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political sciences. This has not been done from undervaluing their importance and denying their sacred right to the special attention of mankind, but from a desire to deal with those subjects only which can be redaced to positive proof, and do not rest on opinion or faith. The subjects of the moral and political sciences involve not only opinions but feelings; and their discussion frequently rouses passions. For feelings are “subjective," as the German metaphysician has it-they are inseparable from the individual being-an attack upon them is felt as one upon the persou itself; whilst facts are “objective,” and belong to everybody--they remain the same facts at all times and under all circumstances : they can be proved; they have to be proved; and when proved, are finally settled. It is with facts only that the Association deals. There may, for a time, exist differences of opinion on these also, but the process of removing them and resolving them into agreement is a different one from that in the moral and political sciences. These are generally approached by the deductive process; but if the reasoning be ever so acute and logically correct, and the point of departure, which may be arbitrarily selected, is disputed, no agreement is possible; whilst we procee:1 here by the inductive process, taking nothing on trust, nothing for granted, but reasoning upwards from the meane-t fict established, and making every step sure before going one beyond it, like the engineer in his approaches to a fortress. We thus gain ultimately a roadway,- ,-a ladder by which even a child may, almost without knowing it, ascend to the sumınit of truth, and obtain that immensely wide and extensive view which is spread below the feet of the astonished be. holder. This road has been shown us by the great Bacon; and who can coutem plate the prospects which it opens, without almost falling into a trance similar to that in which he allowed his imagination to wander over future ages of discovery!
From amongst the political sciences it has been attempted in modern times to detach one which admits of being severed from individual political opinions, and of being reduced to abstract laws derived from well-authenticated facts. I mean political economy, based on general statistics. A new Association has recently been formed, imitating our perambulating habits, and striving to comprehend in its investigations and discussions even a still more extended range of subjects, in what is called "sucial science.” These efforts deserve our warmest approbation and good will. May they succeed in obtaining a purely and strictly scientific character! Our own Association has, since its meeting in Dublin, recognized the growing claims of political economy to scientific brotherhood, and admitted it into its statistical section. It could not have done so under abler guidance and happier auspices than the Presidency of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Whately, whose efforts in this direction are so universally appreciated. But even in this section, and whilst statistics alone were treated in it, the Association, as far back as 1833, made i; a rule that, in order to ensure positive results, only those classes of facts should be admitted which were capable of being expressed by numbers, and which proinised, when sufficiently multiplied, to indicate general laws.
If, then, the main object of science and I beg to be understood, henceforth, as speaking only of that section which the Association has under its special care viz., inductive science-if I say, the object of science is the discovery of the laws which govern natural phenomena, the primary cundition for its success is :- Ac. curate observation and collection of facts in such comprehensiveness and com.
pleteness as to furnish the philosopher with the necessary material from which to draw safe conclusions.
Science is not of yesterday. We stand on the shoulders of past ages, and the amount of observations made, and facts ascertained, has been transmitted to us, and carefully preserved in the various storehouses of science; other crops have been reaped, but still lie scattered on the field; many a rich harvest is ripe for cutting, but waits for the reaper. Economy of labour is the essence of good husbandry, and no less so in the field of science. Our Association has felt the importance of this truth, and may well claim, as one of its principal merits, the constant endeavour to secure that economy. One of the latest undertakings of the Association has been, in conjunction with the Royal Society, to attempt the compilation of a classified catalogue of scientific memoirs, which, by combining under one head the titles of all memoirs written on a certain subject, will, when completed, enable the student who wishes to gain information on that subject to do so with the greatest ease. It gives him, as it were, the plan of the house, and the key to the different apartments in which the treasures relating to his subject are stored, saving him at once a painful and laborious search, and affording him at the same time an assurance that what is here offered contains the whole of the treasures yet acquired.
While this has been one of the latest attempts, the Association has from its very begioning kept in view that its main sphere of usefulness lay in that concentrated attention to all scientific operations which a general gives to the movements of his army, watching and regulating the progress of his impetuous soldiers in the different directions to which their ardour may have led them, carefully Doting the gaps which may arise from their independent and eccentric action, and attentively observing what impediments may have stopped, or may threaten to stop, the progress of certain columns. Thus it attempts to fix an:l record the position and progress of the different labours, by its reports on the state of sciences published andually in its transactions ;-thus it directs the attention of the la. bourers to those gaps which require to be filled up, if the progress is to be a safe and steady one —thus it comes forward with a helping hand, in striving to remove those impediments which the unaided efforts of the individual labourer have been or may be unable to overcome.
