Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/385

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

144; botany, 137. There is then a drop to geology with 76, physiology with 48 and astronomy with 35. University work in chemistry is often a professional course for the chemical analyst or engineer and is thus not altogether parallel with the other sciences. It would be well if similar conditions obtained in engineering and the medical sciences, so that there would be larger numbers from which those competent to undertake research work might be selected.

The universities differ in the relative emphasis placed on the sciences and the humanities. Thus at Cornell and the Johns Hopkins nearly sixty per cent. of the degrees are in the sciences, whereas at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Pennsylvania the percentage is about forty. At Chicago the percentage is 49, at New York University it is only nine, and at Boston University only two. It is commonly supposed that the state universities are mainly occupied with the utilitarian sciences, and it is interesting to note that at Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, respectively, 77, 60 and 70 per cent, of the degrees are in the humanities.

The three or four hundred young men added each year to those engaged in the advancement of science and learning are probably the most important factor in our civilization. Not more than half of them will accomplish anything after their doctor's theses, but the others may perhaps have their places filled by those who enter research work otherwise than by the ordinary academic routine. When we remember, however, that about 5,000 physicians and lawyers are graduated each year, the number taking the doctorate of philosophy seems to be small—not in proportion to the population and wealth of the country. There are some 25,000 professors and teachers in our colleges and universities and some 35,000 in the secondary schools; then there are increasing numbers of positions in the government service and elsewhere. The supply of men of the right kind does not equal the demand, and one of the most serious problems that confronts us is to find methods to increase the numbers and improve the quality of those engaged in scientific research.



The center of interest—dramatic, practical and scientific—at present is in the demonstrations of aerial navigation now being made in France and here, especially by Mr. Wilbur Wright at Le Mans and by Mr. Orville Wright at Fort Myer. But the changes are so rapid—at the time of this writing Mr. Orville Wright has broken the record four times in four consecutive days—that only the daily newspapers can follow them. A scientific journal, however, should not go to press without an expression of admiration for the work of those who have so successfully applied scientific principles to the solution of practical problems, and it is not chauvinistic to betray satisfaction in the fact that the United States, in the scientific and applied work of Langley, Chanute and Bell and now in the practical success of the Wright brothers, has led the way.

It may be that flying-machines will only be used in war and in sport, but history has shown time after time that it is not safe to set limits to what science can accomplish. It almost seems to be a longer step from Langley's first experiments to what the Wright brothers have now done, than from this to complete mastery of aerial navigation. It would of course be impossible to accomplish this otherwise than through gradual progress in many directions. What is most needed at present is an engine of increased efficiency for its weight. Should this be devised, the problem would be much simplified. The dangers of aerial navigation are more obvious than real. It is now safer to go down to the sea in ships than to ride along a road on a horse. There is plenty of room in the