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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/455

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

know that our ways of thought and habits of life are chiefly based on the results of modern science. This has not been the result of a sudden revelation, but of a continual growth, scarcely perceptible until viewed from a distance. The importance of current political events is magnified by the common interest they excite, whereas in art, literature and science time is required before things can be seen in their right perspective. We can, however, take the reports of the three committees of the Association to which small grants were made for research and use these as examples of the scientific work described at the meeting. These committees were on 'Anthropometry,' on 'The Quantitative Study of Variation' and on 'The Cave Fauna of North America.'

 

The committee on anthropometry is undertaking to make measurements of the physical and mental traits of members of the Association, and to encourage such work elsewhere. At the present time there exists but little exact knowledge of how people differ from each other and of the causes and results of such differences. Much has been written regarding men of genius, criminals and other classes, but without an adequate foundation of fact. The members of a scientific society are a fairly homogeneous class, regarding whose heredity, education and achievements correct information can be secured. The measurements made at the New York meeting, determining such traits as size of head, strength, eyesight, quickness of perception, memory, etc., will supply the standard type for scientific men and their variations from this type. When other classes of the community have been measured, comparisons can be made and we shall know whether scientific men are more variable than others, have larger heads, better memory and the like. Work of this character has been carried on at Columbia University for some years. The freshmen, both the men of Columbia College and the women of Barnard College, are measured and tested with care, equal attention being paid to mental and physical traits. Then the measurements are repeated at the end of the senior year. Anthropometric work has also been done in Great Britain under the auspices of Dr. Galton and Professor Pearson, and we may perhaps hope that the time will come when we shall have as exact knowledge about human differences as we now have about different kinds of butterflies.

 

Although geologists and botanists have defined hundreds of thousands of species, they have not as a matter of fact until very recently attempted to secure exact measurements of differences, and the committee of the Association on 'The Quantitative Study of Variation,' of which Prof. Chas. B. Davenport is the recorder, aims to encourage such work. It is now over forty years since the facts and arguments presented in Darwin's 'Origin of Species' paved the way for general acceptance of the doctrine of evolution. But the objection is hardly less valid to-day than it was then that the evidence for evolution is almost wholly indirect. Over and over again naturalists have been challenged to cite one case where a species in nature has changed within historic times and repeatedly they have taken refuge in the plea that the historic period is too short for a noticeable change to have taken place. This plea can be accepted, however, only so long as we have no exact way of measuring race change. When we can express quantitatively the condition of a community to-day, we may hope to be able to say whether any change has occurred after five, ten, or a hundred years. The committee of the Association has especially concerned itself with a piece of work which may be considered typical. In the headwaters of the Tennessee River there lives a univalor mollusc which is found nowhere else in the world and which belongs to a family of molluscs that was early separated from its marine cogen-