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that, as in the case of all other physical sciences, so in these, sound and thorough knowledge was only to be obtained by practical work in the laboratory." These views were advocated in various essays published from 1855 on, but it was not until 1872 that Professor Huxley had any opportunity to remodel his methods of instruction in accord with his own ideas. In 1875 the first edition of the Practical Biology" appeared, its object being, as stated in the preface, “to serve as a laboratory guide to those who are inclined to follow upon the same road. A number of common and readily obtainable plants and animals have been selected in such a manner as to exemplify the leading modifications of structure which are met with in the vegetable and animal worlds. A brief description of each is given; and the description is followed by such detailed instructions as, it is hoped, will enable the student to know, of his own knowledge, the chief facts mentioned in the account of the animal or plant. The terms used in biology will thus be represented by clear and definite images of the things to which they apply; a comprehensive and yet not vague conception of the phenomena of life will be obtained, and a firm foundation upon which to build up special knowledge will be laid."

A large number of colleges now give such a course as this, and in general the plan by which the course is conducted is much the same everywhere. The general types selected are usually about the same,

, and the laboratory work is generally regarded as of the highest value. In certain places, indeed, the tendency has been to diminish the number of lectures, thus causing the pupil to rely largely upon himself for all the information which he receives. In only one important respect has the character of the course as laid down by Professor Huxley been modified. Up to about 1875 it was universally the custom to teach botany as though flowering plants were alone worth considering. This was true of the colleges as well as the schools. If any cryptogamic botany was taught it invariably came after the flowers had been considered. About that time Professor Farlow began to argue that the natural order of study was from below, working upwards; that the simplest forms of life, whether animal or vegetable, should first be considered, leaving until later those forms in which the manifestations of life are complicated by accessory structures.

As opposed to this view many teachers still believe that higher plants and animals, being more common and better known, should be taken up first; that a student will reach more satisfactory results in working upon a plant or an animal that is familiar to him, even though it be somewhat intricate, than he will upon a simpler one that is unknown to him, especially if in the latter case it should be necessary to employ a new instrument of study, the microscope.

In the minds of many teachers the logical and natural method prevailed, and of course received a strong impetus from the fact that when the Practical Biology appeared it advocated the same general methods,

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But this was not destined to remain long unaltered. In the hands of many teachers the method seemed to fail in the very thing it is designed primarily to accomplish, not giving the student those sharp and clear ideas of the fundamental properties of living matter that are desirable. It has been suggested that these be overcome by considering first one familiar type of the animal kingdom and one of the vegetable, after which the more primitive types may be taken up. This method, although having much in its favor, never became universal. More recently, however, the whole order of procedure has been overturned by Professor Huxley himself. In the preface to the revised edition of 1888 he states:

No doubt there is much to be said for the principle of this arrangement whico leads the student from the study of simple to that of complex phenomena; but the experience of the lecture room and the laboratory taught me that, philosophical as it might be in theory, it had defects in practice.

All the simplest forms of life which are easily accessible are of very minute size, and their study involves the use of high microscopic powers. The student who begins with them is therefore not merely introduced suddenly into a region in which everything is new and strange, but he has to familiarize himself with the use of unwonted means of exploration. By taking this road the teacher (to whom the world of the microscope is so familiar that he is apt to forget its strangeness to students) sets himself against one of the soundest canons of instruction, which is to proceed from the known to the unknown, and from familiar methods of learning to those which are strange.

After 2 or 3 years' trial of the road from the simple to the complex, I bęcanie so thoroughly convinced that the way from the known to the unknown was easier for students that I reversed my course and began with such animals as a rabbit or a frog, about which everybody knows something.

From this starting point we proceeded further and further into the unfamiliar regions of invertebrate organization until we reached the border region between animals and plants, whence there was a natural and easy ascent to the most complicated vegetable organisms.

The effect of Professor Huxley's change of position has perhaps not yet been fully felt. As far as can be gathered from available sources of information most teachers still adhere to the original order, while in only a few cases the tendency to change is observed. In this regard so much depends upon the previous training of the student that it hardly seems probable that any one method will come to be universal until the work of the schools becomes more uniform. No one will dispute the fact that for children the method which proceeds from known to un. known is best, and so long as our college students continue to be children, so far at least as their observational powers are concerned, so long will this method be best for the colleges as well.

If we examine the character of such a course we find it in many respects opposed to the spirit of the teaching which it largely supplanted. Its most striking point is its tendency to unite subjects formerly held apart. Its aim is completeness and comprehensiveness. Physiology is joined with morphology, while the life history and embryology of each organism receive attention. Moreover, every statement is based upon the solid groundwork of experiment or observation, and the conclusions reached are thereby given a positive and lasting reality to the student.




But it is impossible to carry this method very far without invoking the aid of chemistry and physios. All through the course is the student impressed with the fact that the forces which prevail in living bodies are those which operate in the inanimate world. The student, therefore, must approach this work with some knowledge of what these forces are. Who, for example, can understand digestion without some knowledge of the character of chemical reactions, animal heat and motion without an understanding of the nature of oxidation and the doctrine of the conservation of energy, sight without optics, hearing without acoustics!

In the nature of things, then, this course, while furnishing a training to the observational powers, does more than this, and has not this training as its especial aim. It assumes that this training has gone before. The value of a general biology course as a mere training of the observational powers is open to question. Teachers are agreed generally that the observing faculties should be trained at an early age, but the reasoning powers of children are too feeble to appreciate fully a course of so philosophical a character as this and follow out the inductions that can be based upon it. Neither is college age the best time to train the observational powers, for it is found to be generally true that as the reasoning faculties develop, the perceptive become dull.

