Friday, April 16, 2021


Living in Vein
Remember the man who invented modern medicine.

review of William Harvey A Life in Circulation
by Thomas Wright, Oxford, 2013

Joshua Gelernter
The Weekly Standard, September 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 2

Science doesn’t make a splash in the news too often. But a year or so ago, when the CERN labs announced that they might have observed the “God particle,” everyone got very excited. A year of peer-review later, it appears they were right: After a 50-year search, the Higgs boson has been found. 

“God particle” is a silly, press-hype sort of name; but finding the Higgs boson is, genuinely, a big deal. It confirms the existence of the Higgs field, the hitherto-theoretical field that imbues objects with mass. Understanding mass will help us understand gravity and time, and all the other sundry, interconnected pieces of physics. It’s a big step towards understanding why the world works the way it does.

Finding the Higgs boson means that the knowledge-for-knowledge’s-sake reservoir is filling up. And the reservoir’s high-water mark is owed mostly to the accumulated work of a few dozen big minds belonging to men everyone’s heard of: Newton and Einstein, Mendel and Darwin, Watson and Crick, and so forth. But none of their discoveries would have happened if controlled-experiment, cause-and-effect science hadn’t taken over from the Aristotelian method of anecdotal deduction. That switch happened 300 years ago, when a man named William Harvey discovered that blood circulates—and accidentally invented hard science. 

Harvey was born in 1578 to Thomas Harvey, a yeoman landowner in Kent, England. The elder Harvey’s ambition in life was to have successful sons, so he packed his firstborn William off to Cambridge to become a physician. College life around the turn of the 17th century was no picnic: Harvey slept in an unheated attic with three other students and was roused by a bell at 4 a.m. so that he could be at church by 5, at class by 6, and in class till 10 at night. 

Despite the conditions, Harvey thrived as a student and won the Matthew Parker Scholarship, the first medical scholarship ever awarded in England. It required its beneficiary be “able, learned, and worthy” and not be “deformed, dumb, lame, maimed, mutilated, sick, invalid, or Welsh.” Harvey advanced rapidly, excelling in his studies and dominating the thesis-defense shows called “disputations.” At disputations, teams of students would debate each other in “smooth, vivid, masculine” Latin. Harvey was the master arguer of his college and sometimes ended his matches by shouting “Tuo gladio jugulabo!” (“Now I will slit your throat with your own [rhetorical] sword!”) The crowds that turned out to watch these disputations would cheer him like a king returning from victory. After a few terms embarrassing his Cambridge peers, he set off for Europe’s finest school of medicine, the University of Padua.

Padua was a big change from the stringency of Cambridge. In the early 1600s, Englishmen regarded Italy as the world capital of atheism and debauchery; Padua worked hard to prove them right. Hordes of students waded through the manure-filled streets to duel each other, Tybalt-style. Drunken doctoral candidates would rampage through shops and monasteries, smashing things; monks and shopkeepers would riot and try to set the university and its students on fire. Even the anatomy lectures that had drawn Harvey from Cambridge were in on the chaos, featuring dissections of freshly killed Paduans pilfered from open-casket funerals.

Despite the anarchy, the university assembled a faculty featuring some of the generation’s great minds (Galileo was head of the mathematics department), and the experience set Harvey down a path that would change the world of science. And the world, generally.

In Harvey’s time, all medicine was based on the work of the Greek philosopher Galen, who had been dead for 1,400 years. Galen believed that health depended on the balance of the four humors—yellow and black bile, blood, and phlegm—and that the heart’s role was to keep the humors regulated. Blood, he thought, came from the liver. Doctors disputing Galen’s work were rare: Contradicting Galen was a good way to get blacklisted, and inductees of the College of Physicians in London swore an oath never to speak disrespectfully of him. But at wild and crazy Padua, one of Harvey’s teachers cut open a heart and observed that Galen had made a mistake in describing one of the chamber walls as porous. A small mistake, it appeared, and Galen’s reputation at large remained untarnished. In Harvey’s eyes, however, the veneer of infallibility had been cracked.

