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



We have the privilege of publishing above the exact words of Mr. Carnegie's, trust deed establishing the Carnegie: Institution of Washington. The trust has duly been accepted by the trustees, and officers have been elected as follows: Dr. Daniel C. Gilman, president of the institution; Mr. Abram S.; Hewitt, chairman of the board of trustees; Dr. John S. Billings, vice-chairman; Dr. Charles D. Walcott, secretary. The executive committee consists of Mr. Abram S. Hewitt, Dr. D. C. Gilman, Secretary Elihu Root, Dr. John S. Billings, Mr. Carroll D. Wright, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell and Dr. Charles D. Walcott. The first regular annual meeting of the board will be held in November next, and in the meanwhile the executive committee will elaborate definite plans for the administration of the institution. It. is understood that the advice of scientific men will be requested and that committees of experts will be formed. Part of the income of the trust will be used for the construction of an administration building in Washington. No: appropriations will be made before November, but applications may be presented, and these would perhaps be I a help rather than a hindrance to the executive committee in formulating their plans. Mr. Carnegie's views as to the scope of the institution and its possible relations to a national university are further outlined in a brief address made to the board of trustees in presenting the deed of gift. He said:

I beg to thank you deeply for so promptly, so cordially, aiding me by acceptance of trusteeship. A note from the president congratulates me upon the 'high character, indeed, I may say, the extraordinarily high character of the trustees'—such are his words. I believe this estimate has been generally approved throughout the wide boundary of the United States.

My first thought was to fulfil the expressed wish of Washington by establishing a university here, but a study of the question forced me to the conclusion that under present conditions were Washington still with us, his finely-balanced judgment would decide that in our generation at least such use of wealth would not be the best.

One of the most serious objections, and one which I could not overcome, was that another university might tend to weaken existing universities. My desire was to cooperate with all educational institutions and establish what would be a source of strength and not of weakness to them, and the idea of a Washington University or of anything of a memorial character was therefore abandoned.

It cost some effort to push aside the tempting idea of a Washington University founded by Andrew Carnegie, which the president of the Woman's George Washington Memorial Association was kind enough to suggest. That may be reserved for another in the future, for the realization of Washington's desire would perhaps justify the linking of another name with his, but certainly nothing else would.

This gift, or the donor, has no pretentions to such honor, and in no wise interferes with the proposed university or with any memorial. It has its own more modest field and is intended to cooperate with all kindred institutions, including the Washington University, if ever built, and it may be built if we continue to increase in population as heretofore for a generation. In this hope I think the name should be sacredly held in reserve. It is not a matter of one million, or ten millions, or even of twenty millions, but of more, to fulfil worthily the wish of Washington, and I think no one would presume to use that almost sacred name except for a university of the very first rank, established by national authority, as he desired. Be it our part in our day and generation to do what we can to extend the boundaries of human knowledge by utilizing existing institutions.

Gentlemen, your work begins, your aims are high; you seek to extend known forces and to discover and utilize new forces for the benefit of man. Than this there can scarcely be greater work. I wish you abundant success and venture to prophesy that through your efforts in cooperation with those of kindred societies in our' country, contributions to the advancement of the race through research, will compare in the near future not unfavorably with those of any other land. Again, I thank you.


Mr. Carnegie expressly states in his trust deed that his chief purpose is 'to secure if possible for the United States of America leadership in the domain of discovery and the utilization of new forces for the benefit of man,' and this function of the institution naturally calls attention to the place now occupied by the United States in the world of science. In the January number of The North American Review, Mr. Carl Snyder complains that America is not doing its fair share of scientific work. In a much abler article in the following number of the same review, Professor Simon Newcomb gives more credit to American science, but entitles his article 'Conditions which discourage scientific work in America,' and dwells especially on the lack of appreciation shown by the general public, and especially by legislators, to scientific men and institutions. Other journals have discussed the question, the New York Independent remarking: "It must be acknowledged that in original contributions to knowledge the United States is not in the first rank with Germany, France and England, but rather with such countries as Russia, Italy, Sweden and Japan"

