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Cornell University Library 
Q 141.W221966 

Catholic churchmen in science; sicetches o 

3 1924 012 057 596 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 


In §>twntt^ 



K.C.St.G., Litt.D., Sc.D., M.D., Ph.D., LL.D. 

Director, School of Sociology and Social Service at Fordham 

University, and Professor of Physiological Psychology, 

Cathedral College, New York ; Fellow of the New 

York Academy of Medicifie ; Life Member of the 

New York Historical Society ; Member of 

the American Anthropological Society ; 

A.M. A.; A.A.A.S.; etc. 

Essay Index Reprint Series 


First published 1917 
Reprinted 1966 







THE single rule in the choice of scientist 
churchmen for this third volume of Cath- 
olic Churchmen in Science is the sjime as for the 
companion volumes — to present sketches of the 
lives of distinguished scientific workers from 
various periods of history. The Middle Ages, 
the Renaissance, the eighteenth and the twentieth 
century are here represented by men who in the 
ecclesiastical state and under special religious 
obligations found the time to do work in science 
that has made their names immortal in history. 
In every case their Church affiliations proved a 
help, not a hindrance, to their scientific work, in 
spite of the impression to the contrary that is 
prevalent in many minds in our time. 

I have to thank the editor of the Ave Maria 
for permission to reprint the articles on " Lab- 
oratories at the Vatican " and " Abbe Spallan- 
zani, a Precursor of Pasteur " ; the articles on 
Abbe Breuil and Father Obermaier have ap- 
peared in The Ecclesiastical Review, and I am 
indebted to the editor for permission to use them 
in book form ; that on Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa 
owes much to the chapter on this distinguished 
churchman in my Old Time Makers of Medicine 
and to an article on him in the Archives of 



There has recently been question of the foun- 
dation of an Institute for the Study of the His- 
tory of Science. Its realization has, alas! been 
delayed, as have so many other important intel- 
lectual developments, by the great war which 
absorbs nearly all energy and attention. I think 
that very probably the articles contained in this 
little volume may serve to emphasize how much 
such an institution is needed. We have been so 
intent in the past on the history of war and 
politics that we have sadly neglected the ordered 
story of man's great constructive achievements. 
None of these has been more neglected than the 
history of science, that is, man's thoughtful 
efforts to penetrate with the human means at his 
command the meaning of man's life and the uni- 
verse in which he lives. 



Preface vii 

1. Introduction : Laboratories at the Vatican 

AND Papal Scientists 3 

II. Roger Bacon 29 

III. Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa 83 

IV. Abb£ Spali.anzani : A Clerical Precursor of 

Pasteur 115 

V. AuBfe Breuil and the Cave-Men Artists . . 147 

VI. Rev. Hugo Obermaier : The Time and Place 

(IF THE Cave-Man in World IIistoky . . . 183 



TT is hard to find words to express 
-'- the debt of gratitude which modern 
civilization owes to the Roman Cath- 
olic Church.— John Fiske, The Be- 
ginnings of New England, or The 
Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to 
Civil and Religious Liberty. 



PROFESSOR SARTON, a Belgian scholar of 
distinction, driven from his home country 
by war conditions there, has been engaged in 
organizing in this country an institute for the 
history of science. He was in Washington for 
some time, in touch with the Smithsonian and 
other Government scientific institutions; and 
more recently has been at Harvard. Strange as 
it may appear, in the midst of all the interest of 
our day in science there has been comparatively 
little interest in the history of science until very 
recent years. The consequence has been a very 
general misconception of the place of science in 
the older time. Indeed, except among those who 
paid particular attention to the history of science, 
there has been a notion prevalent that there was 
practically no development of physical science 
until our time, and that the development of 
science represented, as it were, a new phase in the 
evolution of the human mind. Nothing could well 
be less true than this ; for at all times men have 
been interested in science, and at many times 
they have made very significant observations and 
drawn important conclusions from it. 


A lack of knowledge of the history of science 
has made men misunderstand entirely certain 
phases of the relation of science to education and 
to religion. There are a great many people who 
seehi to think that, before the last generation or 
two, the classics had constantly formed the basis 
of education practically since the old classic days 
themselves. Very few realize that the classics 
were introduced under the name of the Human- 
ities, or the New Learning, as the basis of edu- 
cation only in the Renaissance time, and that this 
phase of education has lasted only some four 
hundred years. Before that period science was 
the principal subject of attention at the univer- 
sities; and indeed practically every topic taken 
up in university curriculums was studied from 
the scientific standpoint. This has come to be 
realized very well by those who understand the 
significance of what were known as the liberal 
arts in the older time; for these, in spite of their 
name, were really seven important phases of 
education studied as sciences. 

On the other hand, the failure to recognize the 
fact that the medieval universities were all scien- 
tific universities has been the fundamental reason 
for the erroneous assertions with regard to the 
attitude of the Church toward science. Just as 
soon as it is understood that the old medieval in- 
stitutions (founded under papal charters, fos- 
tered by churchmen, usually with the chancellor 
of the cathedral of the university town as the 
chancellor of the university, with houses of the 


various religious Orders connected with the uni- 
versity, and most of the professors ecclesiastics) 
were quite literally scientific universities, then the 
idea of any inherent opposition between Church 
and Science at once vanishes. 

Professor Sarton's work deserves, then, thor- 
ough encouragement; and an institute for the 
history of science which would give proper 
scope for scholarship in this great field would do 
more than anything else to remove misunder- 
standings that are almost unpardonable because 
founded on ignorance. Probably nothing would 
illustrate better the necessity for an organized 
knowledge of the history of science for those 
who are interested in the subject than a passage 
from Professor Huxley's inaugural address as 
Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen, in 
which he took for his topic " Universities Actual 
and Ideal." Professor Huxley was usually very 
careful toi look up his authorities and to scruti- 
nize the sources of his information, and seldom 
made a serious slip; and yet on that occasion he 
made some declarations which, when investigated 
in the light of knowledge that has accumulated 
as regards the history of science in more recent 
years, prove to be absurdly fallacious. The fal- 
lacy of the remark was all the more striking be- 
cause there are several passages in that inaugural 
address which I have often quoted, to show that 
Professor Huxley was quite willing to acknowl- 
edge, when he knew it, the good work that was 
being done by the older universities. 


It is said that when Professor Huxley began 
the preparation of his inaugural address he 
thought that the best treatment of his subject 
would be a definite comparison between medieval 
and modern universities — a comparison which 
would, of course, prove unfavorable to the older 
educational organizations, and therefore illus- 
trate clearly and emphasize strongly the neces- 
sity for modern modifications in university cur- 
riculums which would prove more advantageous 
for our age. At that time Oxford and Cam- 
bridge were still conservatively clinging to the 
classic curriculum as the essence of education, 
and presumably were, therefore, still medieval 
universities in the modern time. 

To his great surprise, however. Professor 
Huxley found that the teaching of the old medi- 
eval universities was very different from what 
he had imagined. He investigated rather care- 
fully the significance of their usual curriculum, 
recognized that the fundamental principles of it 
were scientific, and then, after devoting some 
time to the definite meaning of the trivitun and 
quadrivium, the so-called " seven liberal arts," 
found that these represented very valuable ele- 
ments in education. Every one of them was 
studied from its scientific aspect. Professor 
Huxley was charmed to find how thoroughly 
scientific had been the methods of medieval uni- 
versity teachers, so that he did not hesitate to 
say that the work of these old institutions of 
learning, " however imperfect and faulty judged 


by modern lights it may have been, brought them 
face to face with all the leading aspects of the 
many-sided mind of man " ; and he added : " I 
doubt if the curriculum of any modern univer- 
sity shows so clear and generous a comprehen- 
sion of what is meant by culture as this old 
triviimi and quadrivium does." 

There is, however, another passage in the 
same address that has always interested me even 
more than this striking expression of praise from 
so unexpected a source for the medieval univer- 
sities. Its interest, however, is due to the fact 
that in it Huxley's customary caution not to 
make assertions until he had looked up his 
authorities deserted him. He was caught by the 
tradition of Church opposition to science, and 
allowed himself to make declarations that even a 
little careful study would have shown him to be 
quite untrue. His address was published in the 
Contemporary Review of the year in which it 
was delivered, and even so glaring a contradic- 
tion of history as is contained in the passage 
that I shall presently quote, passed unnoticed, 
and was considered by many, if not practically 
all, of the readers to represent the actual truth 
of the matter. It sums up in a few words what 
was the impression of Huxley's generation, and 
what has continued to be the impression of a 
great many people who think they know some- 
thing about such matters, or indeed often assume 
that they know all there is to be known about 
them ; and are quite unconscious of the fact that 


they are accepting an old-time historical tradition 
founded on religious prejudice, but absolutely 
devoid of any foundation in the history of things 
as they actually happened. 

Huxley is talking of the attitude of the Church 
toward science; that is, of course, toward the 
physical sciences, and does not hesitate to say 
with that thoroughgoing completeness of asser- 
tion always so characteristic of the man who is 
dilating on a subject of which he is profoundly 
ignorant : " Physical science, on the other hand, 
was an irreconcilable enemy to be excluded at 
all hazards. The College of Cardinals has not 
distinguished itself in physics or physiology ; and 
no Pope has as yet set up public laboratories in 
the Vatican." 

I feel sure that most of his hearers at Aber- 
deen, as well as his readers in the Contemporary 
Review, responded to this sally of Professor 
Huxley with a good-humored smile over even 
the bare idea that cardinals should ever have in- 
terested themselves in physics or physiology, or 
that any Pope should ever have set up public 
laboratories in the Vatican. The very notion 
was a good joke. I am just as sure that a great 
many people in our time — indeed, I venture to 
say most of those who are teaching the physical 
sciences at the universities — would feel the same 
way even now. And yet the direct contradictory 
of both these propositions is quite literally 
demonstrable of proof; for cardinals and even 
Popes have distinguished themselves in physics 


and physiology, and the Popes during many cen- 
turies set up public laboratories in the Vatican. 
It is not in our time alone that such apparently 
surprising events have occurred, but it was in 
the long ago ; and there has actually been a defi- 
nite effort on the part of the Popes not only to 
keep in touch with physical science, but to foster 
it, often to endow it liberally, over and over 
again to honor its great workers, and to encour- 
age their labors in a great many different ways. 

To take the second proposition first. The 
utter absurdity of it in the light of history is 
susceptible of demonstration without having to 
appeal to anything more than a modicum of 
knowledge of history. For there have been 
Papal astronomers at the Vatican — taking that 
term, of course, in the generic sense in which 
Professor Huxley used it of the residence of the 
Popes — almost continuously for centuries. Pope 
Leo XIII in his Encyclical Motu Propria, issued 
some twenty-five years ago, reminded us that 
" Gregory XIII ordered a tower to be erected in 
a convenient part of the Vatican gardens, and to 
be fitted out with the greatest and best instru- 
ments of the time. There he held the meetings 
of the learned men to whom the reform of the 
calendar had been entrusted. The tower stands 
to this day, a witness to the munificence of its 

Gregory XIII's policy in this matter was pur- 
sued faithfully by his successors, though the ob- 
servatory founded by him fell shortly afterward 


into disuse for the purpose originally intended, 
not at all because of any opposition to science, 
but because its place was supplied by another 
Roman institution almost as directly under the 
patronage of the Popes. This was the Roman 
College, the great mother school of the Jesuits 
at Rome. 

The Jesuits had a special vow to carry out the 
wishes of the Popes in all regards. As they 
were the most important teaching Order of the 
Qiurch, deeply interested in science as well as in 
the classics — as indeed under Gregory XIII the 
scientist in control of the correction of the cal- 
endar, holding the charge of the Vatican Ob- 
servatory, was Father Christopher Clavius, the 
well-known Jesuit — it is not surprising that suc- 
ceeding Popes, in order to avoid duplication of 
work that would be done much more efficiently 
in a single institution, allowed the Vatican Ob- 
servatory to lapse, so as to give all their patron- 
age to the Observatory of the Roman College, 
which really, after all, was in many ways the 
Papal, or at least the Roman, Observatory. The 
best proof of this is that the Vatican Observa- 
tory has always been restored whenever, as at 
present, the Jesuits, for any reason, were not 
allowed to continue their work at the Roman 
College. There is a Jesuit at the head of it now. 

Of course there may be people in our time 
who do not think of an astronomical observatory 
as a laboratory, but that is exactly what it is. 
There are some for whom the word laboratory 


means only a chemical laboratory, or at most a 
chemical and physical laboratory. There is no 
reason at all, however, for such a distinction, 
for what is meant by a laboratory is a place 
where actual scientific observations are recorded 
and their significance worked out. As the Cen- 
tury Dictionary says, a laboratory is " a room, 
building or workshop especially fitted with suit- 
able apparatus for conducting investigations in 
any department of a science." 

It is interesting, however, to note that this 
was not the sole form of laboratory that the 
Popes not only countenanced but patronized, and 
often endowed. At the older universities the 
two forms of laboratory work, that is, opportuni- 
ties for the making of actual observations, were 
in astronomy and in anatomy. The old medical 
schools did their laboratory work in the dissect- 
ing rooms. It might be thought by many, be- 
cause of an erroneous tradition in the matter, 
that surely in this department there would be 
no likelihood of the Popes having a laboratory; 
but, then, those who think that the Galileo case 
demonstrates the utter opposition of the Popes 
to science would be quite sure that there could 
have been no astronomical observatory at the 
Vatican, in spite of the fact that Gregory XIII's 
observatory just mentioned was established some 
fifty years before the condemnation of Galileo. 

There is a very widespread persuasion that 
the Popes and the Church were opposed to 
anatomy; but there is no truth in it. On the 


contrary, it is comparatively easy to show, as I 
have done in my book, The Popes and Science, 
that the Popes encouraged the study of anatomy 
by dissection, and that the Papal University of 
Rome at the Sapienza did excellent work in this 
department, and successive Popes for several 
centuries invited some of the most distinguished 
anatomists of their time, who were also, by the 
way, some of the most distinguished anatomists 
of all time, to become professors of anatomy at 
the Papal Medical School. This was not situated 
at the Vatican of course, literally speaking, but 
it was so closely in touch in every regard with 
the Pope that it comes, without any far-fetched 
construction or undue stretching of significance, 
to represent a definite contradiction of Huxley's 
expression with regard to the absence of labora- 
tories under Papal patronage in their capital city. 
Among those invited to teach and develop 
anatomy at the Sapienza were such distinguished 
anatomists as Columbus, to whom we owe the 
first description of the circulation; Eustachius, 
after whom the Eustachian tube is named ; Ficco- 
lomini, one of the great teachers of anatomy in 
his time, though his name is attached to no 
special discovery; Csesalpinus, one of the most 
learned men of his day, who had taught botany 
at Pisa and brought the Botanic Garden there, 
the first of its kind, into magnificent condition; 
Varolius, after whom the Pons Varolii in the 
brain is named; Malpighi, who with the highest 
right of discovery, has his name attached to more 


Structures in the human body than any other; 
Lancisi, a great teacher, and a fine original in- 
vestigator, whose lectures not only attracted stu- 
dents from all over the world, but even brought 
some of the most distinguished medical men 
from every country in Europe to listen to them. 
All this was done at Rome in the Papal Medical 
School, under the patronage of the Popes, and 
the important publications issued by these men 
while teaching at the Papal Medical School were 
usually dedicated to the Popes. 

As to the two forms of laboratory work, then, 
astronomical and anatomical, that universities 
took up in the older days, the Popes not only 
were not in opposition to them, but showed them- 
selves ready to foster and encourage them in 
every way. There has been nO' laboratory of 
chemistry or physics founded at the Vatican, but 
then circumstances have been different in mod- 
ern times, and there has been no good reason for 
the Popes to take such extraordinary steps as 
such foundations would imply. In the old times 
their attitude toward science was all-important 
for its development, and they made their dispo- 
sition in its regard quite unmistakable by their 
foundation of laboratories in the two sciences 
which were studied in„this practical way. 

When the science of meteorology began to 
develop, the Popes encouraged that, and did for 
it very much what they had done for anatomy 
and astronomy in the older days. During the 
latter half of the nineteenth century Father Sec- 


chi was working at Rome. The Popes took great 
interest in his work, encouraged his development 
of astronomical instruments, and also of instru- 
ments of various kinds for the automatic obser- 
vation of the weather, and enabled him to ac- 
complish much in this way. 

All over the world Jesuits have been deeply 
interested in the development of the science of 
meteorology, and have installed instruments so 
that there might be larger numbers of observa- 
tions to collate. The Jesuits in the Philippine 
Islands reduced these observations to such terms 
as gave them definite practical results in their 
ability to foretell storms probably better than 
others. The sudden severe storms of the Philip- 
pine regions had been extremely destructive of 
life and property, particularly at sea, and the 
Jesuit developments in meteorology showed that 
these storms were by no means so sudden as had 
been thought, but gave due warnings of their 
coming. Almost needless to say, without the 
positive encouragement of the Popes such experi- 
mentation would not have been allowed to con- 
tinue in the Order which makes its special vow 
of obedience to the Pope, and whose general 
policy is made to conform so strictly to Papal 

As with regard to meteorology, so, too, seis- 
mology, the science of the phenomena related to 
earthquakes and terrestrial tremors of all kinds, 
has been mainly developed by the Jesuits with 
the encouragement and even the patronage of the 


Popes. Jesuits from distant missionary coun- 
tries on visits to the Vatican have been asked 
about their work, stimulated to go on with it; 
and presents have been made by the Popes them- 
selves as well as by members of the Curia, especi- 
ally cardinals who wanted to show their interest 
in this important subject. Huxley's slurring 
remark, well calculated to raise a laugh, is really 
an example of ignorance; though, of course, it 
is rather a question of failure to estimate prop- 
erly the significance of the factors of the Papal 
policy expressed in a number of ways. There is 
an old English maxim, " Laugh and show your 
ignorance," that is quite literally exemplified in 
expressions of this kind. 

The other expression of Huxley, " The Col- 
lege of Cardinals has not distinguished itself in 
physics or physiology," might well be thought to 
be less susceptible of direct contradiction than 
the relation of the Vatican to laboratories; and 
yet I may say at once that only a little knowledge 
of the actual details of the history of science in 
the older times is needed to show that that, too, 
is an absurdly ignorant remark. Of course car- 
dinals are ecclesiastics; that is, men devoted to 
Church work, and therefore it cannot be ex- 
pected that many of them, whose lives are per- 
force occupied with interests very widely diverse 
from physical science, and above all from physics 
and physiology, should make distinguished con- 
tributions to these sciences. And yet it is not 
difficult to name some cardinals, and at least one 


Pope, whose names are associated directly with 
advances in these sciences. These facts will 
serve to show clearly that it was not because of 
any opposition on the part of the Church to 
physical science that many of its highest digni- 
taries did not reach distinction in these depart- 
ments of science, but only because they were 
occupied with other interests — and even in spite 
of that preoccupation more than one or two of 
the cardinals did work that has given them im- 
perishable distinction in the history of science. 

Probably the most distinguished contributor to 
physics and physiology among the cardinals was 
the great Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, who was 
so close to the Popes during the fifteenth century 
and whose works are full of extremely interest- 
ing original observation with regard to subjects 
related to both physics and physiology. He has 
a distinct place in the history of medicine; for, 
as I pointed out in my Old Time Makers of 
Medicine, he was the first to suggest exact 
methods of diagnosis for medicine. The count- 
ing of the pulse rate, and the noting of its rela- 
tion to the patient's condition, seem very obvious 
things now ; but in his day it was a real scientific 
innovation. Besides, he taught that specific grav- 
ity as a principle for comparative estimation of 
the fluids of the body might serve to give a scien- 
tific basis to diagnosis which it did not possess 
before. In describing this suggestion of Car- 
dinal Cusa in medical journals I have called it 
jrhe earliest allusion to accurate methods for 


the diagnosis of disease in the history of 
medicine, which it is. The whole story is very 
interesting, and the Cardinal's book De Docta 
Ignorantia, that is " On Learned Ignorance," in 
which he points out how many things there are 
which people think they know, but which they 
really do not know at all, represents an accurate 
scientific point of view usually supposed to be 

Any one who wants to realize how very dif- 
ferent from the attitude of opposition to science 
was the position of the Popes and the Church, 
should read the story of Father Kircher, S.J. It 
is to be found in the first volume of Catholic 
Churchmen in Science, and makes very clear 
how generously scientific activities were encour- 
aged in Rome. There is scarcely any mode of 
physical science that Father Kircher did not 
pursue with enthusiasm, and his great books are 
marvels both of printing and illustration and 
landmarks in the history of science. Brother 
Potamian, in his catalogue of the Latimer Clark 
Library of the Institute of American Engineers, 
calls particular attention to the fact that electro- 
magnetismos is the astonishing title which Father 
Kircher gave to a chapter of his book Magnes, 
sive de Arte Magnetica, — " The Magnet; or. On 
Magnetic Art," which was published in 1641. 

There is scarcely a phase of ordinary physical 
science on which Kircher did not wriie a text- 
book, and these text-books were not little 
manuals, but huge tomes usually magnificently 


illustrated, so that they are now among the bib- 
liographic treasures of the world in the history 
of science. Besides the book on magnetism 
already mentioned, three years later there ap- 
peared a book on light and shade, Ars Magna 
Lucis et Umbrae; and five years later a book on 
acoustics, Musurgia Universalis, with the sub- 
title, Ars Harmoniae et Discordiae, " The Uni- 
versal Science of Music and the Art of Harmony 
and Discord " ; and later there was a book on 
astronomy called Iter Celeste, " The Celestial 
Way " ; and then one on geology, metallurgy and 
mineralogy called Mundus Suhterraneus, which 
was often referred to as the author's greatest 
book, and was translated into a number of mod- 
ern languages, including English, though in the 
seventeenth century Englishmen were loath 
enough to draw their inspiration from Jesuit 
writers even on such indifferent subjects as 

Curiously enough, one of his books was called 
Physiologia Experimentalis, which might be 
translated " Experimental Physiology,'' though it 
was really a text-book of experimental physics. 
It contained all the experimental parts, and 
especially the demonstrations in chemistry, 
physics, music, magnetism, and mechanics, as 
well as acoustics and optics drawn from his 
larger works on these phases of science. This 
book of Father Kircher's formed the ground- 
work of most text-books of science for a full 
century after his time, and it was freely drawn 


upon for matter and illustrations in many coun- 

All of these books were published not only 
without opposition on the part of the Pope, but 
with the greatest possible encouragement. Father 
Kircher was making Rome a center of interest 
for the physical science of the world, and was 
at the same time the personal friend of many 
successive Popes, often admitted to private 
audiences, and asked to explain his most recent 
discoveries and demonstrate his experiments. 

Above all, Father Kircher was active in an- 
other field of physical science which I feel sure 
Professor Huxley would have thoroughly com- 
mended had he known it, or rather had he 
thought of it at the moment vyhen he was mak- 
ing his scoffing observation. Father Kircher is 
deservedly looked up to as the originator of the 
modern museum movement. He gathered to- 
gether a whole host of curios of many kinds in 
his famous museum, called after him the Museo 
Kircheriano, or more simply The Kircherianum. 
He aroused the lively interest of Jesuit mission- 
aries all over the world, and they sent him curi- 
ous specimens of many kinds illustrating anthro- 
pology, ethnology, zoology, folklore, and other 
phases of natural history and science, usually 
considered to be much more modern in origin 
than his time ; and he gathered all these together 
so as to provide material for study. The Popes, 
when they received curiosities from distant mis- 


sionaries, sometimes deposited them with Father 
Kircher, or willed them to his collection after 
their death; and this museum is, I think, the 
pioneer in its line, in the history of the world. 

Strange as it may seem to some, there is at 
least one philosopher-physician among the Popes, 
though there are of course many more great theo- 
logians (and theology is a science), many distin- 
guished philosophers, and many illustrious schol- 
ars. The philosopher-physician was John XXI, 
who had been known before his election as Pope 
as Peter of Spain and who had been a professor 
in several universities before he was made a 
bishop, and eventually raised to the Papal See. 
Curiously enough, he is the only Pope whom 
Dante speaks of as in Paradise, placing him be- 
side other such distinguished scholars as Saints 
Bonaventure, Augustine, Chrysostom, Anselm, 
along with Abbot Joachim and Hugh of St. Vic- 
tor. The poet calls Pope John XXI 

him of Spain 
Who through twelve volumes full of light descants. 

The fame of this Pope must have been still 
fresh in the minds of Dante's generation; for 
Peter of Spain was born, according to the best 
ascertainable record, in the second decade of the 
thirteenth century, living to be past 70 years of 
age; and as Dante himself was born in 1265, 
they must have been for a time contemporaries. 
Peter made his medical and scientific studies at 
the University of Paris, and in a letter in later 


life he confesses that he retains a special affec- 
tion for Paris, because " within its dwellings he 
had been brought up from early years and ap- 
plied himself to various sciences, finding the 
opportunities provided for education most favor- 
able. After the deep draughts of knowledge 
there obtained, as far as the God of majesty, the 
Giver of true wisdom, permitted him to take its 
opportunities, he does not think that he will be 
ever able to forget how much he owes to this 
mother of study." 

When he was about thirty-five years of age 
Peter received an invitation to the chair of 
physics, as medicine was then called, at the Uni- 
versity of Siena. While here he wrote a text- 
book on eye diseases. Thence he returned to his 
native country, Portugal, where he became the 
administrative head of the schools which existed 
there under the Archbishop of Lisbon. His ad- 
ministrative ability in this position led to his 
selection, after the death of the incumbent of the 
See, as Archbishop of Lisbon. A physician arch- 
bishop was not such an anomaly then as he would 
be now, for many ecclesiastics of that time prac- 
tised both medicine and surgery and became dis- 
tinguished in this profession.^ 

One of the greatest of the surgeons of the 
thirteenth century, whose text-book has been 
preserved for us, was Bishop Theodoric, an 
Italian. He wrote on the use of anesthetics as 

1 See Catholic Churchmen in Science, Series II, for 
his life. 


well as on many modes of operation that are sup- 
posed to be quite modern. Monks, and members 
of religious Orders generally, were forbidden to 
practise medicine and surgery, and this prohibi- 
tion is sometimes asserted, but erroneously, to 
have applied to all clergymen. There is abun- 
dant evidence that the secular clergy were quite 
free, under certain circumstances at least, to con- 
tinue the practice of both medicine and surgery. 

John, the physician. Archbishop of Lisbon, 
rose subsequently to hold other high positions in 
the Church, becoming a Cardinal and finally 
Pope. What is interesting for us here, because 
of Huxley's contemptuous sneer as to physiology 
at the Vatican, is that his little book on eye dis- 
eases also discusses the anatomy and the physi- 
ology of the eye according to the ideas which 
were prevalent at that time. His work shows 
that he was familiar with the writings of his age, 
and it has attracted a good deal of attention from 
modern ophthalmologists. 

Pope John XXI was not the only Pope distin- 
guished in science, for, some two centuries be- 
fore him, Pope Sylvester H had been the famous 
physicist and physical scientist of his time. He 
became well known for his inventions for teach- 
ing and demonstration purposes. He lectured on 
astronomy at Rheims ; and in order to make his 
lectures clearer, he constructed elaborate globes 
of the terrestrial and celestial spheres, on which 
the courses of the planets were marked. He in- 
geniously fitted up an abacus for demonstrations 


in arithmetic and geometrical processes ; and the 
development of demonstrations in teaching were 
evidently his forte. His mathematical apparatus 
is said to have had twenty-seven divisions and a 
thousand counters of horn. There are some 
speculations on light from him, and he was very 
much interested not only in music but the scien- 
tific aspects of sound. William of Malmesbury 
has incorporated into his chronicle a description 
of a great complex musical instrument, which 
was still to be seen at Rheims in his day and 
which was attributed to Gerbert's inventive and 
mechanical ability. A contemporary declares 
that Gerbert made a clock, or sundial, at Magde- 
burg which measured the hours exactly, and that 
it was soon imitated throughout Europe. 

What particularly takes the point out of Pro- 
fessor Huxley's passing jest on the supposed 
utter impossibility of the Popes having ever had 
laboratories at the Vatican, or the cardinals 
doing anything for physiology, is the fact that 
one of the most noteworthy features in the lives 
of not a few but very many Popes is their friend- 
Ship for distinguished scientific workers of their 
generations. I have already mentioned Cardinal 
Nicholas of Cusa, probably the greatest scientific 
genius of his day, and his intimate relations not 
alone to one but to three or four Popes of his 
time. In the thirteenth century the men most 
highly honored at Rome were Albertus Magnus, 
Thomas Aquinas, and others whose works con- 
tained many significant references to physical 


science, who discussed seriously the philosophic 
problems that underlie scientific principles, and 
who gathered together all the information that 
could be secured. In this regard it must not be 
forgotten that we owe to Roger Bacon great 
books, the contents of which would have seemed 
utterly beyond comprehension or imagination as 
having been compiled in his time, did we not 
actually possess them. That possession is due to 
the friendship of Cardinal Foulques, who was 
afterward Pope Clement, for Roger Bacon. In 
similar fashion we probably owe most of the 
precious writing of Constantine Africanus to the 
persuasion of Abbot Desiderius, who was after- 
ward Pope Victor III, and who continued while 
Pope to encourage Constantine in his writing. 

In the latest edition of my volume on The 
Popes and Science I have devoted a special Ap- 
pendix of nearly fifty pages of rather small type 
to the story of the Papal physicians. There is 
no set of men whose names are connected to- 
gether by any bond in the history of medicine 
who are as distinguished as these Papal physi- 
cians. Many of them are famous for distin- 
guished original work. All of them had done 
some at least of the work to which they owe their 
fame before being invited to Rome to continue 
it there. It was because of their reputation as 
great original scientists that they were invited to 
Rome to become the Papal physicians. I know 
nothing in the whole history of science which 
makes it so clear that, far from opposing science 


in any way, the Popes wanted to encourage and 
patronize it to the best of their ability, as the 
fact that when they wished to appoint a Papal 
physician they chose one who was famous in the 
scientific world, and gave him the prestige of 
this position, which assured him a place in the 
Christian world higher than any that could be 
secured in any other way. 

It is easy to remember what confidential rela- 
tions existed between the Popes and their physi- 
cians. We can judge of them very well from 
the relations between educated men and their 
physicians at the present day. In the older time 
physicians were even less likely to be narrow in 
their interest in science than they are at present ; 
and, as a matter of fact, many of the Papal 
physicians made important contributions to the 
sciences related to medicine, and not a few of 
them were distinguished pioneers in the biolog- 
ical sciences. Nothing could have been better 
calculated to maintain a favorable attitude toward 
science and its advances on the part of the 
Popes than the presence in so influential a posi- 
tion close to them, of representative physicians 
who had been honored by their fellows in many 
ways and had done distinctly original scientific 

Between the appointment of Papal physicians 
and the maintenance of Papal astronomers, the 
Popes certainly did all they could to keep prop- 
erly in touch with physical science and even to 
maintain laboratories at least in anatomy and 


astronomy, and to encourage in every way the 
development of these tvi^o important sciences 
Under these sciences in the older days were in- 
cluded, on the one hand, not a little of physics 
and mathematics, and on the other a great deal 
of physiology, and by its medical relations much 
of chemistry and the related sciences. Only pro- 
found ignorance of this could possibly have per- 
mitted Mr. Huxley to indulge his humor, at the 
expense of the Popes as he thought, though it 
was really at his own expense ; for his expres- 
sions make it very clear that this phase of knowl- 
edge had never come to him, and that he too, 
like so many others, was being led astray by the 
Protestant prejudice with regard to the attitude 
of the Popes toward science. It was Huxley 
himself who wrote home from Rome to St 
George Mivart, the English biologist, that he had 
been looking into the Galileo case and found 
" that the Pope and the cardinals had rather the 
best of it." What he meant was that the ordi- 
nary impression with regard to the Galileo case 
was founded on a misconception of the real 
nature of that celebrated case. 

In spite of this recognition of the role that 
prejudgment plays in such cases, Huxley, as we 
have seen, allowed himself to be led astray by a 
similar misunderstanding with regard to the gen- 
eral policy of the Church toward science. The 
Galileo case, even if it were what many people 
imagine it to have been, an attempt to throttle 
science — which of course it was not — is the 


single example of that kind of activity that most 
people know anything about; and, as Cardinal 
Newman remarked, if this is the single exception 
in a policy of 600 years, then it is surely the ex- 
ception which proves that the very opposite was 
the rule. 

Even Huxley, however, in spite of his rather 
careful investigation of such disputed points in 
general, did not have available sufficient details 
of the knowledge of the history of science to ap- 
preciate the real place of the Popes with regard 
to it. They were literally patrons of science, just 
as much as they were of art and education and 
literature, even to the extent of making founda- 
tions for astronomical observatories and anatom- 
ical laboratories in their capital city when there 
was ever so much more need for patronage than 
there is at the present time. When these were 
the only two kinds of laboratories organized in 
science, both of them were to be found at Rome 
under Papal patronage, and in both some of the 
best work of the world was being done. 

Manifestly, then, there is a place for an insti- 
tute of the history of science, and its collections 
and the investigations that it will initiate and 
encourage cannot fail to do a great deal to re- 
move erroneous impressions, above all with re- 
gard to the relations of science to education and 
religion. What we need is more knowledge, and 
then prejudice will disappear. Modern scientific 
history, by replacing vague impressions with ex- 
act documentary details and altering undocu- 


merited convictions into reasonable open-minded 
ness, has done an immense amount already to 
clear up historical fallacies with regard to the 
Church. The history of science carefully written 
would be of enormous weight in removing all 
sorts of prejudices which have accumulated since 
the Reformation; for the one idea of the Re- 
formers and their successors has been to make 
people believe that until the sixteenth century 
there was nothing at all worth while being done 
in the intellectual order, and that, above all, men 
were not free to think for themselves. 



