SCIENTIFIC DEPARTMENT ENLARGED COURSE 1866.
GENERAL DEMAND FOR INCREASED ATTENTIOIN TO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OBSTACLES TO ANY MODIFICATION OF THE COLLEGE CURRICULUM RECENT AGITATION OPINIONS OF LEADING EDUCATORS ELECTIVE STUDIES INTRODUCTION INTO DICKINSON FIRST LABORATORY OBJECT OF THE COURSE AND PLACE OF SCIENTIFIC STUDIES METHODS OF INSTRUCTION TEXT-BOOK, LECTURES, PRACTICE BY THE STUDENT BRANCHES BEST ADAPTED TO PRACTICE CHARGES FOR USE OF LABORATORY PRACTICAL COURSES OPEN TO SELECTION LECTURES BY THE STUDENT DISCIPLINARY ADVANTAGES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC PRACTICE SCIENTIFIC PATIENCE.
AT the establishment of the College, in 1783, as has already been noticed, the physical sciences occupied, necessarily, a subordinate place, but the rapid increase in the body of scientific facts, the expanding generalizations, above all, the wonderful and varied, applications that came in contact, more or less, with every member of society, together with the grave questions that at some points were thrusting themselves into prominence, all contributed to excite a more general interest in these branches of human knowledge. About the close of the first quarter of this century these influences culminated in an animated discussion of the relation of the colleges to these branches. As the college curriculum seemed fully pre-occupied, the suggestion of new studies was equivalent to that of
crowding others out, or into narrower limits, or of lengthenng the time. The latter was not practicable, and as the ancient languages formed so large a part of the course, their curtailment seemed the most feasible plan, the suggestion of which formed, of course: a casus belli against the sciences on the part of the advocates of the ancient languages. Against any change were arrayed an established routine, the part the branches assailed had unquestionably played as an educational means through a long past, the sentimental attachment of the body of educated men to the course they had pursued, and the fact that the education it gave was, as Herbert Spencer would term it, the fashionable education of the day, the education of the leading gentlemen of the period. On the other hand, the demands of the advocates of change were vague and uncertain, perhaps extravagant, their plans crude, and there was a well-founded fear as to the extent and radical character the innovations might assume. But in addition to all these adverse influences, the advocates of science confounded to too great a degree useful information and education. It is not surprising , therefore, that some plans of collegiate education, hastily adopted, were soon abandoned, and that the questions at issue seemed experimentally settled, nor more so, that at the revival of the discussion, at a more recent period, this fact should have been used as an argument. Although no permanent direct effect in favor of larger scientific education seemed to result from the agitation that occupied the collegiate world for a number of years, it undoubtedly indirectly stimulated these departments in the colleges into greater activity, and imparted to them greater importance. It was about this time that Dr . Durbin assumed the administration of the college, under the Methodist Episcopal Church, and his thorough comprehension of the educational needs and demands of the day doubtless led him to make the unusuallyample provision for scientific
instruction, already alluded to, in spite of the financial feebleness of the institution.
But the continued advance of science, and its almost startling applications rapidly succeeding each other, were not calculated to allow the question to remain as res adjudicata. After a comparative quiet of about a quarter of a century the whole subject seemed to open up anew. The questions assumed substantially the form: How far can a liberally educated man afford to be ignorant of the facts and laws of the material universe around him? How far is their study disciplinary? How far is it possible to recognize tastes, tendencies, and future pursuits in life without sacrificing any essential element of a liberal education? An exceedingly able and exhaustive report of a Parliamentary Commission of investigation of some of the leading Great Schools of England, including Eton College, created quite a sensation, even outside of that country. It embodied the opinions of leading educators and scientists of Great Britain, and presented the unexpected fact, that whilst the studies were almost exclusively classical, the attainments, were of a disgracefully low order. One of its conclusions was, that "the best form of discipline may not be the same in the nineteenth century as it was in the sixteenth, and the information which will be serviceable in life is sure to be very different."
