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THE FIFTH ESTATE
BY ARTHUR D. LITTLE
ter which the the preganized
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN was not perhaps part than its predecessors in the in all respects a paragon, but he was remaking of the world. unquestionably a polygon - a plain This Fifth Estate is composed of figure with many sides and angles. those having the simplicity to wonder, There were not enough buttons on his the ability to question, the power to black coat to tell off the multifarious generalize, the capacity to apply. It aspects in which his complex person- is, in short, the company of thinkers, ality was presented to the world. He workers, expounders, and practitioners was craftsman and tradesman; philoso- upon which the world is absolutely pher and publicist; diplomat, states- dependent for the preservation and man, and patriot. And he was, withal, advancement of that organized knowla very human being. What concerns edge which we call Science. It is their us particularly on this occasion is the seeing eye that discloses, as Carlyle fact that he was at once philosopher said, 'the inner harmony of things; and man of affairs. His remarkable what Nature meant.' It is they who career should refute forever the fallacy bring the power and the fruits of which, unfortunately, still is current, knowledge to the multitude who are that the man of science is temperamen content to go through life without tally unfitted for the practical business thinking and without questioning, who of life.
accept fire and the hatching of an egg, At the time when Franklin was in the attraction of a feather by a bit of England the British Parliament was amber, and the stars in their courses, assumed to be composed of repre as a fish accepts the ocean. sentatives of three estates: the lords The curious deterioration to which spiritual, the lords temporal, and the words are subject has left us with no commons; but Edmund Burke, point- term in good repute and common usage ing to the Reporters' Gallery, said, by which the members of the Fifth “There sits a Fourth Estate, more Estate may properly be characterized. important far than they all.' No one Sophists are no longer distinguished at all familiar with the ubiquitous for wisdom, they are now fallacious influence and all-pervading power of reasoners. Philosophers, who once the press would to-day question the claimed all knowledge for their provvalidity of Burke's appraisal. Even ince, are now content with speculative then, however, there was present in metaphysics. Scholars have become England, in the person of Benjamin pupils. The absent-minded and myopic Franklin, a prototype and exemplar of professor is a standardized property of the membership of a Fifth Estate, an the stage and screen. The expert, if estate destined to play an even greater not under a cloud, is at least standing
influencess woBurke's af was Benjam
derogationtime at least, and absence use of lack of at
in the shade. In Boston one hesitates In proportion to population the to call a professional man a scientist cities have produced twice as many - he may be a Presbyterian; and a scientific men as the country, but how ‘sage,' as an anonymous writer has many hearts ‘once pregnant with pointed out, ‘calls up in the average celestial fire' repose in country churchmind the picture of something gray and yards because of lack of opportunity pedantic, if not green and aromatic.' and absence of the stimulus of contact Let us, therefore, for a time at least, cannot, of course, be known, nor can escape these derogations and identify we tell how many brains, competent ourselves as members of the Fifth and well equipped to penetrate the Estate. Although the brotherhood of mysteries of nature, the war has cost the Estate is open to all the world, its the world. effective membership nowhere com- Initiative is one of the rarest menprises more than an insignificant tal qualities, yet without it progress is proportion of the population. Two impossible. Its combination with the hundred and fifty constitute the mem- scientific imagination and command of bership of the National Academy of fact is still rarer and more precious. Sciences. The latest edition of Ameri- Since comparatively few of those who can Men of Science includes only about study science develop the capacity to 9500 names. The number is expanded extend its borders, the cost of a man to 12,000 on the roll of the American competent to advance science has been Association for the Advancement of estimated at $500,000 and his value to Science. Although gathered from all the community set at a far greater countries,- and though chemistry is figure. Full membership in the Fifth one of the most active and inclusive Estate thus seems to involve the sciences, — the chemical papers, books, highest initiation-fee on record. It is a and patents reviewed in Chemical figure disconcerting to the candidate, Abstracts in 1923 were the product of but as Wiggam has finely said: 'Only about 22,000 workers. One may hazard genius can create science, but the the estimate that there are not in all humblest man can be taught its spirit. the world 100,000 persons whose He can learn to face truth.' creative effort is responsible for the That the Fifth Estate is not better advancement of science.
