Object Of Biologists' Guild Of Mendel And Pasteur
THE title, " Making Ourselves Felt," which 1 have given to this talk may have caused some of you to expect that in it I shall suggest some definite policy and activities for our Guild, so at the outset I had better make it quite clear that this is not my intention. Though I may in places make brief references to delinite activities which fall within the province of the Guild my aim here is not to discuss a Guild programme, this will be done during the business meeting tomorrow, but rather to try to suggest the kind of personal and individual attitude towards our religion and towards life as a whole " During the past few years biology has assumed such an important and rapidly increasing place in both general education and social legislation in Great Britain that it is now impossible for anyone who lays any claim to be interested in current events to ignore it. . . It is incumbent on all those who claim to be practical Catholics to know something of the fundamentals . . . yet as a body we are woefully ignorant. . . In the hope of rectifying this unhappy state of affairs . . . the Guild of Mendel and Pasteur was inaugurated
These were words used in the Catholic Herald last week explaining the aims of the Guild of Mendel and Pasteur, founded last Easter by Professor Louis Renouf. B.A., Dip.Agric., F.R.S.E., President of The Guild.
The Guild was inaugurated at Easter last year and the first general meeting has just been held.
The Catholic Herald, which has been appointed the official newspa per of the Guild, prints this week the first part of Professor Renouf's presidential address which will he concluded next week.
which shall result in the activities of our Guild making a real impression and furnishing a valuable contribution towards the solution of some of the problems of modern life. To do so requires no originality for the two great men after whom our Guild is named have already blazed the trail for us, and all we have to do is to model our outlook and lives on theirs.
Mendel and Pasteur This of course, does not mean that we should all strive to become expert plant geneticists or bacteriologists. we have other tasks to fulfil. It does mean, however, that we must do all we can to foster and develop the particular personal characteristics without which the scientific successes of our two great exemplars would never have been attained. No matter who we are or what our positions, we can all make this cur common aim.
Mendel and Pasteur both were the sons of poor and humble parents. Their unassailable position as two of the outstanding contributors to biological science and to the good of mankind is due simply to the fact that they cherished high ideals and took advantage of every occasion which could be made to promote them.
In most other respects they were as different from each other as two scientists, who were at the same time fervent Cath
olics, very well could be. At school, for instance, both worked hard, but whereas Mendel gave immediate and continuous promise of a brilliant academic career Pasteur's early results foretold nothing of the kind, and while Mendel was quite happy at a school away from his home, Pasteur, at the same age, was so home-sick that his father fetched him back after
about a month. Astrologers, I suppose, would tell us that these differences were due to the fact that, although both Mendel and Pasteur were born in the .same fortunate year-1822—they were born during different months, the former in July, and the latter in December, on the 22 and 27 respectively.
Their Achievements Be that as it may through their long continued, clear and logical reasoning, backed up by preservering and often tedious experiments in the face of disappointment, discouragement. and, especially in the case of Pasteur, powerful arid organized opposition, they laid the foundation stones of
the sciences of genetics, of molecular, chemistry, of fermentation, of bacteriology, of immunology, so well and truly that they will remain for all time.
Each of their lives provides an abundance of material for complete series of sermons, of exhortations, and of scientific discourses, but since for our immediate purposes we need to consider rather some of their petsonal characteristics than their scientific achievements while a consideration of Mendel forms a fitting prelude to a series of lectures such as I hope we may arrange for our summer meeting I propose to make but a brief reference to our first namesake and to occupy most of the time at our disposal with a consideration of Pasteur.
Johann Mendel Johann Mendel's father was a small farmer in Heinzendorf in Austrian Silesia, where his wife's brother kept a small private school at which Johann received his early education, but by the time he was eleven he had made so much progress that he was sent to Leipnik and later to the high school at Troppau where he took his first degree.
After a further year's study, at Olmutz, he entered the novitiate of the Augustinians at their t'amous monastery at Briinn.
His qualifications were already sufficient to secure him a successful academic career as a government teacher, and his poor parents might with justice have claimed that his first duty was to them, who had made every sacrifice to ensure his success. They, however, were not only parents but fervent and exemplary Catholics who made this supreme sacrifice without any thought of themselves and Johann became a religious under the name Gregor.
