Popular Science Monthly/Volume 60/February 1902/The Progress of Science



One of the most noteworthy events in the history of science was the bequest of James Smithson, an Englishman dying in Italy, in 1829, of about §500,000 to found at Washington 'an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.' Equally important is the gift of Mr. Andrew Carnegie of $10,000,000 to establish in Washington an institution for the encouragement of 'investigation, research and discovery.' These two foundations represent more than an addition to the sum annually spent on scientific work. They stand for the spirit of science, not confined by place or buildings, titles or degrees. In foreign countries we are often called worshipers of wealth and ostentation; in reply we need only point to the Smithsonian and Carnegie institutions, situated in the national capital, but extending throughout the country and beyond, quietly and powerfully representing the highest ideals of knowledge and research.

The Smithsonian Institution under Henry and Baird fostered science in many directions, having been more or less a factor in the establishment of the National Library, the Weather Bureau, the Geological and Coast Surveys and the Fish Commission. It still has under its charge the National Museum, the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Zoological Park. The Carnegie Institution with twenty times the resources of the Smithsonian will henceforth be a great influence for the advancement of knowledge. The founder states that the primary object is the promotion of research, and specifies several directions in which work w-ill be undertaken. The Institution will probably supersede the Washington Memorial Institution in the function of utilizing for advanced work the resources of the government at Washington and elsewhere. It will also aim to increase the efficiency of universities and other institutions by providing funds for investigations and for fellowships. It will assist in the publication of scientific work. It may give salaries and pensions to permit the continuous prosecution of research. Mr. Carnegie shows much insight in particularly specifying as one of its objects 'to discover the exceptional man in every department of study, whenever and wherever found, and enable him by financial aid to make the work for which he seems specially designed, his life work.'

This is, indeed, the great need of science—to find the men. Given the man and there is no danger but that the research, the discovery and the publication will follow. What is essential is to secure for research the men best fitted for it. Good men are needed for all kinds of useful work; but on the whole the business man, the lawyer or the physician is less likely to contribute to the general welfare than the investigator. But the investigator is exactly the man whose profession is most insecure. He never depends on his scientific work for his support; 'he must earn his living by teaching, by administrative work or the like. A good novel or a good picture has market value, a good research has none. The author is not only unpaid, but is fortunate if his paper or book can be properly published without expense to himself.

The number and quality of men engaged in scientific work can apparently be increased best in two ways; by permitting a larger number of young men to carry on work long enough to be eligible for national selection, and by offering certain prizes for those who reach the highest efficiency. Our universities now provide a considerable number of scholarships and fellowships; they should be increased, but even more than these we need offices, such as the secretaryship of the Smithsonian Institution, that will attract young men to science as a profession and provide adequate rewards and the best opportunities for those whose work is most fruitful. It has already been pointed out in these columns that while a lawyer may become a judge, a clergyman a bishop, a business man a millionaire and the like, there are no similar rewards for a scientific man or a university professor. At a comparatively early age he receives the maximum salary of from three to five thousand dollars, and no further advancement is possible—unless he leaves scientific work to become an inventor or a college president.

The directorship of the Carnegie Institution will be one prize, but its duties will be largely administrative. The trustees of the institution selected by Mr. Carnegie are men of tried administrative ability; but they are too busy and too widely scattered over the country to attend to the details of the scientific work of the institution. We should view with much satisfaction the establishment of a board of scientific directors who should at the same time be research professors, spending part of the year at Washington and part at their present universities or institutions, receiving ample salaries and having the best facilities for work. The honor of selection for this position and a salary comparable to that which may be earned in other professions would add great attractiveness to science as a profession and serve as a continual stimulus to scientific research.

There are, however, many ways by which the great resources of the Carnegie Institution can be utilized for the benefit of science, and the trustees are certainly competent to select the best methods. There is no doubt but that the institution will greatly aid in giving the United States a leading place among the nations that are contributing to the advancement of science, and will tend to make Washington one of the three or four chief scientific centers of the world.