The criticisms called forth by the ridiculous results, upon the manner of teaching the classics were perhaps the most valuable contribution made by this investigation to educational science, and although they were not applicable to nearly the same extent to American schools, yet here, as there, they opened up the consideration of the mode of teaching the ancient languages in a course of liberal education. The question became, not so much, whether these languages should be abridged to make room for scientific studies, as, whether they could not be so taught as to leave room for the latter. With a thorough ap-
preciation of the study of physical science as a disciplinary agent, John Stuart Mill preferred that the reformers should point their attacks against the "shameful inefficiency of the schools that pretended to teach Latin and Greek," with their "wretched methods of teaching," and with the assurance that sufficient time would be found for everything else. In this connection, he suggested as one instance of reform the merely optional study of metrical rules, as concerning simply the technicalities of the poet's art, necessary for criticism, but unessential for the complete enjoyment of the poetry. According to Mr. Farrar, Greek and Latin, taught in a shorter time and more comprehensive manner, should form the basis of an education. So, too, Professor Bowen attributed the decline of interest in classical sturdy in part to the more mute attention paid to "the mysteries of Greek accentuation, and the metaphysics of the subjunctive mood." Another of the ablest and most accomplished advocates of the classics, Professor Porter , now President of Yale, asked whether the importance attached to grammatical analysis has not seriously interfered with more important benefits. After the Freshmen year he would let the lessons be very long, in comparatively easy authors, and the attention be paid to the import, and would expect the teacher to "foster an intellectual spirit and an aesthetic feeling for the peculiarities in thought and diction of the author." This plan of teaching, it is true, requires not only the conscientious and enthusiastic teacher, but also a full and experienced one. In these discussions, many of the leading advocates of scientific studies readily conceded the value of a certain amount and character of study of the ancient languages in a liberal education, whilst the ablest opponents of the so-called new education, recognized the claims of physical science to a fair share in any course of education. Extremists there were, who, with Herbert Spencer, held that the val ue of the study of the ancient
languages was almost purely conventional, or only quasi-intrinsic, and that there is no discipline given by them not derivable from the sciences, and that "it would be utterly contrary to the beautiful economy of nature if one kind of culture were needed for the gaining of information, and another kind were needed as a mental gymnastic." Others, notably Presiident White, of Cornell University, considered modern languages fully equivalent as a mental gymnastic to the ancient languages, an opinion decidedly at variance ,with that of John Stuart Mill, President Porter, and others.
Among the results of the agitation, a system of parallel elective courses of study was developed. At certain stages of the college course, a selection of studies to suit the wants or mental peculiarities of the student is permitted. The plan was not altogether new, but met with more general recognition than at any previous time, and has, to a greater or less extent, been adopted by all the leading American Colleges. In some, as in Harvard, it has been carried to such extremes, that a distinctive college course can not be recognized, whilst into others it has been slowly and grudgingly admitted, and to a comparatively limited extent, as at Yale. At Harvard, Latin and Greek are not required after the Freshman year, whilst at the younger Johns Hopkins University, only Latin is required for admission, and no Latin or Greek is required in the course for the Bachelor's degree.
Whilst a wide range of elective studies in an institution may present advantages to some, it requires most ample endowment and large, accumulated libraries, and educational appliances, to carry out, efficiently, such a plan, and even then a large number of students, not only to justify it, but to give it character. It is sometimes called a university plan, and whilst at Harvard it may be so termed with some degree of propriety, and that institution may be in transition to something more
than an overgrown college, the actual state of the case is, that there is, to some extent, university liberty of election, without the corresponding antecedent maturity and discipline requisite to judicious election. Within much narrower limits every decided advantage of elective studies may be obtained, and the course be adapted to the best interests of the student.
At the time of the change in the administration of the Scientific Department, rendered necessary by the death of Professor Wilson, in 1865, the modification of the College course had become a matter of very general consideration. At the first annual meeting of the Board of Trustees, after his death, in June, 1865, a committee of that body, of which Bishop Simpson was chairman, was appointed to take into consideration a recommendation in the report of President Johnson in regard to the establishment of an enlarged elective course in Biblical Science and Literature, and in Natural Science. The recommendation of this committee for the establishment of an enlarged course of studies, as soon as the funds of the College would allow, and the granting of discretionary power to the Faculty, "to substitute studies as equivalent in culture," was adopted by the Trustees. At the same time, the writer, then resident in Germany, pursuing scientific studies, was called to the chair of Natural Science. Immediately after the death of Professor Wilson, President Johnson had made a request, on behalf of himseif and the Faculty, to allow his name to be presented for the position, accompanied by the statement that his old instructor and friend, Professor Wilson, in speaking of his successor, had expressed a similar wish, and among the suggestions in reply was one, that the privilege of election of scientific studies, in lieu of Latin and Greek, in the Junior and Senior years, might add interest and efficiency to the College. With an incumbent in the chair so heartily in accord with the views of the administration of the College, it seemed but nat-
ural that the new plan should have a fair trial. The faculty determined that practical scientific studies might be substituted for the Greek of the Junior year, and for the Latin and Greek of the Senior year, and that the students so electing should be graduated with the usual degree of Bachelor of Arts. One afternoon of laboratory work was thus considered equivalent to two recitations per week in the ancient languages. The expansion of the course was thus purely elective. The required natural science remained as in the old curriculum, namely, three recitations and two lectures per week for the Junior and Senior classes, throughout the year, distributed among the branches usually incluled under that term.