Thus it was that he came by the opportunities which enabled him to take the three main steps in his great work : a deep study of the problems of hybridization which were at that time engaging the attention of several workers; the working out of a theory of whose correctness he himself was obviously certain, although he kept it to himself until he had taken the third step —the carrying out of elaborately planned experiments during a period of eight years. Unfortunately for science, we may perhaps say for humanity, some of the qualities which made Mendel such a master scientist fitted him also for higher monastic work and resulted in his being elected pralat of the monastery in 1868.
From this date he had no time for scientific work, very largely because his high principles brought him and his monastery into a long conflict with the civil authorities, to whom he would not yield over a tax which was, in fact, remitted soon after his death.
Louis Pasteur, too, had peasant blood in him though his paternal grandfather and his father earned their meagre livings as tanners while his mother's father was a gardener.
His home surroundings resembled those of Johann Mendel not only in being extremely humble but also in their perfectly Catholic atmosphere, and his parents, like Johann's, were ready to make any sacrifice for their children, for their son in particular.
From Dole, where he was born, Louis's parents moved first to his maternal grandmother's home at Marnoz, and very soon afterwards—before he was three years old —to Arbois.
Here he went to school, here both his parents, his eldest daughter and his sisters died and were buried, hither he brought the bodies of two other daughters for burial, and here was his favourite retreat during the short periods when he indulged in a comparative rest from work.
Anxious to get on in his studies he went to Paris with a school friend in October, 1838, in order to prepare for the entrance examination for the Ecole Norrnale, hut, as we have seen, he was so homesick that he was fetched back to Arbois after a few weeks.
Henceforth he set his mind on mastering his will and improving himself in every possible way, spiritually in particular. At the end of 1839 he gained a number of prizes, and the following year, after having attended classes at the Royal College at Bescanon-40 kilometres from Arbois—he took his first " degree" and was appointed " preparation master," with free board and lodging and a salary of 25 francs a month.
Finding that he could add to his earnings by taking private pupils he suggested interfering with his own studies in order to earn College fees for his sister, but his parents would not allow this.
It was, however, not only his readiness to sacrifice himself for others which made itself manifest at this early age—he was eighteen. His intense devotion to his work, his full realization of the meaning of Will, and his absolute trust in God ail make themselves evident in his letters to his parents and sisters.
" I prefer," he wrote, " the first place at College to ten thousand praises in the course of conversation. Work hard, love each other. When one is accustomed to work it is impossible to do without it; besides everything in this world depends on that. To will is a great thing, dear sisters, for Action and Work usually follow Will, and almost always Work is accompanied by success. These three things, Will, Work, Success, fill human existence. Will opens the doors to success both brilliant and happy; Work passes these doors, and at the end of the journey Success comes to crown one's efforts. And so, my dear sisters, if your resolution is firm, your task, be it what it may, is already begun; you have but to walk for ward; it will achieve itself. If perchance you should falter during the journey, a hand would be there to support you. If that should be wanting, God, who alone could take that hand from you, would himself accomplish its work."
Did Not Excel in Exams
Yet in spite of his high hopes he gained but a low pass in the degree examination in science in August, 1842, and in the entrance examination for the Ecole Normalc during the same month came 17th out of 22 candidates. Thinking this too low a place he went to Paris to take classes for another
year. Here again his characteristic gratitude and thought for others showed itself, for in spite of the long hours of his own work he offered voluntary help to the school he had attended on his first visit to Paris. This were accepted with joy and so he began his day by teaching mathematics from 6 to 7 a.m.!
Knowing this we are not surprised at his reply to a question about the temptations of Paris: 'When one wishes to keep straight, one can do so in this place as well as in any other; it is those who have no strength of will who succumb."
From this period onwards his success was assured, even though he failed to do as well in examinations as some of his classmates did, an apparent contradiction, which one little incident is sufficient to explain while at the same time affording a further insight into his character. Merely to learn in lecture process for obtaining phosphorous did not satisfy him. He must needs buy some bones, burn them, reduce them to a fine ash, treat this with sulphuric acid and at the end triumphantly bottle -and label phosphorous which he had produced himse f.
Work in Central Europe Such enthusiasm, thoroughness and perseverance are immortalized by a sentence in the newspaper La Write referring to his journey and labours in central Europe in search of the source of racemic acid. "Never was treasure sought, never adored beauty pursued over hill and valley with greater ardour."
(To be concluded.)