'TpHE Encyclopedia and Novum Or- 
■*■ ganon of the thirteenth century, a 
work equally wonderful with regard 
to its general scheme and to the 
special treatises with which the out- 
lines of the plans are filled up. — 
Wheweli,, on Roger Bacon's Opus 

'T'HEN Aquinas summed up in his 
-*■ profound speculations the sub- 
stance of Catholic Theology, and while 
themorning twilight of modern science 
might be discerned in the treatises of 
Roger Bacon, while wandering min- 
strelsy revealed the treasures of mod- 
ern speech, soon to be wrought under 
the hands of Dante and Chaucer into 
forms of exquisite beauty, the sacred 
fervor of the apostolic ages found 
itself renewed in the tender and mystic 
piety of St. Francis of Assisi. It was 
a wonderful time, but after all less 
memorable as the culmination of 
medieval Empire and medieval 
Church than as the dawning of the 
new era in which we live to-day. — 
John Fiske, The Beginnings of 
New England, or The Puritan The- 
ocracy in its Relations to Civil and 
Religious Liberty. 



THE last international function in the acad- 
emic world to attract the attention of the 
civilized countries before the great war of 1914 
separated civilization into elements so bitterly 
discordant as to make even the thought of a re- 
union of university men of the different coun- 
tries of Europe quite out of the question for 
years perhaps, was the celebration at Oxford 
University in England in June, 1914, of the seven 
hundredth anniversary of the birth of Roger 
Bacon. According to a reasonably well-founded 
tradition the Doctor Mirabilis, as he has been 
called, " the wonderful teacher " (for doctor had 
not lost its pristine significance), was born in 
June, 1214. Seven hundred years is a long time 
for a man to be so remembered that his birthday 
is celebrated even by his fellow-countrymen, but 
such a celebration has even greater significance 
when it attracts international attention. Usually 
the men whose memory is thus recalled centuries 
after their death, have made significant achieve- 
ments in war or politics, achievements that per- 
manently affect the status of a nation and so 
readily suggest anniversary celebrations. 

Very seldom indeed is it that intellectual 
accomplishments are deemed worthy of recog- 
nition of this kind hundreds of years afterward. 


It is all the more striking, then, that the name 
and fame of a medieval scholar should have been 
thus gloriously honored by the university author- 
ities of the world seven centuries after his time 
and that his work should be so emphatically re- 
called to public attention. It is, above all, an 
index of that newer, truer knowledge of the 
medieval period which has been coming to us for 
the past two or three generations and which has 
culminated now in the very general recognition, 
that the later centuries of what used to be called 
the benighted Middle Ages, or even the Dark 
Ages, were among the most wonderful in the 
history of the race and that particularly the thir- 
teenth century, which Roger Bacon's life so 
largely represents for us (for he was born in 
the first part of its second decade and lived into 
its last), is one of the supreme periods in the 
history of humanity. 

Lest it should seem a subject for special sur- 
prise that a medieval scholar, a university man 
of that thirteenth century, should have been the 
subject of such a celebration in our time, it prob- 
ably deserves to be recalled here that the only 
scholar in all history with whose name the ad- 
jective " great " has come to be so associated 
now that it is the ordinary impression that it is 
a part of his name, was a contemporary of Roger 
Bacon's. This was, of course, Albertus Magnus, 
whose family name, Albert of Bollstadt, has been 
lost sight of entirely in the appellation magnus 
conferred on him by the generation that imme- 


diately followed him. Albert and Roger Bacon 
met on more than one occasion and knew each 
other's works very well, though mainly to dis- 
agree on many important questions. They were 
quite as much opposed in habit of mind and 
philosophic viewpoint as any two schools of rival 
thought in our time. In spite of this difference 
of opinion, both of them are deservedly in honor, 
for both had certain ways of looking at things 
that will ever attract human attention. 

Probably the greatest surprise with regard to 
the recent celebration of the anniversary of the 
birth of Roger Bacon is that it was arranged by 
the Royal Society of England, an organization 
strictly scientific in its aims, and that it attracted 
the particular attention almost entirely of the 
scientists of the world. It is because Roger 
Bacon anticipated many things in what we are 
pleased to call modern physical science that his 
septicentenary was enthusiastically celebrated. 
We have become very much interested in science 
during the past three generations, but until quite 
recently in our own generation there was a very 
prevalent impression that no development of 
science worth while talking about had taken 
place before the last century or two, and above 
all that no scientific thinkers or workers worth 
while recalling had lived until almost our own 
time. At last, however, we are waking up to the 
realities of the history of science and have come 
to recognize the fact that a great many of the 
underlying fundamental and most significant 


ideas in it were in the minds of men generations 
before our time. This was indeed the real mean- 
ing of the international celebration of the seven 
hundredth anniversary of the birth of Roger 

The same ignoring of other modes of achieve- 
ment in mankind before our time has been very 
common in the last few generations, and it is as 
a ground for hope that there may be further 
awakening to our ignorance of many wonderful 
things in the past, that the celebration of the 
Bacon centenary has its most promising interest. 
The fact of the matter is that it is only as our 
own interests develop that we come to recog- 
nize the significance of interest in the older time. 
When we had no architecture, no arts, no crafts 
to speak of, and when our books were cheap 
and vile (vile in Latin means for sale), we could 
not appreciate many of their interests in the 
Middle Ages, when they were devoting them- 
selves to the making of beautiful buildings, 
charming arts and crafts work and handsome 
books. When we had no agricultural schools, we 
could not appreciate that the monasteries were 
agricultural schools and were doing fine work 
for drainage, irrigation, and the improvement of 
agriculture in every way. Our knowledge of the 
Middle Ages is growing, but above all our own 
development in other ways is gradually coming 
back to the level of the medieval period, and so 
we are coming to appreciate better the work of 
its scholars. 


So it is with these medieval scholars like Roger 
Bacon. The last three or four generations of 
mankind have wakened up to the scientific ideas 
that occupied the generation to which Roger 
Bacon, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas 
belonged, after a long period during which there 
was a stagnation of scientific ideas. A great 
many people seem inclined to think that all higher 
education before our time was founded on the 
classics. But they forget that the classics as the 
basis of education came in only with the New 
Learning in the Renaissance time, and that the 
old medieval universities were really scientific 
universities. It was no less a protagonist of 
modern science than Thomas Huxley who in his 
address as the Rector of Aberdeen University 
some thirty years ago, reviewing early days of 
university teaching at Aberdeen, did not hesitate 
to declare that the so-called seven liberal arts as 
taught in the old universities were viewed really 
from a scientific standpoint and that they pro- 
vided " a better instrument for the development 
of the many-sided mind of man than the curric- 
ulum of any modern university." ' 

Bacon's Eclipse. 

Perhaps the most interesting feature with re- 
gard to the present-day reawakening of high 
estimation for Roger Bacon is to be found in the 

1 See Chapter on Laboratories at the Vatican, for 


fact that while there are many references to 
Bacon in our English literature, practically all of 
them after the end of the Middle Ages are in a 
spirit of supreme depreciation. Oxford, which 
now turns to honor her son, was the leader in 
these. Bacon's name became a byword. The 
brazen nose of Brasenose College was said to be 
Bacon's head. Many the joke there was about it. 
It was much worse than what we could call a 
" bone head " ; it was a head of bronze into 
which no idea could be made to penetrate. Even 
as late as 1818 Lord Byron has some contemp- 
tuous references to Friar Bacon's brazen head, 
though these were probably only a reecho of the 
literary traditions of the Elizabethan time when 
Bacon was looked upon as a conceited ass or else 
an impudent imposter. 

All this only proves now to have been just a 
question of a genius misunderstood. It is a dan- 
gerous thing for a man to be ahead of his time, 
though what is usually forgotten is that it is just 
as dangerous for a man to be behind his time. 
The truth of the matter is that at moments when 
ideas are taken seriously and mankind is in the 
midst of a critical period, it is dangerous to dis- 
agree with one's fellows. We thought that men 
had outlived this, or had been educated beyond 
it, until this war showed us that men reason no 
more now than at any other time. They adopt 
certain views and then are prone to assume that 
anyone who disagrees with them cannot be quite 
sincere. Roger Bacon was a genius and thought 


for himself, and disagreed with a great many in 
his own generation, so that it was no wonder that 
he proved an excellent exemplification of one of 
Dean Swift's famous expressions. The satiric 
Dean of St. Patrick's said, " When a true genius 
appears in the world, you may know him by 
this sign — that all the asses are in confederacy 
against him." The confederacy against Bacon 
was not so much noted in his own time as in 
the centuries after the Middle Ages, and it con- 
tinued until the world caught up with the ideas 
which the medieval friar had advanced and by 
which he had anticipated modern thought. 

It is not really a source of surprise then, or 
should not be, that the modern scientific world 
should go back seven hundred years to celebrate 
the birthday of a great man of the medieval 
period, but what is surprising is that it should 
have taken so long for the modern world to wake 
up to the fact that these old-time scholars were 
working at the same problems as the most mod- 
ern of scientists, and were occupied even with 
the practical application of scientific principles to 
human utilities quite as we are. Bacon, for in- 
stance, discussing gunpowder and explosives 
generally, very calmly suggested that a time 
would come when carriages would run over the 
land without horses or men pulling them, and 
boats over the sea without oars or sails. His 
idea was that sometime man would harness ex- 
plosives; and when it is recalled that the two 
great sources of energy for locomotion on land 


and sea, steam and gasoline, are both of explo- 
sive nature, it would be easy to understand how 
acute was Bacon's provision. He also suggested 
that men might make flying machines, and was 
quite sure that the problem of aviation would 
some time be solved and would not prove very 
difficult. As a matter of fact, as he so clearly 
anticipated, just as soon as we had harnessed 
explosives, locomotion on sea and land and in 
the air became an easy problem. 

For us here in America the story of Roger 
Bacon must ever be of special interest because 
of the fact that it was a passage from one of 
Bacon's works, the Opus Majus, which above all 
influenced Columbus to come to the conclusion 
that land could be reached by sailing westward. 
Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly made a quotation from 
Bacon's chapter on Geography in the Opus Majus 
in his work, the Imago Mundi. Columbus was 
so impressed by these expressions from Bacon 
that, after making a commentary on them, he 
quoted them in a letter that he wrote to Ferdi- 
nand and Isabella, making clear to them the fact 
that his notion of sailing westward was not a 
novel chimeric scheme, but that some at least of 
the best scientific thought of the world for two 
or three centuries had been converging on this 
westward exploration ; and he urged this as an ad- 
ditional motive for them to patronize it. Bacon's 
Opus Majus, therefore, as the source of inspira- 
tion for Columbus was an important factor for 
the discovery of America, and if Columbus is to 


be considered, as of course he ought to be, as the 
father of the great idea that led to the discovery 
of America, then Roger Bacon must be looked 
up to as a direct progenitor of that same genial 

A good many historians of education have 
been very much inclined to laugh at the high- 
sounding titles, given in almost absurd flattery it 
would seem, which the medieval scholars con- 
ferred on their masters. Doctor angelicus, miri- 
ficus, subtilis, accuratissimus, and so on, repre- 
sent for them only refined flattery and lofty com- 
pliment, doing much more credit to the heart of 
the students of the Middle Ages than to their 
minds. Not a few presumably well-informed 
people might be of the opinion that the ignorance 
of the students was so profound that anything 
more than ordinary knowledge on the part of 
their masters must have seemed wonderful to 
them. After recalling even a little of the influ- 
ence that Bacon had on the greatest minds of the 
subsequent centuries, and then the highly com- 
plimentary renewal of interest in him which has 
taken place in our own time, one comes to appre- 
ciate more and more how eminently suitable for 
him was the name Doctor Mirabilis, under which 
he was known and which he surely merited 
highly, if any teacher ever did. If his case is to 
be taken as evidence for others, then these titles 
of the Middle Ages so far from being idle flat- 
tery given to favorite professors must have been 
amply deserved, 


The story of the man of this prophetic vision, 
who on strictly intellectual grounds foresaw long 
subsequent scientific interests, and his career as 
a scholar of the most varied liberal interests, are 
among the very precious chapters in the history 
of the human intellect. It is quite impossible to 
tell it all in the limitations of our space, but at 
least some of the most important headings may 
be discussed briefly, especially in their relation 
to present-day life and thought. 

An Old-Time Academic Career. 

Roger Bacon was probably born near Ilchester, 
though not in Somersetshire, in which Ilchester 
is located, but across the line in neighboring Dor- 
setshire. He was a younger son of a noble 
family of which there was a number of branches 
in England and Normandy. His elder brother, 
whom he describes as " my rich brother," suc- 
ceeded to the estates. There was another brother 
whom Bacon describes as " a scholar." There 
was a famous Robert Bacon, a well-known 
teacher among the Dominicans, who died in 1245 
and who is said to have been Bacon's uncle. 
Bacon went to Oxford about 1226, when he was 
twelve years of age, and continued to live either 
at Oxford or at Paris for the next forty years. 
In 1267 Bacon declared, " I have always been 
studious, and except for two of those (past) 
forty years I have always been in studio." This 
last phrase probably does not mean merely en- 
gaged at study but " at a university," for the 


usual title in the thirteenth century for what we 
call a university was studium generate. 

His university life for these forty years was 
passed between study and lecturing. He lectured 
both at Oxford and at Paris, and attracted great 
attention and made many favorite pupils. He 
wrote a number of elementary treatises for stu- 
dents, so that, as he says himself, " men used to 
wonder before I became a friar that I lived, 
owing to my excessive labors." They could not 
understand where he got the time, but above all 
they were sure that he would break down his 
health by his constant application. In the light 
of this it is rather interesting to realize that in 
spite of a life of the most strenuous intellectual 
activity he probably lived to be over eighty years 
of age, intellectually capable and active until the 
very end. 

Undoubtedly he owed the maintenance of his 
intellectual vigor to the breadth and variety of 
his mental interests. Probably no one in his 
time in the west of Europe knew so many lan- 
guages and knew them so well ; he was the great- 
est mathematical thinker of his time ; he was a 
tireless experimenter in what we call physics and 
chemistry; he was a writer on many subjects, in- 
cluding philosophy and theology, as well as 
Hebrew and Greek grammar; and with all, he 
was a professor whose students valued him 
highly. All this intense occupation of mind, far 
from shortening his life, left him vigorous men- 
tally and physically until the very end. We have 


had many similar examples in recent years of 
men of extremely varied intellectual interests so 
intensely busied that all their friends were sure 
that they would shorten their lives, yet living on 
to four-score years or more of the most precious 

This academic career of Bacon's for forty 
years gives a better idea of medieval university 
life than many a volume of the history of educa- 
tion can furnish. There are many reasonably 
well-informed people who seem to think that 
the development of graduate or so-called post- 
graduate work at our universities in the modern 
time represents a new phase of evolution in edu- 
cation. As a matter of fact, as was emphatically 
pointed out by Mark Pattison, when as the 
rector of Lincoln College he made his " Sugges- 
tions for Academical Organization with Especial 
Reference to Oxford," the colleges of the medi- 
eval universities were " in their origin, endow- 
ments, not for the elements of a general liberal 
education, but for the prolonged study of special 
and professional faculties by men of riper age. 
The universities as a whole embraced both these 
objects. The colleges, while they incidentally 
aided in elementary education, were specially de- 
voted to the highest learning." He says further : 
" Unfortunately the colleges no longer promote 
the researches of science or direct professional 
study. Elementary teaching of youth under 
twenty is now the only function performed by 


the university and almost the only object of col- 
lege endowments." 

It is easy to understand from Bacon's career 
how true it is that, as Mr. Pattison said, the col- 
leges of the Middle Ages " were homes for the 
life study of the highest and most abstruse parts 
of knowledge. They have become boarding 
schools in which the elements of the learned lan- 
guages are taught to youths." No wonder that 
the commissioners who reported on the Univer- 
sity of Oxford in 1850 wrote: "It is generally 
acknowledged that both Oxford and the country 
at large suffer greatly from the absence of a 
body of learned men, devoting their lives to the 
cultivation of science and to the direction of 
academical education. " The fact that so few 
books of profound research emanate from the 
University of Oxford materially impairs its 
character as a seat of learning and consequently 
its hold on the respect of the nation." 

Things were very different in the Oxford of 
the middle of the thirteenth century from this 
mid-nineteenth century condition; and it is a 
curious reflection on modern progress in educa- 
tion that just in proportion as Oxford and our 
modern universities generally have improved, 
they have approached more nearly to the ideals 
and methods of the medieval century. 

At Oxford in his younger years Bacon was 
very deeply influenced by his masters there, and 
it is not surprising that this was so as soon as we 
know the name of the masters, Among them 


were such men as Edmund Rich, subsequently 
Archbishop of Canterbury, and Robert Grosse- 
teste, afterward the Bishop of Lincohi. Robert, 
whose other name, as we know him, was only a 
nickname " great head " because of the size of 
his head, with an innuendo as to how much it 
contained, was the Chancellor of Oxford and 
the first Rector of the Franciscan College there 
in Bacon's student days. Though born of poor 
parents and without any advantages of birth or 
person, Robert became unquestionably " the first 
English scholar of the age ". Two other distin- 
guished members of the faculty at Oxford of 
this time, also teachers of Bacon, were only less 
well .known, Richard Fitzacre and Adam Marsh. 
The latter, known also as Adam de Marisco, bore 
the title, " the illustrious doctor". Bacon, by no 
means prone to overpraise, and certainly never 
guilty of flattering the members of his own 
Order, to which Adam belonged, declared him 
" a man perfect in knowledge, divine and 
human ". 

The Franciscan Friar. 

After great success as a teacher. Bacon at the 
rather mature age of thirty-five, or perhaps even 
older, joined the Franciscans. Modern writers 
have expressed surprise that Bacon should thus 
bury himself in a religious order; but surely, if 
anyone knew what he was doing, it was this uni- 
versity man who for twenty years had been in 
contact with all the great scholars of the time. 


The more one knows of the intellectual life of 
the period the easier it is to understand how men 
deeply interested in the life of the spirit, whether 
purely mental or strictly spiritual, turned very 
naturally to the religious orders. Here was 
peace and freedom from the strenuous life of 
the time — just as strenuous and busy as the 
world has been at any time ; and above all, here 
was the opportunity for association with distin- 
guished scholars who as teachers and students 
brought emulation and inspiration and stimula- 
tion into life. The distinguished Franciscans 
among his teachers serve to make it quite clear 
why Bacon should have joined that order at the 
height of his reputation as a university lecturer. 
His entrance into the Franciscan friary seems 
not to have interfered with Bacon's university 
life, and apparently he was afforded abundant 
opportunities for the pursuit of knowledge. In 
the Opus Tertium in 1267 he said : " During 
the twenty years in which I have labored, speci- 
ally in the study of wisdom, after abandoning 
the usual methods, I have spent more than 2000 
librae on books not easily to be secured and vari- 
ous experiments and languages and instruments 
and mathematical tables." A libra parisien- 
sium was, according to Bacon himself, only 
equivalent to a third of a pound sterling. This 
would amount to some $3,500 in our money; 
but according to the value of money at that 
time would probably be ten times that amount. 
This is a very large sum of money to spend on 


investigation and research, and it probably in- 
cludes Bacon's private means before he became a 
Franciscan and then various sums given to him 
afterward by enthusiastic students and their 
relatives vjfhich he was allowed to expend for 
academic purposes. Probably nothing shows 
better the deep interest of the time in scholar- 
ship and intellectual development than this lib- 
eral expenditure for it. 

The prophecies of his friends that he would 
break down under the strain of the immense 
amount of labor he was undertaking were ful- 
filled, though the breakdown is sometimes said 
to have been due as much to the privations and 
mortifications of his religious life as to his devo- 
tion to intellectual labor. For some ten years, 
from about 1256 to 1266, he had, " owing to 
many infirmities ", to withdraw from taking any 
public part in university aiifairs. Biographers, 
anxious to find evidence for the intolerance of 
the Church authorities at this time, have declared 
that Bacon was imprisoned during this period, or 
that he was forbidden to teach at the univer- 
sities. There is not the slightest foundation for 
any such declaration. 

So far from being out of touch with the intel- 
lectual life of the time during his illness, he 
seems to have had, if possible, even a wider in- 
terest than before. Professor Little, Lecturer 
on Palaeography in the University of Manches- 
ter, England, who wrote the Introduction to the 
Commemoration Essays for the celebration of 


the seventh centenary of Bacon's birth/ has a 
para,graph with regard to Bacon's activities dur- 
ing this period of withdrawal from university 
duties because of his health, which shows better 
than anything else how busy a man Bacon 
could be. 

We have a glimpse of him in Paris during this period 
listening to a tale of magic. He seems to have been in 
the habit of supplying new masters of arts at their in- 
ception or inaugural disputation with problems in geo- 
metry which none of their hearers could solve. He 
was mainly occupied in investigations and experiments 
in physics, especially optics, in making lenses, in con- 
structing astronomical tables, and elaborating his theory 
of the propagation of force. He devoted his leisure 
to instructing boys in mathematics, sciences, and lan- 
guages : one of them, John, who came to him poor and 
eager to learn, about 1260, at the age of fifteen, he sup- 
ported through alms begged from friends and instructed 
gratis for the love of Cod and afterward employed as 
his messenger to the pope. He kept himself thoroughly 
informed on what, was going on in the world, and uses 
contemporary political and social events to illustrate his 
points. The Children's Crusade and the Revolt of the 
Pastoureaux afford him instances of " fascination " 
The quarrels between Henry HI and the barons in 
England, the relations of the EngUsh and French 
kings, the struggle between Empire and Papacy and 
final overthrow of the Hohenstaufen by Charles of 
Anjou, the Crusades of St. Louis, the agitation of Wil- 
liam of St, Amour in the University of Paris, are 

2 Roger Bacon, Essays Contributed by Various Writ- 
ers on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 
Seventh Centenary of his Birth; collected and edited 
by A. G. Little, Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1914. 


among the subjects he alludes to. He draws attention 
to the cruelties of the Teutonic knights ■and points out 
how fatal these were to the efiforts of the friars to con- 
vert the heathen Slavs to Christianity. He knew of 
the great German Friar Berthold of Regensburg. The 
magnificent work he is doing in preaching is of more 
value than that of almost all the other friars together. 
He was profoundly interested in the discoveries of the 
great travelers of the time, especially William de 
Rubruk. " I have perused his book dihgently and con- 
ferred with the author, and with many others who 
have investigated the geography of the East and South.'' 
In speaking of mechanical discoveries : " I have not 
seen a flying machine," he says in one place, " and I do 
not know anyone who has seen one ; but I know a wise 
man who has thought out the principle of the thing." 

Bacon the Writer. 

It was just at the end of this period of retire- 
ment that, fortunately for posterity, Bacon's 
great opportunity to write his books came. In 
1265 Guy de Foulques, Archbishop of Narbonne, 
was elected Pope and took the title of Clement 
IV. He probably had met Bacon in Paris. 
There is some question whether they had not 
also met in England. In March, 1266, the Pope 
heard from Sir William Boncquor, a special 
envoy sent by Henry III, of some of the won- 
derful work that Bacon was engaged at. In 
June of that year the Pope wrote to Bacon bid- 
ding him send a fair copy of the works of which 
he had heard, for Papal perusal. Apparently his 
Holiness was not quite sure whether he wouli 
be able to approve everything in them, and so he 
advised their being sent " secretly but without 


delay ", and added that they were to be sent 
" notwithstanding any constitution of the Fran- 
ciscan Order to the contrary ". 

Apparently the Pope thought the works were 
already written. Bacon thought this was an op- 
portunity to set forth his ideas as to the whole 
realm of knowledge; but, finding his first project 
too elaborate, he settled down to write the Opus 
Majus, which was later supplemented by the 
Opus Minus and the Opus Tertium. 

In the meantime he explained to the Pope the 
reasons for the delay. Besides his poor health, 
there was the want of money, for parchment was 
not cheap, and his vow of poverty was in the 
way; also there was lack of assistance, and it 
was very difficult to find competent and trust- 
worthy copyists. A matter a little difficult to 
understand was that his superiors were putting 
obstacles in the way, though of course the Pope 
had asked that the work be done secretly, doubt- 
less so as to avoid the appearance of approbation 
for everything that was written before it had 
actually been read by the authorities. One reason 
for the delay is extremely interesting, because 
it tells us of Bacon's habits of composition. He 
said, "Anything difficult I have to write four or 
five times before I get what I want ". We hear 
much of uncritical ways in the medieval period, 
but manifestly Bacon might be compared to our 
own Cardinal Newman in his striving after the 
exact word and the supreme mode of expressing 
his ideas. Eventually the books were finished 


and dispatched to the Pope. That is how we 
come to have any authentic account of a great 
deal of Bacon's thinking. 

Physical Science. 

Bacon's most important contribution to science 
in his time was undoubtedly his cultivation of 
the science of optics. The fifth part of the Opus 
Ma jus is entirely devoted to this subject. As 
Little says in the Introduction to the Bacon 
Essays, " One can readily understand how this 
should be for Bacon the very type of physical 
science. It is exactly conformed to mathematical 
law. In fact, one may say that his grand idea 
of all physical science as mathematical in nature 
was simply an inference from what was so pal- 
pable in optics." This contains a discussion not 
only of the theory of lenses, to which is added a 
treatise on burning glasses and of the construc- 
tion and properties of mirrors, but also an 
attempt to explain the psychology of perception 
and something of the anatomy and physiology of 
the eye. Bacon was never less than complete in 
his outlook upon the subject, though there might 
be imperfections in his knowledge of details. 
What interested him particularly were the laws 
of reflection and refraction. When laws could 
be deduced, then the great scientific mind of 
Bacon was satisfied. 

Undoubtedly Bacon's greatest scientific dis- 
covery is his declaration that light travels with 
an appreciable velocity. In his Opus Majus he 


declared that all the authors, including Aristotle, 
hold that the propagation of light is instantan- 
eous. This is not a surprising opinion, seeing 
that light travels at the rate of 185,000 miles a 
second, and that therefore with our human limi- 
tations of vision this is practically instantaneous. 
It was not until Romer pointed out that the sun's 
light, after an eclipse, takes an appreciable time 
to reach us, that we had the demonstration that 
light travels with a definite velocity. In spite of 
the difficulty of the determination, which 
amounted almost to an impossibility in his time, 
Roger Bacon set it down very definitely that 
light propagation takes a short but measurable 
interval of time. Humboldt in his Cosmos has 
attributed to Francis Bacon this discovery, but 
the English Chancellor in this, as in many other 
ideas, was long anticipated by his namesake of 
the thirteenth century. 

Usually it is thought that, while some of the 
principles of physics were anticipated in the 
later Middle Ages, chemistry was as yet lost in 
the mists of alchemy. Mr. Patterson Muir, in 
his essay " Roger Bacon : His Relations to Al- 
chemy and Chemistry ", published in the volume 
of Commemoration Essays, does not hesitate to 
say that it is only just to class Roger Bacon as a 
chemist rather than as an alchemist. The reason 
for this is that Bacon insisted on the knowledge 
that could be secured of the substances all round 
us by direct experimental methods and analytical 
observations. He dwells on the necessity to the 


alchemist of a practical acquaintance with the 
methods of distilling, calcining, separating, and 
the like. He unhesitatingly recommended the 
employment of these methods as the only way to 
accurate and fruitful knowledge of the changes 
of material things. Instead of discussing theo- 
retically matter and form, he thought that the 
way to know something about matter was to 
analyze it as far as possible and note the changes 
that took place in it. 

While much of what Bacon has to say with 
regard to what we now know as chemistry in his 
De arte chymiae cannot but seem quite absurd to 
the reader of our time familiar with modern 
chemistry, one very curious fact deserves to be 
noted. Many of his ideas would have seemed 
ever so much more absurd a generation ago than 
they do at the present time. Bacon regarded 
silver, for instance, as a kind of lead burdened 
by imperfections. He thought that it would be 
quite possible to obtain gold from other metals 
by removing the infirmities, that is, curing the 
sicknesses of certain other metals. Some of our 
physical chemists have come to think it very 
possible that silver may be only a development 
of lead in some as yet not comprehended radiant 
energy process and that gold may bear the same 
relation to copper. An American chemist said 
not long since that he would like very much to 
have the opportunity, after having removed all 
the silver from a quantity of lead ore, to come 
back years afterward in order to determine 


whether in the meantime some further silver had 
not developed in what had been argentiferous 
material. With that idea Bacon would have been 
entirely in sympathy. 

The Invention of Gunpowder. 

The question as to whether Bacon was the 
discoverer of gunpowder or not, about which 
there has been so much dispute, was discussed in 
the volume of Commemoration Essays by Lieu- 
tenant Colonel H. W. L. Hime, an English 
authority on the history of military afifairs. He 
is quite sure that gunpowder was a discovery of 
Bacon's. He would prefer not to call it an in- 
vention, for he thinks that it was " discovered 
accidentally by Bacon; just as the structure of 
crystals was discovered accidentally by Haiiy, 
the polarization of light by Malus, galvanism by 
Galvani, and the decomposition of water by 
Nicholson ". He dismisses supposed anticipa- 
tions of this discovery of Bacon's as follows : 

The famous Greek fire was not an explosive, but an 
incendiary mixture. The claims to the invention of 
gunpowder which have been made for the Arabs and 
Hindus collapse when critically examined. The inven- 
tion has always been disavowed on the part of their 
countrymen by sober Chinese historians, though in 
despite of them a claim was raised in the eighteenth 
century by some Jesuit missionaries who unwittingly 
confounded explosives and incendiary mixtures. 

One of the most important ingredients of gun- 
powder, saltpeter, was unknown until shortly be- 


fore the middle of the thirteenth century; but 
many of its explosive qualities attracted attention 
about that time. While Bacon was experiment- 
ing with some incendiary composition containing 
saltpeter, charcoal, and sulphur, the mixture sud- 
denly exploded, shattering the glass and scatter- 
ing the brazen apparatus that lay near. Bacon's 
description of the material of his compound is 
very cryptic. There seems to be no doubt that 
he used a cipher in giving in his writings the de- 
tails of it. Colonel Hime thinks that he did this 
because he was afraid that, if it became known, 
he would be accused of magic, and has much to 
say about the Inquisition. The dear Colonel 
evidently has a bugaboo about the Inquisition, 
though there is no reason at all for thinking that 
that ecclesiastical institution interfered in such 
matters. What is much more in accordance with 
Bacon's well-known reticence is that, having be- 
come accidentally possessed of a dangerous 
secret and wanting to record it, he did so in a 
manner that would prevent those who might use 
such a secret for wrong purposes from taking 
advantage of it, yet in such a way as to make a 
permanent record of his own experiences. 

Experimental Science. 

Bacon has many expressions which indicate 
that in science authority can mean very little and 
experiment must be the source of knowledge. 
In the chapter of the Opus Majus entitled 
" Scientia Experimentalis ", Bacon insists that, 


" without experiment nothing can be adequately 
known. An argument proves theoretically but it 
does not give the certitude necessary to remove 
all doubt; nor will the mind repose in the clear 
view of truth unless it finds it by way of experi- 
ment.'' In his Opus Tertium he went even far- 
ther and suggested emphatically that "the strong- 
est arguments prove nothing so long as the con- 
clusions are not verified by experience. Experi- 
mental science is the queen of sciences and the 
goal of all speculation." Usually these expres- 
sions are set down as absolutely peculiar to 
Bacon at this time, and above all as not being 
held by the great teachers of the period. They 
are supposed to be portions of Bacon's own con- 
clusions, for which indeed it is sometimes said 
that he eventually came into disfavor and even 
had to spend years in prison toward the end of 
his life. 

As a matter of fact, however, the other great 
university teachers of the thirteenth century had 
reached similar conclusions. Even Albertus 
Magnus, whom Bacon so bitterly criticized and 
to whom the great scholar had once replied that 
some people wrote nothing themselves but criti- 
cized others much, an expression that is often 
used in the modern time without any thought of 
the necessity for using quotation marks for it, 
and referring it to a thirteenth century teacher, 
often used expressions very similar to these of 
Bacon. In Albert's tenth book, wherein he cata- 
logues and describes all the trees, plants, and 


herbs known in his time, he observes: "All that 
is here set down is the result of our own experi- 
ence or has been borrowed from authors whom 
we know to have written what their personal 
experience has confirmed; for in these matters 
experience alone can bring certainty — experi- 
mentum solum certificat in talibus ". Albertus 
Magnus was a thoroughgoing experimentalist in 
the best modern sense of the term. He says in 
the second book of his treatise On Minerals, 
" The aim of natural science is not simply to 
accept the statements of others, but to investi- 
gate the causes that were at work in nature for 

In like manner much is now made, especially 
in connexion with the celebration of the septi- 
centenary, of Bacon's deprecation of appeals to 
Aristotle, as if the ipse dixit of any master could 
settle scientific questions. Albert in his treatise 
On Physics was quite as absolute as Bacon ever 
was, for he said, " Whoever believes that Aris- 
totle was a God, must also believe that he never 
erred; but if one believe that Aristotle was a 
man, then doubtless he was liable to err just as 
we are." ^ In fact, as is pointed out by the Cath- 
olic Encyclopedia in the article on Albertus 
Magnus, Albert devotes a lengthy chapter in his 
Summa Theologiae to what he calls " the errors 
of Aristotle ". 