Let us follow the activity of the Association in these three different directions. Thc Reports on the state of Science originate in the conviction of the necessity for fixing, at given intervals, with accuracy and completeness, the position at which it has arrived. For this object, the General Committee of the Association entrusts to distinguished individuals in the different branches of science the charge of becoming, as it were, the biographers of the period. There are special points in different sciences in which it sometimes appears desirable to the different sections to have special reports elaborated; in such cases the General Committee, in its capacity of the representative assembly of all the sciences, reserves to itself the right of judging what may be of sufficient importance to be thus recorded
The special subject, which the Association points out for investigation, in order to supply the gaps which it may have observed, are---either such as the philosopber alone can successfully investigate, because they require the close attention of a practised observer, and a thorough knowledge of ihe particular subject; or
they are such as require the greatest possible number of facts to be obtained. Here science often stands in need of the assistance of the general public, and gratefully accepts any contribution offered, provided the facts be accurately observed. In either case the Association points out what is to observed, and how it is to be observed. The first is the result of the same careful sifting process which the Association employs in directing the issue of special reports. The investigations are entrusted to specially-appointed committees or selected individuals. They are in most cases not unattended with considerable expense, and the Association, not content with merely suggesting and directing, furnishes by special grants the pecuniary means for defraying the outlay caused by the nature and the extent of the inquiry. If we consider that the income of the Association is solely derived from the contributions of its members, the fact that no less a sum than £17,000 has, since its commencement, been thus granted for scientific purposes, is certainly most gratifying. The question how to observe, resolves itself into two that of the scientific method which is to be employed in approaching a problem or making an observation, and that of the philosophical instruments used in the observation or experiment. The Association brings to bear the combined knowledge and ex. perience of the scientific men not only of this but other countries, on the discovery of that method which, while it economises time and labour, promises the most accurate results. The method to which, after careful examination, the palm has been awarded, is then placed at the free disposal and use of all scientific investigators. The Association also issues, where practicable, printed forms, merely requiring the different heads to be filled up, which, by their uniformity, become an important means for assisting the subsequent reduction of the observations for the abstraction of the laws which they may indicate. At the same time most searching tests and inquiries are constar.tly carried on in the Observatory at Kew, given to the Association by Her Majesty, the object of which is practically to test the relative value of different methods and instruments, and to guide the constantly progressive improvements in the construction of the latter. The es. tablishment at Kew has undertaken the further important service of verifying and correcting to a fixed standard the instruments of any maker, to enable observations made with them to be reduced to the same numerical expression. I need bardly remind the inhabitants of Aberdeen that the Association, in one of the first years of its existence, undertook the comparative measurement of the Aberdeen standard scale with that of Greenwich—a research ably carried out by the late Mr. Baily.
The impediments to the general progress of science, the removal of which I have indicated as one of the tasks which the Association has set for itself, are of various kinds. If they were only such as direction, advice, and encouragement would enable the individual, or even combined efforts of philosophers, to overcome, the exertions of the Association which I have just alluded to might be sufficient for the purpose. But they are often such as can only be successfully dealt with by the powerful arm of the State, or the long purse of the nation. These impediments may be caused either by the social condition of the country itself, by restrictions arising out of peculiar laws, by the political separation of different countries, or by the magoitude of the undertakings being out of all proportion to the means and power of single individuals of the Association, or eveu the volun
tary efforts of the public. In these cases the Association, together with its sister Society, "the Royal Society,” becomes the spokesman of Science with the Crown, the Government, or Parliament-sometimes, even, through the Home Government, with Foreign Governments. Thus it obtained the establishment, by the British Government, of magnetic and meteorological observatories in six different parts of the globe, the beginning of a network of stations wbich we must hope will be so far extended as to compass, by their geographical distribution, the whole of the phenomena which throw light on this important point in our tellurian and even cosmical existence. The Institute of France, at the recommendation of M. Arago, whose loss the scientific world must long deplore, cheerfully co-operated with our Council on this occasion. It was our Association which, in conjunction with the Royal Society, suggested the Antarctic Expedition, with a view to further the discovery of the laws of terrestrial magnetism, and thus led to the discovery of the southern polar continent. It urged on the Admiralty the prosecution of the tidal observations, which that Department has since fully carried out. It recommended the establishment, in the British Museum, of the conchological collection, exhibiting present and extinct species, which has now become an object of the greatest interest.