appreciated or always understood by The studies of Cattell indicate that the world at large is not surprising. in America, at least, the great majority In their endeavors to secure accuracy of men of science come from the so- of definition and expression its memcalled middle and upper classes, orbers have evolved a preposterous and precisely those sections of society terrifying language of their own. It which, in Russia, have been practically is not ideally adapted to the interexterminated in the name of the new change of confidences in ordinary Social Justice. In about two thirds of human intercourse. It does not lend Cattell's reported cases both parents itself to poetry. 'Ladybird, ladybird, were American-born, while the fathers fly away home' becomes impossible of nearly one half were professional when one is forced to address the men Seventy-five per cent depend prettily spotted beetle as Coccinella upon the universities for support; from dipunctata. A primrose by the river's which we may assume that the burden brim is much more than a yellow of the higher surtaxes does not bear primrose to the botanist: it is a speciheavily upon the Fifth Estate.
men of Primula vulgaris. The organic
chemist produces a new synthetic doubtedly found his greatest pleasure product in a mass of pilular dimensions in the pursuit of science, and in that and bestows upon it a name that would pursuit he followed the eclectic methslow up Arcturus. Nothing but static od. At a time when nearly everything interference can account for the terms awaited explanation his focused attenof radiotelephony.
tion ranged like a searchlight over If knowledge is to be humanized many fields. He observed the moveit must first be translated.
ment of winds and developed a theory Dewar has said that the chief object of storms. He considered ventilation of the training of a chemist is to produce and the causes of smoky chimneys and an attitude of mind. It should be the proceeded to invent new stoves. He object of all education to produce the introduced the Gulf Stream to Falscientific attitude toward truth. We mouth skippers and demonstrated the may even agree with Robinson that calming effect of oil on turbulent seas ' of all human ambitions an open mind, to officers of the British Navy at Portseagerly expectant of new discoveries mouth. From earthquakes he turned and ready to remould conviction in the to the heat-absorption of colored cloths light of added knowledge and dispelled and the fertilizing properties of gypignorances and misapprehensions, issum. He wrote on sun spots and methe noblest, the rarest, and the most teors; waterspouts, tides, and sound. difficult to achieve.'
The kite, which for centuries had been Carlyle says, 'The degree of vision the toy of boys, became in Franklin's that dwells in a man is a correct meas- hands a scientific instrument, the ure of the man.' And President Cool- means to a great discovery. That its idge has been quoted as saying in a significance is, even now, not univerrecent interview: —
sally appreciated is shown by the re'Everything flows from the appli- cent answer of a schoolboy, 'Lightning cation of trained intelligence, and in differs from electricity because you vested capital is the result of brains. don't have to pay for lightning.' To ... The man of trained intelligence Franklin, as the child of every man is a public asset. ... We go forward knows, we owe our initial conceptions only through the trained intelligence of of positive and negative electricity, and individuals, but we, not the individuals, he was the first to suggest that the are the beneficiaries of that trained aurora is an electrical phenomenon. intelligence. In the very nature of The gregariousness, which is a things we cannot all have the training, prominent characteristic of the Fifth but we can all have the benefits. Estate, found early expression in
Now vision, a trained intelligence, Franklin. He formed the Junta, a and an open mind are the qualities club for the discussion of morals, which characterize all those who are politics, and natural philosophy, and worthy of membership in the Fifth in 1743 drew up a proposal for the Estate. They are qualities which the organization of the American Philomany-sided Franklin possessed in ex- sophical Society, of which later he
became president. He established a wide acquaintance and cemented many firm friendships among the foremost
scientific men of France and England, Among all the activities with which by whom he was received on equal his busy life was crowded Franklin un- terms. In 1753 he was awarded the
dowed with Est
dou are ther, tobacod thingserica has
Copley medal of the Royal Society for Error and misconception have a his discoveries in electricity and, on his feline tenacity of hold upon life, and leaving England, David Hume wrote: the Fifth Estate, though richly en'I am sorry that you intend soon to dowed with latent executive capacity, leave our hemisphere. America has is still, in popular opinion, regarded as sentus many good things, – gold, equipped for thought rather than for silver, sugar, tobacco, indigo, — but action. The practical man, busily you are the first philosopher and, in- engaged in repeating the errors of his deed, the first great man of letters for forefathers, has little time and less whom we are beholden to her.'
