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A History of Science, Volume 5(of 5) by Williams

The well known Leipzig biologist


As

to the exact methods of study employed by the individual workers here, little need be said. In this regard, as in regard to instrumental equipment, one biological laboratory is necessarily much like another, and the general conditions of original scientific experiment are pretty much the same everywhere. What is needed is, first, an appreciation of the logical bearings of the problem to be solved; and, secondly, the skill and patience to carry out long lines of experiments, many of which necessarily lead to no tangible result. The selection of material for the experiments planned, the watching and cultivating of the living forms in the laboratory tanks, the cutting of numberless filmy sections for microscopical examination--these things, variously modified for each case, make up the work of the laboratory student of general biology. And just in proportion as the experiments are logically planned and carefully executed will the results be valuable, even though they be but negative. Just in proportion as the worker, by inclusion and exclusion, attains authentic results--results that will bear the test of repetition--does his reputation as a dependable working biologist become established.

The subjects attacked in the marine laboratory first and last are practically coextensive with the range of general biology, bacteriology excepted. Naturally enough, the life histories of marine forms of animals and plants have come in for a full share of attention.

But, as I have already intimated, this zoological work forms only a small part of the investigations undertaken here, for in the main the workers prefer to attack those general biological problems which in their broader outlines apply to all forms of living beings, from highest to lowest. For example, Dr. Driesch, the well-known Leipzig biologist, spends several months of each year at the laboratory, and has made here most of those studies of cell activities with which his name is associated. The past season he has studied an interesting and important problem of heredity, endeavoring to ascertain the respective shares of the male and female parents in the development of the offspring. The subjects of his experiments have been various species of sea-urchins, but the principles discovered will doubtless be found to apply to most, or perhaps all, forms of vertebrate life as well.

While these studies were under way another developmental problem was being attacked in a neighboring room of the laboratory by Professor Kitasato, of the University of Tokio, Japan. The subjects this time were the embryos of certain fishes, and the investigation had to do with the development of instructive monstrosities through carefully designed series of injuries inflicted upon the embryo at various stages of its development. Meantime another stage of the developmental history of organic things--this time a microscopical detail regarding the cell divisions of certain plants--has been studied by Professor Mottier, of Indiana; while another American botanist, Professor Swingle, of the Smithsonian Institution, has been going so far afield from marine subjects as to investigate the very practical subject of the fertilization of figs as practised by the agriculturists about Naples.


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