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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/November 1880/Correspondence

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

SCIENCE AT PRINCETON COLLEGE.

Messrs. Editors.

THERE are statements in the "Correspondence" of the last number of "The Popular Science Monthly" fitted to leave an unjust impression as to what is taught in Princeton College. I do not enter upon the argument of that article, which is palpably illogical. It is that we have had low fever, taking a typhoid shape, because we do not teach physiology to our students. Two scientific adepts have reported as to our sanitary state, and what they have testified is likely to be accepted by the public. Nor do I look on this as the fitting opportunity to enter on the discussion as to what branches should be taught in colleges which impart a high and refining education, and confer the Bachelor's, the Master's, and the Doctor's degrees. My opinions on this subject have often been given to the world. I believe that, in our higher educational institutions, there should be a due combination of literature (including languages), of science, and philosophy. We have endeavored to unite these, and give a proper place to each in our curriculum. It is only thus that we can fulfill the grand end of education, that of developing the man and the full man. I do not regard a youth as fully trained who knows merely Latin and Greek; but as little do I look upon him as educated if he knows only his own bodily frame and malarial disease. Nor am I ashamed to add that religion has an important part to act in a college, if we would impart the proper spirit to our young men. The favorites of "The Popular Science Monthly," Professor Huxley and Herbert Spencer, have avowed that there is no adequacy in physical science to make youths moral; and the former wishes the Bible taught in the public schools of London, and the latter seems to be trusting to a development which will make people moral in a million of years, if in the mean time the world is not burnt up by the conflagration which he says must come. But my special object in this communication is to correct certain statements and insinuations as to our teaching. The impression is left by the article that we give exclusive, or, at least, our chief attention, to classics and certain old branches, and that we neglect the study of our own bodily frame and of the laws of health. After this declaration, your readers may be surprised to learn that of our thirty instructors thirteen are employed in teaching the various sciences, including the very latest. As to the special branches which we are said not to teach, the Professor of General Chemistry reports: "All students of the college have a full course of instruction in the outlines of human anatomy and physiology, with so much of hygiene as there is time for; and this has been done in the college for nearly half a century. We do not profess to be a medical college, or to train physicians, but no student leaves us without a fair knowledge of his own bodily system." The Professor of Analytical Chemistry reports: "The question of sewage, from a chemical point of view, is fully investigated by all the students of the scientific course and by those of the academic course who elect applied chemistry. Its injurious effects on the atmosphere and on the water are described and the laws of the diffusion of all gases are applied at this present time, and have always been, to this question." The Professor of Natural History writes: "The students in science go through a course of physiology, using 'Huxley's Elements' as a textbook, along with Youmans's Chapters on Hygiene, to which special attention is given. The subjects which are said to be neglected are all taught with some degree of fullness." I have an idea that some of the readers of "The Popular Science Monthly" will be gratified to notice that Professor Youmans is allowed to teach hygiene to our young men; but they will also discover that this fact undermines his argument, which is that, where hygiene is taught, there should be no fever.

James McCosh.
Princeton College, August 14, 1880.
 

 
THE SENSE OF DIRECTION IN ANIMALS.

Messrs. Editors.

I was very much interested in the account, published in your July number, of the experiments with the intelligent Cincinnati dog, and I think the facts there developed tend strongly to the proof of a theory that I have long believed to be correct, viz., that some of the lower animals are endowed with a sense of location and direction which at most is only rudimentarily possessed by man. I do not think that the feats of the carrier-pigeon can be accounted for on the theory of any finite development of the sense of sight, smell, or hearing, and the action of honey-bees presents the same difficulties to persons familiar with the habits of these interesting insects. In searching for wild honey, the bee-hunter provides himself with a small box with a sliding door; inside of this box he puts some sweet substance as a bait for the bees. When several bees have collected in the box, he closes the lid. As soon as they have finished eating, he releases a bee, which, after ascending high enough to clear the surrounding trees, makes a "bee-line" for its hive. The hunter marks this direction and carries his box off at right angles to the line made by the first bee, and releases another bee; he carefully marks the direction taken by this second bee, and, if they are both from the same swarm, the hive will be found at the point where these two lines meet.