William Harvey, M.D., left Padua in 1602, returned to England, joined the College of Physicians, took the respect-for-Galen oath—and began to conduct private experiments in a home laboratory. His curiosity had been roused: It was time, he decided, to reexamine the heart’s functions, through a series of impartial, Galen-free experiments.

According to Galen, the heart, after receiving blood from the liver, heated and distributed it throughout the body, where it was absorbed by muscle. But when Harvey began vivisecting animals, he noticed that the heart wasn’t so much receiving blood as it was sucking it in with forceful expansions. And he noticed—in his eureka! moment—that the heart pumps out a whole lot of blood—much more, he was certain, than the body could possibly absorb. If the blood wasn’t being absorbed, it was being recycled; so blood wasn’t being distributed and used up, it was being circulated. Harvey was forced to conclude that the world of medicine—the entire philosophy of the humors—was based on a false premise.

Of course, since no one wanted to hear that every physician in Europe misunderstood the human body (and no one was willing to take Harvey’s word over Galen’s), Harvey had to make his conclusions undeniable. So, in effect, he went on tour, performing experiments for everyone to see. It took 10 years to perfect the demonstration, but he made his point, and changed medicine. He also made a bigger point that changed science: The way to prove something is to show it to be true. Reproducible, Harvey-style experimentation has been the standard ever since.

And for all his hard work, courage, and brilliance, which shaped the modern world and gave birth to the practice of medicine that has prolonged millions of lives, William Harvey is remembered today by just about no one. He is not revered, like Einstein and Darwin; he is never mentioned in high school curricula; and no one would credit him as the ancestor of the Higgs boson discovery. But William Harvey: A Life in Circulation is an important step towards setting this injustice straight.

Friday, April 9, 2021


Throughout 1945 and 1946, the Eastern European coalition provisional governments would therefore try, more or less, to create economic policy in tandem with other politicians. They would try, more or less, to tolerate the churches, some independent newspapers, and some private business, all of which were for a time allowed to develop spontaneously and idiosyncratically. But there was one glaring exception to that tolerance. Everywhere the Red Army went, the Soviet Union always established one new institution whose form and character always followed a Soviet pattern. To put it bluntly, the structure of the new secret police force was never left up to chance, circumstance, or local politicians to determine. And although there were some differences in timing and style, the creation of the new secret police forces followed remarkably similar patterns across Eastern Europe.

    In their organization, methods, and mentality, all of the Eastern European secret police forces were exact copies of their Soviet progenitor: Poland’s Secret Police (Urzad Bezpiecżeństwa, or UB), Hungary’s State Security Agency (Államvédelmi Osztály, or ÁVO), and East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or later Stasi, the name by which it is now best known). So was Czechoslovak State Security (Státní bezpečnost, or StB). The latter was organized, in the words of the Czech communist leader Klement Gottwald, so as “to best make use of the experience of the Soviet Union.” The same could be said of every secret police force in every country in Eastern Europe.

Anne Applebaum, (2012). Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (66). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, April 1, 2021


 VII Postmodernist History 

For the historian, as for the philosopher, the quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns is being superseded by a quarrel between the Moderns and the Postmoderns. If the great subversive principle of modernity is historicism—a form of relativism that locates the meaning of ideas and events so firmly in their historical context that history, rather than philosophy and nature, becomes the arbiter of truth—postmodernism is now confronting us with a far more subversive form of relativism, a relativism so radical, so absolute, as to be antithetical to both history and truth.*For postmodernism denies not only suprahistorical truths but historical truths, truths relative to particular times and places. And that denial involves a repudiation of the historical enterprise as it has been understood and practiced until very recently. 

