and the claims of science are less obvious. We see how it has vexed and disturbed the preachers and the theologians, and how it has grappled with great problems which it has not always solved. Both the men of science and their ecclesiastical adversaries when contending, like the archangel Michael and the devil about, not the body of Moses, but the body of man, remind us sometimes, by their worn and jaded aspect, of that compositor in a Parisian printing office who, after wrestling from midnight until morning with the abominable and hopelessly obscure manuscript of a great French novelist, was met on his way home in the grey dawn by a fellow workman. " Merciful powers!" exclaimed his companion when he looked him in the face, "what terrible disaster has befallen you?" "None!" said his companion grimly, "none. I have been spending a night with a MS. of Balzac." After somewhat the same fashion, both the friends and the foes of science, after spending their nights with more than one illegible manuscript of nature, return to us so worn and irritated by the strife, that we cannot conceive what all the toil and controversy can be good for.

It might be worth while to remember however, that in the intellectual as in the physical life, exercise and effort may sometimes be good if only for its own sake. In the interests of a torpid liver it may now and then be worth while to saw half a cord of wood, even though when the job is done, there is nobody else to be warmed by it. But in an age which plumes itself upon being practical, it is perhaps better, simply to recall some of those services of science [7/8] to our modern life which have been, in the direction of obvious utility, healthfulness, comfort and progress; and to this end nothing is more instructive than the contrast between modern life and life in other and earlier times. Let me be understood here, as using the term "modern" in its most narrow and restricted sense. Indeed, it would not be necessary to go back half a century in order to discover how enormous has been the influence of science, its wonderful discoveries, and its scarcely less wonderful applications of these discoveries--upon the character and the happiness of our modern life. If, in addition to this, we should choose to go back a hundred or two years further, the contrast becomes so immense as to be almost incredible. In a clever sketch which appeared a few years ago in one of our American periodicals, a good-natured satire holds up for the public amusement our present craze for the inconvenient and the antique. A youth who is called upon to be, from time to time the guest of a childless and widowed aunt, is a good deal surprised on arriving at her comfortable mansion for his Christmas holidays, to find that his aged relative has taken up her carpets and taken down her pictures, that the doors have been wrested from their hinges and the ample panes of plate glass from the windows, that the walls are adorned with old and hideous delf plates, which to the nephew's uncultivated eye seem worthy only of a place in the scullery, that the furnace fire has been put out in the cellar and the gas cut off in the street. His aunt has a bad cold in the head, and he gives himself a headache and sore eyes by striving to read the evening paper with one candle, but he is admonished that he is assisting at a reform in the interests of high art, and he consoles himself with this reflection as best he may. A year passes before he returns to repeat this experience, and then to his dismay he finds it much [8/9] more severe. His own quarters have not hitherto been invaded. But on entering his bedroom, he discovers that its cosy and well-cushioned furniture has disappeared completely. A huge and clumsy carved chest does duty for the handsome dressing bureau, a segment of badly polished steel has been substituted for the cheval glass, the ample and inviting arm-chairs have vanished, to be replaced by sundry rather rickety three-legged stools; the croton has been remorselessly cut off and the stationary wash-stand torn out, while in its place there appears a dismal tripod which instantly suggests that most unpleasant appendage to a dentist chair, holding not a basin but a beggarly bowl, strikingly antique in form and equally impossible to use.

Yet another year passes, and the nephew returns again. As before, he arrives in the evening. Blundering over an oaken settle in the hall which barks his knees and entraps him into treading on a huge hound who promptly fastens his teeth in the calf of his leg, he finds himself at length in the presence of his eccentric relative. The candles have vanished, and in their stead the walls are hung with iron sockets into which are thrust pine knots for torches. The smoke is blinding, and the air is equally frigid and foul, but the youth manages, in spite of it, to discern his aunt, seated in the middle of the room upon a pile of skins. The carpets are gone, and the rugs have followed them. The chandelier has disappeared, and the candelabras have been retired once more to their ancient repose in the garret. On the smoked and dismantled walls, here and there, there hangs a weapon or a drinking-horn, no one of which would the estimable lady in the utmost extremity have known how to use; and over all these broods an odor emanating from some ancient hangings, which have come down, the youth learns, from William the Conqueror, and which, from [9/10] their vigorous perfume, must have been used alternately as horse-blanket and table-cloth by all his long line of descendants.