I might cite well-authenticated cases of cats, pigs, and dogs, finding their way home, where such a feat would seem impossible to man under like circumstances; my object, however, was not to theorize, but simply to record what I consider some interesting observations bearing upon this subject.

Last spring I built a trout-pond in my garden, on the west side of a running brook discharging about six hundred cubic feet of water per minute. The brook is quite rapid where it passes the pond, and the surface of the pond is some five feet higher than the surface of the brook. The pond is supplied with water brought 2,000 feet in underground pipes and discharged in a fountain in the center of the pond. Common bull-frogs (Rana pipiens) occasionally find their way into this pond. On the 18th of last July I found three frogs in the pond, and shot all of them with a pistol. I dipped them up with a scoop-net, and found two of them shot through the body, and the other, a little fellow, weighing about two ounces, was shot across the back, the bullet just raising the skin and leaving a white streak across its dark-green surface. I emptied the three frogs out of the net into the swift running water of the brook, and they floated down stream out of sight. On the 19th of July, the day following, I found the wounded frog in the pond again, and readily recognized it by the scar from the bullet. I found no difficulty in catching it in the scoop-net, and, fearing that the scar might disappear from its back, I cut off the center toe of its right foot, put the frog into a paper bag, carried it down the brook across a bridge, and finally threw it into the stream some one hundred yards below the pond.

On the 21st of July I found the frog back again, caught it, and, so as to leave no doubt about its identification, I cut off the middle toe of the left foot. I then put the frog in the paper bag, started from the pond in a northeast course, stopped and whirled the bag around so as to confuse any ideas that it might have had of direction, and then changed my course, and finally released the frog on the opposite side of the brook in an oat-field about an eighth of a mile in an easterly direction from the pond. To prevent the frog from getting any idea from watching me, I passed on after releasing it, and did not go back again to the pond for several hours. Three days afterward I saw the frog in the pond again, but it was so wild that I could not catch it with my scoop-net, and I afterward tried various devices to capture it alive, but the moment it saw me approach the pond it would jump in and remain hidden in the stones at the bottom until I left. Finally, despairing of catching it alive, and having some doubts about its identity, on the 9th of August I shot it, and recognized it by the absence of the cut-off toes.

The general direction is up-hill from the point where the frog was last released to the pond, and about the same distance in a down-hill course would have taken the frog to the Ausable River. It still remains possible that the frog waited until night, and then followed my tracks back to the pond, but that seems improbable, I think, even more so than to believe that the frog knew all the time the direction of the pond, and slowly worked its way back again as inclination prompted.

George Chahoon.
Ausable Forks, New York, August 16, 1880.
 

 
SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN.

Messrs. Editors.

My eye has just fallen on your editorial comments under the head of "Sewage in College Education"; and I can not resist the impulse to point out a few of the errors into which you have been drawn. Not much space will be required, I think, to show that the attitude of the University of Michigan toward scientific and classical studies has been quite misapprehended.

In the first place, you are in error in assuming that Bishop Harris spoke as the representative of the University. Would it have been fair to assume that Yale College was represented by President White's famous address on the "Warfare of Science"? Each of these gentlemen was invited to deliver a commencement address, each chose his own subject, each treated his subject in his own way, and each was alone responsible for what he said. One sentence in the Bishop's address may have misled you. I refer to that in which he expressed his gratitude that classical studies still maintain their prominence in this university. But it is certain that the Bishop either meant simply to express his satisfaction that so large a number of students still continue to pursue classical studies, notwithstanding the inducements held out by the scientific courses, or, what is perhaps quite as likely, he himself was not fully aware of what the University is doing for the encouragement of scientific pursuits. In one instance, at least, the Bishop ran squarely athwart all the traditions and usages of the University. The orator indicated certain studies which he would not permit the student to pursue. The University, on the contrary, has long held up as its ideal: "All learning and that of the best"; and entire freedom of choice on the part of students as to what they would pursue.