5 Physica, lib. viii, tr. i, xiv. 


This does not lessen the merit of Bacon's in- 
dependence of thought, but it serves to show 
how grievously modern commentators err who 
insist that Bacon was either the first to throw 
off the shackles of authority or the only one to 
do so, and that his persecution must be referred 
to this. Saint Thomas x\quinas was quite as 
ready to seek truth for itself apart from author- 
ity as either Albert or Roger Bacon, and so are 
other great teachers of this period. Indeed it 
has been well said that there probably never was 
a time when, within the Christian Church and 
the schools under its immediate authority, there 
was so much liberty of thought and even of spec- 
ulation as well as of teaching, as during the 
thirteenth century. 

Bacon was not the first, but was more com- 
plete in his exposition of the reasons for human 
ignorance, as being largely dependent on trust 
in authority, than his contemporaries. His fam- 
ous four grounds for the failure of progress in 
genuine knowledge among the Latins are true 
not only for his own time, but for all time. 
These offendicula or stumbling-blocks on the 
road to knowledge, as Bacon so aptly calls them, 
are (i) dependence on authority, (2) yielding 
to established custom, (3) allowing weight to 
popular feeling, and (4) concealment of real 
ignorance with pretence of knowledge. It is 
worth while having them in the original Latin, 
for they provide an excellent example of Bacon's 
discriminating use of words : " I f ragilis et in- 


dignae auctoritatis exemplum; II consuetudinis 
diuturnitas; III vulgi sensus imperiti; IV pro- 
priae ignorantiae occultatio cum ostentatione 
sapientiae apparentis ". 

While Bacon thoroughly despised the opinion 
of the crowd, even going to the extent of declar- 
ing that " whatever seems true to the many must 
necessarily be false ", he did not hesitate to em- 
phasize the fact that many of their teachers de- 
served even more of contempt. He said em- 
phatically that " the common people are not 
guilty of the fourth fault, concealment of ignor- 
ance and assumption of knowledge; that is the 
peculiar property of the learned professors ". 
He suggests in a very striking expression that 
authority may compel belief, but cannot enlighten 
the understanding ; in his own words, " credimus 
auctoritati, sed non propter eam intelligimus ". 
He even ventured to add that, while all honor 
should be paid to the ancients, those who come 
later in time having the advantage of the studies 
of those who went before them, are really often 
in a position to see more clearly than their prede- 
cessors. He has put the thought into the sum- 
marized Latin form, " Quanto juniores, tanto 
perspicaciores — the younger men are, the more 
acute they are ". By younger he meant the more 
recent in time they are. 

Friar Bacon and Mathematics. 

I suppose that almost the last thing that could 
possibly be imagined by most people with regard 


to a medieval friar, no matter how scholarly he 
might be, would be that he should set up mathe- 
matics as the great criterion and absolutely in- 
dispensable auxiliary of science. This was, how- 
ever, exactly what Roger Bacon did. He did 
not hesitate to say in the Opus Majus: " For he 
who knows not mathematics cannot know any 
other sciences ; what is more, he cannot discover 
his own ignorance or find its proper remedies ". 
He constantly extolls mathematics as the key to 
all the other sciences. Bacon even went so far 
as to insist on the value of mathematics as a sub- 
ject for education eminently developmental of 
the mind. He dwelt on it as a culture subject, in 
our phrase, and insisted that no educated man 
ought to be unfamiliar with the basic principles 
of mathematical science, in order that he might 
be able to understand the accuracy of scientific 
work. Even though there might be no particular 
use for it in life, the subject ought to be studied. 
In our time it has come to be realized more 
and more that Bacon's expressions with regard 
to mathematics being so necessary for any true 
development of science, are quite literally true. 
Without mathematics many of our great ad- 
vances in modern science would have been lost. 
Poincare, the great French mathematician who 
died prematurely during that seven-hundredth 
anniversary of Bacon's birth in 1914, once de- 
clared : " If we had not cultivated the exact 
sciences for themselves, we should not have cre- 
ated mathematics the instrument, and the day 


the call came from the physicist we should have 
been helpless." More than fifteen years ago the 
English mathematician and physical scientist, 
Professor Kingdon Clifford, did not hesitate to 
say : " No advance seems likely in molecular 
physics until more mathematics is invented." It 
is only after reading expressions of this kind 
from the mouths of our greatest modern mathe- 
maticians that the prophetic wisdom of Bacon's 
opinions to the same effect, proclaimed nearly 
seven hundred years ago, can be properly appre- 

The one tangible result of Bacon's own work 
in mathematics is his extremely close approxi- 
mation to the actual correction needed in the 
Julian calendar. In the Opus Majus in 1267 he 
tried to make it clear to Pope Clement IV that 
the length of the year of the Julian calendar is 
too great by one day in 125 years. This is a very 
startling declaration at that time, for the best 
known calculations of a few years before, the 
Tables of Alphonso, asserted that the error was 
one day in a little over 134 years. We do not 
know how Roger Bacon reached his much closer 
approximation to the actual error than any 
known to have been suggested before his time. 
The fact, however, that he did so is the best 
possible tribute to his personal powers as a 
mathematician. He not only recognized their 
value in theory, but he was capable of practising 
them to a more accurate degree on the most im- 


portant problem then before mathematicians 
than any man up to his time. 

As to Roger Bacon's place in mathematical 
history, the only way to give an authoritative 
opinion on it is to quote Professor David Eugene 
Smith's (of Columbia) concluding paragraph on 
the subject in the Commemoration Essays, in 
which he answers the question as to whether 
Bacon deserved the title sometimes given him of 
doctissimus mathematicus or not. As Professor 
Smith is a recognized authority on the history of 
mathematics, his opinion has compelling weight. 

No one in his generation, few men in any generation, 
certainly no man in medieval England, showed such 
sympathy with mathematics, such familiarity with the 
standard authors available, such clear perception of 
the possible applications of the science, and such con- 
viction of the value of the subject in a liberal education. 
Jordanus was his superior in detail, but was relatrvely 
a pigmy in general power; Albertus Magnus seemed 
to accomplish more in physics and chemistry, but 
Roger Bacon gave a formula which freed intellect from 
brute force — the formula for gunpowder. Alexandre 
de Villedieu and Bartolomeo de Parma were better 
known in astronomy; but it was Bacon's computations 
which gave to the Middle Ages the best calendar as yet 
devised, and which led him to set forth with perfect 
assurance the possibility of circumnavigating the globe. 
It is not for his treatises nor for his discoveries in 
the realm of pure mathematics, but for his appreciation 
of the science, for his knowledge of what the world 
had done, and for his vision of what the future had 
in store, that for seven centuries he has borne with 
justice the title of doctissimus mathematicus, a title 


by which he may rightly be known even in our own time 
and in the centuries to come. 

Medical Excursions. 

Bacon's writings with regard to medicine are 
very interesting to our generation, because his 
passion for exactness, the same that made him 
so devoted to mathematics, led him to try to 
make physicians see that they should reduce their 
treatment of patients to an exact science. In a 
fragment of his De Graduacione Medicinarum 
he insists, practically in Plato's words in the 
Philebus, that " Arithmetic, mensuration, and 
weighing being taken from any art, the rest will 
be only conjecture ". Bacon realized that the 
dependence on the patient's feelings, to which the 
physician was subjected, made accurate diagnosis 
and still more accurate treatment extremely diffi- 
cult ; but he indicated that this was the line along 
which real scientific advance in medicine might 
be expected. Two centuries later, as I have 
pointed out in my Old Time Makers of Medi- 
cine, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa not only em- 
phatically made the same suggestion, but he went 
further and indicated just how something might 
be done in a practical way. His basic idea in the 
matter, as may be seen from the sketch of him in 
this present volume, was that the comparative 
weights of blood and other fluids in the body at 
various times in life and under varying condi- 
tions of health would furnish significant infor- 
mation to physicians, as of course they have. 


Physicians are slow to give up theories that 
seem to explain so much, for minutiae of infor- 
mation which at all times seem at first to mean 
so little. The medical profession has always 
been conservative, and necessarily so, since 
human lives are the subjects of their experiences. 
It is not surprising, however, that Bacon, looking 
over the field of medicine in his time and recog- 
nizing its lack of foundation on experiment, 
should have been tempted to write his De 
erroribus medicoruni, On the Errors of Physi- 
cians. Dr. Withington, the English authority on 
the history of medicine, who wrote the article on 
Roger Bacon and Medicine for the Oxford Com- 
memoration Essays volume, declares this to be 
" perhaps the most interesting originally typical 
and Baconian of the Friar's Medical Treatises ". 

Bacon criticizes rather severely the physicians 
of his time for not basing their practice on ex- 
perience. He begins by saying that there are 
thirty-six great and radical defects in the medi- 
cine of the time, but with infinite ramifications. 
After describing seven of these defects, however, 
he confesses his inability to go on because he has 
not the experience that would enable him to ob- 
tain certitude. Curiously enough, while insisting 
so much on experience, he himself depends very 
much on the Arabs, and probably nothing shows 
so well how little the Arabs brought either to 
science or to medicine than the fact that Bacon's 
dependence on them, because the great Greek 
authors whom the Arabs were supposed to rep- 


resent were not available for him, led him into 
many rather serious fallacies. Above all, he 
spoke of Avicenna as dux et princeps philoso- 
phorum, makes him his chief guide in medical 
matters, quoting him as frequently as all other 
authors combined. When the history of medi- 
cine began to develop under Haller in the 
eighteenth century, Haller did not hesitate to 
characterize the great Arab philosopher's work, 
in so far as it touched medicine, as " methodica 
inanitas ", which I suppose might be translated 
as " inanity with a method in it ". The expres- 
sion is perhaps too strong, but it is ever so much 
nearer truth than Bacon's inordinate praise. 

By the irony of fate Bacon allowed himself 
to be carried away by the very human tendency 
of respect for authority into over-dependence on 
this Arab master in medicine. Sometimes even 
here, however, his genius of intuition leads him 
right. He has emphasized from Avicenna the 
description of the patient who was cured of con- 
sumption by using large amounts of sugar. 
Sugar is one of the dietetic elements which we 
have come to recognize in modern time as val- 
uable for the increased nutrition, which is the 
most important part of the treatment of tuber- 

The favorite idea of Bacon's was that health 
was quite as contagious as disease. This is some- 
times thought to be a very modern suggestion. 
Bacon seems to have believed quite literally in it. 
He actually thought that the old received new 


stores of health and strength by associating inti- 
mately with the young. He describes a fumus 
juventutis, that is, a certain exhalation of youth, 
as it were, which, entering into the bodies of the 
old, by its very contact puts new life in them. 
Curiously enough, as pointed out by Withington 
in the Commemoration Essays, Sydenham, who 
in the late seventeenth century wrote so well on 
medicine that he has been given the title of the 
English Hippocrates, emphasized the same idea, 
though evidently rather hesitant as to its prac- 
tical applications. A good many physicians in 
our time have pointed out that there is nothing 
which so serves to keep the old young as inti- 
mate association with young folks. There is a 
sort of instinct in the matter which often makes 
the grandfather a more sympathetic companion 
to the growing boy than his own father. 

Bacon was as much interested in the question 
of the retardation of old age as any of the mod- 
ern scientists. There is a monograph from him, 
De retardandis senectutis accidentibus, " On the 
Putting Off of the Accidents of Old Age" 
which is written quite in the temper of Metchni- 
koff's book of a similar character in our time. 
Of course most people would be quite sure that 
anything that Bacon might have to say on the 
matter would be of very little significance, while 
Metchnikoff's ideas would be worthy of deep 
consideratiton. However that may be, for there 
are some skeptical spirits in our time who are 
not quite sure that Metchnikoflf's ideas, especi- 


ally those with regard to sour milk, though given 
such wide publicity by moneyed interests en- 
gaged in the manufacture of a particular brand 
of sour milk, are of any very great value, one 
thing is certain, namely, that Bacon very prob- 
ably lived to be well beyond eighty years of age, 
while Metchnikoff died before he was seventy. 
At least, Bacon's practice of the rules necessary 
to secure long life would seem to have been more 
successful than his modern scientific colleague, 
who presumably knew so much more about it. 
Bacon probably outlived also most of those who 
so sedulously, under Metchnikoff's direction, 
swallowed the bacillus hulgaricus of the only 
genuine Balkan sour milk and its products in our 
time for the purpose of reaching old age. 

The thirteenth-century scholar appreciated cor- 
dially the influence of the mind on the body and 
even states very clearly his conclusions, evidently 
obtained from personal observations of various 
kinds in this matter. It is so often presumed 
that it is only in comparatively recent years that 
men have come properly to appreciate the signifi- 
cance of mental influence in the cure of disease, 
that a paragraph from Bacon on the subject be- 
comes very interesting reading. 

Fiarures and charmes * may sometimes be used by 
phy.=iciaTis with good effects ; not from any prevalency 

* Bv Peiire. Bacon meant an astrological calculation 
of any kind and by charme he meant anything popu- 
larly supposed to have magical influence. 


in them, hut that the raising of the soul is of great 
efficacy in the curing of the body, and raising it from 
infirmity to health by joy and confidence may be done 
by charmes ; for they make the patient receive the 
medicine wth greater confidence and desire, in exciting 
courage, more liberal belief, hope and pleasure. 

Even the most fervid of psychotherapeutists in 
the modern time would be quite satisfied with 
that expression. 

Utility in Education. 

How little human ways of looking at things 
change even in what may seem comparatively so 
long a period as seven hundred years, can be 
readily seen from some quotations from Roger 
Bacon on the subject of education. If there is 
any subject in which men should be making defi- 
nite intellectual progress, surely it is that in 
which they are consciously occupying themselves 
with the problem of making the rising generation 
more intelligent than its predecessor, and yet we 
have been treated in recent years to arguments 
pro and con about education, strangely reminis- 
cent of Bacon's expressions on the subject. In 
our time there has been a recrudescence of the 
view that the great underlying question is the 
utilitarian element in educational systems. Of 
what use is a particular subject or phase or 
method of education? What is it worth for life, 
and for the making of a living? In the fourth 
chapter of his Opus Tertium, Bacon has a series 
of expressions with regard to education along 


these lines which make it very clear that what 
a great many people say at the present time, 
quite confident while they say it that they are 
expressing a new idea that has come to the 
world as a consequence of our noteworthy prog- 
ress in recent years, is after all only a repetition 
of some of the oldest phrases that we know in 
educational controversy. 

Bacon, for instance, says : " But because men 
are ignorant of the primal utilities of philosophy, 
therefore they despise many magnificent and 
most beautiful forms of knowledge, and ask, 
' What is this or that science worth ?' ridiculing 
it and insisting that they shall not learn it." 
There is another expression, which makes Pro- 
fessor David Smith in his article on " The Place 
of Roger Bacon in the History of Mathematics ", 
in the Bacon Commemoration Essays, say : 
" How history repeats itself !" Bacon wrote : 
" For students in these days when it is said to 
them that they ought to know optics or geometry 
or languages or a number of other things, ask in 
derision, 'What arc all these worth?' They 
assert that they are quite useless, and they do not 
wish to hear any discourse as to the true mean- 
ing of utility, and as a consequence they neglect 
and despise sciences of which they know noth- 

We are in the midst of a renewal of the con- 
troversy over the value of the classics and the 
sciences as basic elements in education, and some 
of those in favor of science who arc loudest in 


their public expressions seem to think that in 
utility they have discovered a new touchstone of 
values in education. It might be worth their 
while to go back and read the fourth book of 
Roger Bacon's Opus Tertium, so as to help their 
historic background. 

Roger Bacon and Francis Bacon. 

Inevitably, even though comparisons may be 
odious, a comparison between Roger Bacon and 
his namesake, Francis Bacon, suggests itself. 
The fate of the two men was very different in 
the generations that succeeded them. Francis 
Bacon came to be looked upon by many as one 
of the greatest intellectual geniuses that the 
world has ever known, and not a few hailed him 
as the father of modern inductive science. Roger 
Bacon, on the other hand, came, within a few 
generations after his death, into the bitterest of 
contempt and was looked upon as a typical ex- 
ample of the supremely foolish conceit of knowl- 
edge without any real basis for it which was at 
least supposed to be characteristic of the Middle 
Ages. His name became a popular subject of 
satire, a favorite symbol of utter pretentiousness 
and lack of true knowledge. This continued for 
nearly six centuries before the whirligig of time 
began to bring in its revenge. 

Now for some generations Francis Bacon has 
been gradually losing in prestige until it is rather 
generally considered that he was a much-over- 
rated man, who came at a period of transition in 


the world's history and who formulated certain 
ideas that had been expressed by geniuses of the 
time just before his own, especially such men as 
Bernardino Telesio, the Italian philosopher, of 
whom it has been said that his work " marks the 
fundamental revolution in scientific thought by 
which we pass over from the ancient to the mod- 
ern methods ". His work was done nearly lOO 
years before that of Francis Bacon. Perhaps 
the best evidence for the limitations of Francis 
Bacon's mind is to be found in the fact that he 
refused to accept the Copernican theory nearly a 
century after Copernicus's death, because he 
thought that the old Ptolemaic theory solved the 
difficulties better. 

While Francis Bacon's sun has been setting, 
Roger Bacon's fame has been growing ever more 
and more. Indeed it was only the lack of knowl- 
edge of the work done on the Continent that 
gave Francis Bacon the place he holds in English 
literature. In all that concerns the inductive 
method in science he had long been anticipated 
by the medieval Roger Bacon. Even English 
authorities in the history of science began to 
acknowledge this rather freely a generation ago, 
and now it is very generally recognized by all 
who know whereof they speak. 

Huxley once said, " To hear people talk about 
the great Chancellor — and a very great man he 
certainly was- — one would think that it was he 
who had invented science and that there was no 
such thing as sound reasoning before the time of 


Queen Elizabeth." Even Professor Draper here 
in America, so often utterly ignorant of the his- 
tory of science before our time as he showed 
himself, could not find anything good to say of 
Francis Bacon. " The more closely we examine 
the writings of Lord Bacon," he said in his In- 
tellectual Development of Europe, " the more 
unworthy does he seem to have been of the great 
reputation that has been awarded to him. . . . 
This boasted founder of a new philosophy could 
not comprehend and would not accept the great- 
est of all scientific discoveries when it was plainly 
set before his eyes." Draper refers, of course, 
to Francis Bacon's rejection of Copernicanism, 
though he might have referred also to his con- 
temptuous depreciation of the work of Gilbert of 
Colchester, the great physician-founder in elec- 
trical science who was elected the President of 
the Royal College of Physicians in England for 
the year 1600, and whose work De magnete is one 
of the most significant early contributions to 
modern experimental science. 

In the memorial volume of Essays on Roger 
Bacon there is a story of one of the eminent edi- 
tors of the works of Francis Bacon over half a 
century ago in England being attracted to the 
works of the medieval namesake of the more 
modern English scientist and Lord Chancellor 
by the name. To his surprise he found the older 
Bacon of the Middle Ages so interesting for him- 
self that he went on and read his works for their 
own sake. After doing so, he said to Dr. Whe- 


well who was just then writing his work on The 
Philosophy of Discovery, " I have - lately been 
reading some of Roger Bacon's writings and I 
am inclined to think that he may have been even 
a greater man than our Francis Bacon." Whe- 
well's own opinion of Bacon, as expressed in his 
History of the Inductive Sciences, though he con- 
fessed that he knew him from the Opus Majus 
alone, is summed up in his description of that 
work as " the Encyclopedia and the Novum Or- 
ganon of the thirteenth century ". He felt that 
the modern Bacon had been anticipated by his 
medieval namesake. 

Bridges, the learned English editor of Bacon's 
works, has suggested a contrast between Roger 
Bacon and Francis Bacon that is very striking 
and all the more significant for us because in all 
that is solid and serious in intellectual values it 
favors the medieval rather than the modern 

Between the fiery Franciscan doubly pledged by 
science and by religion to a life of poverty, impatient 
of prejudce, intolerant of dulness, reckless of personal 
fame or advancement, and the wise man of the world, 
richly endowed with every literary gift, hampered in 
his philosophic activity by a throng of dubious ambi- 
tions, there is but little in common. In wealth of 
werds, in brilliancy of imagination Francis Bacon was 
immeasurably superior, but Roger Bacon had the 
sounder estimate and the firmer grasp of that com- 
bination of deductive with inductive method which 
marks the scientific discipline. Finally, Francis Bacon 


was of his time; with Roger Bacon it was far 

Modern Appreciation. 

Undoubtedly the most interesting phase of the 
recent renewal of interest in Roger Bacon lies 
in the fact that men of so many different kinds 
of scholarship and culture, Jew and Gentile and 
Christian, philosopher and scientist, physician 
and philologist, have found so much to admire in 
him. For the better part of a century now he 
has been coming back into his own proper meed 
of appreciation. It is quite easy to find tributes 
to him in every language in Europe, and the 
volume of Commemoration Essays was actually 
printed in three languages — French, German, and 
English. A collection of books on Roger Bacon 
written during the past two generations would 
now probably occupy even more than " a five- 
foot shelf ". 

Victor Cousin, about the middle of the nine- 
teenth century came to appreciate very thor- 
oughly something at least of Bacon's wonderful 
genius. He suggested that it would be a worthy 
work of scholarship for an English fellow- 
countryman of Oxford or Cambridge to write a 
sketch of Bacon giving his place in relation to 
his time. England was not interested in the 
Middle Ages at that moment. Her scholars were 
mainly occupied with the early centuries of Chris- 
tianity, and the Oxford Movement was under 
way. It was a French pupil of Cousin himself, 


who took Up the suggestion of his master and 
gave us the first important modern account of 
the great medieval philosopher-scientist. '■ 

Cousin's suggestion to English scholarship did 
not bear fruit until well on toward the end of 
the nineteenth century, when Dr. Bridges wrote 
his sketch of Bacon's life and edited the Opus 
Majus. The motive that prompted him to do so 
is clearly stated at the beginning of the Introduc- 
tion. The paragraph serves to emphasize how 
much the thirteenth-century philosophy had an- 
ticipated the viewpoint of nineteenth-century 
thinkers. Dr. Bridges, himself a Positivist and 
close disciple of Comte, felt that Bacon had an- 
ticipated even his master. 

The Opus Majus when published in its entirety 
appears to me to present to the world a scheme of 
culture, contrasting strongly with any that was offered 
in Bacon's time or in the centuries that followed, 
combining as it does the comparative study of language 
with a comprehensive grasp of physical science, con- 
ceiving these studies as progressive and yet holding 
them subordinate to a supreme ethical purpose. 

Dr. Bridges does not hesitate to say that it was 
not until the time of Comte that anyone came to 
give the world a philosophic and scientific pre- 
sentation of the meaning of life, such as we 
have from Bacon. Comte, I need scarcely say, 
would be for Dr. Bridges, as for so many others 

5 Roger Bacon, Sa Vie, Ses Ouvrages, Ses Doctrines, 
d'apres des texts inedits, Paris, thesis 1851, fimile 


of his devoted followers, the very last word in 
applied philosophy. 

Bacon's appreciation broadened with the years 
after this. S. A. Hirsch, whose volume, A Book 
of Essays, published under the patronage of the 
Jewish Historical Society of England, contains a 
study of English Hebraists a>nd other Hebrew 
scholars throughout Europe, felt constrained to 
add his words of appreciation of Roger Bacon's 
knowledge of Hebrew at a time when that lan- 
guage was little known in the West. " I am of 
the opinion," he says, " that the direct evidences 
of Bacon's knowledge of Hebrew contained in 
his works do less than justice to him. His own 
testimony as to his proficiency in that language 
cannot be lightly set aside. He describes himself 
as a zealous student of Hebrew who had studied 
the subject for a number of years. He declares 
that, although he referred elsewhere to his 
knowledge of Arabic, yet he did not write it like 
Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Bacon was not an 
idle boaster, and full credence is due to asser- 
tions of that kind." 

Dr. Hirsch, whose book of essays contains 
articles on Pfeffercorn, Reuchlin, and others 
which show very clearly how competent he is in 
this matter of early Hebraists, feels sure that 
Bacon wrote a Hebrew grammar just as he did 
a Greek Grammar, though unfortunately only the 
Greek Grammar has been preserved. This study 
of Hebrew at that time when the language was 
of comparatively little interest to scholars gener- 


ally, shows at once the breadth of Bacon's inter- 
ests and at the same tmie his unappeasible desire 
to get at sources, as well as his readiness to take 
any amount of trouble in order to do so. 

On the other hand, the breadth of Bacon's 
human sympathies can be very well appreciated 
from a passage in his writings quoted by Hirsch, 
in which Bacon expresses his feelings with re- 
gard to the existence of many good Jews at the 
time of the Crucifixion who rejected Christ. For 
Bacon declared that he felt that there were at 
the time of the Crucifixion many holy and good 
men among the Jews ; and nevertheless they all 
rejected the Lord, except His Mother and John 
and the Marys : nay, it is even said that nobody 
really believed in flim except His Mother. 
His expressions show at once his own tolerance, 
which went to an extent quite unusual at that 
time, though the feeling toward the Jews voiced 
by Innocent IH, the great Pope who was in the 
pontifical chair when Bacon was born, had done 
much to foster a new liberality of spirit toward 
the Jew. What is more significant for us is that 
Bacon's words reveal that feeling toward the 
Blessed Virgin and her position in relation to 
her Son which was so profoundly reverent at this 
time and is noteworthy in the writings of St. 
Thomas Aquinas and of Duns Scotus, the great 
English Franciscan scholar of the next genera- 
tion, whose conclusions with regard to the Im- 
maculate Conception have since proved to be the 
mind of the Church. 


Every phase of Bacon's work has come to be 
appreciated in our time. In the Commemoration 
volume there is an essay by Cardinal Gasquet on 
" Roger Bacon and the Latin Vulgate", in which 
that great historian does not hesitate to say: 
" Bacon's proposal to Pope Clement IV was to 
appoint a commission of capable men with the 
avowed object of restoring the text of St. 
Jerome. The methods he suggests are the scien- 
tific methods employed to-day in the production 
of a critical text." His concluding sentence is: 
" What must strike any reader of Roger Bacon's 
works in regard to the Holy Scripture is the 
grasp the learned doctor had in the thirteenth 
century of the whole subject of Biblical revision, 
and how true and clear were the critical prin- 
ciples he laid down so many centuries ago." 

Bacon's " Imprisonment ". 

Like many other genius, Roger Bacon was 
not very amenable to discipline nor prudent in 
the control of his pen and tongue. He was typi- 
cally one of those who in religious Orders, where 
individuality must to a great extent be submerged 
in the community, is likely to make himself and 
others uncomfortable. This, of course, supplies 
opportunities for both parties to make progress 
in sanctity, though that phase of the problem is 
only properly appreciated afterward and at the 
moment often has no special appeal. Above all, 
Bacon was, as we have seen, too much inclined 
to indulge in personalities sometimes at the ex- 


pense of members of his own Order, for he never 
for a moment hesitated to criticize severely 
Franciscans v^rith whom he disagreed, and occa- 
sionally even his own superiors came in for a 
thrust from his biting tongue. What was rather 
more serious, he permitted himself to say and 
write the bitterest things with regard to mem- 
bers of the brother religious Order, the Domin- 
icans. This caused a good deal of scandal, and 
the Franciscans who seem to have borne with 
Bacon's bitterness when it concerned only them- 
selves felt compelled to take condign notice of it. 
It was these unfortunate personal elements in 
Bacon's disposition that prevented him to a great 
extent from having the full amount of influence 
in his own time that he might otherwise have 
had. What Professor Smith says of Bacon's 
judgment of the mathematics of his day, as "one 
of profound and vociferous contempt ", might 
very well be repeated with regard to nearly 
every subject in which Bacon had done special 
work until he felt the consciousness of knowing 
more about it than those around him. There is 
no doubt at all that much of the mathematical 
teaching deserved his profound contempt, but 
there was no need of his vociferousness in con- 
demning it so scornfully. This bitterness only 
aroused opposition and hardened men into the 
maintenance of their opinions. This is always 
the fault of the destructive rather than the con- 
structive criticism. 


Professor Smith's paragraph as to Bacon's 
opinion of the mathematics of his contemporaries 
can be applied to practically every feature of 
Bacon's mode of regarding his university col- 
leagues. He said : " Indeed, it is in the expres- 
sion of this contempt that we find one cause of 
his failure to influence the education of his time 
as much as might have been expected from his 
learning and undoubted ability. Instead of 
soberly going about the work of construction, he 
raves about the shortcomings of most of his 
contemporaries. For a follower of the lovable 
St. Francis of Assisi, he was filled with a bitter- 
ness that is hard to explain, and that militated 
against his success, not merely among his con- 
temporaries but for at least three centuries after 
his death." 

Bacon's acerbity of character, often so typical 
of genius, was sure to get him into trouble sooner 
or later. He was impulsive and quite sure that 
all the world was wrong except himself, and the 
world does not accept that sort of judgment very 
readily. He was a man far in advance of his 
time, which gave cause enough of itself for lack 
of sympathy from his fellows, but besides he 
was utterly impatient of others and, as can be 
seen from his writings, rather petulant and 
prone to indulge in personalities when an expo- 
sition of the subject in hand would have been 
much better and might have been even irenic. 
When his petulance involved the Dominican=;. his 
superiors had to take notice of it, The members 


of the two great religious Orders, which had 
been founded about the same time in the preced- 
ing generation, were brought into intimate con- 
tact at the Universities of Oxford and Paris. 
They had sometimes allowed themselves a liberty 
of criticism in intellectual matters that degener- 
ated into personal bitterness, until secular stu- 
dents and pupils had been disturbed and even 
serious scandals occasioned. What Voltaire 
called in his cynical way la jalousie du convent, 
has not infrequently had a tendency to degenerate 
into unfortunate and even scandalously strained 
relations between members of different Orders, 
because after all even religious are only men, and 
humanity is envious and jealous by nature and 
the old Adam dies hard. This fact only makes it 
all the more incumbent on religious superiors to 
discipline even severely, at least the most serious 
offenders in this important matter involving in- 
fractions of Christian charity, among those sup- 
posed to be most devoted to its practice. 

It is no wonder that when a reaction came in 
the Franciscan Order, Bacon was put in en- 
forced retirement. It is doubtful whether any- 
thing more than this can be said of what has 
been called his " imprisonment ", and that some 
people have been inclined to think of as twenty 
or thirty years of confinement to a dungeon. It 
is like Galileo's imprisonment. The good Flor- 
entine mathematician and astronomer was never 
in prison for an hour. He was confined to the 
home of a Cardinal friend, but that was one of 


the palaces of Rome where any of us would be 
quite willing to be entertained while at the Papal 
Capital. The main portion of Galileo's punish- 
ment, poor fellow! was to say the Seven Peni- 
tential Psalms every day for three years. He 
was placed in charge of a Jesuit friend in his 
own house, and later his guardian, that is, his 
" jailor ", to use the word of Protestant contro- 
versy, — selected for him by the Roman authori- 
ties, — was his own son. 

Roger Bacon was imprisoned, not by the com- 
mand of the Church, but the " Minister General 
of the Order of the Franciscans ", Jerome of 
Ascoli, who was afterward Pope Nicholas IV 
We know his career as a Pope very well, and his 
character was the farthest possible removed from 
the type of intolerant medieval churchman he 
would have to have been if ordinary Protestant 
traditions with regard to Bacon's imprisonment 
at his command were true. Jerome of Ascoli 
was the first of the Franciscans to be chosen as 
Pope and declined the honor, being finally forced 
to accept it under obedience after a second elec- 
tion. He was one of the gentlest of men. As a 
matter of fact, the records show that it was only 
" on the advice of many of the Franciscan 
brethren that the doctrines of the English Brother 
Roger Bacon were condemned and rejected." 

According to the Chronica, Roger was " im- 
prisoned " Just what this imprisonment ^ con- 

8 This whole question of imprisonment for religious, 
^nd just what it consisted of, has not as yet been 


sisted of for members of religious Orders is not 
very clear. There is no question at all that they 
were thrown into an ordinary prison. Some por- 
tion of the monastery in which they had been 
living or some special monastery was assigned as 
their living quarters. They were expected to 
say Mass every day, if they were priests, or to 
hear Mass daily, if they were not priests. Their 
freedom was restricted, and perhaps they were 
not allowed to leave a small garden near the 
house. Very probably the diet of the " im- 
prisoned" was quite limited, but then in the 
early fervor of the Franciscans a very restricted 
diet was a very usual thing. Certainly, Bacon's 
health does not seem to have been hurt in any 
way. The assertion of many modern writers 
that Bacon was imprisoned fourteen or fifteen 
years is quite gratuitous, and has no foundation 

worked out. Th^re are frequent references in the old 
religious chronicles to the imprisonment of religious 
for violation of their rules contumaciously, and above 
all for repeated violations of charity. How far this 
went as actual punishment beyond the stigma that for 
a moment was placed on a religious among his 
Brothers of the Order, is not clear. As a rule religious 
Orders are careful not to injure a man's usefulness 
among seculars by allowing any Order punishments to 
be generally known. They were rather careful of the 
reputation of their members. It is indeed sometimes 
said that their esprit de corps made them over-careful. 
Whatever imprisonment Roger Bacon suffered was 
entirely within his Order and does not seem to have 
created in him, so far as we know, any feeling of 


in ancient sources. Its frequent repetition is due 
entirely to over-zeal in proving the Church's per- 
secuting tendencies, though the Church as such 
had nothing at all to do with the matter. 