The prominent position which the Johns Hopkins University occupies as a training school for teachers has had much to do with causing a widespread recognition of the value of a general biology course, and its adoption has been most marked in institutions in which there was no biological department, or at best a feeble one, up to 15 or 20 years ago. There are still many prominent colleges in which this course does not appear to be given, but on more careful examination it will be seen that, while conservatism is shown in regard to names, in reality the same work is done. Several of our larger institutions, having two or more professors, divide the work, placing the botanical and zoological work in separate hands, and in these cases the “Practical Biology” is frequently used as a text-book, although the courses are nominally in botany and zoology. Even in institutions where this is not true the influence of this course may be felt in the great improvement in the character of work done. Botany has perhaps been influenced more than zoology, as is evidenced by the fact that laboratory work is much more general than formerly, and, further, that courses in cryptogamic and physiological botany are now given in colleges where attention was formerly limited to flowering plants. Teachers seem now to recognize the fact that a study of flowering plants gives but a very imperfect idea of the vegetable kingdom, and, furthermore, the value of systematic work upon flowering plants in a college course does not seem to be so strongly insisted upon as was once the case.*

* The first separate chair of cryptogamic botany established in this country, so far as can be determined, was at Harvard in 1879, when Prof, W. G. Farlow was appointed.


A strong tendency is observed to place biology, and especially the general biology course, late in the curriculum, usually in the junior year. If we look over the courses given in earlier years it is usually evident, from the length of courses and character of preparation required, that much of the work done has exactly the character of work that should be done by the schools, except that the question may well be raised whether it is, under these circumstances, as well done.

Considering the character of work which may properly follow a general biology course, it appears that in many cases there is nothing, and the general biology course forms the entire biological training which a student receives. In a small number of cases additional courses are elective, but they are generally of a special nature. Most institutions which have it will now recommend, or even insist, that if a student has but a limited time to spend upon the subject the general biology course will yield the largest return. It may, indeed, be questioned whether a student who has completed this course has not already gone as far as is consistent with the general character of college courses. In no sense can this be called a special course, but it forms the natural starting point from which special courses may proceed. Accordingly we find a few of the colleges following this with courses in physiology, botany, zoology, etc., with a strong tendency to make them laboratory courses alone. In some cases, indeed, the student in his senior year is put at work which has the freedom of university work. He may follow out new lines if he so desires, and especially is he apt to be assigned work of a systematic, descriptive character. In other cases histology and embryology are the favorite subjects from which special topics for ad vanced work are selected. In this regard so much depends upon conditions peculiar to the several institutions that for details the statements in chapter II must be consulted.


The value of any course in biology, whatever be the special subject taught, is directly proportional to the amount of laboratory work that it involves. While in the larger institutions there is little to criticise in this particular, especially as regards their elective courses, the same can hardly be said of the smaller ones. Ex-President A. D. White thus expresses himself:

While it may be acknowledged that in very many of these colleges the instruction in mathematics, except the highest, and in the Greek and Latin books ordinarily read, is thoroughly good and conscientious, it is certa in that there is a woeful want of proper instruction in other departments.

Only a few years ago it was a matter of some difficulty to find teachers, but that difficulty can scarcely be said to exist now. The increased attention given to biology by the larger colleges has had the effect of almost overstocking the market with men thoroughly trained in the


methods of teaching and research, and abundantly qualified to take charge of the biological work in our medium-sized institutions.

The greatest difficulty lies in the fact that teachers are commonly expected to do an unreasonable amount of work. It frequently happens as table 1 shows that they have work to do in other departments with no assistance in their own, and yet they are expected to attend to the details of laboratory management, and at the same time conduct courses that shall be comprehensive enough to compare favorably with the work of larger institutions. A further difficulty comes from the fact that the time devoted to biology, and especially to laboratory work, is too short to secure the best results. The value of laboratory work is almost universally recognized, and yet on looking over chapter 11 it becomes evident that in most cases the amount of time devoted to it is too small to secure any decided results. The state of things is worst in colleges having close curricula or nearly so, for, as seen in tables 2 and 3, it is usually the case that no special time is provided for laboratory work, and that the instructor can use his lecture hours at pleasure for laboratory work. In most cases 2 hours of laboratory work are substituted for one lecture hour. In a few cases even large institutions prescribe laboratory work in abundance for students following scientific courses, while classical students are allowed to obtain their knowledge of nature solely from books, without any practical work being required. Again we note a few instances in which certain lecture courses are required but laboratory work running parallel with them is left optional.

It is in institutions in which the scientific courses are largely elective that the most liberal provisions are made for laboratory work, especially during the latter part of the course, where from 4 to 6 hours weekly are devoted to laboratory work, with often three lecture hours besides. It is in some cases found that, especially in the senior class, there is an increase of time devoted to laboratory work at the expense of lectures, sometimes going so far as to omit all lectures and substitute therefor individual instruction in the laboratory.

A few institutions, indeed, seem to have more time then they are able to use to advantage, and so fail to appreciate the fact that laboratory work must be properly managed or its results will not be gotten. Some are open to the charge of paying overattention to details, allowing pupils to become absorbed in the purely mechanical part of drawing, section cutting, etc., forgetful of the real object of their work. A laboratory abused is as bad as, or worse than, none, and fully justifies the objections of those opposed to such work.

As remarked by Prof. William A. Locy:* The natural result of the laboratory work should be to cultivate in the student a scientific attitude of mind, to give accuracy in observation and independence in forming a judgment upon what is known from personally acquired knowledge. This first-hand knowledge must, of course, be acquired from actual objects, and the more completely they are studied the better; let them be handled, observed, drawn,

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