The climax which cures this mania does not concern us this evening; but the moral of such a story is not far to seek. Could we restore, as under the glamour of some transient fashion we are tempted to, those old forms and usages and surroundings which belonged to the life of our ancestors, we should speedily discover not merely of how much comfort, but of how much breadth and movement and fulness we had robbed our lives. The things of which already some of us have grown so weary that we would fain discard them altogether, have changed the whole face of modern society and made existence another thing. Take the inventions and discoveries of the last forty or fifty years (as I said a moment ago, we need not go farther back), and consider what they have been. Fifty years ago we had no telegraph, no ocean steamships, no street railways (no dream even of their more elevated rivals), no aniline colors, no kerosene oil, no steam fire-engines, no painless surgical operations, no gun cotton, no aluminium, no magnesium, no electroplating, no spectroscope, no positive knowledge of the stellar worlds, no submarine cable, no telephone, no electric light. These are some of the things that have been added to our resources during the last forty or fifty years. If I were an expert instead of a neophyte in science, how almost indefinitely I might add to the list.

Meantime, there is something which even the most unscientific observer can do, and that I may attempt for a few moments now. In speaking of the relations of science to our modern life, it is at least easy to indicate how large is our indebtedness to science in the matter of travel, of art, and of health. Let us look at modern science briefly in this threefold relation.

(a) Some one has called a ship the "noblest masterpiece of human genius,--the most expressive type of man as the conqueror and lord of nature." [*Dr. A. P. Peabody, Christianity and Nature, p. 117.] But the ship which such a writer had in mind was such a ship as that in which Nelson fought, or on whose deck our own Perry and Farragut won their early laurels. Indeed, we call the galleys in which the soldiers of the empire crossed the Mediterranean, ships, and still more, the vessels that brought Columbus to the West Indies, and the Pilgrims of the May Flower to Plymouth Rock. But what pigmies and cock-boats were all these craft--aye, even the swift-winged merchantmen which forty years ago carried the commerce of England and America, compared with what we know to-day as an ocean steamer! Once he would have been laughed at who built a ship of iron; to-day science has taught us how to build not only the hulls but the masts and rigging of ships of iron. Once he who dared to prophesy that the time would come when a vessel could be driven clear across the Atlantic by some artificial force in the teeth of adverse winds and currents, would have been promptly dismissed to a lunatic asylum. Not long ago the proposal to reduce the journey from our own shores to those of Great Britain to a period of fifteen days was greeted with shouts of ridicule. To-day even the most cautious and conservative of steam-navigators is making it in little more than seven. All this is apparent before we have boarded one of these floating monsters.

