The nature of man: studies in optimistic philosophy
Excerpt from the editor introduction:
When Pasteur died a remarkable article appeared in one of the Paris newspapers. The writer described the intimate routine of life at the Pasteur Institute and compared it with that of a mediaeval religious community. A little body of men, forsaking the world and the things of the world, had gathered together under the compulsion of a great idea.
They had given up the rivalries and personal interests of ordinary men, and, sharing their goods and their work, they lived in austere devotion to science, finding no sacrifice of health or money, or of what men call pleasure, too great for the common object. Rumours of war and peace, echoes of the turmoil of politics and religion, passed unheeded over their monastic seclusion; but if there came news of a strange disease in China or Peru, a scientific emissary was ready with his microscope and his tubes to serve as a missionary of the new knowledge and the new hope that Pasteur had brought to suffering humanity.
The adventurous exploits and the patient vigils of this new Order have brought about a revolution in our knowledge of the disease, and there seems no limit to the triumphs that will come from the parent Institute in Paris and from its many daughters in other cities. Elie Metchnikoff, now Professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, is one of the most distinguished of the disciples who left all else to follow Pasteur. He was born on the third (16) May 1845, in a village of the Government of Kharkoff (Little Russia).
He was educated at the Gymnasium and the University of Kharkoff, passing through the Faculty of Science. From 1864 to 1870 he worked at Zoology at Giessen, Gottingen and Munich, successively under three well-known zoologists, Leuckhart, Henle and Von Siebold, and was then appointed Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Odessa.
He made expeditions to Madeira, Teneriffe and the Kalmuck Steppes in connection with his zoological researches. In 1882, in consequence of administrative difficulties, arising as part of the troubles that followed the murder of the Tzar, Alexander II., he resigned the Professorship and became Director of the municipal Bacteriological Laboratory. In 1888 he went to the Pasteur Institute and has remained there since that time.
The earlier part of Metchnikoff's career was devoted to Zoology, and chiefly to the investigation of the embryological history of the lower invertebrates, and the sequence of his discoveries should afford food for reflection to those Baconian economists who are unwilling to shelter any tree of knowledge that does not give immediate promise of marketable fruit. The labour of many years spent in the minute tracing of the development of insects, echinoderms, worms and jellyfish, would appear sufficiently unprofitable to those who give scanty support to Botany as the provider of drugs, who tolerate Chemistry because it has supplied aniline dyes, and who patronise the physical sciences from a lively sense of the convenience of telephones and telegraphs.
The author introduction:
In offering this book to you, reader, I feel that I must justify its publication. I admit freely that more could be said for a finished study in which hypotheses were replaced by exact fact. But to get together assured results in a field so little explored is a great task, calling for time and much labour. I remembered the adage,
"Ars longa, vita Brevis" and I decided to publish what is really a programme of work to be carried out as fully as circumstances may permit. At all events, I hope that such a programme may have its value for younger investigators, who wish a point of orientation for their labours.
My book is addressed to disciplined minds, and especial to biologists. As I wrote it, I had not the general public in my mind, and so I did not hesitate to devote nearly the whole of a chapter to "disharmonies in the apparatus of reproduction." I see in that apparatus the clearest proof of the essential disharmony in the organisation of man. I have to thank those friends who were familiar with my views and whose advice and assistance have helped me to develop them. In particular, I desire to thank my friends Dr E. Roux, who was at the pains to make my French more French; and Dr J. Goldschmidt and Dr Mesnil, who have read and revised the proof sheets.
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