Postmodernism (or poststructuralism—the terms are by now used interchangeably—or “porno,” as it is familiarly called in academic circles and computer networks) is best known as a school of literary theory. But it is becoming increasingly prominent in such other disciplines as history, philosophy, anthropology, law, and theology (and in architecture, where it has a more specialized meaning). Its forefathers are Nietzsche and Heidegger, its fathers Derrida and Foucault; that the latter have vigorously disputed each other does not diminish the enthusiasm of disciples who find them equally congenial and compatible. From Jacques Derrida postmodernism has borrowed the vocabulary and basic concepts of “deconstruction”: the “aporia” of discourse, the indeterminacy and contrariness of language, the “fictive” and “duplicitous” nature of signs and symbols, the dissociation of words from any presumed reality. From Michel Foucault it has adopted the idea of power: the “power structure” immanent not only in language—the words and ideas that “privilege” the “hegemonic” groups in society—but in the very nature of knowledge, which is itself an instrument and product of power. 

The combined effect of these doctrines is to impugn traditional rational discourse as “logocentric,” “phallocentric,” “totalizing,” “authoritarian.”* In literature, postmodernism amounts to a denial of the fixity of any “text,” of the authority of the author over the interpreter, of any “canon” that privileges great books over lesser ones.

In philosophy, it is a denial of the fixity of language, of any correspondence between language and reality—indeed, of any “essential” reality and thus of any proximate truth about reality. In law (in America, at any rate), it is a denial of the fixity of the Constitution, of the authority of the founders of the Constitution, and of the legitimacy of law itself, which is regarded as nothing more than an instrument of power. In history, it is a denial of the fixity of the past, of the reality of the past apart from what the historian chooses to make of it, and thus of any objective truth about the past. Postmodernist history, one might say, recognizes no reality principle, only the pleasure principle—history at the pleasure of the historian. To appreciate its full import, one should see it in the perspective of what might be called “modernist” history, now generally known as “traditional” history.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, (2010). On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society (Vintage) (Kindle Locations 2188-2215). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


All is over. [1938] Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her associations with France, under whose guidance and policy she has been actuated for so long….

I find unendurable the sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their goodwill or pleasure. It is to prevent that that I have tried my best to urge the maintenance of every bulwark of defence—first, the timely creation of an Air Force superior to anything within striking distance of our shores; secondly, the gathering together of the collective strength of many nations; and, thirdly, the making of alliances and military conventions, all within the Covenant, in order to gather together forces at any rate to restrain the onward movement of this power. It has all been in vain. Every position has been successively undermined and abandoned on specious and plausible excuses.

I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week, the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.

Winston Spencer Churchill (2010-07-01).
The Gathering Storm 1947 (Winston Churchill World War II Collection)
(293-294). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021



“Getting Carried Away With History”

Marcia Reecer, American Educator, [AFT] Winter 1993/1994, pp. 19-23

“Wanted: Essays for a history quarterly devoted to the work of students.” Will Fitzhugh has been putting out calls like this since 1987 when he embarked on the first issue. One of the few magazines that prints only the work of students—and the only one that specializes in scholarly articles—the Review has published essays from as far away as Tasmania and Singapore, but most come from American high school students.

You might not know this if you picked up the magazine—or read it. It is all type, including the cover, and has the old-fashioned (some might say stuffy) look of a scholarly journal. But there is nothing stuffy about the articles. They are lively, straightforward explorations of ideas and events that obviously fascinated the writers. One of Will Fitzhugh’s favorite stories is about the officer of a foundation who, having turned down the Review’s application for financial support, glanced at one of the essays. Before he knew it, he had read the whole 150-page issue [386 pages in Summer 2020 issue].

Fitzhugh got the idea for The Concord Review when he was teaching history at Concord High School in Concord, Massachusetts. Every year there were a couple of students who really got into the long essays he assigned them. They caught fire, and for these kids, it was no longer a question of how many pages they were supposed to produce or the number of books required for their reference list. The subject took over, and the students were hungry to find out all they could. 

But when the essays came in, Will Fitzhugh was struck by how little he could do to recognize their excellence. Of course, he could give the writers As, and that was important, but it didn’t seem commensurate with what they had accomplished. There must be some other and better way to recognize this kind of achievement. Also, he reflected that if his students wrote essays like this, there must be lots of kids all over the country doing similar things. And so The Concord Review was on its way [1987]. The idea was neat and obvious—the way a lot of the best ideas are: Give high school students a vehicle for publishing their excellent history essays and an audience of their peers. 

