Le Bon Gustave - The evolution of matter


Author : Le Bon Gustave
Title : The evolution of matter
Year : 1907

Link download : Le_Bon_Gustave_-_The_evolution_of_matter.zip

There is, fortunately, no need for me to introduce Dr. Gustave Le Bon to the British public, inasmuch as his works on psychology have a European reputation, and his Psychology of Crowds (long since translated into English) has become, in some sort, a classic. About ten years ago, however, he began to turn his attention to physical science, with ifhe result that he entered upon the long course of experimental research which is summarized in the following pages. This led him to the conclusion—to put the affair in its simplest form—that all matter is radio-active in the same manner as uranium, radium, and the other so-called radio-active metals, and that this radioactivity is but a step in the process by which it gradually sinks back into the ether from which it was originally formed. To this he has lately added the corollary that, in the course of this disintegration, energies of an intensity transcending anything of the kind previously observed are very slowly and gradually liberated. Conclusions so subversive of all that formerly passed under the name of scientific teaching could hardly be promulgated without causing an uproar, and that which followed the first ventilation of them left nothing to be desired on the score of vehemence. In France, even more than in England, it has always been considered an impertinence for any one not engaged in the tuition of youth to possess original ideas on any scientific subject, and the violence of Dr. Le Bon's adversaries -was only equalled by the volubility with which they contradicted themselves and each other. How this storm gradually abated, and was succeeded first by impartial consideration and then by a pretty general acceptance of his theories, he tells us at sufficient length in the book itself. But I may perhaps remark here that his earliest adherents on the Continent were drawn from the ranks of those who—as was my own case until some two years ago—had no other acquaintance with him than through his writings. In our own country the same thing occurred on a smaller scale and with a difference. No sooner had the volume of which this is a translation reached England than it was assailed, with more rashness than ingenuousness, by two of the younger members of the University of Cambridge. As I have dealt elsewhere, with the one of them who constituted himself the spokesman of the two, there is no occasion for me to re-open the polemic; but it may be noted that this time Dr. Le Bon's assailants admitted that his theory was (to use their own words) "in the main correct," and contented them-selves with challenging the sufficiency of nis experiments and the originality of his doctrine. To those who have studied without prejudice the controversies which have raged round nearly every scientific generalization on its first appearance, this will doubtless appear but a premonitory symptom of its universal acceptance in the near future. They will be confirmed in this view by the fact that over 12,000 copies of this book have been sold in France since its publication in June 1905, which, in the present state of the book market, may be considered an extraordinary event. The rendering of the work into English has been in a double sense a labour of love, my task having been much facilitated by Dr. Le Bon's bold and positive style, as well as by his clear and excellent French. But, while an author necessarily and justly looks upon his translator as a traducer, it is seldom, perhaps, that a translator imbued with the critical spirit for long remains satisfied with the literary workmanship of his author. I do not venture to say, therefore, that there is nothing in these pages that would have been better left unsaid, or even nothing that could have been more clearly stated. What I would recommend to the reader, and especially to the expert reader who feels himself attracted by them, is to go from their study to the original memoirs on which they are based, and of which a list is appended. He will there find among the deviations and slips which usually attend our first faltering steps on the path to scientific truth many shrewd and pregnant hints that of necessity have made their escape in the process of compression into the present volume. To Dr. Le Bon's original text I have added a few notes, designed for the most part to collate his conclusions with the latest researches on their subject, and these notes can be distinguished from the author's by my initials. F. LEGGE. Royal Institution of Great Britain, December 1906. ...

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