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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/191

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tant since the government employs scientific experts in all departments, and is likely to apply to them rather than to the Academy for advice. The second function has also become less essential than formerly, owing to the development of special societies for each of the sciences. The third object has consequently become perhaps the most important. The annual elections are a recognition of scientific merit, and it is well that our leading scientific men should have the opportunity of meeting together to become acquainted with each other and with the work being carried on in different sciences and in different parts of the country. The program at Washington was of considerable interest. Mr. Alexander Agassiz, who was last year elected president of the Academy, reported on his recent expedition to the coral reefs of the Maldive Islands, and the evidence presented, in addition to that which he had already collected, seems definitely to negative Darwin's theory of the origin of coral reefs. This theory, it will be remembered, explains the atolls as due to the gradual subsidence of the floor of the ocean, the insects building the reefs as the floor sank. Mr. Agassiz has discovered a great number of facts which seem to be entirely incompatible with this theory. As is usual at the meetings of the Academy, astronomy was well represented. Dr. Seth C. Chandler offered a paper on the constant of aberration, which, however, was only read by title. Professor E. C. Pickering presented facts regarding the relations of the planet Eros to the solar parallax and its variations in brightness. Professor Asaph Hall described the disintegration of comets. Papers on chemistry and physics were presented by Professor Theodore W. Richards dealing with the atomic weight of cæsium and the significance of changing atomic volume; by Professor James M. Crafts on catalysis; by Professor E. W. Morley on the weight of the vapor of mercury, and by Professor E. L. Nichols on the optical properties of asphalt. Paleontological papers were presented by Professor H. F. Osborn and Professor A. S. Packard; psychological papers by Mr. C. S. Peirce and Professor J. McKeen Cattell, and an illustrated account of the physiological station on Monte Rosa by Professor H. P. Bowditch was given by Professor C. S. Minot. Mr. William Sellers read a paper adverse to the compulsory introduction of the metric system. Biographical memoirs of William A. Rogers, J. G. Barnard, Francis A. Walker and J. S. Newberry were presented, respectively, by Professor K. W. Morley, General Henry L. Abbot, Dr. John S. Billings and Dr. C. A. White. The new members elected were: William W. Campbell, director of Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California; George E. Hale, director of Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin; C. Hart Merriam, chief of the Division of Biological Survey, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.; William Trelease, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis; Charles R. Van Hise, professor of geology, University of Wisconsin, Madison.



A bill is now before Congress adopting the metric system of weights and measures as the standard in the United States. Though it does not seem likely that the bill will be passed during the present session it has been recommended by the committee on coinage, weights and measures, and the chances of its adoption seem more favorable than ever before. The bill requires the departments of the government to use the metric system after the beginning of the year 1904 and makes it the legal standard in the United States after January 1, 1907. The house committee has given a num-