Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/232

This page has been validated.

ecutive officers. The small salaries offered at Washington also lead to the continual loss of those whose services are of the greatest value to the Government. Thus, the recent call to the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Dr. Henry S. Pritchett, Superintendent of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, is a serious blow to the bureau and to science at Washington. Dr. Pritchett's scientific attainments and executive ability will find ample scope at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worthily succeeds Presidents Rogers, Runkle, Walker and Crafts. But he was also greatly needed in the Coast and Geodetic Survey, where, after the excellent administration of Dr. T. C. Mendenhall, there had been an unfortunate interregnum of three years. During the past three years, however, the work of the Survey has been placed on an excellent basis by Dr. Pritchett, and there is every reason to believe that the ground gained will not be lost.


The transition of Dr. Pritchett from the professorship of mathematics and astronomy in Washington University to the superintendency of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey and now to the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute., calls attention to the fact that the only promotion possible to men of science or university professors is an executive position. The type of the German Gelehrte, still current in literature and on the stage, is not common in America. The modern methods of advancing science—the laboratory, the observatory, the museum, the expedition, with their complex equipment—demand administrative ability of a high order. Science has been able to supply presidents, not only to the great technical schools, but also to Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and other universities. Still, it is unfortunate that the man of science can not look forward to promotion in the direction of his own work. He becomes a college professor or the like at a comparatively early age with a moderate salary. He has now as a motive the increase of his reputation, rather likely to degenerate into vanity, and the nobler motive of contributing to the advance of science and of civilization. But these motives appeal differently to different men—in any case, they bake no bread and educate no children. The average salary of scientific men can not be greatly increased; there must be a certain relation between supply and demand, and the average earnings of other professional men are also small. But the lawyer may look forward to becoming a judge, the physician to a large city practice, the clergyman to a bishopric, etc. In Germany a university professor may look forward to being called to Berlin, to becoming a Hofrat, a Geheimrat and a 'von.' It seems that we need in each American university one or two chairs with very large endowments, the occupation of which would be a special honor.


The French Academy of Sciences and French Science have lost two of their most distinguished representatives in the deaths of Joseph Bertrand and of Alphonse Milne-Edwards. Bertrand was born in 1823, and was somewhat of a prodigy when a boy, having published a paper on the theory of electricity when but sixteen years old, and being the author of numerous mathematical papers before he was twenty-one. His original contributions to mathematics and mathematical physics are of great importance, and he was the author of standard works on algebra, on arithmetic and on the calculus. As permanent secretary of the Paris Academy of Sciences he was continually engaged in administrative work, preparing obituary notices, acting as judge in the annual awards of its prizes, etc. He also contributed a large number of biographies and other articles to non-technical journals. Milne-Edwards, born in 1835, was a son of the eminent zoölogist, Henri Milne-Edwards, and the grandson of Bryan Edwards, the historian and mem-