The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a membership ranging from 1,900 to 2,000. Of this number probably at no one time was there an aggregate of 300 persons present at the recent annual meeting in New York.
When the Association meets in an Eastern city the attendance is generally twice if not three times as large as when it convenes in the West. So little was made of the recent meeting, locally or officially, that an intelligent resident of the city remarked: "Why, I intended to have attended some of the meetings, but seeing no reference in the daily papers, it entirely escaped my mind."
Of the 2,000 members, about 800 are fellows; the 1,200 and more registered as members are, presumably, persons devoting little or no time to independent research along scientific lines, but persons who while not actively so engaged are more than ordinarily interested in the discussion of scientific topics. These have in the past paid dues and attended the meetings of the Association with more or less regularity. It is a question in the minds of some of the 1,200 if their attendance at the meetings is desired. Their membership, so far as it relates to the five dollars initiation fee and three dollars dues, is without question acceptable, and to persons reading papers in the various sections their presence is preferable to empty seats, but in view of the fact that during recent years the management of the Association has eliminated, so far as possible, the popular features of the general programme, the question is reasonably asked: "Does the management desire the attendance of the 1,200, or is their financial support all that is desired?"
It was stated some years ago that the purpose of the Association was to furnish not only an occasion for scientists to present original papers, but also to interest the public by holding the meetings annually in different parts of the country; but if attendance is not secured (by preparation and publication of interesting features of a programme) no great interest will be awakened by a meeting held in any part of the country.
I should like to suggest the following ways of increasing the interest of the meetings:
The general daily sessions might be made occasions of rare interest by the introduction of prominent men of science who would make at least brief remarks. This would make it possible for those who have limited time to become familiar with the faces of those whom they would like to know, and the little 'sample' of scientific thought thrown out would doubtless awaken desire for more.
It will be objected that the meetings of the council immediately preceding the general session prevent holding an official meeting at that hour. The public and the 1,200 would care little whether the session were official or unofficial so it were interesting and instructive.
The officers of the several sections could easily secure distinguished representatives of their respective sciences to give brief addresses followed by discussion, and thus the morning hour would prove an attraction to citizens and others who might be unable to attend the sessions following.
Again, citizens, where the meetings are held, would be pleased to provide excursions to points of local interest