The meeting in Chicago at the beginning of the year of the American Society of Naturalists and of the national societies devoted to the biological sciences was of more than usual interest. It marked the establishment of convocation week. At the instance of the American Association for the Advancement of Science our leading universities have set aside for the meetings of scientific and learned societies the week on which the first day of January falls, greatly facilitating those meetings of scientific men, which are among the most potent factors in the advancement of science. The meeting at Chicago was also noteworthy because it was the first to be held west of the Atlantic seaboard. It will be remembered that the American Association met this year for the first time west of the Mississippi, and our two great scientific societies and centers of affiliation have thus in the same year become truly national in character. The remarkable development of science in the central states within recent years is witnessed by the fact that the meeting at Chicago was the largest and probably the most important ever held by the affiliated societies. There were over 300 scientific men in attendance, and over 250 scientific papers were presented. It is of course impossible to give here any adequate account of this great mass of scientific work. The annual discussion, in which Professors Minot, Davenport, McGee, Trelease, Birge, Forbes and Cattell were the speakers, considered the interrelations of our scientific societies. There was a consensus of opinion that we should develop local centers for scientific meetings, but must have also national societies, and that these should be united in a great association representing the whole country and all the societies. The practical outcome was the decision of all the societies to meet next winter in Washington.

With the American Society of Naturalists met at Chicago the national scientific societies devoted to morphology, physiology, anatomy, bacteriology, psychology and anthropology. The American Chemical Society met at the same time at Philadelphia with an attendance of over two hundred and a full program. The Society now contains over 2,000 members, and is perhaps the strongest and best organized of our special scientific societies. It conducts an excellent journal, has numerous local branches which hold frequent meetings, and is affiliated with the American Association. At the recent meeting Professor F. W. Clarke gave the presidential address, dealing with the outlook for chemistry in the future viewed in the light of the past, and Professor C. F. Chandler lectured on the electrochemical industries of Niagara Falls. The Geological Society of America also met during convocation week, the place being Rochester, N. Y., and the time December 21 to January 2. The president, Dr. Charles D. Walcott, gave an address on 'The Outlook of the Geologist in America,' and the program contained the titles of some thirty papers. The Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America met at Washington, while the American Mathematical and Physical Societies and the Society for Plant Morphology and Physiology of the Eastern States met in New York. All these societies will meet next winter with the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Washington during convocation week, where there will be a congress of American scientific men surpassing in size and importance all its predecessors.


As all our readers know from the daily papers, Mr. Marconi has succeeded in transmitting wireless signals across the Atlantic from Cornwall, England, to St. John's, Newfoundland. The electrical waves were received at St. John's by a long wire suspended by a kite and by means of a telephone, presumably through the mediation of a coherer. A detailed description of Mr. Marconi's latest apparatus has not been published. However, some results obtained by him several months ago show that his apparatus has been improved in its selective action, and this latest achievement shows that little remains to be done in the way of increase of power. Nevertheless there seem to be decided limitations to the utilization of wireless telegraphy; it is at present much slower than the standard Morse apparatus using a wire, the receiving operator cannot interrupt the sender but must wait patiently until the message is finished, there is no assurance of secrecy, and but one system can be operated at a time within the limits of its range.

A map of the world showing all cable connections is a very complicated affair, and the supplanting of these cables by wireless apparatus is out of the question, at least until the Marconi system is evolved into something very different from what it now is. The facts may be made clear by an acoustical analogy. The ordinary confusions of sounds in a stock exchange is bad enough, but if the manifold and characteristic shadings of voice were reduced to a monotony of mere clicks and if the resolving or selective power of the listener's ear were at the same time reduced many thousands of times the confusion would become hopeless indeed. The loudness of each speaker would have to be reduced, and each speaker and his listeners would have to occupy a certain space to the exclusion of all others. Under these conditions a given speaker's demonstration of his power to make himself heard over a distance of many miles would scarcely be looked upon as of practical importance, unless indeed it were seriously questioned whether his associates might have the right to restrict the exercise of their vocal powers. The proper field of wireless telegraphy appears to be the overspreading of limited areas, especially areas of water, with telegraphic facilities.