What kinds of articles appear in The Concord Review, and who writes them? Fitzhugh asks for 4,000-6,000-word essays, but he has accepted ones that are shorter [and longer ones up to 14,000 words]…Essays are sent in by students from private and public schools (about fifty-fifty), and American history is the most popular subject. Some writers try to answer difficult questions about recent history. For example: Was the United States soft in its treatment of Nazis after World War II? What were the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam? Is U.S. immigration policy traditionally racist? Others go for constitutional issues or topics in social history, or the implications of historical movements or events. The essays vary in quality—the way they do in any magazine—but the general level is extraordinarily high. 

It is no surprise that The Concord Review has gotten a lot of praise. Al Shanker devoted two of his “Where We Stand” columns (New York Times) to it, and Will Fitzhugh has gotten warm letters from famous names in education like Theodore Sizer and Diane Ravitch as well as from teachers and students from all over the world. The Review has been called a hopeful sign—in the midst of much gloom—of what our kids can accomplish. And many people have noted its relevance to proposed education reforms. It is right in line with the idea of performance-based assessments. And, at a time when there is talk about setting standards for excellence by locking some people in a room and asking them to define excellence, The Concord Review demonstrates what high standards are in the most concrete way possible: It shows the kind of work that pre-college students can do—and are doing.

Perhaps most important is the assumption it makes about writing. Writing is, or is supposed to be, a way of telling an audience something you want them to know. But it’s all too easy for students to think of writing as an assignment, a sort of trick they perform for the teacher. In fact, the way writing is taught often encourages this attitude, and as John Bruer points out in Schools for Thought, his book on cognitive psychology and learning, even the best students often suffer from it. In making the assumption that students can produce serious and excellent pieces of writing based on intellectual work they have done, the Review demonstrates a simple and elegant way to get around the destructive practice of treating student writing like exercises.

But how relevant is all this to the real world of what goes on in most classrooms? How many American students write long essays? And if they did, how many teachers in this country would have time to grade the essays, much less supervise kids as they did the research and the writing? Unfortunately, there is a lot of substance to these questions.

The simplest response is that the thousands of students who take AP history every year are working to a standard comparable to the one represented by the Review, and every AP history class must produce essays as good as the ones Will Fitzhugh got from his students in Concord High School. Giving these kids a chance to read The Concord Review would show them what students their own age can do and give them a standard and a reward to aim for. 

To respond on a more fundamental level, The Concord Review may seem to have little relevance for the many students in our high schools who can’t even produce a good paragraph. But if we believe in high standards for all our students—not just the ones who are currently doing excellent work—the standard the Review sets has a great deal of long-term relevance.

In a speech given to the Urban League, its president, John Jacob, said that instead of lowering our ideas of what students can do, we must raise them and demand high academic performance of every student. Among the specific standards Jacob mentioned is that every African-American student, and in fact every student, be required to write a 25-page paper in order to graduate from high school. And Al Shanker sees The Concord Review as a possible catalyst in this effort. Why not, he says, organize large school districts to work toward producing special issues of the Review. This would take a number of years, but it would focus resources and attention where they’re really needed—toward getting students to work and think and write.

In the meantime (and to come back to planet Earth), The Concord Review is in financial trouble, despite its soundness and promise. Will Fitzhugh has never had the money to promote it properly. As a result, his subscription list is too small to support the magazine. And, though the number of teachers who know about the Review and use it as a teaching tool and submit their excellent student essays grows year by year, it is smaller than it should be. Will the magazine fold after this year? So far, Will Fitzhugh has found a way to scrape together the money for each issue, but each issue could be the last.

Fitzhugh remarks that we have many ways of rewarding and encouraging excellence in non-academic areas like sports but few in academic areas, and he likes to compare the idea behind The Concord Review to the Westinghouse science competition. Perhaps his magazine for kids who love history—and love to write it—will find a well-heeled corporation to offer it long-term support. Fitzhugh hasn’t given up hope, but a financial angel, however important, wouldn’t take the place of what he’s really after—a bunch of faithful subscribers and a flood of papers by kids who can hardly wait to tell other kids what they’ve discovered about Oliver Cromwell or the Harlem Renaissance or the sinking of the Titanic or glasnost or…

Marcia Reecer, Ph.D. [Bryn Mawr], is assistant director in the Office of the President of the American Federation of Teachers. She has been an elementary, high school and college teacher.