At the end, all we can say is that here was a 
great man of genius. He was, however, a man, 
as well as a genius, which is as much as to say 
that necessarily he had his faults — and indeed in 
geniuses these are usually emphasized. Bacon's 
wonderful power of penetration enabled him to 
see far below the surface of things to truths that 
were to be revealed with assurance only to schol- 
ars long after his time. Men of his type are the 
demonstration that at any time men who " have 
the mind to ", in both senses of the expression, 
are capable of facing the problems of humanity 
and the universe and at any time seeing the an- 
swers as clearly, though not in as much detail, 
as the progress of knowledge may later permit, 
as at any other time. It is the man, not his time, 
that counts; his intellect, not the extent of his 
knowledge. Fortunately for him. Bacon's lot 
fell in happy conditions, where for forty years 
he could devote himself to study almost without 
distraction. The difficulties that came to him at 
the end of his life were largely of his own mak- 
ing, and they must not have disturbed him very 
seriously, since he probably lived on to be nearly 
four-score of years and perhaps more. 



npHE Roman Catholic Church then, 
■*■ as now, was a great democracy. 
There was no peasant so humble that 
he might not become a priest, and no 
priest so obscure that he might not 
become Pope of Christendom, and 
every chancellery in Europe was 
ruled by those learned, trained and 
accomplished men — the priesthood of 
that great and then dominant Church; 
and so, what kept government alive 
in the Middle Ages was this constant 
rise of the sap from the bottom, from 
the rank and file of the great body of 
the people through the open channels 
of the Roman Catholic priesthood. 

— President Woodrow Wii^on, 
The New Freedom. 

' I *HERE has always, in generous 
■*■ souls who have some tincture of 
philosophy, subsisted a curious kind 
of sympathy and yearning over the 
work of these generations of mainly 
disinterested scholars who, whatever 
they were, were thorough and, what- 
ever they could not do, could think. 

— Saintsbury, The Flourishing of 
Romance and the Rise of Allegory. 

In necessariis uniias, in non neces- 
sariis libertas, in omnibus caritas. 




HE career of Roger Bacon presents a most 
interesting but very striking contrast to 
that of Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, whom we 
have chosen to follow him in this volume. Both 
lived their lives in the Middle Ages, the Cardinal 
dying just about ten years after the fall of Con- 
stantinople, which is usually set down as the end 
of the medieval period. Roger Bacon in the 
thirteenth century was assuredly possessed of a 
greater scientific mind than the distinguished 
Cardinal of the fifteenth century, and yet the 
Cardinal was undoubtedly a man of profound 
learning and science in his time, and had he lived 
out his four-score years as Bacon did, might 
have left behind him works that would have at- 
tracted scarcely less attention. As it is, Nicholas 
of Cusa represents one of the important links in 
that chain from the thirteenth-century scientists 
to the Renaissance time which culminated in 
Copernicus's revolutionary theory and the begin- 
ning of modern astronomy; and he is himself a 
great pioneer in that Renaissance of science as 
well as of art that occurred in the fifteenth cen- 

The difference in the fate of these two men. 
Bacon and Nicholas of Cusa, is extremely inter- 
esting. Bacon toward the end of his long life 


had just been released from an imprisonment of 
some kind, which was perhaps not very strict, 
but which deprived him of bis liberty and repre- 
sented his condemnation by his ecclesiastical 
superiors; while Nicholas of Cusa was the 
Bishop of Brixen, a Cardinal of the Holy Roman 
Catholic Church who had been very frequently 
sent as the Papal legate to various portions of 
Europe. Cusanus, as he was called after the 
fashion of the day in Latinizing names, was one 
of the most highly honored of ecclesiastics of his 
time, and while he too had been in prison for a 
period, this was not due to any effort on the part 
of ecclesiastical authority to suppress his very 
liberal scientific speculations, but to Duke Sig- 
mund, his civil ruler, who hoped thus to obtain 
from the Cardinal Bishop of Brixen the abroga- 
tion of certain Church rights and privileges. 

The secret of the difference in the life histories 
of the two men is undoubtedly one of personal- 
ity. Roger Bacon was by no means an easy man 
to get along with, critical to the highest degree 
and perfectly certain that those who did not 
agree with him and his opinions must be either 
foolish or insincere. He bitterly aljused distin- 
guished scholars of his own time, some of them 
belonging to the Franciscans, but more of them 
to the Dominicans ; and this was looked upon as 
an abuse of charity that must be prevented at all 
hazards. Nicholas of Cusa was a man of gentle 
and kindly character, diplomatic in his relations 
with others, sagacious and firm in his recognition 


and correction of abuses, but with an endless 
fund of sympathy for human nature a"nd above 
all for those who did not happen to see things as 
he saw them. While the one found himself in 
dishonor, the other added honors to honors, until 
the very end of his life. 

It is this personal element that has been only 
too often forgotten in the stories of the careers 
of men of science who supposedly have been per- 
secuted by Church authorities, but who really 
owed their persecution to personal character- 
istics that made it extremely difficult for anyone 
to get along with them. This applies very well 
to other cases than Roger Bacon's, as, for in- 
stance, to that of Giordano Bruno, whose life 
follows that of Cusanus in the next century. 
Now that we are having serious troubles with 
anarchists ourselves, we are beginning to be able 
to understand how disturbers of social order 
may find themselves outside the pale of the law 
mainly because they ofifend the sense of a time. 
Our experience with cranks of many kinds dur- 
ing the war has been an illuminating lamp of his- 
tory, if we will but use it as such. 

The story of the life of Nicholas of Cusa, or as 
he was called, following the custom of the Re- 
naissance time which took the Latin name of a 
man's native place and made an adjective of it, 
Cardinal Cusanus (so characteristically exempli- 
fied in the case of Regiomontanus, about the same 
time), is interesting not only for his personality, 
however, but because he was one of the great 


men of a great time in close touch with his dis- 
tinguished contemporaries. He was a particular 
friend of Toscanelli, the well-known physician 
and scientist whose writings so deeply influenced 
our own Columbus. But it must not be thought 
for a moment that Nicholas was a narrow stu- 
dent of physical science. On the contrary, he 
was rather famous as a scholar in a scholarly 
time, knowing Latin and Greek and Hebrew 
well, and in later years Arabic; and he was a 
particular friend of ^Eneas Sylvius Piccolomini, 
that distinguished pioneer in the New Learning 
who afterward became Pope Pius IL Probably 
no churchman of the fifteenth century is more 
thoroughly representative of the Church before 
the Reformation came to disturb Europe than 
this son of a German tradesman who rose to be 
one of the most important characters in the civi- 
lized world of his time. 

Nicholas of Cusa is a striking example of that 
acute expression of President Wilson in one of 
the addresses of his book The New Freedom, in 
which, recognizing sympathetically the great sav- 
ing element of democracy in the Middle Ages 
and the chance that this afforded many a man to 
rise in life, he pays worthy tribute to it. 

The only reason why government did not suffer dry 
rot in the Middle Ages, under the aristocratic systems 
which then prevailed, was that the men who were 
efficient instruments of government were drawn from 
the Church, from that great Church, that body which 
we now distinguish from other Church bodies as the 


Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church 
then, as now, was a great democracy. There was no 
peasant so humble that he might not become a priest, 
and no priest so obscure that he might not become 
Pope of Christendom, and every chancellery in Europe 
was ruled by those learned, trained and accomplished 
men — the priesthood of that great and then dominant 
Church ; and so, what kept government alive in the 
Middle Ages was this constant rise of the sap from 
the bottom, from the rank and file of the great body 
of the people through the open channels of the Roman 
Cathohc priesthood. 

Early Life and Education. 

Nicholas, who was destined to become one of 
the most prominent men in Europe before his 
comparatively early death at sixty-four, was 
born in an obscure little town of the Rhineland 
called Cues, and it is the Latin form of this name 
of his native town, Cusa, that now designates 
Nicholas in history. His father was a trades- 
man, probably a boatman by the name of Krebs, 
reasonably well-to-do, perhaps even wealthy for 
the community in which he lived, but for some 
reason, perhaps miserliness, making life at home 
very uncomfortable for his son. According to a 
tradition, which however is not well substan- 
tiated, Nicholas fled from the ill-treatment of his 
father to Count Ulrich of Manderscheid, to 
whose good-will he owed his opportunities for 
the higher education. That is a point of history 
that will probably never be decided now. His 
father seems to have provided for his early edu- 
cation with the Brothers of the Common Life at 


Deventer, and this of itself was quite sufficient 
to give him an excellent opportunity in life. 

Many another distinguished thinker of the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries received his intro- 
duction into the intellectual life from these good 
Brothers of the Common Life. Among them, 
besides the immortal Thomas a Kempis, were 
such men as Desiderius Erasmus, the great clas- 
sical scholar of the Renaissance, whose influence 
was felt everywhere throughout Europe from 
England to Italy, Jacob Wimpheling, who has 
often been hailed as the schoolmaster of Ger- 
many, "Preceptor Germaniae," Agricola and Alex- 
ander Hegius, the humanists, John of Dalberg, 
and many others. Deventer, where Nicholas of 
Cusa studied in his earlier years, counted some 
2,000 students, it is said, about the time of the 
discovery of America. I have told the story of 
the Brethren briefly in a chapter in The Century 
of Columbus under the title, " The Scholarship 
of the Teutonic Countries ". So far from Nich- 
olas of Cusa being a solitary phenomenon of 
genius among their pupils, he is only one of 
nearly a dozen men who attained distinction dur- 
ing the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries 
and who owed their youthful training, for which 
they remained forever grateful, to the humble 
simple Brothers of the Common Life. To rub 
out what their students accomplished from the 
intellectual life of Europe at this time would be 
to leave a very sad and wide lacuna in the his- 
tory of European mentality. The late Hamilton 


Mabie in his series of essays, My Study Fire, 
has a paragraph with regard to the education 
given by these Brothers of the Common Life 
which will perhaps make clearer than anything 
that I could say the meaning of their educational 
institutions. It will give the best idea of the in- 
fluences that surround Nicholas's school days. 

I confess that I can never read quite unmoved the 
story of the Brethren of the Common Life, those 
humble-minded patient teachers and thinkers whose 
devotion and fire of soul for a century and a half 
made the choice treasures of ItaHan palaces and con- 
vents and universities a common possession along the 
low-lying shores of the Netherlands. The asceticism 
of this noble brotherhood was no morbid and divisive 
fanaticism ; it was a denial of themselves that they 
might have the more to give. The visions which 
touched at times the bare walls of their cells with 
supernal beauty only made them the more eager to 
share their heaven of privilege with the sorely bur- 
dened world without. Surely Virgil and Horace and 
the other masters of classic form were never more 
honored than when these noble-minded lovers of learn- 
ing and of their kind made their sounding lines familiar 
in peasant homes. 

The schools of the Brothers of the Common 
Life afford the most striking evidence in contra- 
diction of the often-asserted neglect of education 
in Germany before the Reformation. All through 
the Rhineland and in the Low Countries these 
simple, devoted scholars gave themselves to the 
education of the middle and lower classes of the 
population with wonderful success. They repre- 


sented preparatory schools for the universities of 
the time, and the profound interest in even the 
highest education in Germany at this time will 
be best appreciated from the fact that altogether 
some seven new universities were founded in 
Germany during a little more than half a century 
before the beginning of the Lutheran movement. 
This is all the more interesting because at most 
two or three new universities were founded dur- 
ing the hundred years after the Reformation, and 
Professor Paulsen of the University of Berlin 
did not hesitate to quote with approval Eras- 
mus's expression with regard to the influence of 
the Lutheran movement on education that, 
" wherever Lutheranism reigned there was an 
end of good letters ". 

How deeply Nicholas was influenced by his 
teachers at Deventer, so that his whole mode of 
thought was tinged by their teaching, will per- 
haps be best recognized from the remark of a 
critical reader of his popular treatises on theo- 
logical subjects as they were written late in life. 
Scharpff calls the theology of Nicholas of Cusa, 
as it is to be found in books of his written for 
the faithful on such subjects as De quaerendo 
Deum, " The Quest for God ", De filiatione Dei, 
" The Sonship of God ", and De visione Dei, 
" The Vision of God ", Thomas a Kempis in 
philosophical language. As Thomas a Kempis 
probably represents more completely the deep 
religious feeling of the Brethren of the Common 
Life than any other, the enduring direction 


given to the great pupil's thought will be readily 
appreciated. At the same time the kinship of 
his writings with a Kempis is the best possible 
demonstration of their orthodoxy, though some- 
times it has been suggested that there were cer- 
tain pantheistic tendencies in Nicholas's phil- 

After his studies with the Brethren of the 
Common Life, at about sixteen years of age he 
was matriculated in the University of Heidel- 
berg. His ambitions were high, however, and so 
in the following year, 141 7, he transferred his 
university work to Padua. It was rather easy to 
do this at that time, because all the universities 
were under Papal charters and the exchange of 
professors and students for the benefit of broader 
scholarship was greatly facilitated. He grad- 
uated as Doctor of Canon Law at Padua in 1423. 
What probably influenced his life, that is, at 
least his intellectual life, more than anything else 
was his meeting at Padua with Paolo Toscanelli, 
who was afterward to become so well known as 
a physician and a scientist, and whose influence 
over Columbus made him famous in the modern 

While he studied as a clerical student at Padua, 
he does not seem to have determined absolutely 
to take priestly orders until somewhat later. He 
had studied Civil Law as well as Canon Law, 
and his knowledge of civics was so well known 
that some years later Bologna gave him the Doc- 
torate in Civil Law. He seems indeed at first to 


have thought of practising law as a profession, 
but was turned from that idea by some experi- 
ence in an actual lawsuit in which he recognized 
the pitfalls of legal procedure and the difficulty 
of securing justice, sometimes at least, without 
putting forth efforts that to him seemed of ques- 
tionable integrity. He lost a lawsuit in Mainz 
shortly after his return from Padua, and then 
under the patronage of the Archbishop of Trier 
he matriculated in the University of Cologne for 
the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He received 
his doctorate, and the Archbishop recognizing 
his ability gave him commissions of different 
kinds at various places in Germany, mainly for 
the correction of religious abuses. 

He came prominently before the Catholic 
world when, only a little more than thirty years 
old, at the Council of Basel, and though he 
pleaded two losing causes there — one of them 
that of Count Ulrich of Manderscheid, the adop- 
tive father of his youth, to whom he felt he 
owed a great deal, and the other that of the 
German nation against the Bohemians — he at- 
tracted wide attention for his scholarship and 
legal ability. The Council was under the presi- 
dency of Giuliano Cesarini, the celebrated Italian 
authority of the time on jurisprudence, who had 
been Cusa's professor of jurisprudence at the 
University of Padua. One may be reasonably 
sure that under these circumstances every oppwr 
tunity for the display of his abilities was afforded 
a favorite pupil. 

cardinal nicholas of cusa 97 

Ecclesiastical Career. 

The attention he attracted at Basel led to his 
selection as the Papal representative at the Diets 
of Mainz in 1441, of Frankfurt in 1442, of 
Nuremberg in 1444, and of a second Diet at 
Frankfurt in 1446, so that probably no eccle- 
siastic in Europe was better known to the hier- 
archy of his native country than Nicholas. Suc- 
cessive Popes came to have the highest confidence 
in him, and he was sent as legate to many places 
not only in Germany but also in France and 
Switzerland and other countries. He refused 
the Cardinalate when it was first offered to him, 
and it required a special order of Pope Nicholas 
V to make him assume this honor later. He was 
made Bishop of Brixen because that diocese was 
considered to need a firm hand and yet a diplo- 
matic heart and a sympathetic humanity to bring 
about the obliteration of abuses that had been 
allowed to creep into the diocesan institutions. 
It is not too much to say that probably no one 
was so close to the Popes or so thoroughly incar- 
nated the policy of the Church of his time as 
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, and yet after Roger 
Bacon himself there is almost no one in whose 
works are found so many anticipations of mod- 
ern science as in those of Cusanus. 

It might well have been expected that his rise 
in the hierarchy would have made him cautious, 
and that he would have felt that his ecclesiastical 
duties made it advisable for him to avoid scien- 


tific speculations. So far from this being the 
fact, however, it was mainly while he was in the 
midst of his busy life as a high ecclesiastic that 
his scientific works were written. There was not 
only no hesitancy on his part as to the advisa- 
bility of his continuing his writing on extraneous 
scientific subjects, but quite as evidently there 
was no feeling on the part of his colleagues in 
the hierarchy that it would be better for him to 
confine himself to religious subjects. 

In recent years our growing knowledge of the 
Middle Ages has led a number of people to rec- 
ognize that in the despised Middle Ages there 
was a liberality toward philosophic thought, 
especially in the great university centers, which 
afterward came to be narrowed. Indeed it has 
been often suggested that the shackles of eccle- 
siastical authority were put on tighter over the 
human mind during the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries than they had been earlier. For some 
it constitutes the reason why the Reformation, 
with its definite break for liberty, had come. Of 
any such ideas as these, however, the life of 
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa is an open contradic- 
tion. Nothing that I know shows so well how 
perfectly free the churchman might be to follow 
out speculations of all kinds, not only without 
danger to his personal liberty, but even without 
detriment to his ecclesiastical career in any way, 
and indeed his broad liberality of mind seems to 
have been one of the reasons that aided rather 
than hampered his successful career. 

cardinal nicholas of cusa 99 

Independence of Thought. 

There is abundant evidence in Nicholas of 
Cusa's writings of his thoroughgoing independ- 
ence of thought and his power to think for him- 
self. Writing about him in an essay in Old Time 
Makers of Medicine, so as to explain to physi- 
cians how it was that he was the first to make a 
suggestion of laboratory methods in diagnosis, I 
said of him : " There are many interesting ex- 
pressions in Cusanus's writings which contradict 
most of the impressions commonly entertained 
with regard to the scholars of the Middle Ages. 
It is usually assumed that they did not think 
seriously, but speculatively; that they feared to 
think for themselves, neglected the study of 
nature around them, considered authority the 
important source of knowledge, and were as far 
as possible from the standpoint of modern scien- 
tific students and investigators. Here is a pas- 
sage from Nicholas, on writing and thinking, 
that might well have been written by a great in- 
tellectual man at any time in the world's history, 
and that could only emanate from a profound 
scholar at any time." It runs : 

To know and to think, to see the truth with the eye 
of the mind, is always a joy. The older a man grows, 
the greater is the pleasure which it affords him; and 
the more he devotes himself to the search after truth, 
the stronger grows his desire of possessing it. As love 
is the life of the heart, so is the endeavor after knowl- 
edge and truth the life of the mind. In the midst of 
the movements of time, of the daily work of life, of 


its perplexities and contradictions, we should lift our 
gaze fearlessly to the clear vault of heaven, and seek 
ever to obtain a firmer grasp of ajid a keener insight 
into the origin of all goodness and beauty, the capacities 
of our own hearts and minds, the intellectual fruits 
of mankind throughout the centuries, and the won- 
drous works of nature around us; at the same time 
remembering always that in humility alone Ues true 
greatness, and that knowledge and wisdom are alone 
profitable in so far as our lives are governed by them. 

What Nicholas succeeded in thinking out for 
himself in astronomy is probably the most strik- 
ing testimony to his individuality of intellect and 
power to see things for himself. Father Hagan, 
who is the Papal Astronomer in charge of the 
Observatory in the Vatican, has summed it up 
in a paragraph of his sketch of Cardinal Nich- 
olas in the Catholic Encyclopedia. 

The astronomical views of the Cardinal are scattered 
through his philosophical treatises. They evince com- 
plete independence of traditional doctrines, though 
they are based on symbolism of numbers, on combina- 
tions of letters, and on abstract speculations rather 
than observation. The earth is a star like other stars, 
is not the centre of the universe, is not at rest, nor 
are its poles fixed. The celestial bodies are not 
strictly spherical, nor are their orbits circular. The 
difference between theory and appearance is explained 
by relative motion. Had Copernicus been aware of 
these assertions, he would probably have been encour- 
aged by them to publish his own monumental work. 

Like Roger Bacon, Nicholas of Cusa recog- 
nized very clearly how much that was accepted 


in his generation, often even by men supposed to 
be learned, was not true. His best known book 
is called De Docta Ignorantia, that is, " About 
Learned Ignorance ". I wonder if there ever 
was a time in the world's history when one 
could not write about learned ignorance. Even 
the educated people of any period are always 
ready to accept a large number of theories that 
prove after a while to have been utterly mis- 
taken. Often the wiser men of their generation 
see very clearly, though there is no hope of their 
convincing their fellows, how utterly insignifi- 
cant, especially to any such extent as their con- 
temporaries believe them, are the current the- 
ories of the day. We are still intent on passing 
theories, fairly slaves to them, while they last, 
and then dropping them for others. The thera- 
peutics of any generation has always been absurd 
to the second succeeding generation, but so have 
the current theories in any department of science. 
Up-to-date thinking is in a few years scarcely 
recognizable in the lumber room of cast-off hy- 

One of our greatest American humorists has 
said in our time : "It is not so much the ignor- 
ance of mankind that makes them ridiculous, as 
the knowing so many things that ain't so." We 
are just getting to recognize that what in our 
ignorance — to quote John Fiske, surely an 
authority not likely to be suspected of partiality 
to the Middle Ages — we used to call the Dark 
Ages ought to be called the Bright Ages. When 


we had no architecture, no beautiful buildings 
inside and outside, no arts and crafts worth while 
speaking of, we could not understand the Middle 
Ages and so forsooth called them "dark". Now 
when we are imitating their architecture, taking 
the models of their wrought iron and carved 
stone and woodwork for our developing arts and 
crafts, when we are going back to study their 
great poets, Dante, the Cid, the Troubadours, 
the Meistersingers and the Minnesingers, we are 
beginning to realize what a wonderful time it 
was. There is a fine opportunity in our time for 
another book with the title " On Learned Ignor- 
ance ". The surprise is — but only for those who 
do not know their Middle Ages — to find that the 
first book bearing that title was written before 
the close of the Middle Ages. 

It is stated in his book De Docta Ignorantia 
that the Great Cardinal set forth a theory with 
regard to the constitution of the sun. How 
clearly he anticipated some modern views, which 
it would seem almost impossible for a medieval 
scholar and above all a churchman to have had 
any hint of, may be seen particularly in this solar 
theory. It is all the more surprising that he 
should, by some form of intuition as it were, 
reach the conclusions he did, for the usual sources 
of information with regard to the sun in his time 
could not possibly have brought him to such a 
theory, and it was only his own genius far out- 
running the knowledge of his time that enabled 
him to do it. The Cardinal said : 


To a spectator on the surface of the sun the splendor 
which appears to us would b.e invisible, since it con- 
tains, as it were, an earth for its central mass, with a 
circumferential envelope of hght and heat, and between 
the two an atmosphere of water ^xld clouds and of 
ambient air. 

After reading that bit of precious astronomical 
science announced nearly five centuries ago, it is 
easy to understand how Cusanus anticipated 
other phases of our knowledge, as he did in his 
declarations that the figure of the earth is not a 
sphere, but is somewhat irregular, and that the 
orbit of the earth is not circular. 

Perhaps in our time it will be most interesting 
to find that in the field of politics, too, Nicholas 
of Cusa was capable not only of original think- 
ing, but in this as in so many other fields of 
thought he anticipated some of the greatest con- 
clusions of the modern time. As the result of 
his careful studies of conditions in Germany, he 
realized very clearly how much of unfortunate 
influence the political status at that time of the 
German people, with their many petty rulers and 
the hampering of development consequent upon 
the trivial rivalries, the constant bickerings, and 
the inordinate jealousies of these numerous 
princelings, had upon his native country. Ac- 
cordingly, toward the end of his life he sketched 
what he considered would be the ideal political 
status for the German people. As in everything 
that he wrote, he went straight to the heart of 
the matter and, without mincing words, stated 


just exactly what he thought ought to be done. 
Recalling that this scheme of Cusanus for the 
prosperity and right government of the German 
people was not accomplished until more than 
four centuries after his death, it is interesting, 
indeed, to realize how this clergyman of the 
middle of the fifteenth century should have come 
to any such thought. Nothing, however, makes 
it clearer than this, that it is not the progress of 
time that fosters thinking, but that great men at 
any time come to great thoughts. Cusanus wrote : 

The law and the kingdom should be placed under 
the protection of a single ruler of authority. The 
small separate governments of princes and counts con- 
sume a disproportionately large amount of revenue 
without furnishing any real security. For this reason 
we must have a single government, and for its sup- 
port we must have a definite amount of the income 
from taxes and revenues yearly set aside by a repre- 
sentative parliament, and before this parliament 
(reichstag) must be given every year a definite ac- 
count of the money that was spent during the preceding 

A Pioneer in Accurate Medical Science 

Our modern advance in medicine, in so far as 
it is real and enduring and not merely sensa- 
tional and apparent, is dependent more on the de- 
velopment of accurate methods of diagnosis than 
any other single factor. Very few people realize 
that, in spite of all that has been said with regard 
to supposed advances in the treatment of dis- 
ease, the dozen drugs that doctors use most and 


which they consider absolutely indispensable in 
the treatment of their patients, are all more than 
a century old, and some of them many hundreds 
of years, and a few of them some thousands of 
years old. It is in diagnosis that significant sci- 
entific advances have been made. The more we 
have been able to use mechanical means of vari- 
ous kinds and scientific instruments and mathe- 
matical formulae, the more valuable has been the 
accumulation of data with regard to diseases and 
the differentiation of disease conditions so as 
best to assure their rational treatment. 

Now I suppose that the last place in the world 
that one might expect to find the first hint toward 
the employment of accurate methods of diag- 
nosis in modern times would be before the end 
of the Middle Ages. Very probably the last per- 
son who would be expected to give such a hint 
would be a medieval churchman trained by the 
knowledge of the classics in early life, with his 
degree in canon law, not in medicine. If to this 
be added the fact that the author was a Cardinal 
of the Church, valued by his ecclesiastical con- 
temporaries for his knowledge of theology, it 
cannot but seem almost impossible that it should 
be in his works that is to be found one of the 
earliest valuable suggestions for the application 
of a thoroughly scientific method to medicine. 

In spite of this apparent impossibility, it is, as 
I have shown in my Old Time Makers of Medi- 
cine, to Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa that we owe 
the first hint of accurate diagnostic methods in 


clinical medicine, and his work has now become 
a well-recognized chapter in the history of medi- 
cine. In an article on " An Early Allusion to 
Accurate Methods in Diagnosis " which was 
published in the Archives of Diagnosis,^ I re- 
viewed the place of Cardinal Nicholas's sugges- 
tion in our history of clinical medicine and 
pointed out its definite significance. That story 
is worth while repeating here because it is such 
a surprising revelation of the way that genius, 
when apparently wandering far afield from its 
own special interest and intruding on others' 
work, is able to give hints that may prove ex- 
tremely valuable, though for the moment they 
may be so far ahead of current scientific thought 
as to be unavailable. 

Some years ago Professor Ernst von Leyden, 
at that time the Director of the First Medical 
Clinic of the Charite Hospital, Berlin, and one 
of the best known of the teachers of medicine 
at the University of Berlin, in sketching the his- 
tory of the taking of the pulse as an important 
aid to diagnostics in medicine, said that John 
Floyer, an English clinician, is usually named 
as the man who about the beginning of the 
eighteenth century introduced the practice of 
determining the pulse rate by means of the 
watch. He suggested, however, that William 
Harvey, the English physiologist to whom we 
owe the discovery of the circulation of the blood, 

^New York, April, 1909. 


had before Floyer suggested the use of the 
watch in counting the pulse and the value of the 
pulse in medical diagnosis. 

Professor Carl Binz of the University of 
Bonn, commenting on these remarks of von Ley- 
den, called attention to the fact that two cen- 
turies before either of these men, to whom the 
careful measurement of the pulse rate is attrib- 
uted as a discovery, were born, a distinguished 
German churchman, who died shortly after the 
middle of the fifteenth century, had suggested 
a method of accurate estimation of the pulse 
that deserves a place in medical history. This 
suggestion is so much in accord with modern 
demands for greater accuracy in diagnosis that it 
seems not inappropriate to talk of it as the first 
definite attempt at laboratory methods in the 
department of medicine. The pioneer of this 
important subject of accurate diagnosis was Car- 
dinal Nicholas of Cusa. The Cardinal suggested 
that in various forms of disease and at various 
times of life, as in childhood, boyhood, manhood, 
and old age, the pulse was very different. It would 
be extremely valuable to have some method, then, 
of accurately estimating, measuring, and re- 
cording these differences for medical purposes. 
At that time watches had not yet been invented, 
and it would have been very difficult to have 
estimated the time by the clocks, for almost the 
only clocks in existence were those in the towers 
of the cathedrals and of the public buildings. 
The first watches, " Nuremberg eggs ", as they 


were called, were not made by Peter Henlein 
until well on in the next century. The only 
method of measuring time with any accuracy in 
private houses was the clepsydra or water-clock, 
and Cardinal Nicholas suggested that this should 
be employed for estimating the pulse frequency. 
His idea was that the amount of water which 
flowed while a hundred beats of the pulse oc- 
curred should be weighed and this weight com- 
pared with that of the water which flowed while 
a hundred beats of the normal pulse of a num- 
ber of average individuals of the same age were 
being counted. 

Cusanus was an extremely practical man, he 
was constantly looking for and devising methods 
of applying practically principles of science to 
ordinary life. As we shall see in discussing his 
plan for the estimation of the pulse rate later on, 
he made many other suggestions for diagnostic 
purposes in medicine and suggested other appli- 
cations of mathematics and mechanics to his gen- 

The book in which the suggestion as to the 
accurate estimation of the pulse rate was made is 
of special interest to physicians. It is his Dia- 
logue On Static Experiments, which he wrote in 
1450 and which contains the following passages : 

Since the weight of the blood and the urine of a 
healthy and of a diseased man, of a young man and 
an old man, of a German and an African, is different 
for each individual, why would it not be a great benefit 
to the physician to have all these various differences 


classified? For I think that a physician would make a 
truer judgment from the weight of the urine viewed 
in connection with its color than he could make from 
its color alone, which might be fallacious. So also 
weight might be used as a means of identifying the 
roots, the stems, the leaves, the fruits, the seeds, and 
the juice of plants, if the various weights of all the 
plants were properly noted together with their variety 
according to locality. In this way the physician would 
appreciate their nature better by means of their weight 
than if he judged them by their taste alone. He might 
know then from a comparison of the weights of the 
plants and their various parts when compared with 
the weight of the blood and the urine, how to make 
an application and a dosage of drugs from the con- 
cordances an-d differences of the medicaments and even 
might be able to make an excellent prognosis in the 
same way. Thus, from static experiments he would 
approach by a more precise knowledge to every kind 
of information. 

Do you not think, if you would permit the water 
from the narrow opening of a clepsydra (water-clock) 
to flow into a basin for as long as was necessary to 
count the pulse a hundred times in a healthy young 
man, and then do the same thing for an ailing young 
man, that there would be a noticeable difference be- 
tween the weights of the water that would flow during 
the period? From the weight of the water, therefore, 
one would arrive at a better knowledge of the differ- 
ences in the pulse of the young and the old, the healthy 
and the unhealthy, and so also as to information with 
regard to various diseases, since there would be one 
weight and therefore one pulse in one disease, and 
another weight and another pulse in another disease. 
In this way a better judgment of the differences in the 
pulse could be obtained than from the touch of the 
vein, just as more can be known from the urine about 
its weight than from its color alone, 


Just in the same way would it not be possible to 
make a more accurate judgment with regard to the 
breathing if the inspirations and expirations were 
studied according to the weight of the water that 
passed during a certain interval? If while water was 
flowing from a clepsydra, one were to count a hundred 
expirations in a boy, and then in an old man, of course 
there would not be the same amount of water at the 
end of the enumeration. Then this same thing might 
be done for other ages and states of the body. As 
a consequence, when the physician once knew the 
weight of water that represented the number of ex- 
pirations of a healthy boy or youth and then of an 
individual of the same age ill of some infirmity or 
other, there is no doubt that by this observation he 
will come to a knowledge of the health or illness and 
something about the case, and perhaps also with more 
certainty would be able to choose the remedy and the 
dose required. If he found in a healthy young man 
apparently the same weight as in an old and decrepit 
individual, he might readily be brought to the conclu- 
sion that the young man would surely die and in this 
way have some evidence for his prognosis in the case. 
Besides, if in fevers in the same way careful studies 
were made of the differences in the weight of water 
for pulse and respiration in the warm and the cold 
paroxysms, would it not be possible thus to know the 
disease better and perhaps also get a more efficacious 

As will be seen from this passage, Cusanus 
had many more ideas than merely the accurate 
estimation of the pulse frequency when he sug- 
gested the use of the water-clock. Evidently the 
thought had come to him that the specific gravity 
of the substances, that is, their weight in com- 
parison to the weight of water, might be valuable 


information. Before his time physicians had 
depended only on the color and the taste of the 
urine for diagnostic purposes. He proposed that 
they should weigh it, and even suggested that 
they should weigh also the blood, I suppose in 
case of venesection for comparison's sake. He 
also thought that the comparative weight of 
various roots, stems, leaves, juices of plants 
might give hints for the therapeutic uses of these 
substances. This is the sort of idea that we are 
apt to think of as typically modern. Specific 
gravities and atomic weights have been more 
than once supposed to represent laws in thera- 
peutics that so far we have not succeeded in find- 
ing, but it is interesting to realize that it is 
nearly five hundred years since the first thought 
in this line was clearly expressed by a distin- 
guished thinker and scientific writer. 

Charity and Loyalty. 

