Of Encouragement from Learned Societies.
Too Long; Didn't ReadThere are several circumstances which concur in inducing persons pursuing science, to unite together, to form societies or academies. In former times, when philosophical instruments were more rare, and the art of making experiments was less perfectly known, it was almost necessary. More recently, whilst numerous additions are constantly making to science, it has been found that those who are most capable of extending human knowledge, are frequently least able to encounter the expense of printing their investigations. It is therefore convenient, that some means should be devised for relieving them from this difficulty, and the volumes of the transactions of academies have accomplished the desired end.
There is, however, another purpose to which academies contribute. When they consist of a limited number of persons, eminent for their knowledge, it becomes an object of ambition to be admitted on their list. Thus a stimulus is applied to all those who cultivate science, which urges on their exertions, in order to acquire the wished-for distinction. It is clear that this envied position will be valued in proportion to the difficulty of its attainment, and also to the celebrity of those who enjoy it; and whenever the standard of scientific knowledge which qualifies for its ranks is lowered, the value of the distinction itself will be diminished. If, at any time, a multitude of persons having no sort of knowledge of science are admitted, it must cease to be sought after as an object of ambition by men of science, and the class of persons to whom it will become an object of desire will be less intellectual.
Let us now compare the numbers composing some of the various academies of Europe.-The Royal Society of London, the Institute of France, the Italian Academy of Forty, and the Royal Academy of Berlin, are amongst the most distinguished.