consideration for the distracting theThe professional spirit which ani- ories and disconcerting facts of the man mates the Fifth Estate is essentially of science. Yet who, among the men of one of service. Its compelling urge in action, is more intensely and truly the search for truth springs from the practical than Carty, Baekeland, Reese, conviction that the truth shall make or Whitaker? Where shall one find a men free. That spirit finds complete firmer grasp on the details of business expression in Franklin's statement, 'I than that possessed by E. W. Rice, Jr., have no private interest in the recep- Gerard Swope, or Dr. Nichols? What tion of my inventions by the world, quality caused the young director of a having never made, nor proposed to research laboratory to find himself make, the least profit by any of them.' responsible for the production of gas This impersonal relation to the chil- masks to protect four million fighting dren of his brain was indeed carried by men? In a time of dire emergency it him to an extent which ordinary human was a professor of chemistry who nature would find hard to emulate. 'I organized the great Edgewood Arsenal have,' he writes, 'never entered into and developed the means and methods any controversy in support of my and the trained personnel required to philosophical opinions; I leave them to supply munitions for a new type of take their chance in the world. If they warfare. It was not to a statesman or are right, truth and experience will a business man or a great manufactursupport them; if wrong, they ought to er that the Allies entrusted the supreme be refuted and rejected.'
command. It was to a teacher in a There is, nevertheless, a place for French military school. The range and militancy in science. The world needs value of their public service obscures a Huxley for every Bryan.
the fact that Charles W. Eliot was a Franklin was a man of science, but professor of chemistry and that Hoover his career proclaims that it is possible is an engineer. The League of Nations to be a man of science and much more is the child of a schoolmaster. besides. Science was made for life, and Numerically the Fifth Estate has life is more than science. Art in its always been feeble and insignificant. fullest expression may touch deeper Its total membership at any time springs, human relations and affections could be housed comfortably in a may bring richer rewards, and public third-rate city. No politician makes a affairs may make a more imperious promise or invents a phrase to attract claim. With Franklin as their proto- its scattered and ineffective vote. type the members of the Fifth Estate Rarely do its members sit in Congress; may well strive to emulate his devotion when they do they sit in the gallery. to the public service and his construc- With less political influence than the tive interest in human affairs.
sparse population of Nevada, the Fifth
Estate has recast civilization through slavery was essential to progress beits study and application of the great cause only through the enforced labor and fundamental facts of Nature and of the many could the few have leisure the laws of her operation.' It has to think. To-day, in the United States, opened out the heavens to depths the supply of available energy is beyond imagination, weighed remote equivalent to sixty manpower for every suns, and analyzed them by light man, woman, and child. There is now which left them before the dawn of leisure for all to think, but the millions history. It has moved the earth from prefer the movies. the centre of the universe to its proper It is not Labor, but the trained place within the cosmos. It has ex- intelligence of the Fifth Estate which tended the horizon of the mind until has endowed man with his present its sweep includes the 30,000 suns control of stupendous forces. It has within the wisp of smoke in the con- solved problems that for ages have stellation Hercules and the electrons hindered and beset mankind. It has in their orbits within the atom. It has revealed great stores of raw materials, read the sermons in the rocks, revealed synthesized scores of thousands of new man's place in nature, disclosed the compounds, furnished the fundamenstupendous complexity of simple things, tal data which find embodiment in and hinted at the underlying unity machines and processes and in those of all.
agencies of transportation and comBecause of this new breadth of munication that have made of the vision, this lifting of the corner of the world a neighborhood. It has enabled veil, this new insight into the hidden man effectively to combat disease, meaning of the things about him, the added years to the average life, and mind of man, cramped for ages by made it better worth the living. taboos and bound by superstition, is emerging into freedom: into a new world, rich in promise, and of surpassing interest and wonder.
Benjamin Franklin died in 1790 — Man brought nothing into the world one hundred and thirty-four years ago. and through long and painful ages he could he return to make appraisal, added little to that nothing: a club, an what wonders would confront his axe of stone, a pebble in a sling, some astonished vision, what triumphs of skins of beasts, a rubbing of sticks for the Fifth Estate compel his admiraa fire. He might labor, but to what tion! avail? Even to-day the South Ameri- Electricity, which to his contempocan Indian works incessantly, yet his raries was little more than an obscure labor produces little more than heaps force, the curious manifestations of of stones. To those who would have us which might supply an evening's believe that all wealth is produced by entertainment, has become the struclabor the Fifth Estate replies, ‘Wealth tural basis of the universe. The atom is the product of brains, and labor is of Democritus is now a microcosm, productive only as it is guided by vibrant with energy that glows in the intelligence.'
white light of the electric lamps, which Science is the great emancipator of have replaced the tallow dip. In place Labor. Bagehot has somewhere said, of the electrophorus and the charges of perhaps in Physics and Politics, that the Leyden jar he would find in our during the early stages of civilization own country alone twenty-seven million