What then is the aim of this book? It is to give the intelligent student-citizen, otherwise called "the man in the street," a bunch of intellectual keys by which to open doors which have been hitherto shut to him, partly because he got no glimpse of the treasures behind the doors, and partly because the portals were made forbidding by an unnecessary display of technicalities. Laying aside conventional modes of treatment and seeking rather to open up the subject as one might on a walk with a friend, the work offers the student what might be called informal introductions to the various departments of knowledge.
There is abundant evidence of a widened and deepened interest in modern science. How could it be otherwise when we think of the magnitude and the eventfulness of recent advances?
But the interest of the general public would be even greater than it is if the makers of new knowledge were more willing to expound their discoveries in ways that could be "understanded of the people." No one objects very much to technicalities in a game or on board a yacht, and they are clearly necessary for terse and precise scientific description. It is certain, however, that they can be reduced to a minimum without sacrificing accuracy, when the object in view is to explain "the gist of the matter." So this OUTLINE OF SCIENCE is meant for the general reader, who lacks both time and opportunity for special study, and yet would take an intelligent interest in the progress of science which is making the world always new.
The story of the triumphs of modern science is one of which Man may well be proud. Science reads the secret of the distant star and anatomises the atom; foretells the date of the comet's return and predicts the kinds of chickens that will hatch from a dozen eggs; discovers the laws of the wind that bloweth where it listeth and reduces to order the disorder of disease. Science is always setting forth on Columbus voyages, discovering new worlds and conquering them by understanding. For Knowledge means Foresight and Foresight means Power.
The idea of Evolution has influenced all the sciences, forcing us to think of everything as with a history behind it, for we have travelled far since Darwin's day.