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PHYSICS, CHEMISTRY, PHYSIOLOGY, GERMAN. H. W. ACKLAND, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, and teacher of Anatomy and Physiology in Christ Church College, said:
We are living in a period of transition with reference to the educational question; and if I look back to the time when I became Reader in Anatomy at Oxford, which was in the year 1845, I should say that it was a very rare thing for any person to come with his mind previously directed to scientific pursuit. In the seventeen years which have elapsed, that state of things has somewhat changed. We find that boys come to the University from several schools quite able to appreciate the opportunities of scientific study which they have now in Oxford ; and I can see that the younger men who have left the universities with enlarged tastes in these directions, who are not destined to follow scientific pursuits, are beginning to carry away with them into the country, into different situations to which they may go, and, among others, to private schools, scientific knowledge, sometimes of a very precise kind; and so in that way necessarily these tastes will be gradually disseminated, and react on the universities.
About fifteen or sixteen years ago, Professor Jewett and Dr. Stanley, who were then young tutors, and engaged in some extensive inquiries with regard to the promotion of a wider sphere of education in Oxford, asked my opinion what scientific studies should be introduced. The opinion which I gave them after much reflection was this, that there were three fundamental subjects, which unquestionably ought to be required before young men were allowed to pursue any other; and that they might not take honours or pass except they showed proficiency in these three. These were, Physics, so-called, Chemistry, and Physiology, to use the word physiology in a very general sense. These three subjects were so fundamental to all other organic sciences, and so necessary to the study of most branches of scientific knowledge, that all pass man ought to be required to pass in those subjects, before they were allowed to take other more detailed ones, such as geology, mineralogy, or zoology, or many other “ologies,” which might be mentioned. Accordingly, wisely or unwisely, that became the law at. Oxford, and at Oxford now no person can pass in a scientific subject, except he. passes in two at least of these which we held to be educationally fundamental.
Just as I said fifteen years ago, Physiology, Physics, and Chemistry should be the fundamental subjects at the universities, so I think that those who come to the universities, if they really are to progress, and if their education is to be carried on systematically, had much better come trained, as far as boys should be trained in such subjects at all, in Physics, in Chemistry, or in both, before they come to the university, and then they would either carry on those subjects to a higher pitch at the university where the greatest opportunities ought to be found, or they might pass on to the biological or other sciences as they pleased.
I may add, generally, that I should value all knowledge of these physical sciences very little indeed unless it was otherwise than bookwork. If it is merely a question of getting up certain books, and being able to answer certain book questions, that is merely an exercise of the memory of a very useless kind. The great object, though not the sole object of this training, should be to get the boys to observe and understand the action of matter in some department or another; and although I am perfectly aware that what is called practical knowledge, if merely manipulatory, in any subject whatever, is a humble thing enough; yet, on the other hand, I must say that the utmost amount of knowledge on these subjects without that practical and experimental knowledge is to most persons nearly as useless. You want the combination of the two; and for youths, I value
very little the mere acquisition of a quantity of book facts on these subjects. I want them to see and know the things, and in that way they will evoke many qualities of the mind which the study of these subjects is intended to develop, and which are not evoked by the study of the classics ; but I am not at all prepared to say that those same qualities or any similar qualities may not be evoked by othermeans, although not by the classics. I mean to put this reservation in stating my opinion, that I cannot think that the study of the physical sciences is, as I sometimes hear it stated, absolutely necessary for everybody. There may be good men, as good as anybody else, without it. It is perhaps unnecessary to make that reservation, but I am in the habit of hearing the subject spoken of sometimes as though a man must be an inferior man because he is unacquainted with any branch of physical science. I do not hold that at all, because observation, practical habits, manual dexterity, and many such things are acquired in a high degree by persons who have no scientific knowledge.
I thought it so necessary to the general national education, that the power of studying Physiology in its highest departments, and in the best possible manner, should exist in Oxford, that I labored with other persons to enable the University to possess the means of that study, which it had not to a similar extent before, and which should be pursued with the greatest advantage at the universities; but the study of precise Physics, and a knowledge of Chemistry are becoming more necessary to understand Physiological works, so that the older Physiologists, unless they are able to bring up their knowledge of these subjects to the present level, will be left entirely behind. Therefore, it would further the cause of education if they were first learnt at schools, so that those who came up to the universities should have the opportunity of studying Physiology as an advanced subject if they came up with the necessary preliminary knowledge.
I must say as a physician, that being my main business now, that I really view with alarm the way in which boys are pressed at school. I must ask youn forgiveness for introducing an extraneous subject, but I say truly that I view with alarm the pressure which is put on good boys. I am afraid it remains to be seen fifty years hence what the effect of this system on the physique of the country will be. Children are surrounded by every means of cramming things into their brains, and a number of us are seeing how we can force in something more in their very earliest years. I confess I think this a matter of much anxiety.