We take a more hopeful view of science in America than the authors mentioned. Mr. Snyder, for example, commits the obvious fallacy of comparing the productivity of the United States with that of all other nations combined. We can divide the intellectual world into seven groups not very unequal in population—Germany-Austria, Great Britain and its colonies, France and Belgium, The United States, Italy, Spain and Spanish America, Russia and a miscellaneous group, including Scandinavia, Holland and Japan. The scientific rank of these groups is nearly that of the order in which they are given, but even greater credit should be allowed to the German, French and English, owing to their smaller populations. The United States occupies pretty definitely the middle place, being outclassed by the three great intellectual nations, and surpassing any one of the three groups into which the other nations have been divided. In so far as this is correct, we do approximately our average share of scientific research, about one seventh of the work of the world.

It is quite possible that our contemporary position is somewhat better in work actually being accomplished than in reputation. A scientific man does not usually become eminent until ten or twenty years after his work has been accomplished, and the same would naturally hold for a nation. We are likely to think of Darwin, Pasteur or Helmholtz, and to reproach America for not having produced their equal. But when these men were born and educated the population of the United States was comparatively small, and its intellectual position was admittedly inferior. It is only within the past twenty-five years that true universities have developed in the United States, and positions have been opened that can be occupied by men carrying on scientific research. Those who first availed themselves of these opportunities are only forty or fifty years old, and while they are now doubtless doing their best work, it is not yet recognized outside the ranks of specialists. It is but now that our opportunities for education and research begin to equal those of Germany, and twenty years must be allowed before the harvest can be gathered, and a still longer period before its quality and quantity can be established.

A careful estimate of America's position in the scientific world must consider the different kinds of scientific work. In the applications of science we probably lead. We have had and have great inventors, and in the progress of engineering, manufactures, agriculture, etc., where the individual is often unrecognized, we are contributing more than our share. If further we divide the pure sciences into nine groups—mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, physiology, botany and anthropology-psychology—the United States would be doing its share if it excelled in one science. We are clearly inferior to several nations in mathematics, physics, chemistry and physiology; we are inferior in reputation, but not obviously so in performance, in zoology, botany and anthropology-psychology; we are probably doing work of greater volume and value than any other nation in astronomy and in geology.


Professor Newcomb's article in the February number of the North American Review points out how much more highly scientific men and scientific academies are honored abroad than in this country. In the European capitals national leadership of every kind is united in a homogeneous mass. The men of science and of letters associate with the political leaders. Scientific eminence leads to social recognition and political preferment, while those having wealth and leisure engage in scientific research. The national academies are practically parts of the government. In America great endowments are given to universities, but the personality of the professor is ignored; the government makes large appropriations for the scientific bureaus, but scarcely recognizes the National Academy composed of our most eminent scientific men. Professor Newcomb hopes that the Carnegie Institution may attract to Washington men of world-wide reputation and strong personality, who will introduce an academic element into the political atmosphere of the capital.

The extent to which scientific work has been discouraged in America by lack of social recognition is difficult to determine. Greater honor for intellectual distinction might attract young men to a scientific career, whereas worship of wealth may direct too much of the activity of the country to commerce. But the fact that conditions in America differ from those in European nations and that conditions in the twentieth century differ from those in the nineteenth, does not of necessity indicate a retrograde movement. Aristocracies of wealth leisure and culture have undoubtedly been favorable to science, literature and art; but it may be our part to prove that under existing conditions a democracy is still more favorable. The era of the amateur scientist is passing; science must now be advanced by the professional expert. The student of science should be accorded an income commensurate with his services, but the routine of social functions in foreign capitals can scarcely be regarded as favorable to scientific research. Darwin's ill-health and enforced isolation in the country enabled him to do the work he did, whereas social engagements did not improve Huxley's purely scientific work. The lack of a hereditary aristocracy and of a single national social center may not in the end be hurtful to science. If the scientific man is consulted as an expert and his advice is followed, he may be willing to forego invitations to dinner and the patronage of society. Members of the cabinet and of the congress had formerly more time to cultivate the society of men of science than at present, and perhaps men of science could then also better spare the time. The scientific men under the government are now more highly regarded than ever before. Some years ago they were looked upon as seekers after public patronage and viewed with a certain suspicion. Now they are treated as members of the government, not less essential than officers of the army. In a recent debate in the senate on the organization of a new department of commerce, no senator was able to say to what political party the present head of the bureau of labor belongs, but all agreed that his advice was of special importance in framing the bill. When the government employs skilled experts in all departments, it no longer requires the advice of an academy of sciences. We should like to see the National Academy entrusted with certain definite functions and we should like to see scientific men treated with even greater respect than at present, but on the whole the necessary conditions of a democracy and of an age of specialization do not seem to be unfavorable to scientific work.