In the absence of any appropriation for fitting up or equiping a laboratory for this course, the action of the Board was rather permissive than mandatory. A laboratory, to accommodate about a dozen students, was, however, fitted up on the ground floor of South College, not with all the modern appliances, to be sure, but simply adapted to a rudimentary course in analytical chemistry. The places were all filled at once. The inconveniences, deficiencies, and discomforts of the laboratory were cheerfully endured by these pioneers, and all efforts in their behalf were supplemented by earnest and enthusiastic work. The results of the year, as reported to the Trustees at their annual meeting in 1866, were such as induced them, after careful consideration, to formally adopt the plan upon which the department had been conducted during the year. A more suitable room on the main floor of South College was granted for laboratory purposes. The necessary funds were provided for, by a charge of twenty-five dollars per year upon each student pursuing the course, to cover all expenses for apparatus, chemicals, and so forth. At the same time, the desirability of better and more ample accommodations for the department was admitted. The course, since then, has been con-
ducted essentially on the same basis. The College was thus among the very earliest to inaugurate such a course. Whatever doubts may have existed then, as to its judiciousness, have vanished with its trial, and almost every college has ventured as far, and many further, in the same direction. A fair proportion of the graduates, since that date, are representatives of it, and their success in the various professions, as well as in purely scientific pursuits, does not indicate that the change was unwise or detrimental to intellectual discipline.
Unquestionably many friends of the college hoped by this change to meet more fully the wants of some of its patrons by imparting a more practical character to a part of the course, but an estimate of its usefulness, based for most part on such a view, would be far from correct. The modification was not one so much of amount of study as of improvement in the mode of instruction, and the estimation of its value is connected with the whole subject of scientific studies in a course of liberal education. The place these branches occupy in such a course, must be regulated by the same considerations that assign the place to any other branch of study, namely, the degree and kind of discipline effected, and the value of the knowledge imparted. The direct utility of much of the scientific knowledge imparted is so obvious as well as so great in comparison with that of many other branches, that its disciplinary value may be overlooked. The statement of John Stuart Mill, one of the most uncompromising advocates of discipline, as a chief end of education, and of the ancient languages as a means to it, that "a man totally ignorant of these things, be he ever so skilled in a special profession, is not an educated man, but an ignoramus" is perhaps not too strong, and coupled with the other statement, that "there is no intellectual discipline more important than that which the experimental sciences afford," exhibits the educational rank of these sciences.
The selection of the branches of Natural Science for the purpose of education, as well as the determination of the amount, must be controlled by the same considerations of the knowledge imparted, and of discipline effected. But the obliteration of sharp dividing lines in science has so continually attended its advance, that it is even more difficult to say what branches of it may be totally ignored, than to establish a minimum in any branch for a man who is to be designated as liberally educated. In fact, the branches are so interdependent, that to know one thoroughly, or even passably, something must be known of all. By something, is not meant a few isolated facts or vague impressions or a superficial knowledge, but a general knowledge as distinguished from minute knowledge, a knowledge of the leading facts and principles of the salient features of the science, but as far as it goes, a thorough knowledge. Such a knowledge will enable anyone to follow with intelligent interest the progress of science, and together with its accompanying training, would not be without direct value in professional life. The lawyer might more readily avail himself of the assistance of a scientific expert, the minister of the Gospel might acquire the additional influence of a fuller sympathy with all the pursuits of life, as well as be preserved from scientific inaccuracies in the pulpit. Against the latter, from which he is so singularly free himself, Bishop Simpson saw fit to caution young ministers in his Yale lectures.
