Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/311

This page has been validated.



The Popular Science Monthly, since its establishment in 1872 by J. W. Youmans and the firm of D. Appleton and Company, has endeavored to perform two functions which are somewhat distinct. On the one hand, it has aimed to popularize science, and, on the other hand, to publish articles reviewing scientific progress and advocating scientific, educational and social reforms. The objects are both important, but as science grows in complexity it becomes increasingly difficult to unite them in the same journal.

In the earlier years of The Popular Science Monthly the doctrine of evolution excited controversy and wide public interest; it was possible to print articles by men such as Darwin, Spencer, Huxley and Tyndall, which were popular and at the same time authoritative contributions to scientific progress. Dr. Youmans had the fervent faith and missionary spirit which enabled him to conduct a journal to which the word "popular" was properly applied. At that time other magazines, such as The Atlantic and Scribner's also published articles and had departments concerned with popular science.

The last third of the nineteenth century may properly be characterized as the era of science, so rapid was the progress of science and so important the part it assumed in our civilization. This progress not only requires specialization of work, but even makes it difficult for the worker in one field to understand the work accomplished in other fields, though the barrier is perhaps due to the terminology rather than to the ideas. For the general public the difficulties are greater, and there is danger lest it may lose touch with the advances of science. But in a democracy in which science must depend on the people for support and for recruits, it is essential that a sympathetic understanding be maintained. For this purpose two journals are needed rather than one, for it is necessary to address those having different interests.

During the fifteen years since 1900, the editor of The Popular Science Monthly aimed to conduct a journal maintaining high scientific standards and discussing authoritatively problems of scientific importance. The journal was popular, in the sense that it was not special or technical and could be understood by those having education and intelligence, but it was not popular in the sense that it appealed to all people and might number its subscribers by the hundreds of thousands. Manuscripts were received in large numbers which were clearly intended for a magazine of different type, and such a magazine is needed. A well illustrated magazine devoted to the popularization of science should have a wide circulation and be conducted on different lines from a journal concerned with the less elementary aspects of scientific work, just as a high school and the graduate school of a university differ in their methods and in their appeal.

A group of men desiring a journal to which the name The Popular Science Monthly will exactly apply, this publication has been transferred to them, while, beginning in October, a journal on the present lines of The Popular Science Monthly will be conducted under the more fitting name of The Scientific Monthly. This differentiation of The Popular Science