Those who wish to know something of the educational (educational in the broadest sense of the word) advantages enjoyed by the eastern United States can not do better than to consult Dr. A. B. Meyer's memoir on the museum of this section. Dr. Meyer came here in the summer of 1900 to obtain all possible information concerning our museums, their construction, arrangement, methods of installation, and the scope of his inquiries was extended to libraries and art museums. The results of his observations are being published by the Royal Museum of Dresden and the second part of the memoir, for it amounts to that, has recently been issued and comprises one hundred quarto pages with fifty-nine illustrations. It is devoted to the museums, libraries. Art Institute and University of Chicago, and Chicago has every reason to feel gratified at the showing made in this paper. At the head of the text stands Chicago's motto 'I will' (Ich will), and Dr. Meyer has frequent occasion to refer to the energy and creative power of this million-inhabited city, if one may paraphrase the author, of the west. In fact we doubt if many in Chicago, to say nothing of those living in other portions of the United States, realize the rapid strides she has made in—using the term in its widest sense—great educational institutions. Like the former part this gives a brief history of each institution considered, its origin, aims, endowment, expenditure, and the methods by which it endeavors to accomplish the desired ends. Then follows a detailed account of the collections, be they of natural history, art or books, with special notice of any original or important device for installation, labeling or cataloguing. As Dr. Meyer is not only a museum director, but one acquainted with the mechanical details of the various branches of work, and one who has devoted much time and thought to the construction of cases and methods of installation, he here speaks by the book.

The illustrations show an exterior view of each of the buildings considered, and noteworthy features of the interior, as well as of special cases and fittings. There are also in most instances plans giving the arrangement of the various floors, and sections showing special modes of heating or ventilating, and of the construction of modern iron frame buildings.

Dr. Meyer considers that the existence of the Field Columbian Museum should stimulate rather than deter the growth of the collections of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and that not only do these two institutions supplement one another, but that two museums are a necessity for a city which like Chicago covers an area of 180 square miles. The plans for the Academy of Sciences are well conceived, and it would be well to consider them carefully in the event of erecting a new and permanent building to replace the present Field Columbian Museum. As we all know this was taken for a museum in default of any other available building, and Dr. Meyer may well criticize its halls as being on too large a scale to fit them for the best arrangement of a museum. One of the results of this is to bring about a somewhat heterogeneous arrangement of the collections and to place in juxtaposition, or to include in one view through lack of division, very different classes of objects. It is hoped that the time may soon come when less money shall be spent on specimens for exhibition and more in research and publication. Beyond a certain point the mere exhibition of material can not be advantageously carried, for the confusion of mind created by a multitude of objects defeats the educational effect which a museum should exert.

The libraries of Chicago—the John Crerar, the Newberry and the Public Library—are looked upon as sustaining much the same relations to one another as do the museums, each having its own field, and one supplementing the other, while the friendly rivalry between them is resulting in the accumulation of a vast number of books and pamphlets. The combined entries of these three libraries now amount to 650,000, and at the present rate of growth, they will, in twenty-five years, reach a million, the present size of the library of Berlin, which ranks third among the great libraries of the world.

One quarter of the present volume is devoted to the University of Chicago, treating in detail its many peculiar and progressive features with special reference to its museums and laboratories. In the former the inclusion of paleontological collections with those illustrating the modern life of the globe is regarded as an excellent feature, and this is no doubt true to a great extent. Still such a union is much more feasible in a small than in a large museum and also much depends upon the point of view, upon whether it is desired to show the relations of all living things to one another, or the successive faunas and floras of the globe and the steps by which the existing order of plant and animal life has been reached.

In conclusion Dr. Meyer pays an eloquent tribute to Chicago, for which he predicts a great future as a center of science, literature and art.