I feel confident that a great deal of the learning by heart is useless; the physical sciences exercises the memory in a higher degree than anything else; at least anytling with which I am acquainted. If you go over a book of human descriptive anatomy, the quantity of facts which have to be mastered are astonishing. I do not believe that boys' tastes are refined or their higher intellectual qualities called out by learning to gallop over so many lines of Virgil or Homer. It is an effort of memory, and has no corresponding effect on the character; I believe by the other study they would acquire a certain quantity of useful knowledge, and the faculties of attention and memory are quite as much exercised. They are taught to think; which no amount of learning by heart can teach.
It is a great advantage to a scientific man now-a-days to know German, and a great disadvantage not to know it. I know it imperfectly, so I know the disadvantage. I think that the possession of an additional language in early life is so invaluable to a youth, that I would take the chance of his obtaining his science at a later period, when he would have the further aid of German in acquiring it.
PHYSICS AS A MEANS IN MENTAL DEVELOPMENT.
PROFESSOR Joux TYNDALL, in a Lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, on the study of Physics, remarks
The term Physics, as made use of in the present Lecture, refers to that portion of natural science which lies midway between astronomy and chemistry. The former, indeed, is Physics applied to masses of enormous weight, while the latter is Physics applied to atoms and molecules. The subjects of Physics proper are, therefore, those which lie nearest to human perception :-the light and heat of the sun, color, sound, motion, the loadstone, electrical attractions and repul. sions, thunder and lightning, rain, snow, dew, and so forth. The senses of Man stand between these phenomena, between the external world, and the world of thought. He takes his facts from Nature and transfers them to the domain of mind: he looks at them, compares them, observes their mutual relations and connexions, and thus brings them clearer and clearer before his mental eye, until, finally, by a kind of inspiration, he alights upon the cause which unites them. This is the last act of the mind, in this centripetal direction, in its progress from the multiplicity of facts to the central cause on which they depend. But, having guessed the cause, he is not yet contented : he now sets out from his centre and travels in the other direction : he sees that if his guess be true, certain consequences must follow from it, and he appeals to the law and testimony of experiment whether the thing is so. Thus he completes the circuit of thought,-from without inward, from multiplicity to unity, and from within outward, from unity to multiplicity. He traverses the line between cause and effect both ways, and, in so doing, calls all his reasoning powers into play. The mental effort involved in these processes may be justly compared to those exercises of the body which invoke the co-operation of every muscle, and thus confer upon the whole frame the benefits of healthy action.
A few days ago, a Master of Arts, who is still a young man, and therefore the recipient of a modern education, stated to me that for the first twenty years of his life he had been taught nothing regarding Light, Heat, Magnetism, or Electricity: twelve of these years had been spent among the ancients, all connexion being thus severed between him and natural phenomena. Now, we cannot, without prejudice to humanity, separate the present from the past. The nineteenth century strikes its roots into the centuries gone by, and draws nutriment from them. The world cannot afford to lose the record of any great deed or utterance; for such deeds and such utterances are prolific throughout all time. We cannot yield the companionship of our loftier brothers of antiquity,of our Socrates and Cato,-whose lives provoke us to sympathetic greatness across the interval of two thousand years. As long as the ancient languages are the means of access to the ancient mind, they must ever be of priceless value to humanity; but it is as the avenues of ancient thought, and not as the instruments of modern culture, that they are chiefly valuable to Man. Surely these avenues might be kept open without demanding such sacrifices as that above referred to. We have conquered and possessed ourselves of continents of land, concerning which antiquity knew nothing; and if new continents of thought reveal themselves to the exploring human spirit, shall we not possess them also ? In these latter days, the study of Physics has given us glimpses of the methods of Nature which were quite hidden from the ancients, and it would be treason to the trust committed to us, if we were to sacrifice the hopes and aspirations of the Present out of deference to the Past.
The study of Physics, as already intimated, consists of two processes, which are complementary to each other—the tracing of facts to their causes, and the logical advance from the cause to the fact. In the former process, called induction, certain moral qualities come into play. It requires patient industry, and an humble and conscientious acceptance of what Nature reveals. The first candition of success is an honest receptivity and a willingness to abandon all preconceived notions, however cherished, if they be found to contradict the truth.
The second process in physical investigation is deduction, or the advance of the mind from fixed principles to the conclusions which flow from them. The rules of logic are the formal statement of this process, which, however, was practised
by every healthy mind before ever such rules were written. In the study of Physics, induction and deduction are perpetually married to each other. The man observes,-he strips facts of their peculiarities of form, and tries to unite them by their essences; having effected this, he at once deduces, and thus checks his induction. Here the grand difference between the methods at present fol. lowe, and those of the ancients, becomes manifest. They were one-sided in these matters : they omitted the process of induction, and substituted conjecture for observation. They do not seem to have possessed sufficient patience to watch the slow processes of Nature, and to make themselves acquainted with the conditions under which she operates. Ignorant of these conditions, they could never penetrate her secrets nor master her laws. This mastery not only enables us to turn her forces against cach other, so as to protect ourselves from their hostile action, but makes them our slaves. By the study of Physics we have opened to us treasuries of power of which antiquity never dreamed: we lord it over Matter, but in so doing we have become better acquainted with the laws of Mind; for to the mental philosopher material Nature furnishes a screen against which the human spirit projects its own image, and thus becomes capable of self inspection.
