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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/206

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

an ounce, much as it speaks of Mrs. X's hundred-thousand-dollar tiara, or Raphael's million-dollar Sistine Madonna. With equal interest it reads of the production of energy out of nothing, of communication with the dead, or the discovery of the origin of life. America is, as we know, the favorite resort of new religions, intellectual fads, and isms, ologies and pathies of every sort. As a symptom of the attitude of the public toward science I may mention the fact that the press does not yet consider scientific news to be good business. While every paper of metropolitan standing maintains an expert for literature, for the drama, for music, and many for sport, I know of but three, the New York Sun, the Evening Post, and the Boston Transcript, that retain the services of a regular contributor to acquaint the public with the current achievements of science. I have for years taken one of the great Boston dailies, but I find it almost impossible to find from it who has obtained the Nobel prizes, and I take it as extremely likely that the rest of the public is in the same position, for many had never heard of these prizes until one of them was conferred on the president of the United States. Do not the facts that I have mentioned lead us to the necessary conclusion that on the American field there is no great depth of earth, and point emphatically to the need of both deepening the soil and fertilizing it? When we come to sum up the achievement of this country in science we find ourselves somewhat embarrassed. There are in the dictionary of scientists recently published by Professor Cattell the names of about four thousand men who have been engaged more or less in research, that is, one man in every twenty thousand of the population of the country. Does this look as if the prosecution of science was looked upon as of great national import? Of those who have received the honor here most coveted by scientific men, of election into the National Academy of Sciences, we find ninety, or a little more than one man in each million of the population. Either this body is absurdly limited, or science can hardly be said to be flourishing here. What is the product of these four thousand scientists? I will grant that much of it is of an excellent order, that we have many flourishing scientific societies, and that in many sciences we maintain our own journals which are to be found in every scientific library in the world. But nevertheless it is plain that so far few fundamental discoveries are made here, that we neither discover radium, split up the atom, nor find new gases in the air. The Nobel prizes have not yet crossed the water, nor do they seem particularly likely to in the next few years. In fact we find ourselves in much the same state with regard to science as with art and literature. We have our Sargent and St. Gaudens, our Howells and James, we have also our Michelson and Morley, our Newcomb, Hill and Agassiz, and a good many others of varying degrees of prominence, but not of commanding rank. It seems accordingly