I will not weary you by further examples, with which most of you are better acquainted than I am myself, but merely express my satisfaction that there should exist bodies of men who will bring the well-considered and understood wants of science before the public and the Government, who will even hand round the begging-box, and expose themselves to refusals and rebuffs to which all beggars are liable, with the certainty besides, of being considered great bores. Please to recollect that this species of bore is a most useful animal, well adapted for the ends for which nature intended him. He alone, by constantly returning to the charge, and repeating the same truths and the same requests, succeeds in awakening attention to the cause which he advocates, and obtains that hearing which is granted him at last for self-protection, as the minor evil compared to his importunity, but which is requisite to make his cause understood. This is more par. ticularly the case in a free, active, enterprising, and self-determining people like ours, where every interest works for itself, considers itself the all-important one, and makes its way in the world by its own efforts. Is it, then, to be wondered at, that the interests of science, abstract as science appears, and not immediately showing a return in pounds, shillings, and pence, should be postponed, at least, to others which promise immediate tangible results? Is it to be wondered at, that even our public men require an effort to wean themselves from other sub. jects, in order to give their attention to science and men of science, when it remembered that science, with the exception of mathematics, was, until of late, almost systematically excluded from our school and university education ;-that the traditions of early life are those which make and leave the strongest impression on the human mind, and that the subjects with which we become acquainted, and to which our energies are devoted in youth, are those for which we retain the liveliest interest in after years, and that for these reasons the effort required must be both a mental and a moral one? A deep debt of gratitude is therefore due to bodies like this Association, which not only urges the wants of science on the
Government, but furnishes it at once with well-matured plans how to supply them with the greatest certainty and to the greatest public advantage.
We may be justified in hoping, however, that by the gradual diffusion of science, and its increasing recognition as a principal part of our national education, the public in general, no less than the Legislature and the State, will more and more recognise the claims of science to their attention; so that it may no longer require the begging box, but speak to the State, like a favoured child to its parent, sure of his parental solicitude for its welfare ; that the State will recognise in science one of its elements of strength and prosperity, to foster which the clearest dictates of self-interest demand.
If the activity of this Association, such as I have endeavoured to describe it, ever found or could fiud its personification in one individual—its incarnation, as it were-this had been found in that distinguished and revered philosopher who has been removed from amongst us, in his ninetieth year, within these last few months. Alexander von Humboldt incessantly strove after dominion over that universality of human knowledge which stands in need of thoughtful government and direction to preserve its integrity; he strove to tie up the fasces of scientific knowledge, to give them strength in unity. He treated all scientific men as members of one family, enthusiastically directing, fostering, and encouraging inquiry, where he saw either the want of, or the willingness for, it. His protection of the young and ardent student led many to success in their pursuit. His personal influence with the Courts and Governments of most countries in Europe, enabled him to plead the cause of science in a manner which made it more difficult for them to refuse than to grant what he requested. All lovers of science deeply mourn for the loss of such a man. Gentlemen, it is a singular coincidence, that this very day on which we are here assembled, and are thus giving expression to our admiration of him, should be the anniversary of his birth.
To return to ourselves, however. One part of the functions of the Association can receive no personal representation--no incarnation. I mean, the very fact of meetings like that which we are at present inaugurating. This is not the thought. ful direction of one mind over acquired knowledge, but the production of new thought by the contact of many minds, as the spark is produced by the friction of flint and steel ; it is not the action of the monarchy or a paternal government, but the republican activity of the Roman Forum. These meetings draw forth the philosopher from the hidden recesses of his study, call in the wanderer over the field of science to meet his brethren, to lay before them the results of his labours, to set forth the deductions at which he bas arrived, to ask for their examination, to maintain in the combat of debate the truth of his position and the accuracy of his observations. These ineetings, unlike those of any other society, throw open the arena to the cultivators of all sciences. to their mutual advantage: the Geologist learns from the Chemist that there are problems for which he had no clue, but which that science can solve for him; the Geographer receives light from the Naturalist, the Astronomer from the Physicist and Engineer, and so on. And all find a field upon which to meet the public at large, invite them to listen to their reports, and even to take part in their discussions; show to them that philosophers are not vain theorists, but essentially men of practice-not conceited pedants, wrapped up in their own mysterious importance, but humble in.