The Charlotte News

SUNDAY, JUNE 14, 1936


Opposition To Genius

Mr. Cash Complains Of The Crimes Of Translators
In Handling Dr. Gumpert's Worthwhile Study.

By W. J. Cash

I was complaining on this page a couple of weeks ago about the way a translator had mauled the title of a novel from the French. And today I have to renew the charge in connection with Martin Gumpert's "Das Leben fur die Idee," translated by Edwin L.. Shuman, and published by Funk and Wahnalls (New York), as "Trail Blazers of Science." A worse rendering could hardly be imagined. For it is not only cheap and gaudy and hackneyed--things that neither Dr. Gumpert's title nor his book can be charged with--but it also wholly misses the idea, which is explicitly set forth by the author in the opening words of his preface: "This book presents a group of human documents from the domain of science with a view to demonstrating the ineradicable opposition to genius."

But the ways of translators are like the ways of the eagle in the air and a man with a maid. And so we may as well leave them to their strange crimes and pass onto considering Dr. Gumpert's book for itself.


In pursuit of "demonstrating the ineradicable opposition to genius," he tells us briefly the life stories of three men of the 16th century, three of the 17th, two of the 18th, four of the 19th, and one of the 20th. Those of the sixteenth are Jerome Carden, one of the last of the old universal masters of the Middles ages and the man who first challenged the medical system of Galen; Andreas Vesalius, the founder of a scientific human anatomy; and Michael Servetus, the discoverer of the minor circulation (that is, pulmonary circulation) of the blood. Those of the17th are Copernicus, Kepler, and Swammerdan, the founder of entymology; those of the 18th, Kaspar Friedrich Wolff and Lamarck, father of the theory of evolution; those of the 19th are Julius Robert Mayer, discoverer of the law of conservation of energy; Jackson and Morton, discoverers of ether anesthesia; and Max Joseph von Pattenkofer, founder of modern hygiene. And that one of the 20th is the American brain surgeon, Harvey Cushing, whom Gumpert calls "a type of the future scientist."


The story the author tells is largely a familiar one, but it cannot be too often repeated. And he brings out and makes clear, what readers of such books as Andrew D. White's "History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" are apt to overlook--that while theology has been the chief contender in persecuting men who brought new ideas into the world, it has not been the only one.

John Calvin burned Michael Servetus (not to say some 300 other persons) by way of turning Geneva into a prison house where the spirits of men might no more know laughter, but let it not be forgotten that his brethren in the Paris medical faculty hailed him into court for his lectures against. their idiotic ideas with the demand that he be put to death. Andreas Vesalius needed all the protection of various cardinals and the Emperor Charles V. to stay out of the clutches of the Holy Office for having robbed the gibbets of Montfaucon and Louvain of their skeletons and daring openly to study the anatomy of man, but if in middle years he suddenly abandoned his studies and turned to the life of the ordinary court physician, it was rather because of the ferocious demands for his blood issuing from the physicians and surgeons on the score of his having challenged Aristotle and Galen, than because of fear of the church, mighty and justified.


If Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to swear that "I curse and execrate all errors as to the movement of the earth around the sun and all heresies and every idea that is opposed to the holy church," yet the record is that his professional colleagues almost to a man denounced him as an ignoramus and a menace and roundly applauded the action of the congregation. And Lamarck's reward for his epoch-making idea was not only hatred and denunciation from cloister and pulpit but execration by most of the members of his own guild--and a pauper's grave in Paris.

The price of the book is $2.50. It has 298 pages of text, an exceptionally good index, and is well printed and bound.

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