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THE new Lord Rector of Glasgow University, Dr. Lushington, was installed on the 26th ult. The address, which was in every way worthy both of the University and of the Lord Rector, contrasted strongly, with its calm, deep utterances and its grasp of the needs of a complete academic life, with the more or less political utterances to which we have been too much accustomed on similar occasions. We give the following quotation touching scientific work at a University:—“Communion of mind with mind is the most powerful help to mental growth, calling forth and expanding the intellectual powers which it is the duty of every free man to cultivate; in such intercourse he who gives receives, and is made richer in giving what awakens new life in another. By fellowship of this kind toil is sweetened and obstacles overcome. What is the history of the greatest inventors and discoverers the world has seen, but a firm defiance of difficulties and discouragements? And who that ever honestly faced any difficult problem, and ‘oft foiled, oft rose’ in the struggle has failed to gain at last the meed of hard-won victory? The rapture of Balboa, when from a peak of Darien he first gazed on the Pacific, is even less touching than that austere joy, of contemplation destined to those who by steadfast and painful efforts, long seemingly unrewarded, have wrested from nature some hitherto unguessed secret, some truth which illumines and brings into closer union other familiar but as yet unconnected aspects of knowledge. When, after years of doubtful poring, the light flashed upon Newton which was for ever to make clear to man the dynamics of the heavenly bodies, showing how the same law sways every leaf that flutters in the gale and the remotest star-clusters, we can well conceive how the ecstacy of wonder and delight was a disturbing presence that overpowered him, and made him request a friend to finish the calculation he had begun. And every generation, every decade, almost every year, opens new vistas through which the piercing eye, armed with weapons inherited from earlier conquests, may look forward bright in the hope of adding something more to the store of accomplished good to mankind; for in knowledge, as in nature, nothing is unfruitful. Such hope cheered and upheld many daring pioneers of science, whose venerated names, now become household words, are linked together for ever in the history of human progress, known and honoured throughout the whole civilised world. Yet who in the age of Watt, even in the boldest flights of presaging imagination, could have foretold such wondrous conquests over space and time as the spectroscope, the electric telegraph, and the telephone have revealed? But I forbear from dwelling longer on the incentives to exertion held out to all by the numerous physical sciences which have so many gifted exponents, before whom it becomes a non-expert to be rather a listener than a speaker. May all honour and success be theirs in sounding the mysterious depths of nature, and drawing into light the essential order which underlies her seeming complexities, ruling them with the necessity of intelligible relations. Many and various are the marvels with which “the world of eye and ear” surrounds us, inviting adventurous search into their far recesses; but as human thought advances, winning ever wider triumphs in solving riddle after riddle, must not the further question force itself upon us, What of this power which reads and interprets nature? Beside and beyond the outward and visible, linked to it by mysterious connection, is the sphere of thought, of mind, the home and dwelling-place of thought. What is this being of ours which thinks, plans, and wills? What means it? Whither tends it? This, the question of questions, from far distant periods, souls possessed with profound genius have dared to ask and yearned for a reply. When no complete reply was gained, they yet toiled on, finding in the search food for deeper and more reverent wonder than even in the splendid picture which outward nature displays. They held fast the courageous and hopeful faith that for man who ‘names the name Eternity,’ ‘there must be answer,’ here or elsewhere to his trembling doubt, to his ‘obstinate questionings.’ Such searchers were the early Greek philosophers, who kindled a spark amid surrounding darkness, destined not to die out, but gradually to brighten by careful tendance, and grow into a light that will shine to all coming times, as successive generations of inquiring spirits look up to the great names of Plato and Aristotle as loftiest among their guides and forerunners. In the unsurpassed lucidity of diction exhibited by these two masters, we are led into the very foundry of ideas, and can follow the subtle process of new-born thought growing clearer to itself, and shaping language into its close-fitting outward vesture.”

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Notes . Nature 31, 512–515 (1885).

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