On the death of his father considerable prop- 
erty reverted to Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, and 
by mutual agreement with his sister Clare and 
his brother John his entire inheritance was con- 
verted to a foundation for the benefit of the 
poor. During the five years from 145 1 to 1456 
extensive buildings were erected in his native 
town with chapel, cloister, and refectory at- 
tached. These were to serve as home for thirty- 
three old men in honor of the thirty-three years 
of Christ's earthly life. This institution is still 
standing and would remind one of the Grey 


Friars in which in Thackeray's The Newcomes. 
Colonel Newcome takes his refuge at the end of 
his life. Cardinal Nicholas by his last will left 
his altar service, his manuscript library, and his 
scientific instruments, to this hospital, as it was 
called, for at that time the word hospital meant 
only a guest house and had not become restricted 
in significance to a place where only ailing folk 
were given shelter. These bequests would seem 
to indicate that the institution founded by Car- 
dinal Nicholas was meant to be something more 
than a refuge for the old, and that he intended it 
to provide instruction also for the young. This 
was a feature of the English Grey Friars, for 
the famous " blue coat boys " went to school 
there ; and it is typical of the spirit of the Middle 
Ages thus to bring together youth and age for 
the sake of the mutual beneficent influence that 
they exercise on each other. 

Even more significant for our appreciation of 
the Cardinal's interests in life is the fact that, 
though his body rests in his own titular church 
in Rome beneath the sculptured efifigy of him in 
relief provided by the Renaissance spirit, he 
arranged that his heart should be deposited be- 
fore the altar in the hospital of Cues. ?Ie wanted 
his heart to be where his treasure was, and in 
life he had often exhibited the feeling that the 
real treasure of the Church is the poor. 

He did not forget his Alma Mater at Deventer 
when he became a Cardinal, for he founded there 
a residence called after him the Bursa Cusana, 


where twenty poor students were to be sup- 
ported. In a word, this scholarly scientist and 
distinguished ecclesiastical diplomat, who might 
be expected to be immersed in important eccle- 
siastical matters to the exclusion of interest in 
the needs of his native town and his first school, 
turned to accomplish concrete good by solving 
the social problems that he had been brought in- 
timately in contact with during his early years. 
Best of all, he did not wait till after his death to 
make the foundations, but arranged for them 
during his life and saw to their organization 
according to his plans for them. 

It is, above all, significant that a man of these 
broad intellectual interests and profound ability 
should have been selected by successive Popes 
as the person to whom the reforms of various 
abuses in German dioceses should be committed. 
The reform of abuses in any institution com- 
posed of human beings will always have to be 
made. They had crept in in many places in Ger- 
many and needed correction. To Nicholas of 
Cusa their reformation was committed, and while 
he made many enemies, almost necessarily, while 
engaged in such work, the friends he made far 
outnumbered these. Indeed the Abbot Trithe- 
mius, himself one of the most distinguished 
scholars and churchmen of that time, did not 
hesitate to say that everywhere Nicholas had ap- 
peared as an angel of light and of peace. So 
much of what we have heard of pre-Reformation 
history, especially as regards Germany, is so 


very different from this that it is worth while 
noting both the character of the man and his 
work, whom Rome selected for the delicate mis- 
sion of reformation. Certainly, as we look back 
at it now, no wiser selection than this, looked at 
from every standpoint, could, humanly speaking, 
have been made. Cusanus's career is in itself 
an epitome of the times, full of the most signifi- 
cant historical meaning. 



WHO loves not knowledge ? Who 
shall rail 
Against her beauty? May she mix 
With men and prosper! Who shall fix 
Her pillars ? Let her work prevail. 
— Tennyson, In Memoriam, CXIV. 

TXTHILST mind unfettered o'er 

* ' the earth extends 
Its all-subduing energies, and wields 
The sceptre of a vast dominion there. 
—Shelley, The Demon of the World. 



UNDOUBTEDLY one of the most interest- 
ing problems of biology, and one that has 
deservedly attracted a great deal of attention in 
recent years — indeed it is now declared to be a 
key factor as regards certain phases of the 
theory of evolution — is what is known as regen- 
eration. All of us know from experience that 
we have certain powers of regeneration, so that 
injuries, cuts, and even rather serious wounds 
are repaired by regenerative processes, which in 
a great many cases restore almost, if not quite 
completely, the original appearance of the skin 
surface. Imagine what battered bodies most 
human beings would present if every injury that 
went through the skin made a permanent scar or 
even left some definite trace. Not only it does 
not, but even rather deep injuries, if not fol- 
lowed by suppuration, are repaired so well that 
absolutely all trace of them may be lost, or at 
least only very slight marks of them left. This 
is due to the power of regeneration in the living 

Some of the lower animals possess this power 
of regeneration to a marvelous degree. For in- 
stance, there are certain salamanders or lizards 
that regenerate whole limbs when they are lost. 


When we recall that the limb of an animal con- 
tains bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, tendons, as 
well as various layers of connective tissue, usu- 
ally spoken of as fascus because they bind cer- 
tain tissues together in a way to facilitate their 
activity, it is easy to understand what a complex 
problem is here presented. How is this restora- 
tion accomplished? When the limb of the sala- 
mander is removed, all that is left is the jagged 
remnant of a limb with a superficial series of 
more or less injured cells, practically all of which 
will disappear before the true process of repair 
begins. The next row of cells behind these, the 
first healthy cellular layer, proceeds to grow, and 
then the cells lay themselves down in regular 
order until they have recreated the limb as it 
was originally. 

Perhaps the fulness of the mystery that is 
thus briefly outlined will be better appreciated 
from an illustration. Suppose that a cyclone 
should blow off a wing of a brick building, as 
storms have sometimes been known to do, leav- 
ing the main portion standing. A jagged edge 
of bricks— many of them broken, some of them 
displaced, not a few of them torn from their 
original location, yet still hanging on — would 
represent the outer surface of what was left. 
All these injured and dislocated bricks have to 
be removed before men can begin the repair. 
Suppose now the first row of uninjured bricks 
that were still in place after having pushed the 
displaced broken bricks out of the way, should 


begin to double, and then double again, and so 
on, laying themselves down in order on top of 
each other, until there would be a complete wing 
where the former one was. That is a picture on 
a large scale of what happens on a small scale 
when an animal's limb is torn away and then re- 
generated by a process of nature. 

It must not be forgotten, however, that in 
order to restore the wing of the building not 
only must the bricks be laid in regular order, 
but there are floors and partitions and stairs and 
corridors and doors and windows and wainscot- 
in,gs and plaster, and all the other contents of 
the building, to be put in place. These must be 
built up by degrees ; but the work is no more 
complex than the making of bone, muscle, sinew, 
tendon, joints, joint capsules, arteries, veins, 
nerves — these three latter corresponding to the 
plumbing, the water supply, the drainage, and 
the electric bells or the telephones in the build- 

How is so wonderful a work accomplished? 
Of course it is no more wonderful than the orig- 
inal growth of the limbs ; but, then, somehow we 
do not think so much of that. Where is the 
memory which recalls all the details of the limb 
that was lost, and where is the force that directs 
all the energies that accomplish the work? We 
call in an architect to plan the building, and then 
employ a contractor to direct the workmen how 
to do it — the architect controlling the contrac- 
tor's work. But where is all this mechanism in 


the little lizard, which, having lost a limb, pro- 
ceeds to develop a new one just exactly like its 
predecessor ? 

It is easy to understand what an interesting 
biological problem is here involved. Now, the 
first man to study this problem from the serious 
scientific standpoint was Lazaro Spallanzani, a 
clergyman of the eighteenth century. But even 
the fact that he was a clergyman is not so sur- 
prising, perhaps, as the further information with 
regard to him- — that his taste for scientific studies 
was aroused by a distinguished woman professor 
of the University of Bologna, Laura Bassi, who 
was a cousin of his. And, then, there is another 
surprise awaiting this generation — that a great 
deal of his work was facilitated by his sister 
Marianna, who became interested in the natural 
sciences (or, as they were then called in general 
terms, natural philosophy), in order to be of 
help to her brother. She is one of the many 
" Little Known Sisters of Well Known Men ", 
as runs the title of a recent American book — 
which does not, however, contain her name; 
nor, for that matter, the name of Caroline 
Herschel, who a little later was to be of so much 
assistance in his work to her brother, the famous 
Herschel the astronomer. We forget sometimes 
that sisters have often been deeply affectionate 
toward brothers of scientific genius, and that 
some of them, even long before our generation, 
have had the intelligence to reinforce their aflfec- 


tion and accomplish excellent results as their 

It is because of the many contradictions of 
ordinary impressions as regards the history of 
science that the life of Lazaro Spallanzani seems 
to deserve recall for our generation, because it is 
a keynote of actualities in history that are not 
well understood. For indeed the Abbe Spallan- 
zani, as he is usually called, was famous. He 
was offered chairs in literally more than half a 
dozen universities before he reached middle life ; 
and later on he was made a member of acad- 
emies and learned societies in many of the cities 
of Europe — not alone in his native Italy, but in 

^ Marianna Spallanzani's distinguished services to 
her famous brother are all the more interesting be- 
cause such feminine developments in' Italy are usually 
not thought (at least in English-speaking countries in 
our time) ever to have been possible. Even Dr. 
Mozans, in his book, Women in Science, always so 
thorough, and usually so exhaustive, has missed Mari- 
anna Spallanzani's story. The arrangement of the 
cabinet of Natural History which came to be the focus 
of the scientific attention of Europe at Pavia was 
largely in' her hands. .Spallanzani often confessed that 
she knew more about it than he did. During his ab- 
sence, distinguished visitors were taken through the 
cabinet by Marianna; and, as one of Spallanzani's biog- 
raphers (Senebier) says naively enough, " she knew 
the properties of all the specimens contained in it, and 
was capable of reasoning upon them." He adds, more- 
over, the secret of her successful cultivation of natural 
science; for "her mind was molded upon that very 
illustrious brother, whom it was pleasure to her to 
study and imitate." 


Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid, and in distant 
Stockholm, Upsala, and other places. He was 
one of the most distinguished scientists of the 
eighteenth century, known throughout all Europe, 
and particularly well known because of his con- 
troversies on spontaneous generation. Spallan- 
zani had the modern idea in the matter, and in- 
sisted that there was no such thing as spontan- 
eous generation, but that life was always the re- 
sult of preceding life. Though his dictum in the 
matter was disputed by Needham and Buffon, 
he came off victorious in controversies with 
them. He had similar good fortune also in a 
controversy with John Hunter on a topic relating 
to digestion, though at the time Hunter was 
rightly looked up to as one of the most distin- 
guished authorities in Europe on questions of 
anatomy and physiology. 

What is even more to Spallanzani's credit, 
however, than his success in the controversies in 
question is the fact that, notwithstanding that 
the temper of controversy in the eighteenth cen- 
tury was, almost as a rule, very bitter (though 
not so bitter as it had been in the seventeenth), 
and readily became personal, Spallanzani never 
stooped to anything of that kind. He was noted 
for the gentleness of his ways and the suavity 
of his manners. He probably did more than any 
one else of the period to set the example, general 
in our time, according to which scientists or 
grammarians or mathematicians may disagree 
without acrimony. 


When, at the beginning of the twentieth cen- 
tury, Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, Professor of 
Biology at Bryn Mawr College, gave the series 
of lectures on regeneration at Columbia Univer- 
sity, wrhich were published in the Columbia Uni- 
versity Biological Series,^ he reviewed in his in- 
troductory lecture Spallanzani's work, regretting 
that, unfortunately, the complete account of the 
Italian clergyman's experiments had never been 
published. As Professor Morgan has since come 
to be looked upon as the authority on regenera- 
tion not only in this country but in the scientific 
world generally, his epitomization of Spallan- 
zani's work is thoroughly authoritative. Here, 
for instance, is a brief resume of the Spallan- 
zani observations on earthworms : 

He made a large number of experiments with earth- 
worms of several kinds, and found that a worm cut 
in two pieces may produce two new worms, or, at least, 
that the anterior piece produces a new tail, which in- 
creases in length, and may ultimately represent the 
posterior part of the body. The posterior piece, how- 
ever, produces only a short head at its anterior end, 
but never makes good the rest of the part that was 
lost. A short piece of the anterior end fails to re- 
generate; but in one species of earthworm, that differs 
from all the others in this respect, a short anterior 
piece or head can make a new tail at its posterior end. 
Spallanzani found also that if much of the anterior 
end is cut off, the development of a new head by the 
posterior piece is delayed, and, in some species, does 
not take place at all. If a new head is cut off, another 

2 Macmillan Co., 1901. 


is regenerated ; and this occurred in one case five times. 
If, after a new head has developed, a portion is only 
cut off, the part removed is replaced; and if a portion 
of this new part is cut off, it is also regenerated. If 
a worm is split longitudinally into two pieces, the 
pieces die. If only a part of the worm is split longi- 
tudinally and one part removed, the latter will be re- 
generated from the remaining part. 

Spallanzani's experiments on other crawling 
creatures, especially the tadpole and the sala- 
mander, were not less interesting or less signifi- 
cant; and these two have been epitomized by 
Professor Morgan in such a way as to make it 
clear that Spallanzani's observations were care- 
fully made, and that practically no phase of the 
problems was neglected. Any one who thinks 
that biologic experimentation is in any sense 
modern or recent, or that the older scientists 
depended too much on theory and did not ask 
direct questions of nature, or diversify the terms 
of their experiment in such a way as to search 
out the definite significance of the phenomena in 
which they were interested, needs only to read 
this epitomization of Spallanzani's work on re- 
generation to have all such false notions oblit- 
erated. Professor Morgan says : 

Spallanzani found that a tadpole can regenerate its 
tail; and if a part of the new tail is cut off, the re- 
maining part will regenerate as much as is lost. Older 
tadpoles regenerate more slowly than younger ones. 
If a tadpole is not fed, it ceases to grow larger, but 
it will still regenerate its tail if the tail is cut off. 
Salamanders also regenerate a new tail, producing even 


new vertebrae. If a leg is cut off, it is regenerated; if 
all four legs are cut off, either at the same time or in 
succession they are renewed. If the leg is cut off near 
the body, an imperfectly regenerated part is formed. 
Regeneration of the legs was found to take place in all 
species of salamanders that were known to Spallanzani, 
but best in young stages. In full-grown salamanders 
regeneration takes place more promptly in smaller 
species than in larger ones. Curiously enough, it was 
found that if the fingers or toes are cut off, they re- 
generate very slowly. If the fingers of one side and 
the whole leg of the opposite side are cut off at the 
same time, the leg may be regenerated as soon as the 
fingers of the other side. A year is, however, often 
insufficient in some forms for a leg to become fully 
formed. If an animal is kept without food for two 
months after a leg has been cut off, the new leg will 
regenerate as rapidly as in another salamander that has 
been kept fed during this time. If the animal is kept 
longer without food, it will decrease in size, but never- 
theless the new leg continues to grow larger. Oc- 
casionally more toes or fewer toes than the normal 
number are regenerated; but as a rule the fore leg 
renews its four toes, and the hind leg its five toes. 

In one experiment, all four legs and the tail were 
cut off six times during the three summer months, and 
were regenerated. Spallanzani calculated that (in this 
process in a single animal) 647 new bones must have 
been made in the new parts. The regeneration of the 
new limbs was as quickly carried out the last time as 
the first. Spallanzani also found that the upper and 
lower jaws of salamanders can regenerate. 

Professor Morgan has also touched upon 
Spallanzani's experiments on the snail and slug. 
If the tentacles are removed, they are renewed ; 
and, to quote Professor Morgan, " Spallanzani 


found that even if the entire head is' cut off a 
new one is regenerated. Also other parts of the 
snail, as the foot and the collar, may be regen- 
erated. The head of the slug, it was found, re- 
generates with more difficulty than that of the 
snail." No wonder that Professor Morgan did 
not hesitate to say that the justly celebrated ex- 
periments of Spallanzani and his contemporaries 
furnish the basis of all later work, and that 
many of the important facts in regard to regen- 
eration were made known by their investigations. 
Abbe Spallanzani's experiments on regenera- 
tion, then, as can readily be understood, were not 
merely superficial investigations of a curious 
phenomenon, but very definite and searching 
questions put to nature with regard to this im- 
portant function of tissues. Spallanzani actually 
showed that not only the tails and limbs of many 
creatures, like tadpoles, salamanders, and snails, 
could be regenerated on removal, but that some 
of these creatures could regenerate their heads; 
though it was afterward found that, in these 
cases, what had been called the head of the 
animal did not contain the essential part of the 
central nervous system. In the course of these 
experiments, he brought out very clearly how 
important was the spinal cord as a portion of 
the central nervous system. Up to this time the 
spinal cord has been considered as merely a sort 
of bundle of nerves running together through 
the canal in the spinal vertebrse, somewhat as 
the elements of an electrical cable run through 


a tube or tunnel. Spallanzani's experiments 
show, however, that the spinal cord contains a 
number of important reflex centers, which bring 
about reflex movements and functions of various 
kinds quite independently of the brain, and 
almost entirely without reference to it. 

His experimental removal of the head of the 
land snail, followed by its regeneration, was 
doubted until a series of observers had controlled 
and confirmed his conclusions. It was afterward 
shown that this does not contain the brain ; but 
it does contain the eyes, the mouth, the tongue, 
the teeth, and most of the sense organs of the 
animal, and these are all regenerated. In a word, 
the whole subject of regeneration was gone into 
so thoroughly as to make it a special chapter in 
biological science. In the midst of preoccupa- 
tions with other developments, and particularly 
the cell doctrine, this subject was neglected in 
the nineteenth century, until, during the last two 
decades of that period, Roux, Driesch, and 
others in Germany, as well as Thomas Hunt 
Morgan, Loeb, and other American biological in- 
vestigators, took it up again and showed its sig- 
nificance. Practically, all that they have accom- 
plished has added little to our knowledge of the 
details of it, though they have succeeded in 
pointing out how much the possession of the 
faculty of regeneration tells against Darwinism. 

While Spallanzani's studies in regeneration 
have attracted attention to him, particularly in 
our time, it was his work on so-called spontan- 


eous generation that gave him his reputation in 
the eighteenth century. The question of the 
possibility of the spontaneous origin of life 
(abiogenesis, as it is called scientifically — that is, 
of the occurrence of life as the result of non- 
living forces and without any necessary relation 
to preceding life) has often occupied men's 
minds, and, above all, in the nineteenth century 
was the subject of not a little thought and a 
great deal of experimentation. Even distin- 
guished scientists have lent themselves to the 
conclusion that life could thus originate of itself, 
as, for instance, in the moist, hot climate of a 
tropical country, or in the slime at the bottom of 
the ocean. Huxley rather brought himself into 
ridicule by his acceptance of bathybius — a low 
order of life, as its Greek name implies, which 
was supposed to be intermediate between non 
living or non-organic material and living or 
organic material. In some minds the problem is 
not yet settled; for all those who refuse to 
accept creation as the origin of life, consider that 
life must have come into existence originally by 
some chance disposition of merely physical 

In centuries preceding the nineteenth, all sorts 
of curious notions with regard to the spontan- 
eous origin of life were accepted even by scien- 
tific minds. The old Greeks were quite sure that 
insects and even other highly organized forms 
of life sprang into existence as the result of 
merely favorable physical conditions. Putrefy- 


ing material, for instance, was supposed actually 
to generate little living things. The Romans 
adopted this set of ideas from the Greeks; and 
everyone will recall Virgil's very curious de- 
scription of the way to obtain a swarm of bees, 
by allowing a carcass to rot on a hillside in the 
sun. He had evidently mistaken the buzzing 
flies, so often with curiously brilliant wings and 
bodies, which are seen under such circumstances, 
for young bees ; though perhaps he had never 
seen the phenomenon, but merely adopted it, as 
he did most of the biological and agricultural 
hints in his Georgics from writers of curious 
things in the world around him. 

One of the well-known names at the begin- 
ning of modern science was Van Helmont, to 
whom we owe the word " gas ", and who is 
looked upon as one of the most distinguished 
medical scientists of the seventeenth century. 
His ideas, therefore, would be reasonably repre- 
sentative of the science of his time. He was in- 
deed the founder of the iatrochemical school in 
medicine, which did so much to suggest the 
chemistry of the human body as the basis of 
pathology and the scientific foundation for thera- 
peutics. We owe to him the physiological im- 
portance of ferments and gases, particularly of 
carbonic acid ; and his knowledge of the bile, the 
gastric juice, and the acids of the stomach was 

3 Garrison, History of Medicine. 


In spite of all this knowledge of chemistry in 
general and the chemism of the body in partic- 
ular, in which he was practical enough to intro 
duce the gravimetric idea in the analysis of urine, 
which has since been of so much importance, 
Van Helmont had what would seem to us the 
most absurd notions with regard to the subject 
of the origin of even highly organized life, and 
of spontaneous generation in general. He sug- 
gested, for instance, that even living beings so 
high in the scale of life as mice might be ob- 
tained by spontaneous generation. The terms of 
the experiment were that some meal should be 
taken, placed in an earthenware jar in a dark 
corner of a cellar, covered with dirty linen (this 
latter seemed to be an important factor in the 
experiment) ; and he said that in the course of 
a few weeks mice would be found making a 
home in the meal. This occurrence of life he 
considered to be due to spontaneous generation ; 
and, as he had tried the experiment a number of 
times, he was quite convinced that his conclusion 
in the matter was scientific. 

In the eighteenth century they had gone far 
beyond these crude notions at least, though many 
scientists were still inclined to think that in- 
sects were produced spontaneously in decaying 
or rapidly changing organic matter ; and that 
surely the smaller living things (the animalcules, 
as they called them — the micro-organisms or 
microbes, to use the familiar name of the modern 
time) arose spontaneously 


Curiously enough, about the middle of the 
eighteenth century, the controversy over spon- 
taneous generation was between two Catholic 
clergymen — one of them Father Walter Need- 
ham, an Irish priest whom the Penal Laws made 
an exile on the Continent, and who devoted a 
good deal of his leisure time to biological experi- 
ments ; the other, our Abbe Spallanzani. In 1748 
Father Needham published the account of cer- 
tain experiments on boiled meat juices, which 
were enclosed in glass phials and sealed, so that 
apparently whatever developed in them must 
come from their contents and not in any way 
from without. As the boiling was presumed to 
have killed all life in the organic materials, the 
subsequent presence of micro-organisms in these 
liquids seemed to demonstrate that these must 
have been produced by spontaneous generation. 
The same controversy, almost in the same form, 
was destined to come up in the nineteenth cen- 
tury, when Pasteur's crucial experiments once 
more refuted the idea of spontaneous generation. 

Spallanzani anticipated Pasteur by repeating 
Father Needham's experiments under conditions 
which showed conclusively that whenever, after 
thorough boiling, the air was completely excluded 
from the flasks, no life ever developed in them. 
He used glass flasks which could be hermetically 
sealed in flame, immersing them in boiling water 
prior to the test. When Father Needham ob- 
jected that the real reason for the failure of sub- 
sequent occurrence of micro-organisms in the 


organic fluids was that their exposure to the 
flame had killed the " vegetative force " in them 
which would have enabled them to support life, 
Spallanzani extended this experiment so as to 
show that just as soon as the sealed fluids were 
exposed to the air once more, they were thor- 
oughly capable of supporting organic life, only 
that life must be introduced into them from 
without. This work, almost needless to say, at- 
tracted a great deal of attention; and Spallan- 
zani's triumphant demonstration of his ideas 
gave him great scientific prestige throughout 
Europe, and created as well a new point of view 
which was to form a firm fundamental principle 
in modern science. 

Regeneration and spontaneous generation were 
only two out of many subjects that Spallanzani 
treated in the field of what we now call biology. 
There were many others. Digestion, generation, 
fertilization, respiration, circulation, were all 
taken up, and all of them illuminated by his 
genius; for there is no other word for his mar- 
velous power of observation, his infinite patience 
in diversifying his experiments, his ingenuity of 
device for his questions to nature, and his perti- 
nacity in following up hints to definite conclu- 

Probably the most interesting discovery made 
by Spallanzani was that of the digestive power 
of the saliva. Ordinarily it was assumed up to 
that time (and the idea is still prevalent enough) 
that the purpose of saliva was mainly to moisten 


the food and make it easier to swallow ; and, as 
a matter of fact, this is one of its important 
functions. So far from this being the all- 
important function, however, it is now well un 
derstood that, if saliva does not become mixed 
properly with starchy food, its digestion is not a 
little interfered with, or at least hampered. If 
the starches are always presented in such form 
that very little chewing is needed — as, for in- 
stance, when potatoes are mashed, and peas and 
beans are pureed, and only the soft portions of 
bread eaten, or bread always soaked in some 
fluid before being eaten — the digestion of the 
starch is rendered difficult. On the other hand, 
if a piece of bread be chewed faithfully, and 
especially a crust of bread chewed until it is 
ready to swallow without any fluid being taken, 
the substance becomes sweet in the mouth, show- 
ing that the saliva is already bringing about a 
change of the starch of the bread into sugar. 
Something of this change ought always to take 
place in the mastication of starchy foods. 

We owe the knowledge of this important func- 
tion: of the saliva to Spallanzani, who also ex- 
tended the knowledge of the gastric juice as a 
solvent of food in the stomach. This fact had 
been known before, and the function of the gas- 
tric juice had been scientifically determined ; but 
Abbe Spallanzani showed that the gastric juice 
acts outside the body, and somehow contains in 
itself apart from the stomach, once it has been 
secreted, the digestive power. This led later to 


the preparation of pepsin from animals' stom- 
achs as an adjuvant to human digestion. Spal- 
lanzani also showed that the gastric juice pre- 
vented the putrefaction of even the most highly 
organized materials, and that it had the power of 
stopping putrefaction even after it had once 
begun. As a matter of fact, his thoroughness of 
investigation of the subject set stomach diges- 
tion on a scientific plane that was little raised 
until well on toward the end of the nineteenth 

Regeneration and digestion are two very im- 
portant subjects to have illuminated so well as 
Spallanzani illuminated them ; but after this he 
took up the subject of respiration, and left it as 
much his debtor as that of digestion. He studied 
not only the respiration of warm but also of cold- 
blooded animals. By experiments, he demon- 
strated that animals that hibernate — that is, pass 
the winter in a sort of comatose condition — con- 
sume only an almost infinitesimal amount of 
oxygen. Indeed, he demonstrated that they can 
live comfortably for a considerable time in an 
atmosphere of carbon dioxide, in which ordinary 
warm-blooded animals will perish in the course 
of a few minutes. 

Abbe Spallanzani went still further, however, 
and showed that living tissues excised from a 
freshly killed animal will take up oxygen and 
give off carbon dioxide for a time, quite as if 
they were directly connected with the blood 
stream which brought them oxygen and carried 


off the carbon dioxide. In this he anticipated, 
in certain fundamental aspects, the series of ex- 
periments which have been made in recent years 
to demonstrate that tissues retain vitality for a 
definite and sometimes rather prolonged period 
after their detachment from the living being to 
which they belonged originally. When I add 
that he was very much interested in the subject 
of artificial fecundation, which, like regeneration 
and spontaneous generation was to occupy 
biology so much in the last century, it is quite 
easy to understand how far ahead of his time he 
was. He was undoubtedly the most important 
pioneer in experimental morphology, that de- 
partment of biology which came to attract so 
much attention in the last quarter of the nine- 
teenth century; though his work on this subject 
began a full hundred years before that time. 

Spallanzani's early education and his youthful 
intellectual interests were not such as might nat- 
urally lead him into experimental science. In- 
deed, his thoroughly classical education was such 
that, to believe certain modern theorists in edu- 
cation, it might have been expected that he could 
not have developed that interest in the things of 
nature around him and the marvelous power of 
observation which characterized his subsequent 
career. For, as Senebier says in his sketch of 
him prefixed to the Memoirs on Respiration, 
" he confined himself to the study of grammar, 
the importance of which in general is not suffi- 
ciently felt, informing the mind so as to seize 


those relations which are adapted to confer on 
it distinction or at least happiness." 

Spallanzani was born 10 January, 1729, at 
Scandiano, in Modena, which, with Parma, was 
then an independent Duchy in North Italy. His 
college education was obtained with the Jesuits 
at Reggio; and, after the completion of his 
studies of rhetoric and philosophy, he went for 
his university work to Bologna. At that time 
one of the most distinguished professors at the 
University of Bologna was that celebrated 
woman teacher of the natural sciences and 
mathematics, Laura Bassi. She was a cousin of 
Spallanzani, and deeply influenced his intellec- 
tual development. This mother of twelve chil- 
dren, " who never permitted her scientific and 
literary work to conflict with her domestic 
duties, or to detract in the least from a singular 
affection which so closely united her to her hus- 
band and children ", was a focus of attention 
in Bologna that attracted visitors from every- 

In spite of this interest in the natural sciences 
aroused by his distinguished cousin, Spallanzani 
devoted himself to the classics and especially to 

* This same century saw no less than three other 
distinguished women professors at the University of 
Bologna : Madame Manzolini, professor of anatomy, 
a colleague of Galvani ; Maria dalle Donne, for whom 
Napoleon established a chair of obstetrics at the Uni- 
versity; and Clotilda Tambroni, the famous professor 
of Greek, of whom it was said " only three persons in 
Europe are able to read Greek as well as she does.'' 


Greek. His favorite authors were Homer, De- 
mosthenes, and St. Basil; and the first work 
from his pen was a critique of Salvini's transla- 
tion of Homer, which had been considered up to 
that time as one of the best translations of the 
old Greek poet ever published. Spallanzani 
showed, however, in how many ways the trans- 
lator had failed to reproduce in Italian the spirit 
and vigor and sometimes even the sense of a 
very great number of Flomer's expressions. In 
doing so he entered into the most erudite details 
respecting the etymology of a variety of words, 
pointing out their exact import and restoring the 
true sense of the Greek text. His letters on the 
subject constitute a real monograph, and were 
printed in the works of the distinguished scholar, 
Conte Algarotti, to whom they were written. 

Besides his work in literature and the natural 
sciences, Spallanzani, conforming to the wishes 
of his father, whom he dearly loved, took up the 
study of jurisprudence, so as to follow out the 
custom of Italy of the son's embracing his 
father's profession. He was in the midst of his 
course in jurisprudence when he confided to the 
well-known Vallisnieri, professor of natural his- 
tory at Padua, his lack of serious interest in law ; 
and Vallisnieri, who was also a native of Scan- 
diano, and was well acquainted with the Spallan- 
zani family, promised to secure his father's per- 
mission to give up law. Deeply affected with 
the proof of obedience to his will, Spallanzani's 
father readily consented that his son should 


henceforth be left at liberty to follow the bent 
of his own inclinations. F"rom this time on 
Spallanzani's life was almost entirely devoted to 
the study of natural history — what we now call 
physical and biological science. 

At the conclusion of his years with the Jesuits, 
Spallanzani passed some time with the Domini- 
cans at Reggio, and received Minor Orders 
there. I have been able to find no record of his 
ever receiving Major Orders, though he was in- 
variably known as Abbe Spallanzani in all that 
was written about him in English and French 
literature; and he seems always to have consid- 
ered himself as devoted to the Church. He was 
only twenty-five years of age when, in 1754, he 
was chosen professor of Greek, logic, and mathe- 
matics at the University of Reggio. Such a 
combination of studies and teaching would seem 
absurd in our day, and would lead one to think 
that the poor fellow who had to undertake so 
various a duty would surely not be able to find 
any satisfactory self-development. Before five 
years had passed, however, Spallanzani's work 
had attracted widespread attention ; and the 
University of Coimbra in Portugal and the Acad- 
emy of Petersburg in Russia, as well as the Uni- 
versities of Parma and Cesena in Italy, offered 
him chairs. Fie preferred the call of the Uni- 
versity of Modena, in his own North Italy, and 
continued his good work there. 

In 1768 the Empress Maria Theresa suggested 
to her minister of education that Spallanzani 


should be secured for the chair of natural his- 
tory in the University of Pavia, which the great 
Empress, in her policy of conciliating the Italians 
who were under Austrian rule, was engaged in 
reorganizing. Spallanzani hesitated about ac- 
cepting the offer until he was assured that a 
most liberal policy was to be instituted as re- 
gards the University of Pavia, and that he would 
be given large opportunities to develop its de- 
partment of natural history, as well as liberal 
allowances in order to make the museum at 
Pavia one of the best known not only in Italy 
but throughout the world. During his occu- 
pancy of the chair at Pavia, Spallanzani, in ac- 
cordance with this prearrangement, spent a great 
deal of his time in Switzerland and along the 
Mediterranean coast, also in Asia Minor and 
Turkey and Greece, gathering collections of 
scientific material for the museum at Pavia, 
which made that a center of interest for Europe 
and the biological sciences at that time. 

Pavia, after having been a very distinguished 
university, had been allowed to run down under 
the Austrian domination until it was scarcely 
more than a shadow of its former greatness. 
The administrative ability of Maria Theresa 
made it clear to her that a continuance of the 
previous neglect would surely create disaffection 
among the Italians, and foster revolution. Hence 
the issuance of the invitation to Spallanzani, with 
the offer of such special opportunities in his line 
as would surely secure his acceptance. Some 


idea of her success in gathering a hand of dis- 
tinguished professors at the reawakened Univer- 
sity of Pavia may be gathered from the group 
of men who came there in Spallanzani's Hfe- 
time — including Boscovich, the great mathema- 
tician; Fontana, the naturalist; as well as Bur- 
serius and Moscati. 

Vallisnieri, professor of natural history at the 
University of Padua, who was considered the 
most prominent teacher of the biological sciences 
throughout Europe, having died, his chair was 
offered to Spallanzani — a compliment which im- 
plied that the faculty regarded the professor of 
Pavia as the legitimate successor of his great 
compatriot. Spallanzani was tempted to accept 
the position, because of the prestige that went 
with it ; but the Empress of Austria wished to 
retain him, and the Austrian authorities doubled 
his salary, and offered him a long leave of ab- 
sence for a scientific expedition to Turkey, 
knowing well that this latter stipulation would 
carry far greater weight with Spallanzani than 
any monetary consideration. 