But if, as is contendend, the discipline effected by the study of the ancient languages can be accomplished by no other studies, in a much higher degree is the discipline imparted by the study of the physical sciences peculiar to them. To say nothing of the cultivation of the faculty of observation, the distinction as drawn by Mill, that "as the classical literature furnishes the most perfect types of expression, so do the physical sciences those of the art of thinking," indicates a more
important educational function. All the practical judgments of life, upon which human actions are based, are the result of mental processes similar to those called into play in the investigation of nature, and the rational study of physical science. Science is applied inductive logic, and of course, in order to elicit all its educational value, it must be taught as science not as a mass facts, and more for the science at times than for the facts. President Porter, in assigning the place to physics in a college curriculum, clearly indicates the distinction between the two objects of its stud y : "to give power over nature, real power as we wield and apply her forces, and intellectual, as we interpret her secrets, predict her phenomena, enforce her laws, and recreate her universe."
But the real fruitfulness of the knowledge acquired, as well as the accompanying mental discipline, depends more upon the manner of its acquisition than upon its amount. It must not be mere cram that scarcely survives the day of examination. It may not, indeed, be altogether the most available for a formal examination. It must be organizable knowledge, so assimilated that it is always at command. The three methods of teaching Natural Science, by text-book and recitations, by lectures, accompanied by experimental illustrations, and by experiments and investigations performed by the student himself, are so different in character that they can hardly be compared as to efficiency, and they supplement each other so fully that they should, as far as possible, accompany each other. The text-book, when used by itself, yields the poorest return in most cases for the time and drudgery of both student and instructor, but in its proper connection its use imparts fullness and precision, and conduces to facility in reference. T he latter may be of the greatest value in after life, and in the investigation of any subject would be of far more value than a memory crammed with facts. Recitations upon the text-book
also afford the largest opportunity to the instructor for the correction of defective methods of study and carelessness in reading; for the best of students recite as they read; and misapprehension in reading is as common as ambiguity in expression. Whilst it requires but little time for the experienced teacher to ascertain to what extent a student may have mastered a subject, it is more tedious and difficult to obtain a careful, and clearly and properly expressed statement ot what is known, and that only by refusing to understand any other. This method possesses an additional advantage in fostering a familiarity, by frequent use, with the fittest words, not strictly technical, for scientific statements, an acquisition certainly as desirable, and worth as much effort as the accumulation of a Greek or Latin vocabulary, which can seldom be used without an air of pedantry.
But however excellent the text-book, the necessity for experimental lectures in connection with it has always been recognized for the vitalization of the facts there formulated in words. Not every fact, of course, need be objectively reproduced to be clearly comprehended, but by the selection of facts of a typical character for reproduction the comprehension of many may be aided. If the body of facts, therefore, taught by means of lectures alone would be meager, their arrangement may differ from the almost unavoidable encyclopaedic plan of the text-book, especially if it is to be regarded as a book of reference, and general principles can be more clearly taught, and the reasoning processes employed in scientific investigations can be more fully exhibited, and besides the discipline and encouragement in the use of the faculty of observation involved, they also serve best to point out the path to science and to indicate its domain.
consist in the increase of amount of text-book, or in number of lectures, but by the addition of the third method of experiment and investigation by the student. This method is to the lectures almost what the lectures are to the text-book. The student is no longer merely a passive recipient of truth, the lecturer telling him this and showing him that, but he is in the condition of an intelligent agent eliciting truth; he does not simply witness the lecturer questioning nature by experiment, and receive the replies at second hand, as interpreted by the lecturer, but with the instruments in his own hands, he addresses the questions himself, he is obliged to observe, distinguish, compare, and value facts; he begins to realize how much that is essential to the success of an experiment, or to successful investigation of nature, is necessarily left unsaid or unexposed by a lecturer, how multitudinous the essential conditions of even the humblest experiment frequently are, how the minutest and apparently most trifling one is just as essential to success as the most prominent, and withal how much of individual experience that can not be written, or expressed, or communicated in any way, must be mixed up with the most detailed directions that may be given. He will at once encounter two difficulties similar to those that one with but a smattering of the language at first encounters in a foreign land---a difficulty first in asking questions, and then, if he happens to be successful, an equally great, more annoying, and perhaps mortifying inability to understand the rapid reply in sounds unfamiliar to the ear. The student thus prosecuting scientific studies not only has the facts ground into his memory more inerasably , but, what is even better, he is brought to realize the difficulties that beset the investigation of nature, he comes to understand more fully the unexpressed uncertainties and inaccuracies, and the unavoidable errors that attach to statements
of scientific facts, as well as the misinterpretations of them that may be made.
