Makers of Science: Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy

Makers of Science: Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy

Makers of Science: Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy

Makers of Science: Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy

Excerpt

There was a time--not so very long ago--when the general scheme of education seemed stable and almost complete. To the discovery of the classics in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had succeeded that process by which the literary treasure of Greece and Rome became accessible. The change in man's outlook quickly affected education and the classical system established itself firmly in the schools and remained practically unchanged for wellnigh four centuries.

What an illuminating system it was and how much truth it provided! It was Rome, the legatee of Greece, that had tamed the barbarian and created civilization. It was to the Roman tongue that the languages of the peoples of Europe surrendered themselves and are still surrendering. It was Roman law that displaced and still displaces tribal custom. It was the religion, the sacred books of which were written in Greek and the organization of which was fashioned in Rome, before which the tribal rites had receded. It was the Art and thought of Greece which seemed so clearly to be the ancestor of much of what was best and most beautiful in life. The consciousness of such an inheritance, even when corrupted by ages of barbarism, gave men a sense of the fullness of their own past. Purified by scholarship and philosophy it provided a complex and ennobling scheme of life.

The educational system that thus arose served as the fundamental training until almost our own time. Only with extreme slowness did new elements enter into the situation and the advent of science had for long surprisingly little effect upon education. The science of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries was mainly the affair of amateurs, of men trained in the old system who happened to interest themselves in phenomena. For them the classical education, the only complete and thought-out system of the day, was still the best available. The ideas of Copernicus and Vesalius and even those of Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, and Newton, were no obstacle. The great physical synthesis established by such workers, while it emphasized the . . .

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