He remained at Pavia, then, and accomplished 
a long scientific tour throughout Turkey, his re- 
turn being made the occasion of a magnificent 
university ovation. After this at regular inter- 
vals he continued to make scientific journeys, 
always with definite investigation purposes. He 
made a series of special studies, for instance, of 
Vesuvius and of the volcanoes of Sicily and of 
the Lipari Islands; for he was interested not 


only in the biological sciences, but in all the 
physical sciences. 

Abbe Spallanzani's most important work in 
his time was the collection of specimens for the 
museum of the University of Pavia. In this task 
he anticipated what was to be a particular fea- 
ture of university scientific life at the end of the 
nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth 
century. As there was practically none of the 
natural sciences in which Spallanzani was not 
interested, the specimens he collected illustrated 
every phase of natural history at that period. 
He made a great natural history museum in the 
broadest sense of the word ; and the surprise is 
that a man so deeply interested in collection, 
comparison, and classification of the objects for 
a museum, should at the same time have been so 
indefatigable an experimenter, and so ingenious 
an organizer of experimental methods of all 
kinds. There is scarcely a biological question 
that has deeply interested scientists during the 
past generation which, apparently, did not occur 
to Spallanzani, and which he did not make some 
attempt to answer. Even when his attempts are 
failures, because of the state of science at the 
time, almost without exception his methods are 

There was a very large group of Italian scien- 
tists doing magnificent work in the latter half of 
the eighteenth century. We have been so little 
accustomed to consider Italy as the pioneer in 
nearly all great scientific achievements that we 


are not likely to appreciate this phase of the his- 
tory of science. Among those whose work was 
attracting world-wide attention among his fel- 
low-countrymen in Spallanzani's lifetime were 
Galvani, after whom galvanism is named ; Volta, 
whose name has been chosen, and meritedly, as 
one of the basic terms in electricity ; Morgagni, 
the father of modern pathology ; Scarpa, the 
greatest anatomist of his day; Vallisnieri, the 
naturalist; Mascagni, and others. It was in a 
generation of this kind that Spallanzani was 
properly appreciated, and looked up to as, if not 
the most distinguished among them, certainly the 
one with the greatest breadth of knowledge and 
probably the widest reputation in his own time. 
Dr. Tourdes, of the University of Montpellier, 
who knew Abbe Spallanzani personally, and who 
translated a number of his works into French, 
in his sketch of the literary productions of Spal- 
lanzani which precedes his translation of the 
Abbe's experiments upon the circulation of the 
blood, has a series of paragraphs which demon- 
strate Spallanzani's contemporary reputation." 

5 This work, with a number of others, including most 
of the important books published by Spallanzani, as 
well as some of his unpubli.shed manuscripts which 
were edited after his death, can be obtained in English 
translation. Indeed, there is scarcely any language in 
Europe — that is, of the more important countries — 
into which most of Spallanzani's works were not trans- 
laled. It is no surprise to find them in English; for 
during the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
English and Italian science were rather closely in touch 


Italians were certainly among the first to do justice 
to their fellow-countryman. They had the highest 
opinion of his merit, and the writers of that country 
participated in the general admiration of Spallanzani. 
It was impossible that the greater part of them should 
not be conscious of their inferiority; and such men 
as Volta, Scarpa, Moscati, Fontana, and Mascagni, 
could have no reason to envy his glory. 

Foreign naturalists likewise paid him the most honor- 
able tribute of praise. Haller dedicated to him one 
of the volumes of his immortal work. The founder of 
the most magnificent edifice that has ever been erected 
to the science of man owed, doubtless, some mark of 
acknowledgment to one who had furnished him with 
such a number of materials. " You have discovered 
to us," said Bonnet in a letter to him, " more truths 
in a few years than whole academies have done in half 
a century.'' This observation, too, was made before 
Spallanzani had pubhshed his mineralogical productions, 
his chemical essays, or his various papers in natural 

Spallanzani was intimately connected with Trembley, 
Saussure, Tissot, and the French scientists of his time. 
Everyone knows the esteem and attachment enter- 
tained for him by Senebier, the illustrious librarian of 
Geneva. The familiar friend of Spallanzani, and an 
enHghtened judge of his merit, he incessantly cele- 
brated his discoveries, extolled his talent in the ex- 
perimental art, and enriched with the most instructive 
notes the translations which he gave of almost the 
whole of his works. 

The Germans and English have done equal justice 

with each other; though, it must be confessed, with 
the obligation entirely on the part of the English 
toward the Italians, who honored themselves by honor- 
ing such men as Malpighi, Morgagni, Galvani, and 


to the Professor of Pavia. The former have confirmed 
by experiments almost all his discoveries; the latter, 
notwithstanding their prejudice against the inquiries 
of foreigners, have been compelled to acknowledge the 
importance of his observations on organic reproduction, 
digestion, generation, etc. ; and they have translated 
his works upon these subjects into their own language. 
But France, beyond every other country, claims 
the merit of having assigned to this celebrated man 
the honorable rank which he will occupy in the annals 
of history. No sooner were his works known to this 
nation, than it appropriated them by translations exe- 
cuted with elegance and fidelity. His discoveries were 
never mentioned but in terms of admiration, and they 
were adopted almost with implicit belief. His name 
resounded in all our schools, and it was everywhere 
heard with enthusiasm. 

One of the theses (No. 59) for the Faculty of 
Medicine at the University of Paris, written for 
the Doctorate in Medicine in 1912, had for its 
subject " Spallanzani the Biologist ". In a com- 
paratively short space this thesis reviews partic- 
ularly Spallanzani's contributions to the sciences 
related to medicine. It enumerates no less than 
four opuscules of Spallanzani on the circulation 
of the blood published between 1768 and 1775. 
His special work on digestion I have already 
noticed; and it was illuminated by his experi- 
mental methods, which included the inclosure in 
tubes, closed by wire netting, of digestive mate- 
rials, which were thus exposed to the action of 
the gastric juice of the animal, and might after- 
ward be recovered for the study of the com- 
parative effect of digestive secretions on these 


materials. His experiments on respiration were 
not less ingenious, and always brought concrete 
knowledge. Indeed, it is the ingenuity of his 
experiments that attracts attention at the present 

One of Spallanzani's very dear friends and 
admirers was Senebier, who was the librarian at 
Geneva, a corresponding member of the National 
Institute of France, and member of a number of 
academies. We owe to him a sketch of the liter- 
ary life of Spallanzani, and he has summed up 
the great scientist's influence on his time : 

If we are to judge Spallanzani by the number of 
his works, he is phenomenal. If we turn to the sub- 
jects which have occupied him, they are the most 
important and the most difficult that could be; for he 
has added to our knowledge of the generation of 
animals and of plants and the circulation of the blood, 
digestion, animal reproduction, spermatic fluids, mi- 
crobes, mineralogy, volcanoes, combustion. He has 
described a number of animals hitherto unknown, and 
a large number of crustaceans and testaceans, besides 
providing the solution of many physical and chemical 
problems hitherto misunderstood. 

If we are to judge him by his method, that is at 
once the most ingenious, the easiest, and yet the most 
severe. He never leaves any doubt behind, and his 
explanations are always solidly founded. It is only 
in the universality of his labors that we can see his 
vast conceptions, which are always the happy develop- 
ment of a great idea which flows naturally from some 
of the great principles of natural history. One might 
well be persuaded that, somehow or other, he possessed 
the plan of the univeise, from which he detached 
parts here and there in order to put them under the 


eyes of ordinary people. Finally, if we are to judge 
of Spallanzani by his style, we have here another 
characteristic trait of genius ; for the man who can 
see clearly expresses himself well, and his style is pure 
and clear, yet colored and melodious. His compatriots 
place his works beside those of the best writers in 

The writer of the thesis at the University of 
Paris, Dr. Jean Rosenwald, says in conclusion as 
to Spallanzani : " If genius, as Buffon said, is 
the power of continuous attention, or if, as 
Thiers declared, genius has no specialty, Spallan- 
zani fulfils these definitions better than any one 
else. He cannot but appeal to us, and there is 
no eulogium which is more correct or more de- 
served than that which styles him the precursor 
of Pasteur as well by the depth of his researches, 
the precision of his experiments, and the sagacity 
of his deductions, which leave very little for 
criticism or for sincere controversy. It seems 
too bad, then, that Lazaro Spallanzani .should 
have been in the penumbra in which modern his- 
tory has left him ; for a place in the full light is 
due to this illustrious man and giant pioneer of 
human progress." 



AIN was the chief's, the sage's 

■yAIN 1 
^ pride ! 

They had no poet and they died. 

— Pope. 
They had an artist and they lived. 

"VTEQUE solum vivi, atque prae- 
-'- ' sentes studiosos discendi eru- 
diunt, atque docent : sed hoc idem 
etiam post mortem monumentis 
litterarum assequuntur. — CicBRO. 

Learned men not only instruct and 
educate those who are desirous to 
learn, during their life, and while 
they are present among us, but they 
continue to do the same after death 
by the monuments of their learning 
which they leave behind them. 



HERE has been a very surprising — one might 

well say almost astounding — development 
of science intimately concerning man, during the 
last few years, which comparatively few even of 
educated people have realized. A good many of 
the publications with regard to it came shortly 
before the war and unfortunately the war has so 
occupied men's minds all over the civilized world 
that almost nothing else has had any proper 
chance for consideration. Besides blockades of 
various kinds, the high cost of living and the 
high prices of many things have prevented the 
diffusion of the literature of the subject. Shortly 
after the war, however, I feel sure that this will 
prove one of the most startling revolutionary 
scientific developments that have come to us for 
many generations, if not indeed for many cen- 
turies. It consists of what we have learned with 
regard to the earliest ancestor of man in Europe, 
that is, the dweller in caves, whose mode of life 
and something even of his mode of thought have 
been brought home to us by the wonderful dis- 
coveries made in the Dordogne in Western 
France, as well as in Northern Spain and in cer- 
tain parts of the South of France. 

That from the very beginning it may be clear 
that I am not exaggerating the significance of 


this set of discoveries, it seems well to quote a 
recognized authority in the matter, a man who, 
though himself not engaged in this particular 
field of archeology, is eminently in a position to 
estimate the significance of the discoveries made. 
I suppose that it would be generally acknowl- 
edged that the address of the President of the' 
British Association for the Advancement of 
Science each year is looked upon, in the English- 
speaking world at least, as the paramount scien- 
tific message of the year. The position is occu- 
pied in rotation by the men who have distin- 
guished themselves in the various scientific bodies 
that constitute the membership of the Associa- 
tion, so that about once every dozen years or so 
there is a review of each important department 
of science. The President in his annual address 
brings up to date all the significant knowledge in 
his department and presents a forecast, from the 
standpoint of a leader in the science, of the out- 
look of that special mode of human knowledge. 
The well-known conservatism of the English 
mind makes these recurring reviews of very 
great value for those who from outside the par- 
ticular science desire to know exactly what the 
meaning of the previous decade's work in it is. 

The President of the British Association for 
1916 was Sir Arthur Evans, the archeologist, 
and his address had for title, " New Archeo- 
logical Lights on the Origins of Civilization in 
Europe " Almost needless to say, if, as we are 
all pretty well agreed, " the proper study of man- 


kind is man", this review of the earliest positive 
knowledge that we have with regard to man in 
Europe, from the actual remains that are to be 
found, can scarcely help but be of the greatest 
possible interest. Sir Arthur Evans is himself a 
man who by his excavations in Crete has addeJ 
many precious centuries, even a millennium or 
more, to the history of mankind. For Crete has 
proved to be a veritable gold mine of archeo- 
logical information. On that island was found 
the connecting link between Egyptian and Grecian 
civilization, and many Greek problems hitherto 
insoluble become ever so much simpler in the 
light of the illumination from Cretan discoveries. 
He is therefore, as I have said, in a partic- 
ularly favorable position to judge critically and 
yet sympathetically of the other investigations 
made by archeologists throughout Europe, and 
he accords the palm for significance in the entire 
round of the science, whole-heartedly to the 
work that is being done in the caves of the Dor- 
dogne and of North Spain, in the discovery of 
the remains of the earliest man that we know in 
Europe, and to the bringing out of the meaning 
of the objects and conditions found in these 
caves. Sir Arthur Evans does not hesitate to 
say that these remains indicate " a high level of 
artistic attainment in Southwestern Europe at a 
modest estimate some 10,000 years earlier than 
the most ancient monuments of Egypt or Chal- 
dea ". The President of the British Association 
for the Advancement of Science in his formal 


annual address does not hesitate to add that not 
only were there men in Western Europe who 
lived 10,000 years earlier than the earliest date 
ascertainable with any degree of assurance in 
Egypt or Chaldea, but these men were artists 
bent on making their homes beautiful, and, be- 
sides, " one by one characteristics, both spiritual 
and material, that had been formerly thought to 
be the special marks of later ages of mankind, 
have been shown to go back to that earlier 
world ". 

Here indeed is the greatest surprise of modern 
science. Whatever is to be thought of the dates 
suggested (for they remain to be determined by 
further investigation, and dates in archeology 
have a definite tendency to come nearer to us 
rather than to go farther away from us as we 
know more about the history that they mark), 
one thing is sure, namely, that the men who 
lived in the caves of Western France and North- 
ern Spain were the contemporaries of many ex- 
tinct animals — the mammoth, the cave bear, the 
sabre-toothed tiger — and during a time when an 
animal very close to them in the Pyrenees was 
the reindeer which has long since abandoned a 
habitat so far South as this anywhere in the 

Now it is extremely interesting to find that the 
two men to whom we owe by far the greatest 
part of our knowledge of these cave men — Abbe 
Breuil and Father Hugo Obermaier — are both 
priests; the one a Frenchman, and the other a 


German. The story of what they have done in 
adding to our knowledge of man's existence in 
Europe is one of the romances of modern 
science. Nothing has been a greater shock to 
preconceived notions than the discovery that so 
far from the ordinary accepted view of the cave- 
dweller of the olden time being true, it is sep- 
arated toto coelo from realities. Instead of hav- 
ing been only a bit higher than the animals, this 
earliest man we know by his remains was as a 
matter of fact an artist and in every sense of the 
word as highly developed a human being as we 
are ourselves. 

His cave homes were discovered to be decor- 
ated with beautiful pictures and figures of ani- 
mals and occasionally of men and women as well 
as of the natural objects that surrounded the 
cave man in his life. These pictures are not 
crude and childish, though they are primitive; 
but, then, the primitives in art have come back 
into favor and critical appreciation so strikingly 
in recent years that it is much easier to under- 
stand than it was a generation ago that primitive 
painting may be great painting, and there is now 
universal agreement on the part of the artists 
and critics that the cave man did great painting. 
A distinguished artist said not long since that 
there is no animal painter alive to-day who can 
paint animals more vividly, more true to the 
life, more artistically in any genuine sense of 
that term, than the cave-man artist. 


The artist is the flower of our civihzation such 
as it is, and we are quite willing to acknowledge 
that a man who is Capable of seeing the beautiful 
things of the world around him and reproducing 
them so as to give pleasure to others is a leader 
among men.. He may be the son of a little pio- 
neer farmer who secures his first colors from 
the Indians dwelHng near him, whose portraits 
he makes, as our own Benjamin West did; or he 
may be brought up in a stone mason's family as 
Michelangelo was and learn his first use of the 
chisel and mallet for the crudest mechanical pur- 
poses; or he may be the son of peasant farmers 
who remains a peasant at heart and never gets 
out of sympathy — thank God ! — with his peasant 
relatives, like Francois Millet, the great French 
artist of the end of the nineteenth century. But 
whatever he is and no matter what his education 
or refinement, we look upon the genuine artist 
as much more than an ordinary man, as one of 
the highly gifted beings of his genefation. Now 
there is no doubt at all that the cave man was, 
or at least the artists of his time were, just such 
superior individuals. Before he was a carpenter 
and built himself houses, before he was a farmer 
and planted seeds instead of gathering the natural 
produce of the woods, before he was a tailor 
and fashioned his garments to fit his body, 
merely dressing himself in the skins of the beasts 
that he hunted, man was an artist, a lover of the 
beautiful, a decorator of his home, a man among 
men for all time. 


Is it any wonder that this new appreciation of 
the earliest ancestors of man that we know any- 
thing about is considered to be the most revolu- 
tionary development in modern science. Just 
consider for a moment how different are the 
realities from the theories that had been woven 
for us and that had been so widely and fre- 
quently published that practically everybody was 
inclined to think that they must represent quite 
serious scientific truth. The cave man had been 
pictured to us as the first stage in the evolution 
of human beings from the beasts. Some large- 
sized monkey who had acquired the habit of 
walking on his hind legs, developed cunning 
enough to displace the other wild animals from 
their lairs in the caves of the hillside and thus 
begin domestic life and an upward career toward 
civilization. He was a little better able, because 
of his recently achieved cunning, to care for 
himself and his family than were the other 
beasts; but he was at best a very pitiable object. 
His wife, doubtless a conquest of his club, he had 
probably dragged home to his cave by the hair 
of her head to keep her there in the most abso- 
lute subjection and drudgery in order that she 
might be the mother and caretaker of his chil- 
dren. Popularizers of science are still telling us 
stories of the cave man quite as if they were 
truths and not fables. The very same people 
would laugh at the myths of savages (though so 
many of those myths contain a kernel of mar- 
velous beauty), but they are quite unconscious 


that they are myth-making and that their myths 
are quite sordid and unworthy of humanity's 

Above all, we have heard a great deal about 
the cave man and how far humanity has ad- 
vanced since his day. He was supposed to be 
ready to quarrel on the slightest provocation and 
to be always in readiness to get the other man 
first so that he might not get him. Of course it 
was clear on these assumptions that the cave 
man was quite without the ethics which charac- 
terize civilized man and which are so confidently 
asserted to be the gradual development of man's 
recognition, as his evolution progresses, of his 
duties toward other men. We have a nice long 
name for it in our time adopted and adapted 
from the Greek, so as to make a very simple old- 
fashioned idea appear important and novel. We 
call it altruism. Of course the cave man is sup- 
posed to have had none of it. He was merely 
selfish, as the animals are; for all that the ani- 
mals think of is themselves and those separated 
parts of themselves, their offspring. The cave 
man was a slightly better beast. 

Now we have changed all that, as the French 
say ; at least we ought to proceed to change it at 
once, for the archeologists have shown us very 
clearly that the cave man was just a man like 
ourselves, only, if anything, somewhat more cul- 
tured in his interests. For his devotion to art 
and the beautiful things round him, and his de- 
sire to reproduce the living things of nature 


round him, in which he rejoiced so much that, 
even in the winter time when the weather made 
the chase impossible and on rainy days when con- 
fined at home, he wanted to see them on the 
walls of his cave, stamp him as a superior being. 

We owe most of our knowledge of this new 
set of ideas, founded on actual observation with 
regard to the cave man, above all to two great 
scientists, both of whom, as I have said, are 
priests. In the divided state of feeling that sep- 
arates cultured humanity at the present time, 
superinduced by a war that contradicts so strik- 
ingly the ideal progress of which we hear so 
much, it is of more than passing interest to find 
that one of these is a Frenchman, a representa- 
tive as it were of the Allies, Abbe Breuil, and 
the other a Bavarian, quite as sincerely represen- 
tative of the Central Powers, Father Hugo Ober- 
maier. When shall we be able to have such co- 
ordination and cooperation in the great scientific 
work after the war once more? 

Manifestly this revolution in our knowledge of 
man deserves to be well known, above all by 
those who have maintained a conservative atti- 
tude in their philosophic opinions as to the origin 
of man and have waited patiently for anthro- 
pology to develop properly, though they were 
being pushed into premature opinions by so 
many supposedly authoritative scientists who 
were urging the most radical notions. Brother 
priests all over the world should surely know the 
facts, for not only do they represent one of the 


greatest triumphs of science in our day, but they 
confirm traditional opinions that for so long 
were looked upon as hopelessly backward. Not 
that it is unusual for priests to be distinguished 
in science. On the contrary, a knowledge of the 
world of a half-a-dozen modern priests would 
give one an encyclopedic knowledge of modern 
scientific advance. Abbot Mendel, Father Secchi, 
Father Wasmann are names that make this very 
clear, and now we must add two more to them — 
Abbe Breuil and Father Obermaier, who, while 
following faithfully priestly and ecclesiastical 
duties, have given the world such ripe fruits of 
their scientific research. 

Abbe Breuil and His Work. 

Abbe Breuil was bom 28 February, 1877, at 
Mortain, in the Manche, of a family many of 
whose members of preceding generations had be- 
longed to the magistracy of Picardy. From his 
very early years he manifested a marked taste 
for natural history, and above all took up quite 
seriously of his own volition the study of ento- 
mology, to which he later did distinct services 
by collecting the subterranean fauna of the cav- 
erns as also of the Spanish territories surround- 
ing the habitations of the cave men. 

His college studies were made in the College 
Libre of St. Vincent at Senlis. He entered the 
Seminary of St. Sulpice of Paris in 1895 at the 
age of eighteen. Abbe Guibert noticed very soon 
his liking for the sciences and gave him special 


opportunities and recommended that he direct 
his attention toward archeology and the earliest 
records of human existence. Abbe Guibert was 
himself the author of a volume on origins {Des 
Origines), which concerns itself, however, 
mainly with apologetic problems. 

During his vacations Abbe Breuil had the op- 
portunity to associate himself with some of the 
distinguished men who were doing the best work 
in archeology in Paris at that time. He came 
to know and receive the directions of such men 
as Capitan d'Ault-du-Mesnil, Salomon Reinach, 
Boule Gaudry, and these associations gave a 
strong impetus to the interest in archeology 
which had been aroused by Abbe Guibert. Above 
all, young Breuil had the magnificent advantage 
of becoming the intimate friend of Edouard 
Piette, that great searcher of the Pyrenees cav- 
erns, who exercised a very special influence over 
him and indeed adopted him as a student and 
disciple. Their intimate relations to one another 
until the death of M. Piette in 1905 directed 
Abbe Breuil's work, particularly in the line of 
the artistic archeology of the caverns and to the 
study of what is known as superior paleolithics, 
because it concerns itself with art objects rather 
than merely with the remains of the crafts of 
the olden time. 

Abbe Breuil's first scientific publications began 
in 1898, when he published an article on the 
chronological status of the Bronze Age. After 
Tooi all his attention was devoted to the Old 


Stone Age and especially to the higher art and 
industry of that time. He was ordained at St. 
Sulpice in December, 1900, but remained at Paris 
for the next five years studying for his degrees 
in science and taking special courses at the Cath- 
olic Institute. From 1905 to 1909 he was a 
Privat-docent at the University of Fribourg in 
Switzerland. His special subjects were Prehis- 
tory and Ethnography. 

Since 1901 about one-half of Abbe Breuil's 
time has been occupied with the actual investiga- 
tion of caverns, alone and with Capitan and other 
well-known archeologists. A large number of 
caverns adorned with designs or paintings have 
been found, the reproduction of which and the 
description of their surroundings as well as* the 
deciphering of their meaning have fallen upon 
Abbe Breuil almost alone. Cartailhac called 
Breuil to collaborate with him in the caverns 
which were found in the French Pyrenees and 
together they discovered a number of others in 
the same region. In 1902, with Cartailhac, Abbe 
Breuil was invited to take up the study of the 
celebrated cavern of Altamira in Spain. In 1906 
he returned to Spain to pursue new researches 
in other caverns of the Cantabrian Province with 
Alcalde del Rio, their discoverer. During the 
following year he was very much occupied 
with the paintings discovered in large numbers 
after systematic search of caverns in Aragon, 
Catalonia, Estremadura, Castile, and Andalusia. 
In 1909 he was asked by the Prince of Monaco 


to take a post in the foundation created by that 
liberal patron of the sciences, the Institute of 
Human Paleontology. Most of his best work 
since then has been published under the patron- 
age and at the expense of the Prince. 

To him more than anyone else is owed the 
recognition of the significance and the impor- 
tance of the Aurignacian level or horizon in 
cave-man archeology, a period which preceded 
the Solutrean and followed the Mousterian. He 
worked out the application of the idea of a cer- 
tain development of style in the engraved figures 
on the various objects picked up in the cave. He 
pointed out a certain development from the re- 
production of the natural image by the engraver 
to a schematization of the mode of ornament in 
the moveable paleolithic art. For the first artists 
saw things for themselves and reproduced them 
simply as they saw them. John Ruskin once 
said that this was the hardest thing in the world 
to do. Then their successors after several gen- 
erations refused to follow the difficult path of 
personal observation, but they looked through 
the eyes of those who had seen before them, 
imitated their pictures, took short cuts to get the 
results, schematized, and of course art degen- 
erated. This is what men have always done ; so 
far from being surprising that some of the cave 
men should have done it, the surprise would 
have been if they had not done it. We know in 
our time how tempting it is for men to take such 
short cuts and then think, because they are get- 


ting more or less the same results, that they are 
doing just as good work as their predecessors, 
though their work is really trivial, cheap copying 
and easy imitation. 

Abbe Breuil's work has been very widely rec- 
ognized and highly complimented. While he has 
occupied himself almost exclusively with the 
scientific aspects of paleolithic archeology, a 
great many other names are much better known 
because they have devoted themselves to the 
vulgarization of the newly acquired information. 
Vulgarization seems a very good word to em- 
ploy, though we call it popularization in English ; 
for there is an innuendo in the other word that 
deserves to be recognized. Practically all the 
authoritative writers on the subject, however, 
Dechelette in his Manuel d' Archeologie Prehis- 
torique, Salomon Reinach in his classical works, 
and many others, have expressly outlined their 
obligations to him, and Professor Henry Fair- 
field Osborn in his Men of the Old Stone Age 
dedicated that book to " Emile Cartailhac, Henri 
Breuil, and Hugo Obermaier, his distinguished 
guides through the upper paleolithic caverns of 
the Pyrenees, the Dordogne and the Cantabrian 
Mountains of Spain ". He confesses that his 
main reliance has been upon the work of Abbe 
Breuil and Father Obermaier, and his book is 
full of references to their published books and 

Abbe Breuil has published much in the jour- 
nals — L'Anthropologie, La Revue Archeologique, 


La Revue de I' Anthropologic, as well as in the 
volumes issued under the patronage of the Prince 
of Monaco. Much of the material, however, 
that he has gathered from the caverns is still 
unpublished. Besides, a good deal of work has 
appeared in collaboration with others. At the 
International Congress of Archeology, held at 
Monaco in 1906 and Geneva 1912 to discuss the 
whole subject of the archeology of the cave man, 
his industries, his arts and crafts, his colored 
paintings, his movable and parietal art, Abbe 
Breuil was considered by all those present as by 
far the best informed man on the whole circle 
of departments of knowledge that have gathered 
round the subject of this earliest ancestor of 
man in Europe. He has not only visited prac- 
tically all of the caves, but he has also studied 
the collections in the various countries of Europe, 
not only in France, Switzerland, and Spain, but 
also in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and 
even Russia. No wonder then that he is looked 
upon as an authority on the subject and that a 
comprehensive view of the significance of the 
life of this earliest ancestor of man in Europe 
is now readily available to all who want to re- 
place the ridiculous theories foisted upon us by 
over-confident evolutionists, by actual informa- 
tion derived from the direct observation of the 
remains of the cave-dweller. 

164 catholic churchmen in science 

The Caves and Cave-Dwellers. 

These cave dwellings must not be thought of 
as shallow holes in the rocks of the mountains, 
or even as deeper cavities caused by the loosen- 
ing of a boulder and its fall. The caves in which 
the cave men dwelt are much more like our 
famous caverns of Kentucky, the best known of 
which is the Mammoth Cave, though none of the 
European caverns can be compared for variety 
or extent with our American wonder of the 
world. Many of the caverns, however, pene- 
trate the rock for a quarter of a mile or a half 
a mile and even farther. They were the product 
of the same sort of water activity as produced 
the caverns of Kentucky, and of course, while 
the Mammoth Cave is so well known that most 
people are inclined to think of it as unique, actu- 
ally a great many caves exist in the State. So 
it was in the Dordogne and in certain parts of 
North Spain and in Southern France, where 
these cave dwellings have been found. 

There was plenty of room in them, and some 
of the living-rooms must have been at a consid- 
erable distance from the entrance. Indeed not a 
few of the pictures are many hundreds of feet 
from the entrance of the caves. This makes it 
easier to understand how they were preserved 
and are now comparatively so fresh and vivid 
for the study of our time. This, however, makes 
it only the more difficult to understand how the 
painting came to be done. 


Almost needless to say, at this distance from 
the entrance the caverns are utterly dark. There 
is no question of seeing one's hand in front of 
one's face. How then did the cave men come to 
make their pictures under such conditions? 
What sort of light did they employ? Sir Arthur 
Evans does not hesitate to say that the mystery 
of the illumination of these caves is astounding. 
There is no trace of smoke on the wall or ceil- 
ing, and yet we may be quite sure that any ex- 
tensive use of the primitive modes of lighting by 
torches or oil lamps, such as the making of the 
pictures would require, could scarcely have been 
secured without leaving its traces. It is even 
more surprising to think that in this pitch dark- 
ness men should have cared to take the trouble 
and the time and exercise the patience needed to 
make their pictures. The difficulties increase the 
more we know about the circumstances of the 
cave man's life. 

What is very clear from these discoveries, as 
has been brought out emphatically by Abbe 
Breuil's studies of the mural art of the caves, is 
the fact that man, before he was a carpenter so 
as to be able to build himself a house, or a tailor 
so as to know how to make himself clothes, was 
an artist. It is even probable that before he was 
a farmer in our modern sense of the word he 
took up the decoration of his home, such as it 
was. Instead of occupying himself with the 
domestication of plants or of animals so as to 
accumulate stores for the morrow and assure 


himself for the future, he depended on being able 
to hunt successfully and to find many edible 
things in the forest without sowing and reaping 
them. This is indeed a surprising conclusion to 
be forced to. Man at the beginning of his known 
history preferred to satisfy his sense of beauty, 
the intellectual and artistic side of his being, 
rather than to assure the satisfaction of his lower 

It has been the rule to think that man first cul- 
tivated the utilities, or perhaps it would be better 
to say developed them ; and then, having secured 
himself in a position where he had leisure, he fol- 
lowed the first faint glimmerings of the duty of 
occupying that leisure with art and poetry and 
other of the confessedly higher things of life. 
His soul is supposed to have been developing 
within him, but at first his mind was as yet in- 
choate and his body was the one thing that he 
was looking out for, pushed thereto by his nature. 
What proves to be true, however, is that his 
nature urged him first toward artistic things, led 
him to see what was beautiful in the world about 
him, to try to reproduce it so that he might have 
the chance to look at it at times when he was 
necessarily out of the presence of it, and in gen- 
eral led him to be an intellectual and not an 
animal being. 

The evolutionists have emphasized the animal 
in man because they did not quite believe in the 
presence of a soul. Here, however, is the dem- 
onstration that man was at least as far away 


from the animals as we are, at the very earliest 
period that we know anything about him in his- 
tory. As a matter of fact, I think that it must 
be perfectly clear to anyone who thinks about the 
conditions under which the cave man developed 
his art, that he was, if anything, much higher 
than our generation, for, in spite of urgent neces- 
sities, he would not occupy himself with mate- 
rial things to the exclusion of his higher life, 
though there is a very readily traceable tendency 
to do so at the present time. 

Of course it has always been true that it was 
not the man who had secured leisure for himself 
and his children from whom we might expect 
art and poetry and the higher things. Our 
artists and poets have come to us almost as a 
rule from among the very poor, and to a great 
extent necessity has been the mother of art and 
invention for them. Almost never have they been 
cradled in luxury, and practically always they 
have known, in Dante's words, " how bitter it 
is to eat the bread of others' tables ", and as a 
rule they have had to struggle with the urgency 
of material necessities. 

Almost literally our great poets and painters 
have been the cave men of the modern times. 
They have neglected the utilities of life and have 
cultivated the higher things. They have not 
cared to make money, or, whenever they have 
been tempted into that direction, their gift of 
poesy has usually dropped from them and their 
art taste has dwindled. They have been bom 


oftenest in small towns or in country places. 
They have been scoffed at because of their im- 
practicalness. They, too, were not carpenters 
nor tailors nor farmers, because they were 
artists and poets and preferred to be such even 
though they had to pay for the privilege of living 
the higher life by bitter physical suffering. All 
this, as it seems to me, has been actually brought 
out by Abbe Breuil's successful investigations of 
the artistic life of the cave men. When we 
think of conditions as they are and were, so far 
as art and poetry are concerned, we realize the 
kinship and indeed the nearness in every sense 
of the word to us of this cave man, though we 
had been taught to think of him as so very dis- 
tant from us in every way. 

Phases of Artistic Development. 

