The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
SCIENCE IN AMERICA.

THE attempt will be made, within the narrow limits of this chapter, to set forth the present condition of scientific work in the United States of America. But the reader must bear in mind that, while the narrative is thus restricted, science is infinite. Accordingly, only a few significant facts can be mentioned in this place. Literally, science is the same as knowledge; properly, it means exact knowledge, systematically arranged, so that fundamental laws may be discovered or perceived. In this wide sense it is usual to speak of historical, political, moral, theological, legal, and philological science. But it is becoming more and more common to use the word science, when no epithet is employed, as restricted to the knowledge of Nature. In the following pages it will be so limited; attention will be directed to the study of animate and inanimate objects, the physical, chemical, and vital forces whose operations can be observed, and the laws which have been discovered by observation, experiment, and measurement. The study of forces, and to some extent the study of phenomena, depends more or less upon mathematics, so that mathematics must be included in the present survey. On the other hand, the applications of science to industry, including the wide range of inventions and manufactures, and the evolution of machinery, will not receive consideration. Medical science, also, will be passed by.

Many elaborate schemes have been prepared in order to give in one view a summary of the departments of human knowledge, but these schedules are seldom satisfactory, for this reason--the sciences are so closely related that it is not easy to define their limits. Shall astronomy be regarded as a branch of mathematics, or of physics? Is biology an independent science, or are its phenomena the manifestations of physical and chemical laws? Where does spectrum analysis belong--with chemistry, physics, or astronomy? Such problems as these the reader must study elsewhere. In these pages agencies, methods, and results are to be

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