The director of the Lick Observatory has recently announced that the remarkable coronal disturbance, which was one of the notable features of the Sumatra eclipse, has been found, by Professor Perrine, to be above the prominent and only sunspot visible during eleven days. This interesting discovery emphasizes the fact that results of much value can sometimes be obtained at eclipses, even when the sun is covered by thin clouds. It will be remembered that a total eclipse of the sun occurred on May 17, 1901. The duration of the eclipse was so long, and the possibilities of valuable work so great, that many parties from different countries visited Sumatra, Mauritius, and other islands in the path of totality. Early reports announced that failure was general on account of clouds. Later reports, however, by the directors of the different parties, show that, while many observers accomplished little or nothing, others obtained satisfactory results. Taken altogether the observations are of high value, and will justify the expense incurred. Congress made a generous, if somewhat tardy, appropriation for the observance of this eclipse, and a party was sent out, in charge of Professor A. N. Skinner, embracing six members of the Naval Observatory, and five others. Professor Skinner very wisely decided to divide his party into several divisions. The main party, including himself and Professor Barnard, were stationed at Solok, which seemed to offer the best chance for a clear sky. At the same place were Messrs. Abbott and Draper, of the Smithsonian Institution, and some English astronomers. Little of value was obtained at Solok, owing to clouds. One of the smaller parties, however, at Sawah-Loento, a short distance to the east, had better success. Results of high value were obtained by Dr. Mitchell, of Columbia University, and by Professors Burton and Smith, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Perhaps the only place where a perfectly clear sky was found was at Fort de Kock, and fine photographs were there made by Dr. W. J. Humphreys, of the University of Virginia, and by Mr. G. H. Peters, of the Naval Observatory. The party sent out by the Lick Observatory, in charge of Professor Perrine, was stationed at Padang. Throughout the totality thin clouds covered the sun. These clouds undoubtedly interfered with some of the photographic results, especially those which were concerned with the search for an intra-mercurial planet. But the polariscopic and spectroscopic results, as well as the photographs of the inner and middle corona appeared to be only slightly affected by the clouds. The Amherst College party in charge of Professor Todd was at Singkep, where the sky was very unfavorable. At Mauritius the English astronomers had a fair sky. This eclipse well illustrates the importance of a large number of stations scattered along the belt of totality, for in spite of the clouds which widely prevailed the results from the stations, as a whole, are very satisfactory and will encourage similar efforts at coming eclipses.


Very wide interest has been taken in the spectrum of lightning, photographs of which have been obtained at the Harvard College Observatory. These were made by pointing a telescope, provided with an objective prism toward a portion of the sky where lightning was particularly bright. The spectrum is not always the same. Many of the lines appear to be due to hydrogen. The first line is a broad, bright band, extending from wave-length 3,830 to 3,930, and may be identical with the nebular line 3,875. The spectrum of lightning is curiously like that of the new star in Perseus, and other new stars. Now that the method of obtaining such photographs has been shown, it would seem possible to obtain a large number of them, taken under different conditions for a more complete study of the subject.


Of all the products of chemical industry, sulfuric acid has always held the first place, and its importance increases yearly, since there is hardly a branch of manufacture in which it is not largely used. Its manufacture by the lead-chamber process has been universal until within a few years. This requires a large plant and the acid obtained is dilute. For many purposes this must be concentrated at no inconsiderable expense. Vessels of platinum are very generally used and a single still may cost upwards of $10,000. With the development of the coal-tar industry in Germany, and especially in connection with the rapidly increasing manufacture of artificial indigo, has come a demand for the more concentrated acid in large quantities.

