Popular Science Monthly/Volume 59/October 1901/The Progress of Science



The meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held at Denver during the last week of August was of more than usual significance. For the first time in its history the Association met west of the banks of the Mississippi. California was ceded to the United States in the same year in which the Association held its first meeting, and the great western half of the country and the Association representing science in America have developed together. It was Fremont, then a scientific man engaged in scientific surveys, who saved California for the Union. The western States—dependent on railways, mines and modern agriculture—are the children of science. Having attained through science their remarkable material development, they are now prepared to unite with the older culture of the east in efforts for the advancement of science. Extending from the Mississippi river to the Pacific coast we have the first civilization based definitely on science, and we may expect to see in this region the world's chief centers for the diffusion and advancement of science. The first meeting of the American Association in the west is merely an announcement of what has been accomplished already, yet it represents an epoch in the history of science and of civilization.

The meeting at Denver was itself full of interest. Though not quite so large as meetings on the Atlantic seaboard, it was larger than the recent meetings at Madison and Detroit, and nearly as large as the meetings at Springfield, Buffalo and Columbus. Further, the 306 members in attendance were mostly scientific men, as is shown by the fact that two hundred and twenty papers were presented. The people of Denver did everything possible to ensure the social success of the meeting, and the scenery and resources of the State of Colorado were of the greatest possible interest to all visitors. The address of the president, published above, was worthy of the occasion, and many interesting papers were read before the different sections. In several respects the business transacted was of importance in the history of American science. The committee on the journal, 'Science,' made its first report on the arrangement made at the New York meeting last year, in accordance with which this weekly journal is sent free of charge to all members of the Association. It appears that the fees of new members were sufficient to defray the cost of sending 'Science' to all members of the Association, and that the plan has proved acceptable on all sides. Another important step was the perfecting of the affiliation of the special societies with the Association. Hitherto the national societies devoted to the special sciences have met informally with the Association; hereafter they will be an integral part of it, being represented on the council. The council will thus become the body chiefly responsible for the organization of science in America. The Association planned for a winter meeting to be held at Washington a year from next January. Attention has already been called here to the movement now progressing for the establishment of a convocation week for the meetings of scientific and learned societies. It is now assured by the action of our leading universities and of the American Association that this week—that in which the first day of the new year falls—will hereafter be devoted to the purpose designated. The meeting of the American Association next year will be at Pittsburg at the beginning of July, and will be presided over by the great astronomer, Professor Asaph Hall. It will undoubtedly be large and important; while the meeting at Washington will probably be the greatest scientific congress ever held in America.

There was published in this Journal for July last an article on the American Association for the Advancement of Science calling attention to the great importance and responsibility of this institution for the development of science. Trusts and trade unions are an integral part of our present civilization, and it is our duty not to protest against them, but to direct them for the common good. Those interests that are most important for civilization should have the strongest organization, and it is gratifying to find that under the auspices of the American Association a union is being effected that will adequately represent the scientific interests of the country. There was a period of disintegration when the development of the special sciences required the formation of special societies, but we are apparently now in the midst of a movement toward such a concentration of authority as will not interfere with local autonomy. Herewith is given a curve showing the total membership of the American Association and the attendance at the meetings since that in Washington in 1891, when the membership reached its maximum. It will be noticed that there was a tendency for the membership gradually to decrease, broken only by an accession at the large Brooklyn meeting of 1894. The curve, however, rises in a remarkable way for the New York and Denver meetings. This has doubtless been largely due to the arrangement with 'Science,' mentioned above, and to the efficiency of the present permanent secretary. Dr. L. O. Howard, in bringing the desirability of membership in the Association before the scientific men of the country. These, however, are only incidents that have hastened the development of a movement demanded by modern conditions.

PSM V59 D611 Membership and attendance at the AAAS 1891 to 1901.png


A bulletin issued from the census bureau at the end of August gives vital statistics of more than usual interest. The death rates of 1900 and 1890 are compared both as regards different regions and as regards different causes of death. It appears that careful registration of deaths is undertaken in ten States and in a large number of cities, including about twenty-nine million of the inhabitants of the country. The statistics disclose the very gratifying fact that in ten years the general death rate has decreased from 19.6 per thousand to 17.8. This remarkable decrease is in the cities, where the rate has fallen from 21 in 1890 to 18.6 last year. The rate in the country has been about stationary, having been 15.3 in 1890 and 15.4 in 1900. This extraordinary decrease in the death rate of cities has been due chiefly to improved hygienic conditions. In the country a corresponding gain has not occurred. We may perhaps look for it in the course of the next ten years, though there is of course less room for improvement. New York City has one of the best records of progress, its death rate having decreased in ten years from 25.3 to 20.4, making the city in spite of its crowded tenement districts as healthful as Boston and decidedly more healthful than Philadelphia, in which city the death rate has remained practically stationary. But there is room for further progress in our eastern cities. Chicago has a death rate of only 16.2, and nearly all the cities of the northern and central States have a low death rate, Minneapolis and St. Paul, for example, having the incredibly low rates of 10.8 and 9.7, respectively. The most unfavorable conditions are in the south, the death rate of New Orleans, for example, being 28.9, an increase since 1890; and that of Charleston, 37.5. about the same as ten years ago. Almost as interesting as the decrease in the death rate is the decrease due to certain special diseases. The following table deserves to be quoted in full. It shows the death rate due to certain diseases per hundred thousand of population in the registration area in 1900 and 1890 together with the increase or decrease in the-rate.