What a spectacle is that which salutes us when we stand upon its deck, or climb down into its hold! Ascend to the bridge while the pilot gets his ship under way, and strive to take in the vastness and perfection of this marvellous construction. Go below into the engine-room and watch [11/12] that perfect mechanism, huge and massive like the columns and arches of some ancient temple, and yet working when once the motive power has been applied to it, almost with the smoothness and precision of a watch. Descend yet further into the bowels of this leviathan of the deep, and if you have the nerve to do it, run the gantlet of the roaring fires that heat the mighty boilers. Consider what tremendous forces are generated and garnered here, and then ascend to the deck again and observe with what instantaneous obedience and absolute docility they are made to do the work. The commander lifts his hand and staightway the huge mechanism begins to throb, and the ship has set out upon her voyage. Yonder, in the pilot-house, steam has displaced the half dozen or dozen men who in rough weather were wont to struggle with the wheel, and the touch of a single hand turns the helm hither and thither at its will, and guides the vessel with sure and unerring precision. In all this there is an ingenuity of contrivance, an adaptation of means to an end which so interests us that we do not always look beyond. But a little reflection would teach us that no ingenuity of contrivance can be greatly efficacious, unless there be the application of some scientific law behind it. Has it ever occurred to us, now, that it is the study of these scientific laws and their mastery, and then their application to practical results, and not capital nor enterprise nor government subsidies, which have built our (well, I believe it isn't ours, but let us make believe for the sake of the argument) splendid steam marine and made the modern steamship the marvel of the world. We talk of the power of capital, but in the highest view, money is the most impotent and unproductive thing in the world. It is mind that creates machinery, just as it is alone the power of ideas that can create an institution, and when we see an [12/13] ocean steamer, if we would account for its existence, we must go back to that first germ of its triumphant growth, that initial protoplasm of the whole mechanical and marine evolution, which challenged the boyish curiosity of James Watt. Between that initial perception of the power of steam and a modern steamship, what an almost infinite distance! What has bridged it but the toil and patience and almost supernatural insight of scientific study? What difficulties have barred the way, and with what indomitable perseverance science has overcome them! Do we remember that there is no smallest contrivance, no slightest adjustment of compensating forces or movements, valves or pistons, no cylinder nor governor nor cut off, nor any least accessory that has not been thought out and wrought out in the brain, with endless mathematical caculations, and carefullest weighing and measurement of the application of force, the laws of resistance and the like? Do we realize that not merely in the matter of its machinery, but in every step of a ship's construction, from keel to top gallant mast, the one indispensable requisite that must preside over the whole procedure is an adequate and accurate scientific knowledge?

Nay more, do we realize that in this respect the steamship is merely the type and image of every other conspicuous agency in the matter of human locomotion? The grading and engineering of routes of travel, the construction of railways and bridges, the safety and efficiency of the engines that draw us and the carriages in which we ride, the system of signals that lines our path, and that makes a modern railway journey an experience of unintermitted espionage by sentinels who cannot go to sleep, the telegraphic flash that signals our departure and anticipates our arrival; do we remember I say that for all this, we are indebted [13/14] not as we so often think merely to a clever ingenuity, but to a thorough and scientific knowledge which has made that ingenuity possible, and so has furnished the capital with which it has achieved its wonders.

The modern traveller threading the hills and valleys of Palestine, finds traces of the half-disinterred aqueducts which it is supposed were built by Solomon himself. The foreigner riding over the lovely plains of the Campagna in the early spring-time, sees the still imposing ruins of those old Roman roads, builded long ago by the emperors. And in such things one finds the clue to what did so much to make the Hebrew Empire and the Roman Empire, each of them, great in their time. But what were all these victories over nature,--these ancient highways that once bound together the elder East and the elder West, compared with those wonderful achievements of civil engineering, which have, in our own age, bridged the ocean and scaled the Alps, and belted this mighty continent from sea to sea with its endless iron girdle. As one climbs the steeps of the Rocky Mountains and thunders on through the narrow and yawning canons that lead him to the Pacific,--as he sees no obstacle which is not tunnelled or surmounted or circumvented,--as he sees no unforeseen problem which is not somehow grappled with and solved,--as he sees, in one word, the whole round world, by means of the marvellous triumphs of modern engineering and the marvellous agencies of modern travel made neighbor to New York,--as all this stands forth at once to confront and convince him,--one may at least partially realize how enormous is the indebtedness of our modern life to modern science!