The origin of the proboscideans, the Mammoth, Mastodon and Dinotherium, has long remained an unsolved problem, and until recently no form was known below the lower Miocene. Señor Ameghino thought he had discovered the ancestor of the group in the Santa Cruz formation of Patagonia, but his views were not shared by others, and the late Professor Cope believed, with much to support the belief, that the founder of the family would be found in Asia.

During the summer of the present j year Dr. C. W. Andrews, of the British Museum, was engaged in collecting in the Fayûm, Egypt, obtaining numbers of vertebrates from deposits believed to be of Eocene or Oligocene age, most probably the former. Among the mammals represented was a small and primitive species of Mastodon, named Palæomastodon beadnelli, characterized by the simple structure of the last grinder and by the fact that no less than five teeth were in use at once on either side of the lower jaw. Other known species of Mastodon have but three teeth in use at any one time on either side of the lower jaw, so that this indicates an animal of a much more generalized type. More than this. Dr. Andrews obtained numerous specimens of another animal, named Meritherium, about the size of a large tapir, having large and tusk-like incisors and molars, whose structure suggests that of the teeth of the Dinotherium. This creature Dr. Andrews considers to be the long sought ancestor of the Mastodon type of proboscideans. The fauna of these Egyptian beds is quite different from that of deposits of corresponding age in Europe, and the few species so far discovered hint that a more complete knowledge will throw much needed light on many obscure questions in geographical distribution. The indications are that prior to the Miocene southern Africa was an extensive and isolated continental area, or, that at least it had no connection with Europe.

In the United States particular attention has been given to working out the pedigree, in the fullest sense of the word, of the horse, and in doing this the American Museum of Natural History has been especially favored by the gift of a considerable sum of money for that purpose. Under the direction of Professor Osborn parties have been successful in Texas and northeastern Colorado in obtaining unusually complete specimens of early horses. In the former locality Mr. Gidley discovered the fossil remains of a small herd of Miocene horses of the genus Protohippus, while in Colorado Messrs. Matthew and Brown obtained very complete specimens of Anchitherium from the Upper Miocene associated with at least three species of horse-like animals that represent side branches of the equine tree. The disappearance of horses from North America is a very singular fact; they developed here, literally growing up with the country, and they ranged from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Alaska to Patagonia. It is even probable that they migrated to Asia at the time the Mammoth was making his way eastward, and yet they disappeared completely. It would seem that Dr. Jordan's three laws of distribution need the addition of another to explain the dying out of animals. It can not be said that a series of species that developed in a given region was not adapted to it, and the rapid increase of horses that run wild on the pampas of South America and the plains of the west shows that the modern horse was perfectly fitted to those regions.

One more important discovery during this year was the finding by Mr. Barnum Brown, while collecting for the U. S. National Museum in the Trias of Arizona, of plates of a huge labyrinthodont, at least as large as those European species restored by Waterhouse Hawkins in the likeness of gigantic frogs, for their tails were not then known. The specimens have been identified by Dr. Fraas as belonging to the genus Metopias, and he regards this of special importance as showing that the beds in Arizona correspond to the historic Keuper of Europe, that genus of amphibians being confined to that formation.


We regret to record the deaths of Mr. Clarence King, the eminent geologist; Sir William MacCormac, the British surgeon; Professor Aleksandr Aleksandrovic Kovalevskij, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of St. Petersburg, and Dr. Arthur König, associate professor of the physiology of the sense organs at the University of Berlin.

The newly elected presidents of the scientific societies, whose meetings are described above, are as follows: The American Chemical Society, President, Ira Remsen, Johns Hopkins University; American Society of Naturalists, Professor J. McKeen Cattell, Columbia University; American Morphological Society, Dr. H. C. Bumpus, American Museum of Natural History; American Physiological Society, Professor P. H. Chittenden, Yale University; Association of American Anatomists, Professor G. S. Huntington, Columbia University; American Psychological Association, Professor E. C. Sanford, Clark University; American Society of Bacteriologists, Professor H. W. Conn, Wesleyan University; The Society for Plant Morphology and Physiology, Professor M. V. Spalding, University of Michigan; The Geological Society of America, Mr. H. N. Winchell, Minnesota.