There was no model upon which to adjust a course to the new requirements. A rudimentary course in chemical analysis presented itself as one most readily adapted to the case. The apparatus required is simple, inexpensive, and easily manipulated, whilst the reasoning involved is easily followed, and it is capable of variation to meet different cases. In the absence of a suitable American text-book at that time, the well-known Giessen tables, by Professor Will, were translated and published for the class, and in so far met a similar want that soon was felt in other institutions, that a second enlarged edition was called for. The general outline of chemical analysis furnished by them was supplemented by the fuller works on analytical chemistry placed in the laboratory for reference by the student. It was soon found that the course could be varied with advantage in many cases, after some of the awkwardness in manipulation and in reasoning from facts had disappeared, by the substitution of subjects in general chemistry and physics, which required a wider range of information, more complicated apparatus, and greater skill in manipulation. Such higher privileges accorded, to such as are prepared to enjoy them, are calculated not only to act as an incentive to application, but also to mitigate the somewhat Procrustean character of the treatment of students involved in the class system. Thus, whilst a minimum of study and proficiency is required of every student, there is no limit in the other direction but the natural ability, application and disposition of the student.
The course is not, however, made exclusively elective. Students in other courses, of superior ability and proficiency in their studies are allowed an opportunity to utilize a portion of their leisure time in laboratory practice as extra work, with a note of the fact in the catalogue, and the claim to a certificate
of it. With increased experience and increased facilities, new opportunities and new incentives for study are introduced. There is, of course, no expectation in this way to turn out Bachelors of Arts as chemists, &c. , but simply to make these branches of a liberal education as thorough as the times seem to demand, and to afford a good foundation, if desired, for subsequent scientific pursuits. Each student in the laboratory is provided with a desk, apparatus, chemicals, and the use of text-books, for an annual charge of twenty-five dollars. No additional charges are made, except in cases of gross carelessness or negligence. General books of reference and the leading scientific journals are also accessible to the students. Any student sufficiently proficient in the language is allowed to use text-books and books of reference in German. Exercises for practice are arranged in qualitative analysis, including the use of the blow-pipe, and the determination of the commoner minerals; in quantitative analysis of ores, volumetric and gravimetric; urinary analysis; toxicology and photographic chemistry, and also an experimental course in physics, by the student, including experiments in light, electricity, sound, heat, lantern projections, the use of the spectroscope, photometer, camera, &c. A Teacher's Course is also arranged for the benefit of those who may desire to give instruction in natural science, which embraces instruction in the use and care of apparatus employed for illustration in natural philosophy and chemistry, and the performance, by means of the simplest and least expensive apparatus, of the experiments adapted to the instruction of classes in those branches.As a part of the course in the second year the students are obliged to deliver experimental lectures before the classes, organized as a society, under its regulations, and also to make use of scientific periodicals, as is more fully explained in connection with the operations of the Scientific Society.
The course in photography includes the collodion process, wet and dry, silver and carbon printing, the emulsion process, the preparation of photographic chemicals, the recovery of photographic waste, &c. In all cases the production of results is subordinated to a thorough study of the principles involved. Perhaps no application of science is better adapted to discipline the eye, impart delicacy in manipulation, and impress the student more forcibly with the necessity for attention to the minutest details, whilst its almost numberless and rapidly increasing applications may render it of practical value outside of purely scientific applications or amateur practice at any time.
As to the general mode of instruction, the student upon his entrance into the laboratory, must be relieved of some very natural erroneous notions and expectations. It does not afford a royal road to knowledge. Experiments, unmixed with earnest thought, amount to but little. Following a plan of operations mechanically to a result, is not scientific investigation, and when the current becomes too even it must be disturbed by the quiet interjection of some obstacle. Perfect willingness to repeat failures, occasioned by hurried manipulation or carelessness at the tenth and final stage, as often as may be required, without a murmur, is not scientific patience. It is a very different quality from that manifested in the uniform, sustained attention, and care at all points, with no weak intervals, which renders repetition unnecessary. Haste and carelessness in reading are as prolific of failures as haste in working. By obliging the student to read, do, observe, and conclude for himself, and simply starting him over the beaten path of failure again and again, with perhaps a caution on some points, he may be led to realize some sooner, others later the meaning of the term patience, or of that "transcendent capacity for taking trouble," which Carlyle placed as the first element of genius, and it will be learned for life.