(b) But, again: That which transforms this modern world of ours, and more than anything else smooths away its roughnesses, dispels its monotony, and charms equally the imagination and the taste, is Art. Do we [14/15] realize, however, as adequately as we ought the indebtedness of Art to Science? You cannot rear a palace or a cathedral, any more than you can build a bridge, without a constant appeal to the principles of science. No more could you compose a song or a symphony. In a word, "all art is mathematical. Music equally with arithmetic is a science of numbers; Pythagoras and Orpheus were equally identified with its early development, and it was better understood by Newton, La Grange and Euler, than by Mozart or Beethoven or Rossini. The problem of the flute-note is discussed in the Principia with the harmony of the spheres. The relative magnitude of the pipes of the organ, the length of their respective vibrations and the quality of the resulting tones, form a series of numerical proportions no less definite and uniform than those which govern the planetary orbits; and the reason why the reed pipes in an organ are oftener out of tune than the others is, that they involve complex problems which still lack a complete solution, so that the rules for their construction are but empirical. Musical intervals are rightly designated by numerical names, and might as well be represented on the score by numbers as by notes. Colors have their mathematical as well as their chemical laws, and as they are separated in the prism or combined in art, they indicate relations which can only be expressed by abstract formulae. Painting has no merit unless the drawing be true, and all true drawing corresponds to one or another mode of mathematical projection." [*Peabody, Christianity the Religion of Nature, pp. 131-2.] The practical rules of even the inferior arts, the rules recognized by the laborer who knows not the multiplication-table, are derived from certain elementary but indispensable scientific laws. Were it not that science has defined and demonstrated those laws, we [15/16] should still be at the same low point of civilization with our Mohawk and Onondaga predecessors.

But let us look at the subject from quite a different point of view. A youth beside me in the omnibus the other day, drew from his pocket a well-worn envelope, and furtively extracted from that in turn a photograph. Straightway, as a surreptitious glance over his shoulder revealed to me, a fair young creature beamed upon him, and the fact that he was being jolted down town to deliver a parcel of samples faded utterly from his young mind. For the moment the omnibus became the boudoir of beauty, (I believe that is the correct phrase), and the youthful trafficker was nerved anew for the tedious monotonies of trade by the halcyon visions of "love's young dream." But fifty years ago, such solace and inspiration would have been, to such a one, impossible. A painted miniature upon porcelain or ivory would have consumed a year's salary, and would then have left the youthful spendthrift bankrupt. What an emblem thus that tiny photograph becomes of the services of science--to art, do I say?--nay, to sentiment, to poetry, to imagination, to the affections.

For the " artist " as he is wont to style himself, who took the photograph, is merely a mechanical workman, who has made use of certain scientific discoveries in optics and chemistry. That he can take a photograph at all is owing to that initial experiment long ago of Priestley's, when with a glass bottle, some chloride of silver and a piece of dark paper out of which some letters had been cut with a penknife, he produced what was probably the first specimen of sun-printing. And it is because the studies and discoveries of Scheele, the Swedish philosopher, of Wedgwood, of Sir Humphey Davy, and of our own Draper, of Daguerre and Talbot, have enlarged and widened the sphere of knowledge [16/17] in this direction, that the art of photography to-day exists. It would be at once idle and vain to attempt to indicate what it has done for modern life.

Such achievements are beyond computation. In its services and contributions to kindred arts, to the popularization of knowledge, to the cheapening and multiplication of forms of beauty and grandeur, to the comfort of the sorrowing and separated, to the accurate and truthful writing of history, to the progress of nearly all the sciences, to the cause of justice and philanthropy, its usefulness and influence have been simply incalculable.

(c) Behind the question of a higher and wider culture, however, there is another and primary interest which relates to the vigor and well-being of the faculties which we cultivate. At the basis of all human happiness and human usefulness is the question of health. Mens sana in corpore sano, is a principle which we can not ignore or disregard. It is true that Mr. Greg, in his Enigmas of Life, has undertaken to show that "bodily pain and disease are not only compatible with, but may directly contribute to the loftiest efforts of the intellect." According to Mr. Greg, "The effect of some disorders and of certain sorts of pain upon the nerves, tends to produce a cerebral excitation; and the stimulus thus communicated to the material organ of thought, renders it for the time capable of unusual effort. Men under the stirring influences of pain are quickened," he argues, "to flights of imagination and feats of reasoning, whose exceptional splendor astonishes themselves and all who have known them only in ordinary moods of comfort. Extinct faculties" he insists, "come back to them. Torpid faculties become vigorous and sparkling, forgotten knowledge is recovered. Marvellous gleams of insight are vouchsafed to them." And all this because a man has an affection of the spine, or an acute attack of inflammatory rheumatism!

