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The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 14: Research — Science — Expert Service

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 17, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here

LESSON XIV

RESEARCH – SCIENCE – EXPERT SERVICE

During the last generation there has grown up a series of new vocations based on ability to search for new truth and to give expert advice on all matters requiring technical information. Among savages, if any unusual manifestation is observed – if there is an epidemic of disease, an earthquake, or an eclipse of the sun – the medicine man is sent for to be engaged in a series of incantations handed down to him by tradition. The epidemic finally runs its course, the earthquake ceases, or the sun again comes out in all of its brightness and the medicine man is heralded as a great benefactor of the people.

In the modern world if anything unusual is encountered, it is subjected to scientific investigation by someone with the proper training and experience and the exact facts are determined. Thus the treatment of disease is transferred from a hocus-pocus incantation to something approaching an exact science. The problems of agriculture, of manufacturing, of transportation, of communications, of mining, of engineering, or of commerce are subjected to the same rigorous analysis. All of this work calls for experts with adequate training.

Meaning of Research

Diligent investigation for the purpose of finding a truth or establishing a law may be considered as research; which also implies study in an unexplored field of knowledge for the purpose of increasing human understanding. During the early history of mankind but little attention was given to research; hence development was slow. The past century, on the other hand, has been a period of discovery in every line, and as a result more progress was made than during all of the previous thousands of years that the earth has been inhabited by man.

To illustrate the methods of getting at information in the older times, the story is told of two feudal lords who entered into a dispute about the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. They consulted Aristotle, the great ancient philosopher, and all the other writers on the subject, and each brought forth statements that proved his point; but the dispute grew warmer and warmer. Each lord gathered his retainers around him and soon a battle ensued. After a number of lives had been lost, someone suggested that the question could be settled by examining a horse’s mouth. This was done and the truth was at once evident.

This circumstance probably never happened, but it illustrates the lack of scientific spirit that prevailed during the dark ages. In our day when any question o this kind arises, the first thought is usually to go directly to the source of information. If we want to know anything about an animal we study the animals itself; if information is needed concerning a disease, the disease is investigated.

At the close of the 15th century Columbus had great difficulty to interest anyone in fitting out an expedition to find a short cut to India. Everyone seemed satisfied to let the great unknown take care of itself. Today the keenest interest is shown in any new research. Wealthy men give fortunes, public agencies appropriate great sums of money, and scientists devote their lives to the work of discovery.

Importance of Research

The discovery of new truth lies at the very foundation of human progress. If there were no expansion of knowledge, there would be stagnation in the progress of civilization. The researches of Pasteur, in bacteriology and their application, have transformed the methods of treating disease with the consequent saving of millions of human lives.

Great industries like the manufacture of steel, which may almost be said to have remade the world for man, have been made possible by the scientific researches of numerous untiring investigators. In agriculture, research has allowed us to control pests and plant and animal diseases that in earlier times caused widespread famine. Such conveniences as the steam and gasoline engine, electric light and power, the telegraph and telephone, the radio and the airplane, testify to the service rendered the world by the men of research.

Dr. R.A. Millikan, an eminent physicist, has the following to say:

“Do you realize that within the life of men now living, within a hundred years, or 130 years at the most, all the external conditions under which man lives his life on this earth have been more completely revolutionized than during all of the ages of recorded history which preceded? My great grandfather lived essentially the same kind of life, so far as external conditions were concerned, as did his Assyrian prototype 6000 years ago. He went as far as his own legs or the legs of his horse could carry him. He dug his ditch, he mowed his hay, he did all of the operations of his industrial life, with the power of his own two arms, or the power of his wife’s two arms, with an occasional lift with his horse or his ox. He carried a dried potato in his pocket to keep off rheumatism, and he worshipped his God in almost the same superstitious way. It was only in the beginning of the nineteenth century that the great discovery of the ages began to be borne in upon the consciousness of mankind through the work of a few patient, indefatigable men who had caught the spirit which Galileo perhaps first notably embodied, and passed on to newton, to Franklin, to Faraday, to Maxwell, and to other great architects of the modern scientific world in which we live – the discovery that man is not a pawn in a game played by higher powers.”

The Man of Research

some people have an idea that the investigator and scientist are different from other people, that they are to be set apart from the rest of us and held in awe. As a matter of act, the scientist is just what any young man of ambition, saving a good mind and the proper adaptation may become. The spirit of the Mutual Improvement Associations is much the same as the spirit of science which seeks improvement in everything that affects human welfare. The slogan of this series of manuals is achievement and certainly the accomplishments of the research worker can be considered as achievements of a very high order. It would seem, then, that any member of the M.I.A. Who has good red blood in his veins, and who is ambitious to accomplish something worth while in the world, could well look to research as an outlet for his activities.

