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An Address* on the Limits of Education, read To appreciate what has been done by the

before the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- applied sciences operating through their denology, November 16, 1865. By JACOB | pendent and associate arts, we have only to BIGELOW, M.D.

go back a little more than two thirds of a In 1829 a volume was published in Boston century, to the times of Franklin and Washbearing the name of Elements of Tech- ington, and in many cases to those of our own

immediate fathers. In those days of small nology.” This name was not then in use nor was it generally understuod, except by things, men were compelled to pass their those who drew its meaning from its etymol- lives in a sort of destitution which in this ogy. It w is not in Johnson's Dictionary, nor age of scientific luxury would be considered

a state of semi-barbarism. The means of yet in Rees's Cyclopædia. In Worcester's Dictionary, where it now has a place, no

domestic convenience, personal neatness, older authority is cited for its support than able warinth, abundant light, physical as well

locomotion, rapid intelligence, agreethat of the volume alluded to. Its analogue indeed was extant in some other languages, led for, but not yet found.

as intellectual, were things wished and waitand fifty years ago wis published in Latin To us, their effeminate descendants, it class of Harvard College. But its revivai might be painfully interesting to witness

the efforts of these hardy and much endurfor the use of English readers had to be justified by the assertion that it might be found ing people to procure warmth in their dwellin some of the older dictionaries.

ings, by the scorching and freezing of their

alternate sides, under the blast that swept Such, less than forty years ago, was the * doubtful tenure in English literature of a

from many apertures towards the current of word which now gives name in this city to

a vast open chimney. And this state of a vigorous and popular institution, a large things was hardly bettered by the estabendowment, a magnificent edifice, and at church, or the irrespirable atmosphere of a

lished zero temperature of an unwarmed the same time a great and commanding de

stove-heated school room or country court partment of scientifi: study in every quar- house. Our recent progenitors read their ter of the civilized world. It has happened in regard to technology light of a tallow candle, and groped their

dusky and infrequent newspaper by the that in the present century and almost under our own eyes, it has advanced with way through dark and unpaved streets angreater strides than any other agent of civ- If in summer they desired a draught of cold

der the guidance of a peripatetic lantern. ilization, and has done more than any water, there was no ice; and if in winter they science to enlarge the boundaries of profit- wished for dry feet, there was no India rubable knowledge, to extend the dominion of

ber. If in darkness they sought for light, mankind over nature, to economize and to

there was neither gas nor utilize both labor and time, and thus to add

even lucifer

matches. indefinitely to the effective and available length of human existence. And next to deliberate under their necessities. He who

Men were stationary in their habits and the influence of Christianity on our moral would communicate with a friend in a neighnature, it has had a leading sway in pro- boring State might do it in a week, providmoting the progress and happiness of our ed he could devote a preparatory week to

seeking a safe private conveyance. And if * At a meeting of the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE any one had occasion to transport himself

VOTED, That the thanks of the Institute be present. from one town or city to another, he could ed to Dr. Bb Elow, for the interesting and instruc- do it on a trusty saddlehorse, or still more tive Address by him read this evening, and that, with rapidly in the organized relays of the Bos his permission, the same be printed for and at the

ton and New York stage coach expense of the Institute.

Despatch THOMAS H. WEBB, Secretary. Line,” which undertook to put him through

VOL. XXXII. 1441.






in less than a week. They who went down If in the days of the ancient Greeks “ life to the sea in ships could reach England was short,” while “ art was long," how is it from either of the above named ports in now, when life is not longer, but art, literafrom one to two months if wind and weather ture and science are immeasurably greater? were favorable. Literary productions were How will it be in another half century, written out with a goosequill, and printed when new discoveries shall have arisen in a reasonable time by the labor of two commensurate in their results with those men toiling at a hand-press. Housewives of electro-magnetism and of solar actinism, plied the spinning-wheel, the distaff and the of modern optical combinations and geoshuttle, and webs of coarse texture grew graphical and geological explorations? into perceptible existence with a speed How will it be with the discoveries of which might be compared to that of a grow- newly armed astronomers and the calculaing vegetable. Beef was roasted on a re- tions of geometers yet to appear, — with volving spit, turned round by a man, a dog, revolutions stirred up by chemists among or a smoke jack. And wbat will hereafter elements that have slumbered together since be accounted still more strange, garments the creation, — with the augmented conwere made by sewing slowly together their versions of heat into force, driving innumerconstituent parts with a nee ile and thread. able mechanisms to minister to man's pleas

I have taken technology as a leading ex- ure and power, and more than all, how ponent of the great advance which was to will it be with the cumbros, vast and inbe made, and has been made, during the surmountable weight of books, which shall lifetime of some of us, in certain intellectual render literary distinction a thing of chance, and practical improvements of mankind, in of uncertainty, perhaps even of impossibilsupplying the wants, overcoming the diffi- ity. culties and increasing the elegances of life. A law which obtains in matter, obtains To enumerate all these improvements would also in regard to the mind and its acquiresimply be to recount the great steps by ments, that strength is not increased in prowhich our own age has advanced to the portion to magnitude. The static and elevated and privileged condition in which dynamic strength of materials for the most we now.see it. And yet, although the prac- part decreases as their bulk increases. A tical arts, in the hands of science, have column or a bridge cannot be carried betaken the lead in the great visible changes yond a certain size without crushing or of the present century, it would be pre- breaking its substance, and a whale, if unsumptuous to call technology the only field supported by the surrounding water, would from the cultivation of which mankind have die from the pressure of his own weight. 'obtained abundant and unlooked for har- A small animal will leap many more times vests. In every other walk or sphere of his length than a large one, and the integscience, literature, and refined humanity, rity of his slender limbs will not be injured the civilized world, with untaltering prog- by the exertion. The useful development ress, has pushed forward, at the same time, of a tree is known to be promoted by severe its dominion over mind and matter.