Thursday, March 11, 2021


Volume 1, Number 3, August 1996
A publication of Capital Research Center

Why doesn’t a journal for the best high school history papers have support
from groups professing an interest in the future of education?

by Laurence Jarvik

When Will Fitzhugh quit teaching high school history in Concord, Massachusetts nine years ago to start The Concord Review, he didn’t know that it would be so difficult to find backers for his venture. The premise for his quarterly publication was simple: to publish the best history papers by public and private high school students in the United States so that teachers and students would have access to examples of excellence. High standards for writing history could be encouraged by learning by example. Fitzhugh, a graduate of Harvard Colllege (Class of 1960), thought that there would be a natural demand among teachers for his effort to publicize essays written by the “best and the brightest.” He was surprised when his request for funding was turned down by 125 foundations, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Fitzhugh cashed in his retirement account and put one hundred thousand dollars of his own money into The Concord Review, whose first issue appeared in 1988. What Fitzhugh did not realize was that while he was pursuing teaching history in the public high schools, the field of academic history was changing. The lifelong Democrat had become an unknowing participant in the culture wars. The rejections he received from foundations and government agencies were the results of a paradigm shift which preferred group identity to individual merit. “Sometimes they tell me they are only interested in the work of minority students,” Fitzhugh recalled, “and sometimes they say they cannot see the value of supporting the work of just a few good youngsters.” Fitzhugh’s position that minority students are “welcome to contribute their work” and to be judged on the basis of its excellence fell on deaf ears.

That Fitzhugh’s journal would be caught up in the controversy over politically correct high school history came as a surprise. When the National Standards for United States History were released in 1994, they listed The Concord Review among approved “teaching resources for United States history”…as “an exceptional teaching tool modeling outstanding essays research (sic) and written by high school students…Recommended for grades 9-12.” Two essays were featured in a special January, 1995 Concord Review as the best of the year. Neither could be considered conservative. Aaron Einbond, a sophomore at New York City’s elite public Hunter College High School, contributed a study of John Maynard Keynes based on citations from liberal economists John Kenneth Galbraith and Robert Lekachman. Pia Lindstrom Luedtke, a sophomore at the private Polytechnic School of Pasadena, offered a feminist interpretation of the career of architect Julia Morgan entitled “Blueprint for Social Change.” The high-schooler had already enjoyed one official seal of approval: in 1993 Luedtke received a $1,900 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the NEH Younger Scholars Program to write her essay over summer vacation. Other essays published in The Concord Review included accounts of baseball’s Negro Leagues, women’s suffrage, President Woodrow Wilson’s vision of the League of Nations, the role of women in the French Revolution, and a critique of Frederick Jackson Turner based on the work of liberal historian Richard Hofstadter. The Concord Review also published essays on the development of the Ferris Wheel and the power loom and an analysis of how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis continue the debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. A glance at issues provided to Culture Watch shows little in the way of what might be characterized as conservative history: for example, the legacy of conservative statesmen, scientists, businessmen, intellectuals, military history, or criticism of leftist historical figures or trends.

