Popular Science Monthly/Volume 57/October 1900/Discussion and Correspondence

1406782Popular Science Monthly Volume 57 October 1900 — Discussion and Correspondence1900



The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a membership ranging from 1,900 to 2,000. Of this number probably at no one time was there an aggregate of 300 persons present at the recent annual meeting in New York.

When the Association meets in an Eastern city the attendance is generally twice if not three times as large as when it convenes in the West. So little was made of the recent meeting, locally or officially, that an intelligent resident of the city remarked: "Why, I intended to have attended some of the meetings, but seeing no reference in the daily papers, it entirely escaped my mind."

Of the 2,000 members, about 800 are fellows; the 1,200 and more registered as members are, presumably, persons devoting little or no time to independent research along scientific lines, but persons who while not actively so engaged are more than ordinarily interested in the discussion of scientific topics. These have in the past paid dues and attended the meetings of the Association with more or less regularity. It is a question in the minds of some of the 1,200 if their attendance at the meetings is desired. Their membership, so far as it relates to the five dollars initiation fee and three dollars dues, is without question acceptable, and to persons reading papers in the various sections their presence is preferable to empty seats, but in view of the fact that during recent years the management of the Association has eliminated, so far as possible, the popular features of the general programme, the question is reasonably asked: "Does the management desire the attendance of the 1,200, or is their financial support all that is desired?"

It was stated some years ago that the purpose of the Association was to furnish not only an occasion for scientists to present original papers, but also to interest the public by holding the meetings annually in different parts of the country; but if attendance is not secured (by preparation and publication of interesting features of a programme) no great interest will be awakened by a meeting held in any part of the country.

I should like to suggest the following ways of increasing the interest of the meetings:

The general daily sessions might be made occasions of rare interest by the introduction of prominent men of science who would make at least brief remarks. This would make it possible for those who have limited time to become familiar with the faces of those whom they would like to know, and the little 'sample' of scientific thought thrown out would doubtless awaken desire for more.

It will be objected that the meetings of the council immediately preceding the general session prevent holding an official meeting at that hour. The public and the 1,200 would care little whether the session were official or unofficial so it were interesting and instructive.

The officers of the several sections could easily secure distinguished representatives of their respective sciences to give brief addresses followed by discussion, and thus the morning hour would prove an attraction to citizens and others who might be unable to attend the sessions following.

Again, citizens, where the meetings are held, would be pleased to provide excursions to points of local interest and extend social courtesies, if they were given in return the mental food in digestible form, with which the Association is so amply supplied.

It remains with the management to decide whether attendance shall be restricted to the few actively engaged in scientific pursuits, or whether it shall include the 1,200 and more who would be glad to avail themselves of the benefits of a programme suited to average scholarship and intellectual capacity.

There is no better medium for discussion of the above views than through the widely read pages of The Popular Science Monthly.

M. E. D. Trowbridge.
Detroit, Mich.

[The questions brought up by our correspondent have been carefully considered by all those who are interested in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. When the Association was founded fifty years ago there was no division into sections; the papers and discussions were intelligible and interesting to all members. At that time there were but few members, the scientific life of the country was small, and it was a privilege for a city to entertain the Association. But fifty years have brought changes in many directions. Specialization in science has become essential for its further progress, and it has been necessary to divide the Association into numerous sections and to found special societies. Hospitality can now only be provided at great expense, and Eastern cities no longer regard it as a privilege to entertain the numerous societies that gather within their hotels. The newspapers do not regard a meeting of the Association as an important event and will not devote space to it.

The Association must do the best it can to adapt itself to existing conditions. The recent meeting in New York had perhaps the largest attendance of scientific men of any in the history of the Association with the exception of the anniversary meeting two years ago, but New York City, especially in the month of June, is not a desirable place for social functions. It is not reasonable for a member interested in science as an amateur to expect to purchase for three dollars a week's entertainment. His dues secure reduced railway and hotel rates; he can meet his friends and become acquainted with scientific men; he can always find on the programme papers that are of interest; he receives the annual volume of 'Proceedings' and the weekly journal, 'Science,' the cost of which is five dollars per year. But apart from these direct returns, he is surely repaid for membership by knowing that he is one of those who are united for the advancement of science in America.—Editor, Popular Science Monthly.]


To the Editor of The Popular Science Monthly: Mr. Havelock Ellis, in your August number, in 'The Psychology of Red,' says, 'A great many different colors are symbolical of mourning .... but so far as I am aware, red never.' The following may possibly be of interest in this connection:

"Our English Pliny, Bartholomew Glantville, who says after Isydorus, 'Reed clothes ben layed upon deed men in remembrance of theyr hardynes and boldnes, whyle they were in theyr bloudde.' On which his commentator, Batman, remarks: "It appereth in the time of the Saxons that the manner over their dead was a red cloath, as we now use black. The red of valiauncie, and that was over kings, lords, knights and valyaunt souldiers; white over cleargie men, in token of their profession and honest life, and over virgins and matrons.'"—(Dr. Furness's Variorum. Merchant of Venice, p. 56.)

Chas. E. Dana.
University of Pennsylvania.