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Viena, Megico, Facts are the raw material of science. They are to philosophy and history, what cotton and iron are to cloth and steam-engines. Like the raw material of the manufacturer, they form the bases of innumerable fabrics, are woven into many theories finely spun or coarsely spun, which wear out with time, become unfashionable, or else prove to be indeed true and fit, and as such remain.
This raw material of the scholar, like that of the manufacturer, is always a staple article; its substance never changes, its value never diminishes; whatever may be the condition of society, or howsoever advanced the mind, it is indispensable. Theories may be only for the day, but facts are for all time and for all science.
When we remember that the sum of all knowledge is but the sum of ascertained facts, and that every new 2 fact brought to light, preserved, and thrown into the general fund, is so much added to the world's store of knowledge,—when we consider that, broad and far as our theories may reach, the realm of definite, tangible, ascertained truth is still of so little extent, the importance of every never-so-insignificant acquisition is manifest.
Compare any fact with the fancies which have been prevalent concerning it, and consider, I will not say their relative brilliance, but their relative importance. Take electricity, how many explanations have been given of the lightning and the thunder, yet there is but one fact; the atmosphere, how many howling demons have directed the tempest, how many smiling deities moved in the soft breeze.
For the one all-sufficient First Cause, how many myriads of gods have been set up; for every phenomenon how many causes have been invented; with every truth how many untruths have contended, with every fact how many fancies. The profound investigations of latter-day philosophers are nothing but simple and laborious inductions from ascertained facts, facts concerning attraction, polarity, chemical affinity and the like, for the explanation of which there are countless hypotheses, each hypothesis involving multitudes of speculations, all of which evaporate as the truth slowly crystallizes.