[18] It may be so, but even Mr. Greg would not maintain, I presume, that disease and constitutional ill-health contribute on the whole to the efficiency any more than to the happiness of the race. One whose calling it is to work in this world, (and happily it is the calling of most of us!) wants his powers to be in such a condition that he can work to the best advantage; and scarcely less does he need that his surroundings shall be such as shall contribute most effectually to nourish, to conserve and to recuperate those powers. Do we realize how largely modern science has contributed to this end? There is a cheap ridicule that scoffs at sanitary science, and that exults in the problems which as yet it has not wholly solved. Who ever claimed that it had exhausted the whole domain of hygienic knowledge, or that its disciples were any less liable than other students, (except students of theology!), to lose their way sometimes. But there are certain facts and figures in regard to our modern life which stare us in the face. One is that, through the discoveries of medical science, the average death-rate in certain zymotic diseases has been decreased nearly fifty per cent. Another is, that the average length of human life has been increased from thirty-three years to considerably over forty years. Our great Life Insurance Companies whose profits have been so enormous, owe their splendid success to the fact that they have based their calculations upon an average death-rate commonly accepted in England fifty or seventy-five years ago. But people live longer than they did fifty or seventy-five years ago, and they are better preserved, and in every way more vigorous while they live. Fewer infants die, and in the struggle from infancy to maturity, the risks in every walk of life have been vastly decreased. And why? Simply because science has illuminated the whole domain of life. It has taught us [18/19] how to build and ventilate, and above all to drain our streets and houses. It has taught us how to nourish our bodies and our brains. It has taught us how to take care of our eyes and lungs, and every other most vital and sensitive organ. It has done far more than art or philanthropy, or even religion, to make the home of the poor man and of the rich man alike, purer and safer and healthier. It is not a great while since the prevalence of consumption in certain parts of our country was simply frightful. It is still a terrible and most destructive scourge. But science has taught us that not only this, but other kindred diseases are almost invariably found in connection with imperfectly ventilated and overcrowded schools and dwellings,--in a word, that bad health means, in such cases at any rate, bad air. It has gone so far as to show just how the centres of life may be poisoned by such influences, alike in man and in the lower orders. And over against these perils to every-day life it has set its cautionary signals with equal skill and efficacy. In fact, what step is that which we may safely take without first invoking the guidance and protection of science? It is not a great while since we who live in cities, were notified that our foremost domestic luxury was to prove the agent for our wholesale destruction. Croton, conducted as it was to our kitchens and pantries, was to be the death of us. Lead is a poison. Water conducted through lead pipes takes up the poison in the pipes and conveys it to your tea-pot, and thus we were all doomed. But at this point science interposed to remind us that while water oxidizes lead, and so produces oxide of lead which is both a soluble and poisonous compound, there is a still further action which takes place, by means of which this oxide combines with carbonic acid, (which is usually contained or held in solution in most waters), forming thus a salt. This salt is the carbonate of [19/20] lead, and is insoluble. And the inside of our water-pipes usually becomes coated with a hard insoluble substance, which, unless there are other disturbing agencies which come in and interfere, makes a lead pipe almost safer and better than others. But of all this we only dare to be assured when science has turned its illuminating lamp upon the whole subject, and at once solved our perplexities and silenced our fears. In our ignorance we can only turn to it, and if we were without its guidance, we should speedily find ourselves paralyzed and helpless.