That under the catalytic action of finely divided platinum, sulfur dioxid can be burned to sulfur trioxid, which with water gives sulfuric acid, has been known for nearly three quarters of a century, and in 1831 a patent was secured in England for the manufacture of the acid by this process. But in spite of vast amounts of effort devoted to it, and by some of the world's most distinguished chemists, this has never been made a practical success. Under the stimulus of the demand of the color factories of Germany, this problem has been very actively attacked in the past few years by their chemists, and at last the efforts have been crowned with the desired reward.

This work has been chiefly carried on under the auspices of the Badischen Anilin- und Soda Fabrik at Ludwigshafen. Theoretically the process is a model of simplicity. The gases from the pyrites burners, consisting chiefly of sulfur dioxid, oxygen and nitrogen from the air used, are, after purification and cooling, led through cylinders containing plates on which a contact mixture, with platinum as one of its constituents, is placed. The sulfur dioxid burns with the oxygen present in the gas, giving the trioxid, which is absorbed in a dilute acid. The acid obtained may be pure sulfuric acid, or may contain an excess of the trioxid—the fuming or Nordhausen acid. Several years of most patient investigation were, however, required before the conditions were discovered by which the process could be kept in continuous operation, there being a great tendency for the platinum mixture to cease its work after a few days' or even hours' use. This was due to the presence of impurities in the gas from the burners and especially to arsenic. The slightest trace of this element at once inhibits the action of the platinum.

The success of this process has not only introduced a competitor which must eventually very much restrict the use of lead chambers, but one which possesses two important advantages, one in that it is more economical to manufacture a strong acid at once, thus doing away with concentration plants, and the other that it furnishes an acid which is free from arsenic. This may well be considered the greatest triumph of technical chemistry in the last decade.


Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, professor of philosophy and education, and since the resignation of Dr. Seth Low acting-president of Columbia University, was elected president of the University on January 6 by unanimous vote of the trustees. The ceremonies of installation will take place on April 19.

Johns Hopkins University celebrated on February 21 and 22 its twenty-fifth anniversary, when President Remsen was formally installed. Dr. D. C. Oilman, president emeritus, delivered the commemorative address on the afternoon of February 21. President Remsen made his inaugural address on February 22.

'The Races of Europe,' originally published as a series of articles in this magazine, by Professor W. Z. Ripley, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and professor-elect of economics at Harvard University, has been 'crowned' by the award of the prix Bertillon of the Société d' Anthropologie of Paris.—Professor J. W. Gregory has been appointed acting head of the Geological Survey of Victoria, with a view to its reorganization.—Dr. Eugen Warming has been appointed director of the Geological Survey of Denmark.—At the meeting of the Paris Academy of Sciences on January 6, M. Bouquet de la Grye, the engineer, succeeded to the presidency.

Mr. Andrew Carnegie and the descendants of Peter Cooper have respectively given $300,000 to Cooper Union, New York City, doubling the gifts made by them to the Union three years ago.—Mr. and Mrs. Harold S. McCormick, of Chicago, have founded a memorial institute for infectious diseases to commemorate their son who died recently from scarlet fever. The endowment of the institute is said to be $1,000,000. Dr. Frank Billings is president of the board of trustees and Dr. Ludvig Hektoen has been appointed director of the institute.—The Laboratory of Engineering, presented to the Stevens Institute of Technology by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, at a cost of $55,000, was dedicated on February 6.—The British National Physical Laboratory at Bushy House will be officially opened on March 19.

Dr. W. A. Herdman, F.R.S., professor of zoology at University College, Liverpool, sailed for Ceylon on December 26, 1901, to undertake for the government an investigation of the pearl oyster fisheries of the Gulf of Manaar.—Professor Ralph S. Tarr, of Cornell University, is spending the winter in geological study in Italy and will spend the spring and summer in the study of the glacial deposits of Germany and the British Isles.—Professor C. H. Eigenmann has leave of absence during March, and will visit some of the caves of western Cuba to secure a series of the cave fauna.