Thus, then, as a means of intellectual culture, the study of Physics exercises and sharpens observation : it brings the most exhaustive logic into play: it compares, abstracts, and generalizes, and provides a mental imagery admirably suited to these processes. The strictest precision of thought is everywhere enforced, and prudence, foresight, and sagacity are demanded. By its appeals to experiment, it continually checks itself, and builds upon a sure foundation.
Thus far we have regarded the study of Physics as an agent of intellectual culture; but like other things in Nature, it subserves more than a single end. The colors of the clouds delight the eye, and, no doubt, accomplish moral purposes also; but the self-same clouds hold within their fleeces the moisture by which our fields are rendered fruitful. The sunbeams excite our interest and invite our investigation ; but they also extend their beneficent influences 10 our fruits and corn, and thus accomplish, not only intellectual ends, but minister, at the same time, to our matcrial necessities. And so it is with scientific research. While the love of science is a sufficient incentive to the pursuit of science, and the investigator, in the prosecution of his inquiries, is raised above all material considerations, the results of his labors may exercise a potent influence upon the physical condition of Man.
As an instrument of intellectual culture, the study of Physics is profitable to all: as bearing upon special functions, its value, though not so great, is still more tangible. Why, for example, should Members of Parliament be ignorant of the subjects concerning which they are called upon to legislate? In this land of practical physics, why should they be unable to form an independent opinion upon a physical question? Why should the senator be left at the mercy of interested disputants when a scientific question is discussed, until he deems the nap a blessing which rescues him from the bewilderments of the committee-room? The education which does not supply the want here referred to, fails in its duty to England. With regard to our working people, in the ordinary sense of the term working, the study of Physics would, I imagine, be profitable, not only as a means of mental culture, but also as a moral influence to woo these people from pursuits which now degrade them.
The world was built in order: it is the visual record of its Maker's logic, and to us have been trusted the will and power to grapple with the mighty argument. Descending for a moment from this high ground to considerations which lie closer to us as a nation—as a land of gas and furnaces, of steam and electricity : as a land which science, practically applied, has made great in peace and mighty in war :- I ask you whether this " land of old and just renown, not a right to expect from her institutions a culture which shall embrace something more than declension and conjugation? They can place physical science upon its proper basis; they can check the habit, now too common, of regarding science solely as an instrument of material prosperity; they can dwell with effect upon its nobler use, and raise the national mind to the contemplation of it as the last development of that “increasing purpose" which runs through the ages and widens the thoughts of men.
J. M. WILSON ON TEACHING NATURAL SCIENCE.
Prof. Wilson, Assistant Master in Mathematics and Natural Science in Rugby School, who has been eminently successful in introducing Natural Science into this great public school, has published an admirable Essay (McMillan's Liberal Studies) on teaching this subject in schools.
FAILURE OF THE LATIN AND GREEK DISCIPLINE.
The astonishing ignorance of Latin and Greek, or at least of all the finer part of this knowledge on which so much stress is laid; and the ignorance which is less surprising, if not less lamentable-of everything else, with which so many boys leave most schools, has been dwelt on again and again. Is it remediable or is it not? Is it due to the carelessness and inability of masters ; to the inherent unsuitability of the subjects taught; to neglected early education and bad preparatory schools; or to the illiterate tone of the society in which boys are brought up; to excessive novel reading and devotion to games; or to the great fact that the majority of the species are incapable of learning much? Partly perhaps to them all; certainly to an ill-advised course of study. For at present, literature, or the studies which are subordinate to it, has almost a monopoly: and on language the great majority of boys fail in getting much hold. The cxclusive study of language at schools weakens the fibre of those who have genius for it, fails to educate to the best advantage the mass who have fairly good sense but no genius for anything, but obscures and depresses the few who have special abilities in other lines; and it precludes the possibility of learning much besides. So that even at a school where classics are well taught, where the masters are able and skillful, and the boys industrious, not very much is learnt. It was said of a Scotchman who enjoyed a cheap reputation for hospitality, “that he kept an excellent table, but put verra leetle upon it.” This epitomizes the report of the Publics School Commission : the schools are excellent, but they teach“ leetle." And this is the less excusable because the experience of the best foreign schools is showing the advantage of introducing greater variety into the course of study. A wider net is cast; fewer minds repose in unstirred apathy; more varied abilities are recognized; there is less over-estimation of special branches of knowledge; and, what is more important, the variety is itself a stimulus.
DIGNITY AND GRANDEUR OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE.
We count a man educated in proportion to the exactness, width, and nobleness of his ideas. What is needed to elevate a man's intellectual nature is not that he should be an encyclopædia, but that he should have great ideas. And these must be based on knowledge. They do not, indeed, always accompany knowledge. Great ideas may be got by rious studies, and all studies may be pursued by men who fail to gain great ideas. I know men with a wide and microscopic knowledge of history who know nothing of the love of freedom, of national justice, of the progress of the world, of the power of genius and will ;-men who are theologians by profession, whose thoughts still revolve in the narrowest circle of earthly prejudices ;-scholars indifferent alike to literature and learn