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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/289

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

AMERICA'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCIENCE

The award of one Nobel prize in science to a citizen of the United States, even though his birthplace was in Germany, is a recognition as great as this country may properly claim. Indeed, it seems that the award in physics should have been made to Kelvin, if the plan of conferring the prize for distinguished services were to be followed, rather than the original instructions of Nobel's will, which required that the prizes should be conferred on those who contributed most materially to benefit mankind during the year immediately preceding. On the other hand, if the prizes had been conferred in accordance with the terms of the will, for "the most important discovery or invention in the domain of physics" "contributing to the benefit of mankind, the prize should have been awarded first of all to Dr. A. Graham Bell and Mr. Thomas A. Edison. The awards in the sciences so far made have been:

Physics Chemistry Medicine
1901  Röntgen  Van't Hoff  Behring
1902  Lorentz and Zeeman  Fischer  Ross
1903  Becquerel and and Mme Curie  Arrhenius  Finsen M.
1904  Rayleigh  Ramsay  Pavlov
1905  Lenard  von Baeyer  Koch
1906  J. J. Thomson  Moissan  Ramon y Cajal & Golgi
1907  Michelson  Buchner  Laveran

The national distribution is: Germany 7, England 4, France 3, Holland 2, Denmark 1, Sweden 1, Russia 1, America 1, Italy ½, Spain ½. It is certainly somewhat disquieting if one accept these figures as measuring the scientific productivity of this country as compared with others, and there is, as a matter of fact, some reason to fear that one out of twenty does not seriously misrepresent our proportion of eminent scientific men. In his widely-quoted Harvard address, Mr. Owen Wister allows us three of his forty-three immortals. If he will kindly permit us to amend his list by making the obvious substitution in philosophy of Professor James for Professor Cohen, and the addition of Professor Newcomb and Dr. Hill, as astronomers without peers, we should be allowed one eighth of the world's most eminent scholars, which is probably a larger proportion than we possess.

That we have not produced great men in proportion to our population and our wealth amply justifies the arraignment which Professor Webster prints in the present number of the Monthly It must, however, be remembered that in so far as scientific productivity is measured by the number of men of international eminence a country may possess, this would refer to the preceding rather than to the present generation. Most eminent men have done their great work at least thirty years ago, and it is perhaps not discouraging that the possibilities for scientific work in this country were small in the seventies as compared with the opportunities to-day. Whether we are now accomplishing research proportionate in importance to the numbers engaged in it and to the facilities given them is a different question and one which it is probably impossible to answer. It appears from various bibliographies that about one seventh of the titles are American. There are no grounds for assuming that their average value is either above or below that of those from other countries. It seems that we are clearly out-classed by Germany in the number and value of our scientific publications, that we stand pretty close to Great Britain and France, and that we are surely before any other nation. Then if we wish to take the patriotic and optimistic point of view, we can find comfort in the fact that no other nation has in the past twenty years enjoyed such a notable increase in scientific activity. Should this activity continue to increase at the same rate for the next twenty years, there will be no occasion to shun comparison with other nations.