Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/786

This page has been validated.
762
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATION-PRESIDENT SMITH'S ADDRESS.

THE twenty-second meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which commenced at Portland, Me., August 20th, was fairly attended by the members, and presented very good results in the way of scientific work. In estimating its contributions, we must not overlook the fact that, while the numbers of those in this country who are at liberty to pursue original investigations untrammelled, is not large, on the other hand we have two national associations, through which the moderate amount of original research that takes place is published to the world. While the American Association was the only organization of national scope for the publication of new scientific results, its papers were creditable both in number and quality, and it compared favorably with its prototype, the British Association for the Advancement of Science. But, when, a few years ago, a considerable number of its ablest members joined in the organization of the National Academy of Sciences, having substantially the same object in view as the American Association, but exclusive in its membership, and under government patronage, the necessary effect was greatly to weaken the older organization. The National Academy meets twice a year, and draws closely upon the original work of its associates. If, therefore, the numbers in attendance upon the Association and the grade of scientific contributions might seem to indicate a decline in American science, the circumstances here referred to will sufficiently qualify the conclusion.

The address of the retiring president, J. Lawrence Smith, while containing many excellent suggestions, was not conformed to the better type of such productions. It is the custom of the eminent scientific men who are honored with the office but once in their lives to devote the occasion, either to a general review of recent scientific work, or to some special subject with which they are most familiar, and upon which they can speak with the force of authority. Dr. Smith has been favorably known in the world of science as a chemist who has made valuable contributions in its inorganic department. The great activity in chemical inquiries at the present time, and the important transition through which chemical theory is now passing, would certainly have afforded the president a most pertinent and instructive theme, but he preferred to employ the occasion in considering certain aspects of science that are now prominent in public attention, and upon which the scientific world is in much disagreement. The leading feature of the address was an attack on the Darwinians, and this portion of it we publish; and, as the question is thus reopened officially, it becomes a proper subject of comment.

The predecessor of President Smith, Dr. Asa Gray, of Harvard College, had followed the better usage of presiding officers in his address at Dubuque last year, and discussed some of the larger problems of botany in the light of the derivation theory. The most eminent of American botanists, an old and untiring student of the subject, a man of philosophic grasp, and with a candor and sincerity of conviction that commanded the highest respect, after long and thorough study of the question, Prof. Gray did not hesitate to give the weight of his authority to that view of the origin and diversities of