After considerable practice with black and 
white the cave-men artists became dissatisfied 
with this as a medium and sought to express 
themselves also in color, and thus reproduce not 
only the outlines and the character, but the very 
look of the objects they saw. At first they used 
masses of black to express the shadows on the 
animal, and then occasionally to bring out the 
fact that the animal was spotted in various ways. 
After a time they found certain ochres that 
would give them yellows, and then it was not 
long before they found a way to produce red, 
and were evidently very much taken with the 
color. Indeed it is very curiously interesting to 


find that after their discovery of colors there 
was a period of art in which they neglected the 
drawing which had been so artistically done be- 
fore. They fairly revelled in their new-found 
colors, but now did very weak artistic work. 
The same thing has often happened again in art 
almost in the later time whenever some new- 
fangled notions have come in, and it is not sur- 
prising that the cave men should have been like 
subsequent generations in this regard. The sur- 
prise, I suppose, should rather be that subse- 
quent generations have not got over the tendency 
to follow after fads and fancies, very often to 
the detriment of the art with which they are 

Every step in advance in our knowledge of 
these pictures has simply added to the astound- 
ing significance of them as historical documents. 
Incredible almost as it must appear, these paint- 
ings made by the cave man thousands of years 
ago are done in oils. The artists, whoever they 
were, who wished to reproduce as far as possible 
in their original colors the animals that they saw 
round them, looked for coloring materials and 
found that they could obtain the reds and yellows 
and browns that they desired from the oxides of 
manganese and of iron. They also found, how- 
ever, that these materials were not soluble in 
water. They therefore ground them fine in a 
mortar — some of the mortars are still preserved 
for us — and having mixed the powder well with 
the rendered fat of the animals that they had 


killed in hunting, they made what are actually 
oil colors. Having manufactured brushes out of 
the bristles of the animals, they painted in oils 
on the walls of their caves, and their colors were 
so permanent that, in spite of the lapse of time 
and the vicissitudes of climate to which they 
have been subjected (though fortunately, of 
course, they have been rather well protected 
deep in the interiors of the cave), they made the 
pictures that are now the evidence of their high 
place as intellectual beings. 

An extremely significant phase of this mural 
art of the cave man is to be found in the fact 
that, in order to give the appearance of plastic 
rotundity or solidity to the animals that he 
painted, occasionally the cave artist took advan- 
tage of various bosses or rounded projections on 
the walls of the cave. These were somewhat 
irregular in outline, though, from their being 
worn by water, they were rather smooth of con- 
tour. The cave artist painted his animals on 
them in such a way as to produce an illusion of 
high relief, usually only the horns and tail of an 
animal in the painting projecting beyond the 
boss or convexity. The animals had to be placed 
in various lying poses and the positions of their 
feet and legs carefully accommodated to the 
cramped space into which they had to be fitted. 
The hoofs particularly were studied very care- 
fully, and these pictures show the legs often very 
well foreshortened. In a word, the cave artist 
solved both of the most difficult problems of art 


for these pictures. It has been very well said 
that the great artist is, above all, one that can 
accommodate his art to even cramped conditions. 
The cave artist wanted to take advantage of tlie 
sense of solidity that would be given by these 
mural projections, so he made his painting fit 
into the rather confined space. 

Vivid Observation. 

The art of the cave man, as we have seen, did 
not blossom into full flower all at once. Defi- 
nite developments of it can be noted. At first 
animal figures were executed in what we would 
call black and white, though, owing to the color 
of the background of the limestone, it was really 
gray and white. Lines were cut with a flint in 
the stone and then lampblack was set in so as 
to emphasize the line. It is easy to understand 
that such an outline drawing could exercise 
artistic ability and call for artistic genius, if good 
work was to be done. The surprise is how firmly 
and with what confidence the lines were made. 
Professor Osborn, Director of the American 
Museum of Natural History in New York and 
Emeritus Professor of Zoology at Columbia 
University, made a journey through the cave- 
dwelling regions of Spain and France during the 
year just before the war. In his book on The Men 
of the Old Stone Age, he has emphasized above 
all the confident sure-handed drawing of the 
artists. He says : " In the drawings in the large 
on these curved wall surfaces, only part of which 


could be seen by the eye at one time, the difficul- 
ties of maintaining the proportions were extreme, 
and one is ever impressed by the boldness and 
confidence with which the long sweeping strokes 
of the flint were made. For one rarely, if ever, 
sees any evidence of corrected outline." 

As a trained zoologist particularly interested 
in the horse, because the problem of the evolu- 
tion of the horse has occupied so much space in 
modern zoology, Professor Osborn has been 
chiefly struck by the acute and accurate observa- 
tion of this cave-man artist in picturing horses. 
He says (p. 407) : " Only a life-long observer 
of the fine points which distinguish the different 
prehistoric breeds of the horse could appreciate 
the extraordinary skill with which the spirited, 
aristocratic lines of the Celtic horse are exe- 
cuted, on the one hand, and, on the other, the 
plebeian and heavy outlines of the steppe horse. 
In the best examples of Magdalenian engraving, 
both parietal and on bone or ivory, one can 
almost immediately detect the specific type of 
horse which the artist had before him or in 
mind, also the season of the year, as indicated 
by the representation of a summer or winter 
coat of hair " (italics mine). 

The cave artist was quite complete in his tech- 
nical equipment, and even artistic in the mate- 
rials that he adopted as his artistic utensils. A 
single paragraph of Professor Osborn's book 
brings this out very well (p. 415) : 


To prepare the colors, ochre and oxide of manganese 
were ground down to a fine powder in stone mortars; 
raw pigment was carried in ornamented cases made 
from the lower limb bones of reindeer, and such tubes 
still containing the ochre have been found in the Mag- 
dalenian hearths; the mingling of the finely ground 
powder with the animal oils or fats that were used was 
probably done on the flat side of the shoulder-blade of 
the reindeer or on some other palette. The pigment 
was quite permanent, and in the darkness of the Alta- 
mira grotto it has been so perfectly preserved that the 
colors are still as brilUant as if they had been appUed 

Plastic Art. 

The cave artists, however, did not limit their 
artistic aspirations to engravings and paintings 
in oil. Their paintings of the animals on the 
bosses or rounded projections of the walls of 
their cave show that they had a sense of the 
plastic in art, and so it is not surprising to find 
that after a time they attempted to make figures 
in high relief, and that they succeeded quite as 
admirably as they did with their painting and 
engraving. For instance, in the cavern of Tuc 
d'Audoubert, at the summit of a very narrow 
ascending passage, where therefore they would 
be best preserved from breakage or the vicissi- 
tudes of time, Cartailhac and Abbe Breuil found 
two superb statuettes of bison in clay, about 60 
centimetres (24 inches) in length, absolutely un- 
broken and showing the high sculptural ability 
of this particular cave artist. Abbe Breuil was 
filled with enthusiasm about them, and they 



have been described as of perfect workmanship 
and of ideal art. Photographs of them have 
since been reproduced, so that there is no doubt 
at all of the artistic qualities of them, and the 
story of the cave man as sculptor is in process 
of development, just as tv^fenty-five years ago his 
development as a painter was being traced. 

There are, besides these, some bone and horn 
and ivory sculptures that are very beautiful, 
vividly natural and sometimes very charmingly 
finished. Osborn says of them : ^ 

Small human figures jgain appear in the form of sta- 
tuettes in bone or ivory, representing the renaissance 
of the spirit of human sculpture. Some of this work 
is apparently in search of beauty and with altogether 
different motives from the repellent feminine statuettes 
of middle and late Aurignacian times, for the subjects 
are slender and the limbs are modeled with relative 
skill. As in the earlier works, there is a partial failure 
to protray the features, which is in striking contrast 
to the hfelike treatment of animal heads. Very few 
examples of this work have been found, and most of 
them have been broken. To this period belong the 
Venus statuette of Laugerie Bass and the head of a 
girl carved in ivory found at Brassempouy (Fig. 237), 
with the features fairly suggested and an elaborate 

A procession of six horses cut in limestone 
under the sheltering cliff of Cap Blanc, is by far 
the most imposing work of Magdalenian art that 
has been discovered. They are thus described 
by Professor Osborn of Columbia, who saw them 

» Op. cit., p. 433. 


and who reproduced a picture of one of them in 
his volume on The Men of the Old Stone Age 
(P- 431) : 

The sculptures are in high relief and of large size 
and are in excellent proportion; they appear to repre- 
sent the high-bred type of desert or Celtic horse, related 
to the Arabian, so far as we can judge from the long, 
straight face, the slender nose, the small nostrils, and 
the massive angle of the lower jaw; the ears are rather 
long and pointed, and the tail is represented as thin 
and without hair; they were found partly buried by 
layers containing implements of middle Magdalenian 
industry, and they are therefore assigned to an early 
Magdalenian date in which animal sculpture in the 
round reached its climax. 

Some of the ivory carving is particularly beau- 
tiful. There is a series of statuettes of horses 
carved on fragments of mammoth tusks that 
were found in the grotto of Espelugues. These 
pieces have attracted great attention. Espelugues 
is near the famous Shrine of Lourdes in France, 
and therefore a great many visitors have seen 
copies of these. They represent horses of Celtic 
type with manes erect. The animals are full of 
action and life. Authorities have declared that 
they show such certainty and breadth of treat- 
ment as sculptures that they must be regarded 
as the masterpieces of upper paleolithic glyptic 
art, that is, of the artistic carving of the men of 
the Old Stone Age at the highest period of de- 

One of these pieces of ivory is the head of a 
young girl. Quite contrary to our custom in the 


matter, young girls are seldom the subjects of 
cave-man art. This one is notable for many fea- 
tures that are reminiscent of what is most mod- 
ern in our artistic expression of young women. 
The mouth is not treated at all ; the chin is nar- 
row and rather pointed, though in the profile it 
projects somewhat; the eyes are slit-like and 
narrow, and the head is covered by either a 
rather elaborate head-dress or a suggestion of 
some curious arrangement of the hair. It has 
been suggested that decadence in art had begun 
or that this was the work of a very young cave- 
man artist. Some of the bone and ivory statu- 
ettes show a very thorough appreciation of femi- 
nine lines of beauty, with very skilful artistic 
modeling. One model of a trunk has been called 
the A'enus statuette, and well deserves the name, 
for the artist who did it evidently viewed the 
feminine human form exactly in the same way 
that the great Greek sculptors did, and in ac- 
cordance with the standards that have interested 
us ever since. 

In these small objects of art the artist's power 
of adaptation of his ideas to the material which 
he is employing is very admirable and has often 
been called to attention. Batons, dart-throwers, 
and poniards are made of bone and tusks in 
such a way as to use the material to the best 
advantage by combining utility with beauty, em- 
ploying the natural form of the material to 
bring out artistic points and in general exempli 
fying the same artistic power that was exhibited 


SO strikingly in making use of the bosses or 
rounded projections in the caves in order to pro- 
duce plastic effects in connexion with the colored 
paintings. Too much cannot be said of this 
power of adaptation as exhibiting real artistic 

Discovery of the Mural Paintings. 

The story of the discovery of these mural pic- 
tures in the caves is an interesting little romance 
by itself. A distinguished Spanish archeologist 
was some twenty-five years ago engaged in look- 
ing for bone and horn remains and other objects 
that might be of interest, in the debris on the 
floor of one of the cave dwellings at Altamira 
near Santander in Spain. For company he had 
taken his little girl, aged about ten, with him 
into the cave, and as she got used to the dark- 
ness and the light of the torch she ran here and 
there at play for herself. After a time, however, 
she went to her father declaring that there were 
pictures on the walls and asking him to come 
and look at them. He refused to be disturbed in 
his investigation of the floor of the cave, and 
when she insisted concluded that she had been 
seeing her own shadow on the wall or some other 
shadows which deceived her with the idea that 
there were pictures. After a time, however, she 
succeeded in persuading him to look carefully for 
himself, and sure enough he found the colored 
pictures that she described. Some of the most 
beautiful mural paintings of the cave-man art 


have been found in this particular cavern, and 
the little girl as the real discoverer has found a 
very definite place in the history of archeology. 

When this discovery was announced, it at- 
tracted very little attention. First the story was 
not believed at all. Cave men might scratch 
rather interesting outlines of animals on horn 
and bone, but it was too much to ask the world 
to believe that they had painted pictures on the 
walls of their cave homes. It was concluded 
that these were either non-existent, the report of 
them being due to a heated imagination or desire 
for a sensation, or that they were modern sophis- 
tications. It was not until similar wall paintings 
had been found in caves at other places in Spain 
and at a number of places in France, so that 
there are more than a score of caves now known 
to contain them, that the mural art of the cave 
man became a definitely accepted department of 

The whole story would remind one very much 
of what was happening just about this same time 
with regard to brain anatomy, in Spain. A 
young man, Ramon y Cajal by name, the first 
who had ever applied a microscope at a Spanish 
University, discovered in the later 'eighties the 
endings of the neurons in the brain, a discovery 
which revolutionized our knowledge of brain 
anatomy and made it very clear that cells and 
not fibers were the all-important elements of the 
brain. When this discovery was first announced 
it was received with utter incredulity. Biologists 


refused to believe that anything so good as that 
could come out of Spain. Some of the best bio- 
logical journals in the world refused to publish 
Ramon y Cajal's articles, and when finally La 
Cellule, printed at the University of Louvain, 
published them, the discoveries announced were 
received with a great deal of scepticism. It was 
not until Ramon y Cajal went in person to the 
International Medical Congress held in Berlin in 
1891 and exhibited his specimens that, led by 
such men as Virchow and Koelliker, to whom 
the specimens had been demonstrated, the bio- 
logical world accepted Ramon y Cajal's work. 
In 1900 he was given the prize of the city of 
Paris by the International Medical Congress and 
later received the Nobel Prize. 

Just as Ramon y Cajal's work was destined to 
be extended and amplified by others, so the 
Spanish discovery of cave-man mural art fell 
into other hands for its development ; and above 
all, the Abbe Breuil, himself an artist, took up 
the accumulation of information with regard to 
it and the working out of its significance for the 
life of the men and women who created it and 
for whose delectation manifestly it had been 
made a part of their homes. Fortunately the 
Prince of Monaco, who is so nobly using the in- 
come that accrues from that dubious source of 
revenue, the Casino at Monte Carlo, in the ex- 
tension of scientific knowledge, became nearly as 
much interested in this subterranean science as 
he is in suboceanic observations, and devoted 


nearly as much money to archeology as to ocean- 
ography. As a consequence Abbe Breuil has 
been able to publish some magnificent volumes 
containing copies in the exact colors of the orig- 
inals of literally hundreds of these mural paint- 
ings as well as other illustrations of the art of 
the cave men. 

Distinguished archeologists and scientists of 
other departments interested also in the antiquity 
of man have turned not only to Abbe Breuil's 
books but also to him personally in order to 
secure first-hand knowledge of these magnificent 
contributions to modern science. I have had the 
good fortune to talk with several Americans who 
met Abbe Breuil in the course of their own 
special studies on the subject of the cave men, 
and all are agreed in talking of him as a very 
charming man, a thoroughly sincere scientist, a 
very hard worker, a careful, accurate observer — 
in a word, a thoroughgoing example of the vir- 
tues that a scientist must have if his work is to 
secure a permanent place in his favorite science. 
Abbe Breuil is tireless in his explorations, faith- 
ful in his reproductions, deeply interested in the 
diffusion of knowledge with regard to his sub- 
ject, yet constantly ready to share his knowledge 
with others and willing to take almost endless 
trouble in order that foreign scientists may have 
the opportunities they desire to study the cave 
man under as favorable circumstances as pos- 


I have been told, too, by those who met him 
of his faithfulness as a clergyman and his recog- 
nition of his priestly duties as the most important 
part of life. Even when on his exploring expe- 
ditions he makes it a particular point to arrange 
if possible to say Mass every morning, and if 
there are country folk in the neighborhood (for 
the caves are often situated at a great distance 
from the towns and even villages) he offers them 
the opportunity to attend his Mass. Sunday he 
devotes entirely to his priestly duties among the 
poor folk of the neighborhood, and his kindliness 
and zeal win over even men who have been long 
away from their religious duties. The fact that 
he should be the head of a scientific expedition 
of this kind gives him great prestige among the 
country folk and he uses this in order to influ- 
ence them for their own good as regards the re- 
awakening of their faith and above all the taking 
up again of their religious duties. 

He is himself almost scrupulously exact with 
regard to little things relating to his religious 
duties, as a well-known professor of archeology 
of one of our great universities in this country. 
Professor MacCurdy of Yale, told me smilingly. 
The Professor had spent some time with him 
one summer. Abbe Breuil said his Mass in the 
morning, giving Holy Communion to the country 
folk who may come if they are so minded, and 
then dons the khaki of his explorer's uniform 
and proceeds to spend the day in a cave. He 
comes home at night quite thoroughly tired and 


hungry, but he is not willing to sit down to his 
evening meal until he has doffed his khaki and 
reassumed his cassock so that he may be once 
more the ecclesiastic. He does this even though 
at times it would seem to be an over-meticulous 
regard for ecclesiastical regulations and a fol- 
lowing of rule from which it would seem that 
under the circumstances he might dispense him- 
self. He never seemed to think so. 

The interesting fact to me when the story was 
told to me was that, though it was told smilingly, 
there was evidently a deep-seated feeling of re- 
spect and reverence for the man who took his 
sacred obligations so seriously that he would not 
dispense himself from them even in such slight 
matters as might easily be j. "ised over without 
scrupulous regard. And this is the man to whom 
modern science owes one of tne most remarkable 
phases of its recent development. 







E are deceived by the shadow, we 
see not the substance of things. 
For the hills are less solid than 

thought; [and artj 
Back of the transient appearance 

dwells ineffable calm, 
The utter reality, ultimate truth ; 
this seems and that is. 
— Don Marquis, Dreams and Dust. 

\ UGESCUNT aliae gentes, aliae 
^ ^ minuuntur ; 

Inque brevi spatio mutantur saecla 

Et, quasi cursores vitai lampada 
tradunt. — I<UCRETIUS. 
One nation rises to supreme power 
in the world, while another declines, 
and in a brief space of time the sov- 
ereign people change, transmitting 
like racers the lamp of life to some 
other that is to succeed them. 



UNDOUBTEDLY to the Abbe Breuil, as I 
said in the preceding article, more than 
to any other, the present generation owes the 
most precious information in proof that the cave 
man, our earhest known ancestor in Europe, was 
an artist. Possessed of no inconsiderable artistic 
ability himself, Abbe Breuil has carefully and 
sympathetically studied the examples of art pro- 
duced by these oldest European artistic col- 
leagues and has reproduced them sympathetically 
for all those throughout the world who cannot 
have the precious opportunity to see them for 
themselves. The distinguished priest's work in 
this regard has completely revolutionized our 
ideas about man and has made it very clear that 
the commonly accepted notions of our own and 
immediately preceding generations with regard 
to man's constant progress upward from century 
to century, if actually not from decade to decade, 
as some seem to think, are quite absurd and 
founded on some ridiculous assumptions which 
prove now to have no foundation in any of the 
realities of prehistory or archeology. 

On the contrary, far from man beginning low 
down in the scale of civilization, the very earliest 
man that we know anything about, the date of 


whose existence Sir Arthur Evans, President of 
the British Association for the Advancement of 
Science, set down as 10,000 years earlier than the 
earliest date in Egypt, was an artist in the high- 
est sense of that word. He had the artistic sense 
of beauty, the power of vision, the ability to re- 
produce his vision, the taste, and even the inven- 
tive faculties which the most modern of artists 
enjoy. In a word, he had all the qualities which, 
when they appear in a man at any time, no matter 
what his parentage, or whether he is brought up 
as a peasant or a farmer, all the rest of the 
world are ready to recognize as among the high- 
est gifts man can possess, while all those whose 
critical appreciation is worth while are ready to 
recognize their possessor as a man among men, 
far above the average of human kind. 

It was extremely important, however, for us 
to know as far as possible the date at which 
these men lived and their place in prehistory as 
regards their known successors in time. These 
are the men of the Paleolithic time (or the Old 
Stone Age, to translate that Greek epithet), and 
we want to know their relations in time and de- 
velopment to the men of the Neolithic period, 
as well as to the Lake Dwellers, and then the 
early modern races. It is very interesting to 
realize that this all-important work in chronolog^y 
owes more to another priest than to any other 
worker. Curiously enough, though the caves 
were situated in Western France and Northern 
Spain, the man to whom we owe most in the 


chronological department of paleolithic paleon- 
tology was a German, Father Hugo Obermaier 
of Munich. He had quite as significant material 
to work with as Abbe Breuil, who gave himself 
to the pictures on the walls of the caves, only it 
required more patient and careful study to elab- 
orate the significance of this material and to 
trace the meaning of the various objects and their 
relations to all the knowledge that has been 
gradually accumulating, for more than half a 
century, with regard to the cave men. 

Father Obermaier's merit in this regard has 
been recognized by the authorities in the subject 
all over the world. When Professor Henry Fair- 
field Osborn, Research Professor of Zoology, 
Columbia University, New York, and Curator of 
Vertebrate Paleontology in the American Mu- 
seum of Natural History, wrote several years 
ago his book Men of the Old Stone Age, Their 
Environment, Life and Art, in which the story 
of the cave man is given in considerable detail, 
he did so only after having visited the caves of 
North Spain and of the Dordogne in South 
France. Then he dedicated his volume to the 
men who had proved helpful to him in enabling 
him to secure first-hand information on all these 
details. That dedication runs : " To my distin- 
guished guides through the upper paleolithic 
caverns of the Pyrenees, Dordogne and the Can- 
tabrian Mountains of Spain, Emile Cartailhac, 
Henri Breuil, Hugo Obermaier." How curiously 
interesting it is to think that two of these three 


men whose names are thus placed, and rightly, 
at the head of the volume of scientific construc- 
tive work which has attracted most attention in 
recent years, are Catholic priests. How different 
that fact is from the very definite impression so 
generally accepted that the Church is opposed to 
scientific development, and especially to science 
that would lead us to think that man lived on 
earth so long ago, and that at least priests would 
not be liberal-minded enough to be the great 
scientific pioneers in such a remarkable develop- 

Professor Osborn confesses his obligation 
particularly to these two priests, and dwells on 
the amount of information obtained from Father 
Obermaier. He says in his Preface : 

This work represents the cooperation of many special- 
ists on a single, very complex problem. I am not in any 
sense an archeologist, and in this important and highly 
technical field I have relied chiefly upon the work of 
Hugo Obermaier and of Dechelette in the Lower 
Paleolithic, and of Henri Breuil in the Upper Paleo- 
lithic. Through the courtesy of Doctor Obermaier I 
had the privilege of watching the exploration of the 
wonderful grotto of Castillo, in Northern Spain, which 
affords a unique and almost complete sequence of the 
industries of the entire Old Stone Age. This visit and 
that to the cavern of Altamira, with its wonderful 
frescoed ceiling, were in themselves a liberal education 
in the prehistory of man. With the Abbe Breuil I 
visited all the old camping stations of Upper Paleolithic 
times in Dordogne and noted with wonder and admira- 
tion his detection of all the fine gradations of invention 
which separate the flint makers of that period. 

the rev. hugo obermaier 189 

Obermaier's Patient Research and its 

Father Obermaier above all has worked out 
the significance of a number of remains that at 
first seemed to be merely accidental forms in 
nature, and yet when found under the circum- 
stances in which they occurred had a very sig- 
nificant meaning in archeology. At first, as 
pointed out by Obermaier, the earliest man in 
Europe, while recognizing the need of artificial 
aids in the shape of tools, found it difficult to 
make these for himself and had to be satisfied 
to help himself with such rude pieces of flint 
as he found. He was dependent on the chance 
shape of fragments of flint which he shattered 
by letting them fall from heights or by letting 
heavy stones fall on them. He had not yet 
learned to shape them symmetrically. In the 
search after the most useful form of flint which 
could be grasped by the hand for various pur- 
poses, a rather characteristic form was evolved 
of which a great many are found actually in or 
in close proximity to the cave dwellings. Very 
soon the cave man learned, however, to shape 
suitably-sized flints more or less into the form 
of almonds, so that they could be easily grasped 
by the hand, there being a rather smooth surface 
for the palm and a sharp edge leading to a point 
on the other side. Dr. Obermaier worked out 
the progress of flint-shaping, by himself learning 
patiently how to fashion flints for various pur- 


poses and thus demonstrating the course of old- 
time flint tool-making. 

Father Obermaier spent some three years in 
the great grotto of Castillo near Ponte Viesgo in 
the province of Santander, Northern Spain. 
Professor Osborn mentions his visit to that 
grotto with Obermaier as most illuminating. 
The results of investigations conducted were very 
fruitful in scientific results. The deposits which 
filled the grotto presented in cross section alto- 
gether some forty-five feet in thickness, reach- 
ing from the floor to the roof. Father Obermaier 
succeeded in differentiating some thirteen layers 
of distinct interest, and these proved to cover 
eleven periods of " industry ", representing 
many dififerent kinds of flint tools and other im- 
plements. Indeed this grotto, now famous in 
archeology, provided by itself a magnificent epi- 
tome of the prehistorical period of ^^^ester^ 
Europe from what is known as the Acheulean 
Age (because the first deposits recognized as be- 
longing to it were found near St. Acheul in 
France), to the age of bronze in this same part 
of the country. Father Obermaier has found 
that the floor of the grotto was possibly used as 
a flint-making station in the Acheulean and very 
likely also in Chellean times. ^ 

■■ The names applied to the different periods or 
horizons or industries, as they are variously called, 
are modern geographic. Aurignacian, Chellean, Mag- 
dalenian, Solutrean, Acheulean, are all adjectives de- 
rived from places where special finds occurred illustrat- 


The tracing of the age of the various layers 
was accomplished by noting carefully the chang- 
ing forms of animal life which are to be found 
round the fireplaces or hearths, and the modifica- 
tions of the flints in the ascending levels. In the 
first or lowest of these layers were found only 
very crude flints. In the second were some arti- 
ficially worked flints and the bones of the cave 
bear and Merck's rhinoceros. In the third 
layer the flints were of still finer workmanship, 
and quartzites were also used, and Merck's 
rhinoceros was present, though not in large 

ing some special level of prehistoric culture. The 
Aurignacian industry, as it is termed, is based on the 
Aurignac man so-called, of Combe-Capelle, who was- 
found decorated with a necklace of perforated shells 
and surrounded with a lot of fine Aurignacian flints. 
The Acheulean and the Mousterian have reference to 
finds at Acheule and Le Moustier. Magdalenian refers 
to discoveries at La A'lagdalene, the most ancient of 
which occur in the grotto of Placard, Charente. The 
first harpoons or fish hooks were found at this level, 
and this important addition to the food supply was 
apparently followed by a decline in the chase. The 
Chellean industry, as well as early Acheulean times, 
came when the river shores and the neighboring forests 
and meadows were favored by a warm temperate 
climate, such as is clearly indicated by the presence of 
the fig tree and of the canary laurel in the region of 
North Central France near Paris. They hunted the 
bison or old German zuisent and the wildcattle, that is, 
the wild ox or Aurochs, called also Urochs, the nrus of 
Csesar. The Urus survived in Germany as late as the 
seventeenth century, while a few of the bison or wisent 
survive to the present time. 


numbers. In the fourth layer the so-called upper 
Mousterian was rich in small implements and 
large tools of quartzite. Merck's rhinoceros was 
very abundant. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh 
layers, the lower and upper Aurignacian, there 
were remains of the reindeer and some burins of 
flint, with implements of stone and bone and the 
remains of a human infant. In the ninth, tenth, 
and eleventh layers there were fine engravings 
on bone and very artistic engravings on stag- 
horn. These represent what are called the lower 
and upper Magdalenian. In the twelfth and 
thirteenth layers the stag is very plentiful, and 
in the top-most layer a small triangular dagger 
in copper was found. 

Father Obermaier made a series of experi- 
ments with flints which showed exactly how the 
early flint-workers had gone about producing the 
forms of flint implements which are now so com- 
monly found. While these men were satisfied at 
first with the accidental sharp edge that they 
picked up in quarries, they soon learned how to 
flake flints and to fashion them skilfully by re- 
touching until they secured a really symmetrical 
almond form, which fitted the hand very well 
and made a fine effective tool for a great many 
purposes. They were able to produce symmet- 
rical instruments with straight, convex, or con- 
cave cutting edges at will, until the specialization 
of their instruments for various purposes must 
have become a craft requiring a great deal of 

the rev. hugo obermaier i93 

The Caves as Dwellings. 

Father Obermaier has pointed out the vicissi- 
tudes of the history of the cave man in his cave 
dwelling. He finds that long before these caves 
were inhabited by man, they served as lairs or 
refuges for the cave bear and the cave hyena, 
their homes being shared by a number of birds 
of prey. Sometimes large numbers of skeletons 
of these animals are found within the caves, and 
it would seem as though man must have had a 
hard struggle not only to drive the animals out 
but to keep them out in inclement weather. 
While of course the men and women lived mainly 
near the entrance to the cave, it is well known 
that even a short distance from the entrance to 
such underground workings the temperature is 
likely to be very uniform and never cold. While 
it might seem as though cave dwelling would be 
very unhealthy, Father Obermaier points out 
that the smallest cave was considerably larger 
and better ventilated than the small smoky cabins 
of some of the European peasants of the present 
day, or the snow huts of the Esquimo. 

The principal hardship in cave life was the 
dampness in the winter time. This could not be 
expelled in any complete way by fire, because the 
smoke would have been otherwise impossible to 
stand. During spring, in times of freshets, the 
cave men were often displaced from their dwel- 
lings and these were made uninhabitable by the 
seepage of water. But every spring in our time 


somewhere in the world, and usually somewhere 
in the United States, many hundreds and even 
many thousands of people are driven from their 
homes and suffer severely because of flood con- 
ditions. The dampness of many of the dwel- 
lings, however, gave rise to certain arthritic con- 
ditions, with swellings of joints, so often called 
rheumatic in the modern time, though not always 
with complete justification; and there seems no 
doubt that the rheumatoid diseases were rather 
frequent, for bones are found of both men and 
beasts exhibiting diseased swellings and chronic 
inflammatory conditions of the vertebras such as 
are associated with extreme dampness. It is 
rather interesting to find that man reacted to a 
damp environment at that time quite as he does 
at the present time, and we have not as yet found 
any remedies for preventing such afflictions. 

What Father Obermaier has done for us par- 
ticularly, besides bringing out the significance of 
the various objects found in the cave, is to place 
the epoch at which these various finds must be 
considered to have happened in the history of 
the race and of the earth, that is. in the geology 
of the earth's surface. His book on The Man 
of the Early Time ^ is very well known and 
forms the basis for nearly all the scientific writ- 
ing on the subject that we have had in recent 
years. Father Obermaier has worked out the 
problems of the relationship of the artistic finds 

- Dcr M^nsch rirr Vorzcit, 


and other remains to one another and to the 
human skulls that have been discovered, and has 
placed the progress and decadence of the races 
as well as calculated about the length of time 
that the various strata of culture and geologic 
horizons in which these remains occur, lasted. 
For strange as it must seem to those who have 
been quite sure of the assumption that the cave 
man was a savage, we know now that not only 
we have the right to speak of culture in his re- 
gard, but actually these patient investigators 
have been able to trace a series of cultures among 
the earliest known ancestors of man. 

Culture among the Cave Men. 

Long before pictures were found on the walls 
of the caves it had been recognized that the cave 
man was an artistic artisan, and even something 
of his startling and marvelous ability in pure art 
had come to be recognized. Among the very 
earliest things that were found in the caves and 
that attracted special attention to the old-time 
dwellers in them were implements or utensils of 
various kinds which had been used by the cave 
men and which bore on them ample evidence 
that he had an artistic spirit. These objects, 
bone and horn and ivory and other material, 
some of which are among the most resistant to 
the vicissitudes of time that we know, had been 
preserved in the debris on the floor of the caves. 
A great many of them proved, when carefully 
examined and when the dirt that had gathered 


around them had been removed, to' have on them 
very interesting engravings, that is, pictures 
scratched with a sharp-pointed instrument. 

It was a good while, however, before the high 
quality of this engraving came to be generally 
appreciated. A large number of objects were 
collected, but the markings on them were sup- 
posed to be more or less crude and very primitive 
misrepresentations of the animals hunted by 
these early men. Indeed it was only after the 
discovery of the pictures in oils on the walls of 
the caves that a more careful study of the smaller 
objects found in the caves showed clearly that 
there had been in our hands abundant evidence 
of the fine artistry of the cave men even before 
the wall pictures were known. The engravings 
on bone and ivory and horn were thoroughly 
artistic in quality in a great many cases, vigorous 
vivid representations of animals of all kinds 
presented in many ways and modes of activity. 

The cave man then came to be studied from 
two very different aspects, though these two had 
many very intimate relations, and the researches 
were founded, not on theory but on actual study 
of remains. There was in the caves a mural or 
parietal art consisting of the pictures in oils on 
the walls and occasionally the ceilings, and then 
besides there was the movable art, as it came to 
be called, consisting of the decorated objects of 
various kinds which soon began to crowd the 
museums. While Abbe Breuil did so much, as 
we have seen in the former article, to develop 


our knowledge of the mural or parietal art of 
the caves, he helped also to bring out the signifi- 
cance of the movable art. It remained, however, 
for Father Obermaier to trace the evolution of 
these art objects and to give them their proper 
places in prehistory. There proved on careful 
investigation to be a series of various cultures 
to delineate and of divers horizons of progress 
and decadence to locate, for early as these ob- 
jects are in the history of man, both upward and 
downward artistic tendencies are to be noted in 
them. All their archeological relations were 
illuminated by the careful researches of Father 
Obermaier and above all by his intuition amount- 
ing to genius in recognizing and appreciating 
even minute differences. 

What has been found is that the cave man 
ornamented practically all the utensils and im- 
plements that he used, that is, of which we can 
find any remains. He made drinking cups out 
of the horns of animals, but before finishing 
them for use he scraped and polished the outer 
surface of them and then engraved outline fig- 
ures of animals of many kinds on the surface 
thus presented. These were done very vividly 
and presented the animals in all postures, stand- 
ing, lying, running, charging, and at bay. No 
maker of the finest decorated glassware of mod- 
ern time has ever given more labor and thought 
to the making of beautiful engraved glass than 
this cave-man maker of drinking horns. His 
one idea was to present on them a faithful pic- 


ture of exactly what he saw and thus recall, 
while he was peacefully drinking in his cave 
home, some of the scenes of the active life in 
which he had been engaged earlier in the day or 
perhaps at another time in the year. 