You will easily perceive, ladies and gentlemen, from these familiar illustrations, how much further I might proceed in the same direction. But in speaking of the relations of science to modern life, I am reminded that there is one other service which science has rendered to our age, which is, perhaps, really greater than all the rest. In his address at the farewell banquet given to him in this city, Mr. Tyndall used the following words: "They who are drawn to science as a vocation, must, I venture to think, be prepared at times to suffer a little for the sake of scientific righteousness, not refusing, should occasion demand it, to live low and lie hard to achieve the object of their lives. I do not urge upon others that which I should have been unwilling to do myself. Let me give you a fragment of personal history. In 1848, wishing to improve myself in science, I went to the University of Marburg--the same old town in which my great namesake (William Tyndale), when even poorer than myself, published his translation of the Bible. I lodged in the plainest manner, in a street which, perhaps, bore an appropriate name while I dwelt upon it. It was called the Ketzerbach--the heretic's brook--from a little historic rivulet running through it. I wished to keep myself clean and hardy in an economical way; so I purchased a cask and had [20/21] it cut in two by a carpenter. Half that cask, filled with spring water over night, was placed in my small bed room; and never during the years that I spent there, in winter or in summer, did the clock of the beautiful Elizabeth-kirche, which was close at hand, finish striking the hour of six in the morning before I was in my tub. For a good portion of the time I rose an hour and a-half earlier than this (i.e., 4.30 A.M.), working by lamp-light at the differential calculus, while the world was slumbering around me. And I risked this breach in my pursuits, and this expenditure of time and money, not because I had any material profit in view, but because I thought the cultivation of the intellect worth such a sacrifice. There was another motive also--the sense of duty. There are sure to be hours in the life of every young man when his outlook will be dark, his work difficult, and his intellectual future uncertain. Over such periods, when the stimulus of success is absent, he must be carried by his sense of duty. It may not be so quick an incentive as glory, but it is a nobler one, and gives a tone to character which glory cannot impart. That unflinching devotion to work, without which no real eminence in science is attainable, implies the stern resolve, 'I work not because I always like to work, but because I ought to work.' In science, however, love and duty are sure to become identical in the end."

It is that noble illustration of these words of Mr. Tyndall's, which scientific men in our own day and land have given us, which is, perhaps, the grandest service that they have rendered to our time. In an age absorbed in pursuits and enterprises chiefly because they pay, we have had the inspiring example of men of rare gifts and of indomitable perseverance who have consecrated themselves to science, not for its pecuniary rewards, but for the love of [21/22] truth itself. In an age whose first question forever is--not what are the larger laws and inner secrets of the world in which we live, but rather, how can you convert your knowledge or your discoveries into a marketable commodity? we have had a class of men who, with preeminent modesty and often exceptional self-denial, have devoted a life-time to unwearying studies and unceasing investigation. While we have slept all over the land, they have watched and toiled, and often starved as well. "They have labored, and other men have entered into their labors." For one man who has reaped any adequate pecuniary reward for his discoveries and inventions, there have been hundreds who neither have done so nor have sought to; for them it has been reward enough to pass for a little within the veil that hides the mysteries of nature and of science, and then to return again, their faces shining with the splendors of which they have caught a glimpse. How can we adequately estimate or honor the services of such men! In a selfish generation, they have taught us the glory of unselfishness. In a sordid and self-indulgent generation, they have been the heroes of a new crusade. Scattered through all our land, in institutions of learning scantily endowed and meagrely equipped, there are men living on salaries that the cook of any New York club would refuse with indignant contempt, who, if they had brought their brains to some great comercial centre, and put them to what we call with our narrow vision some "practical" use, would have been themselves the merchant princes to whom, now, they must sue for patronage! All honor to these, the martyrs often, of a neglect and indifference as cruel as it is unintelligent. They have given to life a new motive and a loftier ideal. They have given to our waning faith in human nature a new impulse and a new spring!

