Twenty-Five Years Of Scientific Progress -- By: William North Rice

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:197 (Oct 1893)
Article: Twenty-Five Years Of Scientific Progress
Author: William North Rice


Twenty-Five Years Of Scientific Progress1

Prof. William North Rice

I PROPOSE to call your attention to a hasty review of some phases of the progress made in Science, and particularly in the sciences of Biology and Geology, in the last quarter-century. If I seem unduly egotistical in taking for my theme exactly the period covered by my own professional career, and in beginning my remarks by an autobiographic reference, you must pardon the offence as being due to the elation experienced by reason of the honor, alike unexpected and undeserved, which you have conferred upon me in calling me to the presidential chair.

When the next season of College Commencements comes around, it will be exactly a quarter of a century since a little group of students, most of whom are now members of this Society, were assembled in the Biological Laboratory of the Sheffield Scientific School. They had just been reading their graduating theses. The subjects of one of those theses was the “Darwinian Theory of the Origin of Species;”2 and the writer thereof had, to his own satisfaction

at least, refuted that famous theory. A recent graduate of the school who chanced to be present, showed the young men a photograph of Darwin. It was the first time any of them had seen Darwin’s portrait; and, as they looked upon that countenance, in which no admiration for the man’s genius and character can prevent the impartial observer from recognizing a certain likeness to a gorilla, and contrasted it with the refined and spirituelle face of their great master, whom they regarded with a reverence almost approaching adoration, one of the young men remarked, “You need only compare the faces of Darwin and Dana to know why one of them is an evolutionist and the other is not.” Little did those young men know that, in a few years, not only they themselves, but their great master, would join the ranks of the evolutionists.

But those young men were not so stupid nor so ultra-conservative as you might suppose. In 1867 Darwin was in the minority. It was then only nine years since the twin papers of Darwin and Wallace had been read before the Linnaean Society; and the epoch-making book, “The Origin of Species,” was then only eight years old. The inertia of mind is as significant a force as the inertia of matter; and in those early years the doctrine of Evolution made converts but slowly. In England, Hooker, Huxley, Lubbock, and (with some hesitation) Lyell had already placed themselves on the side of Evolution. Owen occupied a somewhat anomalous position, believing in Evolution, but not believing in any particul...

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