Fitzhugh is a colorful character. The son of a prominent Boston physician, at the age of two Fitzhugh moved to Arizona with his mother after his parents divorced. Graduating from a boarding school in Menlo Park, California after winning a prize by answering 1,000 questions correctly (the first time a student had done so in 17 years), he went to work as a lumberjack. Fitzhugh entered Harvard in 1956 after his father brought him back East with an offer to pay his tuition. He graduated in 1962 with an English degree, spent a year doing graduate work in English literature at Cambridge University, and in 1964 went to work for the Apollo space program preparing charts used in the construction of the Command Module. This led to a job with Pan Am as a management trainee. Fitzhugh returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he obtained a master’s degree in education from Harvard. After jobs with the Peace Corps (which sent him to Iran), Westinghouse, and Polaroid, Fitzhugh went into teaching, first working as a guidance counselor and, in 1978, as a social studies teacher at Concord High School [CCHS]. He started The Concord Review to give recognition to good students, “the ones who’re doing better than we think they are.” In its first year the magazine had subscribers in 14 states, and soon had support from Harold Howe, a Harvard professor and Commissioner of Education in the Johnson administration, and Chester Finn, Assistant Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration. Finn gave Fitzhugh $10,000 from the Fordham foundation. Howe wrote letters to 15 foundations on his behalf.

A traditional liberal approach to history—narratives of great men, nations and ideas—is not in keeping with trends in political correctness sweeping education. Against his will, Fitzhugh is being pushed into the conservative camp. His notion that The Concord Review is a form of “varsity academics” [now a registered trademark of The Concord Review, Inc.] is offensive to advocates of the new pedagogy. The very educational nostrums that brought Fitzhugh to Harvard in 1956 from a logging camp are now considered obsolete and elitist. The new view of history is instrumental, and high school history has become a kind of sensitivity training. Robert Lerner, Althea K. Nagai, and Stanley Rothman have called the process Molding the Good Citizen (Prager, 1995) in their review of the politics of high school history texts. They point out that civil rights groups, feminists, peace activists and environmentalists have all “sought to change the school in specific ways to bring about a new social order.” Because Fitzhugh’s journal does not pretend to fight oppression by race, class and sex, its purpose is suspect. “It used to be the people on both sides of the aisle thought standards were a good idea,” Fitzhugh told Culture Watch. “Now anybody who thinks reading and writing and doing homework is a good idea is considered a conservative.’

[Will Fitzhugh is at; and The Concord Review at
Varsity Academics® is a registered trademark of The Concord Review, Inc.]

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


 “The things that are now before us,” said the Princess, “require attention, and deserve it. What have I to do with the heroes or the monuments of ancient times—with times which can never return, and heroes whose form of life was different from all that the present condition of mankind requires or allows?”

“To know anything,” returned the poet, “we must know its effects; to see men, we must see their works, that we may learn what reason has dictated or passion has excited, and find what are the most powerful motives of action. To judge rightly of the present, we must oppose it to the past; for all judgment is comparative, and of the future nothing can be known. The truth is that no mind is much employed upon the present; recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments. Our passions are joy and grief, love and hatred, hope and fear. Of joy and grief, the past is the object, and the future of hope and fear; even love and hatred respect the past, for the cause must have been before the effect.

“The present state of things is the consequence of the former; and it is natural to inquire what were the sources of the good that we enjoy, or the evils that we suffer. If we act only for ourselves, to neglect the study of history is not prudent. If we are entrusted with the care of others, it is not just. Ignorance, when it is voluntary, is criminal; and he may properly be charged with evil who refused to learn how he might prevent it. 

“There is no part of history so generally useful as that which relates to the progress of the human mind, the gradual improvement of reason, the successive advances of science, the vicissitudes of learning and ignorance (which are the light and darkness of thinking beings), the extinction and resuscitation of arts, and the revolutions of the intellectual world. If accounts of battles and invasions are peculiarly the business of princes, the useful or elegant arts are not to be neglected; those who have kingdoms to govern have understandings to cultivate. 

“Example is always more efficacious than precept.
A soldier is formed in war, and a painter must copy pictures. In this, contemplative life has the advantage. Great actions are seldom seen, but the labours of art are always at hand for those who desire to know what art has been able to perform. 

“When the eye or the imagination is struck with any uncommon work, the next transition of an active mind is to the means by which it was performed. Here begins the true use of such contemplation. We enlarge our comprehension by new ideas, and perhaps recover some art lost to mankind, or learn what is less perfectly known in our own country. At least we compare our own with former times, and either rejoice at our improvements, or, what is the first motion towards good, discover our defects.”

Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia [1759] [Kindle Edition].