You remark: "This great institution, with its fourteen hundred students, seems just as much enslaved by vicious traditions as the older schools. Middle-Age studies are still in the ascendant. The sciences are taught there, but the classical course is the one encouraged by the whole weight of the University influence."

I think a few facts will be enough to show you that this assertion is totally and comprehensively incorrect.

1. As many as twenty-eight years ago the University of Michigan was the pioneer in the work of raising scientific studies to a footing of absolute equality with the old classical curriculum. At that moment there was not a single college or university in the country that had a scientific course of four years. Such a four years' course was then established here; it has ever since been maintained, and the requisites for admission to it have been raised as rapidly as the condition of the preparatory schools would permit.

2. The work, thus early begun, has gone steadily on to the present day. Besides the various professional degrees in engineering, the University now confers four degrees as the reward of four years of successful study, viz.: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Philosophy, and Bachelor of Letters. The ancient languages are required for the first of these degrees only; and even for A. B. the amount of Latin and Greek required aggregates only about one solid year's work, while the amount of science required aggregates scarcely less, and the amount of science the student may elect in addition aggregates the work of two full years. Thus, even in the classical course, the student with his one year of classics may, if he choose, take two and a half years of science.

3. The number of courses of instruction in Latin and Greek offered to students the present semester is twelve (12), while the number of courses offered in the sciences is forty-four (44). The number of teachers employed to give instruction in Latin and Greek fifteen years ago was four; last year the number was four; fifteen years ago the number of teachers in the sciences was five, last year the number was twenty-four.

4. The means of illustration in the classical courses have remained almost stationary; while the appliances for the pursuit of scientific studies have spread out in every direction. The physical laboratory affords constant occupation to a considerable number of original investigators. The botanical laboratory is daily occupied by a crowd of students pursuing advanced microscopical researches. The physiological laboratory is positively overrun with students from the beginning to the end of the year. The chemical laboratory last year offered to our students a hundred and seventy-five tables for personal experimentation in applied chemistry, but the number was so inadequate to a supply of the demand that the building at the present moment is in process of enlargement by nearly as many tables more. It' you were to wander through these busy rooms, and see the hundreds of students clad in their scientific aprons and carrying on their researches with scalpel and microscope and test-tubes you would not fail to reform your opinion that the "whole weight of the University influence" is devoted to the encouragement of the classical course. Other universities have reared grander dormitories and memorial halls; but, if any other institution in the country has done more for the direct encouragement of scientific study and research within the past fifteen years than the University of Michigan, I have yet to learn which one it is. If you will point us to a better record than that indicated in the above facts, we will then endeavor to emulate our superior.

As your facts were at fault, of course it is not necessary to point out the error of your conclusion. I trust that the facts given are sufficient to justify you in modifying your intimation that the institution "deserves to be suppressed as a public nuisance."

I ought perhaps to correct one or two further errors of your article. But I content myself with saying that the University has not been "maintained from the first by public taxes"; that it was not until after it had already acquired strength, and renown even, that the first dollar of taxes was levied in its behalf; nay, that the first taxes were not levied for it until long after a fundamental law had been passed prohibiting the requiring of Latin and Greek as a condition for admission to the full privileges of the University.

You conclude your paper by comparing the University of Michigan with Cornell, and pointing to the difference, as evinced in the contrast between Bishop Harris's address and the thesis of a Cornell student on the sanitary condition of Ithaca. I conclude mine by saying that, if you will favor the University of Michigan with a visit, the Librarian, I doubt not, will take great pleasure in showing you a cartload of theses of the very kind you so justly admire.

Very respectfully yours,
C. K. Adams.
University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, September 15, 1880.