Preparation for Research

In taking up research work there are a few requirements that must be kept in mind. Probably the foremost necessity for the man of science is absolute honesty. He who steals money takes a thing that is easily replaced. It often matters little whether the thief or the real owner possesses it; but he who willfully distorts an investigation and promulgates an untruth in science commits an offense against mankind that should be given the highest condemnation. Not only are the money and time spent in the investigation wasted, but he discovery of the real truth may be greatly delayed.

An investigator should be industrious in order to get through with the great amount of routine incident o such work. He should have vision to see possibilities and imagination to project hypotheses in order to find clues on which to work. He must be able to analyze his data and to correlate facts.

Mechanical ability is of great advantage to one doing research work, since new kinds of apparatus must often be devised and constructed. The man who does research work must have great patience and ability to stick at a task. The fact that the truth has not been discovered implies some difficulty, otherwise someone would have found ti before.

If any of you are interested in real romance I would advise you to study the lives of some of the great research workers and learn of their struggles. Pasteur, Agassiz, Edison, priestly, Bell, Watt, Davy, Faraday, Liebig, Helmholtz, Goodyear, Steinmetz, or any one of a hundred others will give you a thrill and will show what you yourself can do.

The Outlook

Individuals who have a real vision of the possibilities of research are aware that every fact discovered opens the door to the discovery to two or three additional facts. Those who have been around a camp fire know that when the fire is low it lights the ground for only a few feet in all directions. Next to the lighted circle is seen the darkness. When the fire is made larger the circle of light is extended and the area of darkness is seen to be proportionately larger. Just so with research. Anciently it was thought that the circle of the unknown was very small, but as the light of increased knowledge is widened, the circle of the unknown that is yet to be lighted and explored is seen to be correspondingly greater.

There need be no fear that during the lifetime of the great-grandson of the youngest person now living, a complete knowledge of all the phases of any subject will have been discovered. Those who look toward research as a career may be assured that the field will not have been exhausted by the time they are ready to work. In every branch of science and industry there is opportunity for the trained investigator.

Expert Service

There are also splendid openings for young men of technical training in various types of expert service. Agricultural agents are being placed by the co-operative action of the counties, the state, and the federal government, in a large proportion of the counties throughout the country. State specialists in various branches are also in demand and the various departments of the government employ thousands of technically trained men. Many corporations, such as banks and insurance companies, are using men with scientific training to assist them in evaluating land and doing other special work that cannot well be done by individuals having only a business training.

Preparation for research work and for all of these branches of expert service usually includes at least a bachelor’s degree from college; and in many cases additional graduate work is desirable.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS

1. Give some of the old sayings which are based on superstition and not on fact.
2. What is research?
3. How long has it been since the spirit of research began to be important in the world?
4. What important thing did Pasteur discover?
5. Name as many of the great scientists of the world as you can.
6. What scientist have you met personally?
7. What are some of the great discoveries that have been made since you were born?
8. What do you think of the outlook for research and invention?
9. Who is the county agricultural agent nearest to where you live?



1 Comment »

  1. There does seem to be a lot of racism inherent in the manual. For a religion that encourages us to pray and receive a testimony, to denegrate those who believe in shamans, seems strange to me. I get the feeling it must have still been pretty widely accepted at the time. This line especially hits me, because we have so many people arguing against science on global warming, human sexuality, economic theories, etc.

    “Thus the treatment of disease is transferred from a hocus-pocus incantation to something approaching an exact science.”

    This is a lesson that just keeps on giving:
    “To illustrate the methods of getting at information in the older times, the story is told of two feudal lords who entered into a dispute about the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. They consulted Aristotle, the great ancient philosopher, and all the other writers on the subject, and each brought forth statements that proved his point; but the dispute grew warmer and warmer. Each lord gathered his retainers around him and soon a battle ensued. After a number of lives had been lost, someone suggested that the question could be settled by examining a horse’s mouth. This was done and the truth was at once evident.”

    You mean that facts might be important? Wow, who knew?

    I also chuckled at this line:
    ” It would seem, then, that any member of the M.I.A. Who has good red blood in his veins, and who is ambitious to accomplish something worth while in the world, could well look to research as an outlet for his activities.”

    I wonder if any of the young men in MIA helped us learn that blood is not red when it is in our veins? ;-)

    Can I kiss this author?
    “In taking up research work there are a few requirements that must be kept in mind. Probably the foremost necessity for the man of science is absolute honesty.”

    I would love it if this lesson manual was in print so that we could all buy it for friends and family for Christmas, and highlight all the gems throughout the book!

    Comment by Julia — September 1, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

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