[23] And what, in turn, ladies and gentlemen, have we given to them? In their struggles to redeem our common country from that discredit to which De Tocqueville referred when, thirty years ago, he wrote: "It must be confessed that, among the civilized peoples of our age, there are few in which the highest sciences have made so little progress as in the United States;" [*De la Democratie en Amerique, etc., tome ii, p. 36.] how much sympathy have men of science had from their fellow-citizens? I do not forget the instances of such a sympathy which, here and there, salute us; but, as a rule, is it not true that we have left these slaves of the lamp to be, too often, the victims of a suspicious or indifferent neglect? The history of this Academy is, I fear, hardly a history of ardent and effusive cooperation on the part of the citizens of New York. There has been no such eagerness to throng its public meetings or to pursue its members with insatiable enthusiasm into the retirement of privacy as have made the lives of my friends, President Newberry and his associates, a burden to themselves. When the Professor goes botanizing among the June flowers on the banks of the Bronx, I do not observe that he is followed by quite the same throng of ardent young men and women--young and old as well, whom one meets at certain periodical intervals on their way to Jerome Park.

In a word, how much of the homage of discipleship has science won in our day and in this community? A friend to whose courteous but persistent urgency my presence here to-night is owing, has reminded me that Lord Derby once told the Edinburgh students that many a young man went to the bad for lack of finding a congenial sphere of intellectual exertion. Sir Roderick Murchison was a mere fop, a cornet of the Guards, until the lady whom he married saw the power [23/24] that was in him, and drew him to that department of study where afterward he reigned a master. There are young men to-day in our colleges or not long out of them, who have found in a department of scientific study the most genuine happiness, and in the pursuit of truth for its own sake, the most abundant rewards. They have come to know what Fresnel meant when that gifted Frenchman wrote to a friend, "Without doubt, in moments of disgust and discouragement I have sometimes needed the spur of vanity to excite me to pursue my researches. But all the compliments I ever received from Arago, De la Place, and Biot, never gave me so much pleasure as the discovery of a theoretic truth, or the confirmation of a calculation by experiment." Why are there not many more young men who can say so? If with the growth of wealth we are to have a leisure class among us, may not some of these wisely and worthily consecrate themselves to an earnest and unselfish discipleship to science? Are there not worthier interests than a pigeon or a polo match on which the gilded if not golden youth of our generation may expend their energies? It is the ambition of our age to make life rounder and broader and fuller than the life of our forefathers. We smile at their narrowness and compassionate their ignorance. But what are we doing to widen the horizon not of our amusements and luxuries, but of our pursuits, and to make the life of to-day not merely more comfortable but more intellectual? In other cities,--and by that word I do not mean merely Boston,--I am assured that bankers and lawyers may be met who find their recreation in private cabinets of natural history, and in personal studies in the physical sciences. Is it not worth while to consider whether a more genuine satisfaction and a more wholesome enjoyment or recreation may not be found in this direction, than [24/25] in the sports and excitements which too generally engross us?

And finally, in view of the enormous services of scientific investigation wherever it has been prosecuted and encouraged; is it not worth while for the merchants and capitalists of New York to enquire whether they may not wisely give to science a more generous assistance and a more substantial sympathy than they have yet vouchsafed to it? Said Mr. Tyndall in the last of those lectures on Light, which he delivered in this country in the winter of 1872-3: "When the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, and when Penn made his treaty with the Indians, the new comers had to build their houses, to chasten the earth into cultivation, and to take care of other and more pressing interests. In such a community, science, in its more abstract forms, was not to be thought of. And at the present hour, when your hardy Western pioneers stand face to face with stubborn Nature, piercing the mountains and subduing the forest and the prairie, the pursuit of science for its own sake is not to be expected. The first need of man is food and shelter; but a vast portion of this continent is already raised far beyond this need. The gentlemen of New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore and Washington, have already built their houses, and very beautiful they are; they have also secured their dinners, to the excellence of which I can bear testimony. They have, in fact, reached that precise condition of well-being and independence when a culture, as high as humanity has yet reached, may justly be demanded at their hands. They have reached that maturity, as possessors of wealth and leisure, when the investigator of natural truth, for the truth's own sake, ought to find among them promoters and protectors."
Mr. Tyndall's words, I think you will own, ladies and gentlemen, [25/26] are not less true nor less pertinent to-day than when he spoke them nearly ten years ago. We have no kings in America, but we have those merchant princes in whose power it is to do for science among us what crowned heads have done in other ages and in other lands. It was Peter the Great who showed himself well-named in founding the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh. It was Frederick the Great who instituted the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin, with Leibnitz at its head, thus making Berlin the intellectual focus of modern scientific thought. The most enduring lustre of the reign of Louis the XIV, and the greatest distinction of Richelieu, is that under their auspices was founded the French Academy, and one of our own scientific teachers suggests that perhaps the only good thing that Charles the II ever did was his institution of the Royal Academy.