pruning, and where this is impossible, as in It is the object of the present remarks to primeval forests, the trees prune

themselves show that the amount of knowledge appro- and attain greater height by the death of priate to civilization which now exists in their under branches, the insufficient supply the world is more than double, and in many of sunlight being monopolized by the upper cases more than tenfold, what it was about and dominant members at the expense of balf a century ago, and that therefore no the lower. These examples, drawn both individual can expect to grasp in the limits from inert and organic maiter, may serve to of a lifetime even an elementary knowl- illustrate the corresponding trutti

' that huedge of the many provinces of old learn- man intellect, though varying in capacity ing, augmented as they now are by the in different individuals, has its limits in all vast annexations of modern discovery. plans of enlargement by arquisition, and Still farther, education which represents that these limits cannot be trans ended the threshold of accessible knowledge, in- without aggregate deterioration in distractstead of being expanded, must be contract- ing the attention, overloading the memory ed in the number and amount of its require- or overworking the brain and sapping the menis, so that while all its doors are freely foundations of health. kept open to those who po-sess time, op- The school system of New England is at portunity and special aptitude or necessity, the present moment our glory and our à part of them at least must be closed to shame. We feel a just pride that among those who do not possess those requisites. us education is accessible to all, because

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our public schools are open to the humblest | Sea, or any thing like an Antarctic Contipersons. But in our zeal for general in- nent. struction, we sometimes forget that a major- But if so mach has been done in the more ity of men and women must labor with difficult and inaccessible parts of our globe, their hands, that the world may not stand bow much more has been ahieved in the still, and that all may not lose by disu:e parts accessible to settlement and cultivathe power to labor. We cannot train all tion. The American continent, the inour boys to be statesmen and divines, nor terior map of which was almost a blank at all our girls to be authors and lecturers or the close of our R-volution, is now proeven teachers. We ought not, therefore, fusely dotted with towns, cities, forts, post to drive them into the false position of ex- offices and rail s'ations, until the most dilipecting to attain by extraordinary effort a gent compiler of a Gazetteer is obliged to place which neither nature nor circum. pruse in de-pair at the manifest defects of stances have made possible. Many unfor his latest edition. tunate children have been ruined for life, Geolowy may be considered as almost a in body and mind, by being stimulated with creation of the present age. When Werner various inducements to make exertions be- visited Paris, in 1802, it could haruly be yond their age and mental capacity. A said to consist of more than insulated obserfeeble frame and a nervous temperament vations with a few crude and unsettled theoare the too sure consequences of a brain ries. But now it has become a great, oroverworked in childhood. Slow progress, ganized, and overshadowing deparıment of rather than rapid growth, tends to establish science. In every language of Europe it vigor, health and happiness. It has always has its voluminous systems and its unfailing appeared to me that a desirable and profit- periodicals. Societies of special organizaable mode of school education would be one tion carry forward its labors, and every in which every hour of study should be country of the globe is traversed by its offset by another hour of exercise required observers and collectors. The shelves of to be taken in the

museums are weighed down by its accumuTo illustrate the impossibility of making lations, and in its palæontology alone the any one what may be called a general Greek language is exhausted to furnish facscholar, we need but to take a slight view titious names for the continually developed of the extent and recent progress of a few species of antecedent creations. of the most familiar and popular sciences at Chemistry in a limited degree appears to the present day. Let us take geography, have attracred the attention of the ancients, which treats of the earth's external struc- but of their proficiency in this pursuit we ture, and geology which treats of its inter- know more from their preserved relics and nal. In the first of these the education of results than from their contemporaneous many of the present generation abounded records. In modern times the chemists in what are now found to be errors and constitute a philosophical community havdefects. We were taught that the Andes ing a language of their own, a history of were the highest mountains of the globe, their own, methods, pursuits and controand the Amazon the longest river. Dis- versies of their own, and a domain which coverers had then stopped a thousand miles is coextensive with the materials of which short of the sources of the Nile and of the our globe is made. Many men of gifted Missouri. The Columbia and the Sıcra- minds and high intellectual attainm-nts, mento were geographical myths, while a have devoted their lives to the prosecution fabulous Oregon or River of the West was of this science. Chemistry has unravelled laid down on the maps on the hearsay au- the early mysteries of our planet, and has thority of Carver, displacing what are now had a leading agency in changing the arts the Rocky Mountains, and entering the Pa- and the economy of human life. It now cific Ocean about latitude 43o. The exist- fills the civilized world with its libraries, ence of the African Niger was known to laboratories and lecture-rooms. No indithe Romans, yet the Royal Geographical vidual can expect to study even its accessiSociety until 1830 did not know where it ble books, still less to become familiar with reached the ocean, though a hundred Eng. its recorded facts. Yet chemistry is probalishmen at various times had laid down their bly in its infancy, and opens one of the larlives in African deserts in fruitless attımpts gest future fields for scientific cultivation. to resolve the mysterious problem. It was Natural history in its common acceptanot uutil a still later period that the world tion implies the investigation, arrangiment knew that there was a continuous Arctic and description of all natural bodies, in

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