What was thus true for the drinking cups may 
be said also of all the other utensils and imple- 
ments that we have found. Portions of flat 
horns were used for the making of ladles and 
spoons of various kinds, and these too were 
smoothed and engraved. Long bones were 
sharpened and made into pins to hold together 
the skins of the wild beasts in which the cave 
man and his family dressed themselves. These, 
too, though presenting comparatively so little 
surface, were beautifully engraved. We have, 
for instance, the radius of an eagle, one of the 
long thin bones of the eagle's wing, some nine 
inches in length and scarcely more than half an 
inch in diameter at its widest part, and yet the 
cave-man artist has drawn on it a most vivid 
picture of a herd of reindeer. 

It should be emphasized, too, that these en- 
gravings, especially when done on pins meant for 
holding skins together, probably added to their 
utility as well as making them things of beauty. 
The roughness produced by the engravings on 
the bone made it more difficult for the pin to 
slip out and thus added to its security as a clasp. 
It is a good while now, though it was a long 
while after the cave man's time, since Horace 


Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, 
he carries off every point who mingles the useful 
with the beautiful, 

but this cave-man ancestor seems to have grasped 
quite thoroughly the principle that Horace re- 
ferred to and that has been so often quoted, and 
appears also to have put it into excellent prac- 

Perhaps it should be added that, as has been 
pointed out by artists and art critics who have 
studied these remains of the movable art of the 
cave man, most of it is distinctly impressionistic 
in character, that is to say, the picture is called 
up to the mind of the beholder with just as few 
lines, just as little artistic work as possible. 
When the herd of reindeer was engraved on the 
radius of the eagle, one or two of the animals at 
either end of the herd were pictured completely 
but all the rest are represented just by a forest 
of horns as it were, and yet the effect produced 
is startlingly complete as of a large group of 
reindeer grazing. 

The animals drawn by the cave artist are 
pictured in all modes of activity and inactivity. 
There is a wonderful engraving on a piece of flat 
horn of a mammoth charging. Only someone 
who had seen often and studied most carefully 
and had a power of reproducing his vision that 
has never been excelled could have made this 
very vivid picture. Only a few lines compara- 
tively are needed for it, but it is eminently effec- 
tive. There are charging boars and bisons, and 


bisons at bay, and other studies of wild animal 
life that are just as true to nature as they can be. 
As I said in the previous article, " Abbe Breuil 
and the Cave Man Artist", probably the hardest 
thing in the world for the artist to express is 
suppressed motion, just as the most difficult task 
for the actor and actress is to express suppressed 
emotion. Free expression of emotion or motion 
are much less trying tasks. The cave man could, 
however, picture very vividly an animal not yet 
in motion, but with every muscle tense to move, 
though not yet moving. The pictures are evi- 
dently reminiscences of times and events in the 
cave man's experience when a cornered animal 
backed away for a moment, or perhaps stood 
still and got ready to charge. To express this 
attitude in a few lines is a difficult task indeed, 
but the man who does it shows that he is an 
artist of surpassing ability. It is over such 
achievements of their cave-man colleague that 
modern artists grow enthusiastic. 

The putting of all these artistic engraved pic- 
tures on the ordinary utensils and implements of 
the home raises some very interesting questions. 
The cave man manifestly believed in trying to 
make everything around him beautiful. He 
beautified his home by painting pictures on the 
walls there. In most cases, doubtless, he had 
them painted for him, for it is of course ex- 
tremely improbable that every dweller in the 
caves could paint such beautiful pictures as we 
find in them, and quite as unlikely that every 


cave-holder, or home-maker so to speak, could 
make striking artistic engravings on his own 
household utensils. These decorated materials 
are found, however, in so many places that it is 
evident that the cave man felt that the things 
around him should be beautiful, and so practi- 
cally all of them called in the artists of the time 
and the artistic craftsmen to make these veritable 
objects of art with which they surrounded them- 

The Irish poet Yeats, when bidding a small 
group of friends good-bye here in New York a 
few years ago, reminded us as Americans that 
though there was so much talk of culture in 
America, the effect produced on a visitor was 
the feeling that we were beginning to appreciate 
how little of culture our people yet had. He 
even ventured to suggest that there was so much 
talk about it that it was a little bit like the case 
of people who talk very much about politeness, 
for it is only those who are not quite sure of 
their own manners who make a great to-do about 
the rules of politeness. He ventured deprecat- 
ingly, then, to suggest that perhaps it might be 
well for us to realize that " there is no real cul- 
ture in the hearts of a people until the very uten- 
sils in the kitchen are beautiful as well as use- 
ful ". 

This is, of course, a standard that does not 
always occur to a people intent mainly on sur- 
rounding themselves in the show rooms of their 
houses, the drawing rooms and libraries, with 


bric-a-brac and " art objects " of all kinds, but it 
is a standard that, once set up, makes everybody 
brought in touch with it appreciate that culture 
is for life and not merely for leisure, that it is 
for all the people and not merely for the leisurely 
rich, not to use the adjective idle, so often em- 
ployed in recent years. 

Perhaps the most startling thing of all re- 
mains to be said, and that is that of all the gen- 
erations of men, probably there is no one of 
whom it can be said that the very utensils in the 
kitchen were useful as well as beautiful, as it 
may be of the cave man. He literally tried to 
make everything that he handled, even the most 
simple utensils and implements of daily life, 
beautiful as well as useful. He had the true 
spirit of art, which in this is a gift of the Cre- 
ator, who never made anything merely useful, 
but always added an element of beauty. All the 
beautiful things in nature around us are emi- 
nently useful — the leaves, the flowers, the fur of 
animals, the feathers of birds, all these are beau- 
tiful, often supremely so. There is no need to 
say, however, that they are also finely useful. 
The leaves of the trees are the stomachs and the 
lungs of plant life. We usually do not associate 
the idea of beauty with stomachs and lungs, yet 
how marvelously beautiful in their almost in- 
finite variety are the leaves! The feathers of 
birds are eminently useful, but how charmingly 
beautiful are most of them! This is true not 
only of highly-colored feathers but even of the 


simple ones. The eyes in the wing feathers of 
the pheasant are indeed artistic and represent 
the outpouring of beauty from the Creator quite 
as if it were impossible for Him to make any- 
thing without making it beautiful as well as 

It is surprising indeed to find the earliest an- 
cestor of man in Europe thus closely in sym- 
pathy with the Divine mind, but it must not be 
forgotten that the surprise is due entirely to the 
fact that we have allowed ourselves to be led by 
modern science, so-called, to believe that man 
began as a savage and then gradually worked up 
to our supposedly high stage of civilization, the 
height of which, by the way, we do not boast so 
much of since this war began. Until compara- 
tively recent years, say the last two generations 
at most, it was the custom of man to look back, 
not on savage ancestors, but on a happier, more 
peaceful time, a Golden Age from which men 
had descended. All the poets have this, and it 
was evidently a commonplace in the thought of 
men until the theory of evolution came to dis- 
turb modern thinking. The Christian back- 
ground of thought would, of course, rather fos- 
ter the idea of man early in his history having a 
fine sense of beauty and a close sympathy with 
nature even though his material circumstances 
might be of a character that is usually supposed 
to hamper artistic expression. 

204 catholic churchmen in science 

The Cave Man an Inventor. 

Of the cave man's ability as an inventor as 
well as an artist there can be no doubt, for the 
very fact that he invented painting in oils would 
of itself exhibit him as an ingenious technical 
expert in anything that he wanted to do. In all 
the years that have elapsed since, man has im- 
proved but little on the technique of painting in 
oils. Whenever he wanted to make permanent 
pictures of his activities he has reverted to the 
cave man's invention. We have re-invented the 
process of painting in oils two or three times 
since at least, but we have not modified it essen- 
tially, nor indeed, if we study the cave men's 
pictures seriously, have we added to its power 
to express human vision. 

There is another invention of the cave man 
which deserves to be recalled. He is the first 
human being to whom can be traced the use of 
fire for heating and lighting purposes. It would 
not be too much to assume that this earliest an- 
cestor in Europe, subjected to the inclemencies 
of the weather of the Pyrenees region, must 
have inevitably developed the means of making 
fire. What is often not properly appreciated, 
however, is that the inventor of fire was one of 
the greatest inventors that humanity has ever 
had. For fire is literally one of nature's great 
active agents, and the finding of a way to make 
it available is then our most important invention. 
Electricity is as nothing compared to it, though 


the use of electricity in recent years has made us 
so proud of man's ability to adapt 'nature's agen- 
cies to his own advantage. According to the 
legend, man stole fire from heaven; which has 
often been interpreted to mean that from above 
the clouds he secured it first from the edge of a 
burning volcano. That would be the natural 
tradition in a volcanic country. But there seems 
no doubt that the cave man used fire very com- 
monly for a number of purposes. This adapta- 
tion of this natural agent, which makes such a 
good slave yet can be such a tyrannous master, 
stamps him as quite capable of going to nature 
for whatever necessities he had. As it is, if we 
were to rub out fire to-morrow, it would more 
nearly bring about the end of our civilization 
than any other single act that could be per- 
formed, and the cave man seems to have been 
the individual who first enabled men to make 
use in divers ways of this all-important civiliz- 
ing agent. 

Domestic Life of the Cave Man. 

The domestic life of the cave man becomes 
very interesting. Here is a man who makes 
his home beautiful by painting in oil on the walls 
of it, and makes too all the implements and uten- 
sils of daily use as beautiful as he can make 
them by simple decorative procedures which do 
not interfere with their usefulness. It would be 
hard to think that the life in such a home must 
be that of the savage or anything but a rather 


pleasant existence. Of course we have the pop- 
ular science theories, the oft-repeated declara- 
tions of newspapers and magazine science, those 
fosterers of pseudo-knowledge which has to be 
corrected and which serves only to make people 
more ignorant, that the cave man's wife was a 
slave whom he had probably dragged home by 
the hair of the head and kept in his domicile 
merely to care for his children; but there is not 
the slightest bit of evidence for this; it is all 
mere assumption. Granted that evolution from 
the beast to man is true, then this must be so, 
the evolutionists declare, and that's all about it. 
We have come to realize during the present 
generation that most of the things that were de- 
clared by science or pseudo-science that they 
must be so, are not really so, and we are trying 
to find out not new theories but new facts. The 
facts with regard to the cave man's home are 
accumulating. He tried to make it beautiful. 
Fortunately, among these pictures, of which of 
course some at least may have been made by the 
cave woman, for there is not the slightest reason 
to think that the cave man alone had a sense of 
beauty, we have some that give us a good idea 
of the human beings of that time. These pro- 
vide an excellent basis for reflection as to the 
real status of the women of the period, in one 
regard at least. The cave artist always pictures 
his women folk as rounded and fat, and indeed 
rather inclined to be obese. He almost never 
pictures her without children near her, and his 


ideal evidently was the rounded, rubicund, 
healthy mother of children, and not at all the 
thin younger woman on whom the modern artist 
expends his efforts so exclusively. Almost need- 
less to say, only an abiding interest in her and 
the children could have dictated this. 

On the other hand, we have also some, though 
but a few, pictures from the cave man of cave 
men. Masculine human beings are always rep- 
resented as muscular and athletic, thoroughly fit, 
as it were, but not at all fat. Manifestly, his 
ideal man was the athlete who could go out and 
chase the animals successfully and who could 
compete with any of them in strength of muscle 
and vigor and rapiditj? of movement. The con- 
trast between the cave man and the cave woman 
in this regard is very interesting. The conclu- 
sion is almost forced on us that the cave woman 
sat down at home and cared for her children, 
lived, as it were, on the fat of the land, and so 
became stout and rounded, while her lord and 
master, by the rude strenuous work of the chase 
and the demanding efforts of the hunt, was 
thoroughly hardened into athletic fitness. 

Such stout women could not very well have 
been drudges. On the contrary, the rule of 
humanity has always been that it was when men 
have succeeded in making it possible by their 
successful efforts in creating a home life in 
which their wives did not have to work, that 
these wives became stout or even fat. Farmers 
wives are usuallv rather thin. The old pioneer 


women in America were thin and wiry, though 
their descendants with more leisure and better 
eating are getting so fat that foreigners are de- 
manding whether the caricatures of Uncle Sam 
and his wife as thin and rather scrawny individ- 
uals are not a living lie, for certainly even the 
older American families are not represented 
very often by such types in our day. 

In a good many of the caves that were mani- 
festly the homes of the cave people many split 
long bones have been found. The one reason 
for splitting bones is to get at the marrow of 
them. The marrow even in our time represents 
a delicacy that is much sought after. Evidently 
the cave man or his wife had learned the secret 
of the dietary quality of grilled marrow, and so 
we have a great many remains of these split long 
bones. It has been suggested that an indulgence 
in a diet that contains a good deal of grilled 
marrow, especially if the individual was not com- 
pelled to take very much exercise, would produce 
a state of obesity such as the cave man some- 
times pictured his women folks in, as rapidlj' as 
does Huyler's candy in our time. It is only those 
who have abundant time for eating and the 
preparation of toothsome delicacies who can take 
the pains to split bones in order to secure the 
marrow within them in such easily edible quan- 
tities, as readily produces a tendency to corpu- 
lency at least. The whole story as thus outlined 
for us is extremely interesting and Father Ober- 
maier's studies of movable cave art and of the 


other objects found in the debris on the floor of 
the caves has brought out a great deal beyond 
even this of suggestive information. 

Belief in Immortality. 

What is even more interesting perhaps is the 
evidence that these cave men had a very firm 
and thoroughly practical belief in immortality, 
for which they were quite ready to make rather 
serious sacrifices. The bodies of the dead were 
buried with implements near them to take with 
them to the other world, and even traces have 
been found of the burial of food with them for 
their journey. Not infrequently red pigment of 
one kind or another is found also in the grave, 
and the explanation of its presence usually given 
is that the cave men wanted their dead relatives 
to look well. What struck them most was the 
greenish pallor of the dead, and to avoid their 
appearing with this in another world, where 
they were as yet strangers, red ochre was buried 
with them to give them a ruddy appearance. 

This may seem to many to be a sign of bar- 
barism and of savagery, but let us not forget 
that at the present time the undertaker is very 
careful to make corpses look nice by rouging 
them and even by padding sunken cheeks and 
jaws and the like. Human nature has not 
changed very much in the thousands of years 
since the cave man's time, and we still want to 
have our dead look beautiful, just as Hector's 
mother Hecuba rejoiced over the fact that her 


son's body had not been marred in spite of 
Achilles having dragged it many times around 
the walls of Troy. 

The dead of the cave-dwellers were dressed in 
their best. Apparently some of their finest im- 
plements were placed beside them, and the living 
were quite willing to make the sacrifice of beau- 
tiful things over which many hours of labor had 
been spent, in the desire to provide their dead 
friends with the instruments necessary, as they 
believed, for life in another world. I under- 
stand that there has never been a tribe found 
that did not prove on careful investigation to 
have some religious ideas and, above all, a sure 
confidence in a hereafter. The cave men might 
very well be expected to have had it as well as 
the others, though this evidence for it has proved 
rather surprising to a good many people. 

War and the Cave Man. 

It is interesting to appreciate that the investi- 
gation of the caves was interrupted just as it 
had reached this interesting point by the war in 
Europe. Just before the war began, a French 
nobleman and his three sons were engaged in 
exploring one of the most interesting caves that 
had been uncovered in recent years. The call to 
arms at once put an end to the expedition, for 
two of the sons were called to the colors and the 
third for preliminary training. I believe that 
one of the young men has since been killed, an 
other has been wounded, and the father, all of 


whose attention is now devoted to patriotic work, 
is alone. That exploration will never be re- 
sumed by the same investigators. Indeed it 
seems very dubious as to when such researches 
can be taken up seriously again in France. We 
are thousands of years after the cave men, with 
all the progress that is supposed to have taken 
place since then ; but it is war that makes it im- 
possible to go on with the interesting researches 
of the cave man. 

One of the French archeologists. Comment, 
who has spent a good deal of time investigating 
the cave man's life and customs during the past 
twenty years, does not hesitate to declare that 
the older cave man, the maker of his home beau- 
tiful, when that home was only a cave, had no 
weapons for war. He killed the animals that he 
hunted by dead falls, that is, by pits dug in the 
path that the animal was accustomed to follow 
to water, and then covered with branches and a 
light layer of dirt so that if the animal were 
scared he would in his hurry rush upon this 
light frame-work and then plunge to death in 
the pit below. The weapons, or rather imple- 
ments, that are found are for peaceful voca- 
tions, the skinning of animals, the sharpening 
of bones, the graving of bone and horn and the 
like, but not for war. Could there be any more 
curious contrast possible than our cave-man an- 
cestor demonstrated as a man of peace, while 
we as descendants of thousands of years later 
are engaged in the greatest war that humanity 


has ever waged. Verily man is a very curious 
creature and the more we know of him, forget- 
ting our theories and waiting for real knowledge, 
the more curious and inexplicable he becomes. 

When the war broke out Father Obermaier 
was fortunately engaged in archeological work 
on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees in connexion 
with the cave dwellings of Spain, or he might 
have found it extremely difHcult to go on with 
his scientific labors, and perhaps even have suf- 
fered some personal inconvenience. As it is, 
the pursuit of his research work was sadly dis- 
turbed by the war, but his presence in Spain led 
to the creation for him of the Directorship of 
the Paleontological Institute in Madrid, where 
he is continuing his work of classifying, arrang- 
ing, and bringing out the significance of the 
many specimens, especially of movable art, that 
have been found in the caves of Spain. 

After even this brief story of his work, with 
that of Abbe Breuil, and the results which they 
have produced on human thinking, it is not diffi- 
cult to understand why the claim should be 
made that probably no other two men have done 
so much in our present generation to revolution- 
ize human thought with regard to the history of 
man as these two faithful clergymen. So far 
from being hampered in their work in any sense 
of the word by the ecclesiastical authorities, they 
have been encouraged, materially aided, and 
their very priestly character has been of a dis- 
tinct help to them in their work. They have 


done in our generation for man what the Abbot 
Mendel did for lieredity, and their work fdls a 
corresponding place in a particular department 
of biology. Father Mendel found after a time 
that he was called to higher things in his own 
order and left his scientific work reasonably 
complete, though its significance was not to be 
recognized for a generation later. These two 
clergymen have been more fortunate, and prac- 
tically no one writes anywhere in the world on 
paleontology and archeology without quoting 

The respect in which Obermaier is held will 
be readily appreciated from the fact that, when 
the war disturbed his work and cut off his con- 
nexions with his home country, a position was 
provided for him in a foreign country, in Cath- 
olic Spain, so that he might be able to go on 
with his precious scientific work during the war. 
The whole story is extremely interesting from a 
human point of view, but still more significant 
because of the light that it throws on the real 
relations between the Church and Science. 



Acheulean igo 

Adam de Marisco 44 

Ages, Dark, Bright.... loi 

Agricola 92 

a Kempis, Thomas.. 92, 94 

Albert of Bollstadt 32 

Albertus Magnus 

23. 32, 35, 55, 61 

Alcalde del Rio 160 

Alexandre de Villedieu 61 

Alphonso. Table of — 60 

Altamira 160, 177, 188 

Altruism 156 

Anarchists 89 

Archives of Diagnosis. 106 
Aristotle. Albertus 

Magnus on — 56 

Bacon on— 56 

Errors of — 56 

Ars Harnwniae et Dis- 

cordiae 18 

Magna Lucis et 

Umbrae 18 

Art Degeneration 169 

Impressionistic—. 199 

Movable — 196 

Mural— 165 

"Objects" 202 

Parietal^ 196 

Plastic— 175 

Primitives in — ... 153 

Astrology 66 

Astronomers. Papal — 9 

Atomic Weights iii 

Aurignacian 190 

Aurochs 191 

Authority 58 

Avicenna 64 


BACILLUS Bulgari- 

cus 66 

Bacon. Academic Ca- 
reer of — 40 

and America 38 

and the Blessed 

Virgin 76 

and the Latin Vul- 
gate 77 

and Mathematics. 58 

Arabic 75 

as Teacher 41 

at Oxford 41 

at Paris 41 

Bitterness 78 

Brothers 40 

Chemist 51 

Doctissimus Math- 

ematicus 61 

Family 40 

Francis — 51, 69 

Franciscan 44 

Genius 83 

Hebrew 75 

on Calendar 60 

Optics 50 

Physical Science . 50 

Robert 40 

Roger. .31, 87, 97, 100 

Roger and Francis 

69, 72 

Uncle 40 

Bacon's Acerbity 79 

Eclipse 35 

Imprisonment 77 

Bartolomeo de Parma. 61 

Basel. Council of — ... 96 

Bassi. Laura — 120, 136 

Bathybius 128 




Binz. Professor Carl — 107 

" Blue Coat Boys " 112 

Bologna 95 

Bonnet 143 

Boscovich 140 

Boule Gaudry 159 

Brasenose 36 

Breuil Career 158 

Henri— 188 

Bric-a-Brac 202 

Bridges. Dr. — 72, 74 

Brixen. Bishop of — .. 88 
Brothers of the Com- 
mon Life 91 

Bruno. Giordano — ... 89 

Buflfon 122, 146 

Bursa Cusana 112 

Burserius 140 


yj Caesar. Urus oi — 191 

Calendar. Julian — 60 

Capitan d'Ault-du- 

Mesnil 159 

Cardinalate. Nicholas 

of Cusa refused — 97 

Carriages, Automatic . 37 

Cartailhac 160, 173 

Castillo. Grotto of — .. 190 

Cave Culture 195 

Implements 195 

Man and War 210 

Domestic Life of 

the — 205 

Inventor 204 

O bservation 1 72 

of Theory 155 

Sculptor 173 

Men of the Mod- 
ern Times 167 

Woman 206, 207 

Caves and Cave-Dwel- 

lers — 164 

as Dwellings 193 

Celtic Horse 175 

Cesarini. Giuliano — 96 


Chaldea 151 

Charles. Emile — 74 

• of Anjou....T 47 

Charme 66 

Chellean igo 

Christ Rejected 76 

Chymiae. De Arte—. 52 
Circulation of the 

Blood 144 

Civilization in Europe. 

Origins of — 150 

Clavius. Father Chris- 
topher — ID 

Clement IV ^^ 

— -VI 24 

Clepsydra 108 

Clifford. Professor 

Kingdon — 60 

College Endowments.. 43 
Colleges. Medieval 

and Modern — 42 

Columbus 12, 38, 90 

The Century of— .. 92 

Commemoration Es- 
says 46 

Common Life. Breth- 
ren of the — 93 

Commont 211 

Copernicus 70, 87 

Cousin. Victor — 73 

Crete 151 

Crusade. Children's — 47 

Cues 91 

Cultures 197 

Curriculum. Univer- 
sity— 7 

Cusa 91 

Cardinal Nicholas 

of — 16, 62, 87 

Cusanus's Astronomi- 
cal Ideas 114 

■ Beneficence iii 

Charity m 

Germany. Union 

of — Pioneer 104 

Medical Diagnosis 105 




D' AILLY. Cardinal 
Pierre— 38 

Dante 20, 102, 167 

Darwinism 127 

Dechelette 162, 188 

Decoration of Utensils 198 
Degeneration Cycles .. 169 

Deventer 92, 112 

Diagnosis. Accurate 

Methods of — 105 

in Medical Pro- 
gress IDS 

Doctor. Illustrious — . 44 

Mirabilis 31, 39 

Donne. Maria dalla — 136 

Dordogne 149, 164 

Draper. Professor — .. 71 

Driescfi 127 

Drugs. Old — 104 

Duns Scotus 76 

EARTH. Orbit of— 103 
Earthworms 123 

Education. Utility in 

- 67 

Egypt 151 

Electromagnetismos — 17 
England. Royal Soci- 
ety of— 33 

Engraving. Magda- 

lenian — 172 

Espeluges. Grotto of 

— 175 

Essays. Commemora- 
tion — 47 

Ethics 156 

Europe. Intellectual 
Development of — ... 71 

Eustachius 12 

Evans. Sir Arthur — 

ISO, 165, i85 

Explosives 53 

Harnessing — 37 

Artificial— 13S 


Figure 66 

Fire and Civilization... 205 

Invention of— 204 

Fiske. John— loi 

Fitzacre. Richard — .. 44 

Flint-Shaping 189 

Floyer. John — 106 

Fontana 140 

Francis of Assisi 79 

Frankfurt Diet 97 

Freedom. The New — 90 

Friar Bacon 36 

Berthold of Reg- 

ensburg 48 


VT Imprisonment of . 80 

Punishment of — .. 81 

Galvani 53. 142 

"Gas" 129 

Gasquet. Cardinal—. ^^ 

Generation of Mice .... 130 

Spontaneous- 128 

Gerbert 23 

Germany. Political 

Status of— 103 

United— 104 

Gilbert of Colchester . . 71 

Golden Age 203 

Gravity. Specific — ... no 

Greek Fire 53 

Gregory XIII 9, " 

Grey Friars 112 

Grosseteste. Robert — 44 

Guibert. Abbe— 158 

Gunpowder yj 

Arabs, Hindus, 

Chinese S3 

Invention of - — S3 

Guy de Foulques 48 

HAGAN. Father—. lOO 
Haller 64, 143 

Harvey. William — .. 106 

Haiiy S3 

Health Contagious 64 

Hecuba 209 




Hegius 92 

Heidelberg. Univer- 
sity of— 95 

Helmont. Van — 129, 130 

Henlein. Peter — 108 

Henry III 47, 48 

Herschel. Caroline — 120 

Hippocrates. English- 65 

Hirsch. S. A.— 75 

Hohenstaufen 47 

Homer. Spallanzani 

on— 137 

Horace 198 

Horizons 197 

Horse. Arabian — 175 

Celtic— 175 

Hugh of St. Victor 20 

Humanities 4 

Humboldt 51 

Hunter. John — 122 

Huxley. Professor — 

5, 6, 7, 8, 70, 128 

Huyler's 208 


J- Sources of — 57 

On Learned — 102 

Ignorantia. De 

Docta — 17, loi 

Imago Mundi 38 

Immortality. Belief 

in — 209 

Impressionistic Art 199 

Imprisonmentof Bacon 81 

of Monks 81 

Inanitas. Methodica — 64 

" Industry" 190 

Innocent III 76 

Inquisition 54 

Institute in Madrid. 

Paleontological — ... 212 

Iter Celeste 18 

Ivory Carving 172, 174 

JEROME of Ascoli.. 81 
Joachim. Abbot — 20 

John 76 


John of Dalberg 92 

XXI 20 

Jordanus 61 


Father— 17 

Kircherianum 19 

Knowledge. Stum- 
bling Blocks to—.... 57 
Koelliker I79 


Anatomical — 13 

Astronomical — .. 13 

in the Vatican 8 

Lake Dwellers 186 

Lancisi 13 

Learning. New— 4 

Lenses. Theory of- . 50 

Leo XIII 9 

Leyden. Professor 

Ernst von — 106 

Light. Propagation 

of— 51 

Little. Professor — 46 

Loeb 127 

Lourdes 175 

Lutheranism 94 

MABIE. Hamilton— 93 
MacCurdy. Pro- 
fessor — 181 

Machines. Flying — .. .38 

Magdalenian 190 

Magic 66 

Magnes, sive de Arte 

Magnetica r7 

Mainz Diet 97 

Malpighi 12, 143 

Malus 53 

Mammoth Cave 164 

Charging 199 

Manzolini. Madame — 136 
Maria Theresa. Em- 
press— 138 

Marsh. Adam — 44 

Marys. The— 76 




Mascagni 142 

Mathematics the Key 

of Science 59 

Matter and Form 52 

Medical School. Papal- 12 
Medicinarum. De 

Graduacione — 62 

Medicine. Old-Time 

Makers of— 16, 105 

Medicorum. De Er- 

roribus — 63 

Meistersingers 102 

Mendel. Abbot— 158, 213 
Mensch der Vorzeit. 

Der— 194 

Merck's Rhinoceros... 191 

Metchnikoff 65 

Meteorology 13 

Method. Inductive — . 70 

Michelangelo i54 

Middle Ages 39 

Appreciation of — 34 

Millet. Franijois— ... i54 

Minnesingers 102 

Mirrors. Properties 

of— SO 

Mivart. George — 26 

Monaco. Prince of— 

160, 179 

Monte Carlo i79 

Morgagni I43 

Morgan. Dr. Thomas 

Hunt— 123, 127 

Morphology. Experi- 
mental — 13s 

Moscati 140 

Motu Propria 9 

Muir. Patterson—.... 51 
Mundus Subterraneus. 18 

Museo Kircheriano 19 

Museum. Natural His- 
tory— 141 

Musurgia Universalis. 18 

NEEDHAM. Father 
Walter— 122, 131 

Neolithic Period 186 

Newcomes. The — 112 

Newman 26 

Nicholas IV 8t 

V 97 

Nicholson S3 

Nuremberg Diet 97 

" Nuremberg Eggs ".. 107 

Rev. Hugo— 152, 185 

Opus Majus 49. 74 

Minus 49 

Tertium 49 

Osborn. Professor 

Henry Fairfield — 

162, 171, 174, 187. 190 

PADUA. University 
of— 95. 96 

Painting in Oils 173 

in Rehef 170 

Mural— 177 

Paleolithic Time 186 

Paleontology. Institute 

of Human- 161 

Papal Astronomers... 9, 25 

Physicians 24 

Parliament Responsible 104 
Pasteur Anticipated.... 131 

Precursor of — — 146 

Pattison. Mark— 42 

Paulsen. Professor—. 93 
Pavia. University of— 139 

Pf.psin 134 

Peter of Spain 20 

Pfefifercorn 75 

Philebus 62 

Philippines. Stormsin- 14 
Physician Archbishop 21 
Physicians. Papal— . . 24 
Physiologia Experi- 

mentalis 18 

Piccolomini. Aeneas 

Sylvius— 12, 90 

Piette. Edouard— IS9 

Pins. Decorated— ... 198 
Pius II 90 




Plato 62 

Poincare 59 

Pons Varolii 12 

Pope. Philosopher- 
Physician — 20 

Popes and Science 24 

' ' Preceptor Germa- 

niae ' 92 

Primitives in Art 153 

Progress. Failure of — 57 

Psychotherapeutists ... 67 

Pulse Comparison 109 

EAMON y Cajal 178 
Reflexes. Spinal — 127 

Regeneration 117 

Reichstag Responsible 104 
Reinach. Salomon — . 159 

Renaissance 4 

Respiration 134 

Comparison no 

Memoirs on — 135 

Reuchlin 75 

Revolt of the Pastor- 

eaux 47 

Rhinoceros. Merck's — 191 

Rich. Edmund — 44 

Roger Bacon and Med- 
icine 63 

Roman College 10 

Romance of Modern 

Science 153 

Rome. Papal Univer- 
sity of — 12 

Roux 127 

Ruskin. John — 161 

SAINT Acheul 190 
Louis. Cru- 
sades of — 47 

Salamanders 117, 124 

Saliva 133 

Saltpeter 53 

Santander 177, 190 

Sapienza 12 

Sarton. Professor — .. 3 


Saussure 143 

Scarpa 142 

Scharpflf 94 

Science. Experimen- 
tal— 54 

History of — 3 

Institute of the 

History of — 27 

Popes and — 24 

Sciences. History of 

Inductive — 72 

Secchi. Father—. 13, 158 

Seismology 14 

Senebier 133, 143 

Shelley 116 

Sigmund. Duke—.... 88 
Smith. Professor David 

Eugene— 61, 78 

Solutrean 190 

" Spallanzani the Biol- 
ogist" 144 

Digestive Studies 

of— 132 

Experiments In- 

genious 144 

on Snail and 

Slug 125 

Hibernation 134 

■ Literary Life of — 145 

Marianna — 120 

Observations on 

Earthworms 123 

on Homer 137 

■ Respiration 134 

Translations 142 

Volcanoes 140 

Spinal Reflex Centers. 127 

Statuettes of Bison 173 

Stone Age. Men of 

the Old — 162, 171 

Studium Generate 41 

Sun. Constitution of 

the — 102 

Swift. Dean — 37 

Sydenham 65 

Sylvester II 22 




Tambroni. Clo- 
tilda — 136 

Telesio 70 

Tennyson 116 

Teutonic Knights. 

Cruelties of — 48 

Thackeray 112, 

Theodoric. Bishop — 21 ! 

Thiers 146 

Thomas Aquinas 

23, 35, 57, 76 

Tissot 143 

Tool Making 189 

Toscanelli 9°, 95 

Tourdes. Dr.— 142 

Transmutation 52 

Trembley 143 

Trithemius. Abbot—. 113 

Troubadours 102 

Truth: Its Joys 99 


Van Helmont 129, 130 
Varolius 12 


Vatican Observatory... 10 

Venus Statuette... 174, 176 

Virchow 179 

Virgil 129 

Volcanoes 140 

Volta 142 

Vulgarization of Sci- 
ence 162 

Vulgate 77 

rAR. Cave Man and 









No Weapons for . 
Wasmann. Father — . 
Water-Clock. 108, 109, 

West. Benjamin — 

Whewell. Dr.— 

William de Rubruk .... 

of Malmesbury.... — 

of St. Amour 47 

Wilson. President — . 90 

Wimpheling 92 

Wiseni 191 

Women in Science 121 

YEATS 201 
Youth Exhalation 65