Mr. Tyndall thinks that because science in America lacks this imperial patronage, it is doubtful whether original research can ever greatly flourish among us. But if we have no grand monarchs we have our merchant princes, and it remains for them to say whether one of the noblest opportunities for princely deeds does not in this direction invite them. We have had splendid benefactions to Religion, to Philanthropy, to Letters, in New York. We have Hospitals and Libraries, and Churches upon which wealth and thought have been abundantly lavished. We have, too, here and there, some scanty provision for the disciples of science. But, too often, our scientific men are constrained to abandon the pursuit of scientific investigation for its own sake, for the purpose of such practical applications of it as shall enable them to live at all and others to live more comfortably and luxuriously. Undoubtedly we want the applier of scientific truth even as we want the teacher of it, but behind [26/27] and above them both we want the original investigator, whose vocation it is to pursue his enquiries and extend the field of discovery for the truth's own sake, and without reference to practical ends.

Shall we not have him, and shall not he, in turn, have our confidence and sympathy and support? Let us thoroughly understand that every highest interest and every most sacred truth has nothing to fear and everything to hope from scientific investigation. The history of theological controversies with men of science would lead us to imagine sometimes that modern science exists only to pull down and destroy the ancient tabernacles of religious faith. But the closer we come, not to the guesses, but to the facts of science, the more clearly we perceive that this seeming iconoclasm is only a new revelation of the eternal truth. If the last theory of creation be true, it is the revelation of a prearranging Intelligence more marvellous and more adorable than any that had preceded it. And thus the language of the poet, as he sings of another progress and revolution becomes no less true in the domain, not of art but of science and religion:

"Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes
O'erhung with dainty locks of gold;
'Why smite?' he asked in sad surprise
'The fair, the old?'

Yet louder rang the strong one's stroke,
Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam;
Shuddering and sick at heart I woke
As from a dream.

I looked; aside the dust-cloud rolled;
The waster seemed the builder too,
Upspringing from the ruined old
I saw the New.
[28] Twas but the ruin of the bad,--
The wasting of the wrong and ill;
Whate'er of good the old time had
Was living still."

In this spirit, ladies and gentlemen, let us hail and help forward the efforts of science, to-day. If it shall attempt to pervert the Book of Nature, we may be sure that, sooner or later, He who is the Author of that Book will bring its endeavors to merited confusion. But if, whether in a spirit more or less consciously devout, it is in honest and fearless and resolute pursuit of the truth, we may rejoice in its enthusiasm, and gladly welcome its discoveries. And, once more I ask you, shall we do no more? If the men of science represent the more thoughtful element in the community, we who are here to-night represent the more active element. And in this cause, as in any other, these two classes must move forward, side by side and shoulder to shoulder. When they do, believe me the result will be alike worthy of our powers and our opportunities. And therefore let me leave the subject with those stirring words of Charles Mackay's:

"Men of thought, be up and stirring,
Night and day;
Sow the seed--withdraw the curtain--
Clear the way!
Men of action, aid and cheer them
As ye may
There's a fount about to stream,
There's a light about to beam,
There's a warmth about to glow,
There's a flower about to blow;
There's a midnight blackness changing
Into gray;
Men of thought and men of action
Clear the way!
[29] "Once the welcome light has broken,
Who shall say
What the unimagined glories of the day?
What the evil that shall perish
In its ray?
Aid the dawning, tongue and pen,
Aid it, hopes of honest men:
Aid it, paper--aid it, type--
Aid it, for the hour is ripe,
And our earnest must not slacken
Into play,--
Men of thought and men of action,
Clear the way!"

Project Canterbury