This table shows that consumption is no longer the most fatal of diseases, pneumonia having taken its place. Deaths from consumption have decreased over 20 per cent., while a

Causes. Death Rate Increase Decrease
1900. 1890.
Consumption 190.5 245.4 54.9
Debility, atrophy 45.5 88.6 43.1
Diphtheria 35.4 70.1 34.7
Cholera infantum 47.8 79.7 31.9
Bronchitis 48.3 74.4 26.1
Convulsions 33.1 56.3 23.2
Diarrhœal diseases 85.1 104.1 19.0
Croup 9.8 27.6 17.8
Typhoid fever 33.8 46.3 12.5
Dis. of the brain 18.6 30.9 12.3
Malarial fever 8.8 19.2 10.4
Unknown cause 16.8 24.6 7.8
Inflammation of the brain and meningitis 41.8 49.1 7.3
Hydrocephalus 11.0 15.4 4.4
Dropsy 6.9 10.3 3.4
Whooping cough 12.7 15.8 3.1
Paralysis 32.8 35.5 2.7
Scarlet fever 11.5 13.6 2.1
Septicæmia 10.0 7.7 2.3
Diabetes 9.4 7.5 3.9
Pneumonia 191.9 186.9 5.0
Premature birth 33.7 25.2 8.5
Old Age 54.0 44.9 9.1
Cancer 60.0 47.9 12.1
Heart disease 134.0 121.8 12.2
Apoplexy 66.6 49.0 17.6
Influenza 23.9 6.2 17.7
Dis. of the kidney 83.7 59.7 24.0

greater relative decrease is recorded in the case of diphtheria and other diseases. The diseases that show an increase are chiefly those incident to advanced age, death from old age itself showing an increase of 20 per cent.


The steamship Erik has returned, bringing welcome news of Lieutenant Peary. It appears that he has succeeded in rounding the limit of the Greenland Archipelago, probably the most northern land, and has reached the highest altitude yet attained in the western hemisphere (83° 50'). Mr. Robert Stein and Mr. Samuel Warmbath were picked up by the Windward, but there is no news regarding Captain Sverdrup. During the present autumn Lieutenant Peary expects to make explorations and in the spring of next year again to make the attempt to proceed as far north as possible. In the meanwhile, Mr. Baldwin is making a similar attempt from another direction, and there are a number of other expeditions in the far north. Baron Toll, who started from Russia in May, 1900, was recently in the Strait of Tarmour, while from the same country. Admiral Markaroff is testing his ice-breaking steamship. From Norway, Captain Sverdrup on the Fram has for three years been making explorations about Greenland and west of Ellesmere land. From Germany, Captain Banandahl was, when last heard from, advancing north from Spitzbergen. None of the expeditions in the north are of the same scientific importance as the national antarctic expeditions of Great Britain and Germany, but it seems certain that the next year will add greatly to our knowledge of the unknown regions of the north as well as of the south.


Professor William Theodore Richards, of Harvard University, has declined a call to a newly-established research professorship of chemistry in the University of Göttingen. It is a special compliment to the United States that Germany should seek here a professor for such a chair, especially when we remember the large number of chemists that are trained at the German universities.—On the application of the Government of Victoria, Australia, for a director of agriculture, officers of the U. S. Department of Agriculture have recommended Professor B. T. Galloway, chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and Professor Willett M. Hays, agriculturist of the Minnesota Experiment Station.

The Reale Accademia dei Lincei of Rome has elected eight foreign members, including from the United States Edward C. Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory; Samuel P. Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Chas. D. Walcott, director of the U. S. Geological Survey.—The Veitch silver medal has been awarded to Mr. Thomas Meehan, of Philadelphia, 'for distinguished services in botany and horticulture.' Mr. Meehan is the third American on whom this medal has been conferred, the others being Professor Charles S. Sargent, of the Arnold Arboretum, and Professor Liberty H. Bailey, of Cornell University.

Professor Ed. Suess, the eminent geologist, gave on July 13 a formal lecture to his present and former students on the occasion of his retirement from the chair of geology. He has reached his seventieth year and his forty-fourth year as a university teacher.—Dr. Ernst Mach, professor of philosophy in the University of Vienna, has been compelled by ill health to retire from the active duties of his professorship.—Professor E. Haeckel, of Jena, has made public the announcement that owing to the state of his health, his advanced age and pressure of work, he will not in future make any public addresses or attend any scientific congresses.

A royal commission has been appointed in Great Britain to study the relation of bovine and human tuberculosis, consisting of Sir Michael Foster, Dr. Sims Woodhead, Dr. Harris Cox Martin, Professor J. McFadyean and Professor R. W. Boyce.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science held its meeting at Glasgow from September 11-18 under the presidency of Professor A. W. Rücker, the eminent physicist. The Congress of German Men of Science and Physicians is being held at Hamburg from September 22-28, under the presidency of Professor R. Hertmg, the well-known zoologist.

Science also mourns the death of the President of the Nation. We have lost a good man, representing the sterling qualities of the people. We honor a man who became great when brought face to face with circumstance. McKinley stands with Washington and with Lincoln. He who founded the Nation, he who preserved it, and he who gave it leadership, rank apart from those who lacked opportunity. The diseased brain of an assassin can not alter the course of history. When our leader falls, another is ready to take his place. But we do not forget him over whose body we advance. He is not ill-starred in his death who is honored and loved and mourned by a Nation.