Autobiography and Selected Essays

By Thomas Henry Huxley; Ada L. F. Snell | Go to book overview

THE METHOD OF SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION

THE method of scientific investigation is nothing but the expression of the necessary mode of working of the human mind. It is simply the mode at which all phenomena are reasoned about, rendered precise and exact. There is no more difference, but there is just the same kind of difference, between the mental operations of a man of science and those of an ordinary person, as there is between the operations and methods of a baker or of a butcher weighing out his goods in common scales, and the operations of a chemist in performing a difficult and complex analysis by means of his balance and finely graduated weights. It is not that the action of the scales in the one case, and the balance in the other, differ in the principles of their construction or manner of working; but the beam of one is set on an infinitely finer axis than the other, and of course turns by the addition of a much smaller weight.

You will understand this better, perhaps, if I give you some familiar example. You have all heard it repeated, I dare say, that men of science work by means of induction and deduction, and that by the help of these operations, they, in a sort of sense, wring from Nature certain other things, which are called natural laws, and causes, and that out of these, by some cunning skill of their own, they build up hypotheses and theories. And it is imagined by many, that the operations of the common mind can be by no means compared with these processes, and that they have to be acquired by a

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Autobiography and Selected Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents ii
  • Preface iii
  • Introduction iv
  • Autobiography 1
  • On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge 15
  • A Liberal Education 35
  • On a Piece, of Chalk 44
  • Principal Subjects of Education 73
  • The Method of Scientific Investigation 85
  • On the Physical Basis of Life 95
  • On Coral and Coral Reefs 115
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