Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 61/July 1902/The Progress of Science

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science will hold its fifty-first annual meeting at Pittsburgh, beginning with a session of the council on June 28 and with the first regular session of the Association on June 30. The time and place of meeting seem to be favorable to a large attendance and a good program. There is reason to suppose that the first of July is more satisfactory than the usual date, the middle of August, as men of science are then so widely scattered that it is difficult for them to come together. Pittsburgh is certainly a central point, as easily reached by railways from all parts of the country as any in America. An unusual concession has been made by some of the railways in extending the return limit of tickets until the end of August, thus accommodating those who wish to make the meeting at Pittsburgh the opening of their summer holidays. Under the direction of the chairman of the local committee, Dr. W. J. Holland, and the local secretary, Mr. George

A. Wardlaw, an elaborate announcement has been published; and it appears that excellent arrangements have been made for the success of the meeting.

The address of the retiring president, Professor C. S. Minot, of the Harvard Medical School, which we hope to have the privilege of publishing in this journal, will set a high standard for the addresses of the vice presidents which they will undoubtedly meet, for they are among our leading men of science—Professor James MacMahon in mathematics; Professor D.

B. Brace in physics; Professor H. S. Jacoby in engineering; Professor C. R. Van Hise in geology; President David Starr Jordan in zoology; Mr. B. T. Galloway in botany; Dr. J. Walter Fewkes in anthropology, and Mr. John Hyde in social science.

The American Association has become a center of affiliation for a large number of special scientific societies. Thus it is expected that there will meet at Pittsburgh, either at the same time as the association, or just before or after, the national societies devoted to chemistry, geology, botany, agricultural science, microscopy, entomology, folk-lore, engineering education and physics. These and other societies that will join with the association at its next meeting are represented on its council, which thus becomes a representative body competent to legislate on behalf of the interests of science and scientific men. The special papers tend increasingly to be presented before the societies affiliated with the association, while the association itself retains the function of representing science before the general public. Only men of science belong to the special societies, but all those interested in science are eligible for membership in the association. As a matter of fact, its three thousand members are nearly equally divided between those who are professionally engaged in scientific work and those who take an interest in and wish to assist in such work. Members have the privilege of attending the meetings of the association and of its affiliated societies, enjoying the reduced fares on the railways and the arrangements for entertainment, this being much more than a return for the small annual membership fee ($3). Even those unable to attend the meetings have now a full return, as they not only receive the volume of the proceedings, but also the weekly journal Science. But even apart from these practical advantages, it is desirable that all those who wish to further the advancement of science in America should ally themselves with the association. Information in regard to the conditions of membership may be obtained from the permanent secretary, Dr. L. O. Howard, Cosmos Club, Washington, D. C.

 

PRESIDENT ASAPH HALL.

One of the greatest of the world's astronomers will preside over the Pittsburgh meeting of the American Association. Dr. Hall has obtained a wide reputation by the discovery of the satellites of Mars, and among astronomers his continuous observations at the Naval Observatory from 1863 onward are recognized as of the highest value. He has also taken part in a number of important government expeditions, including one to Bering Straits in 1869 to observe the eclipse of the sun—to Sicily in 1870, and to Colorado in 1878 for the same purpose; and to observe the transit of Venus in Siberia in 1874 and in Texas in 1882. While the life of a man of science is usually uneventful, Dr. Hall's early career is full of interest. His father died when he was thirteen years old, and he took charge of the farm. He then became a carpenter; and, having saved a little money, at the age of twenty-five years went to a small college in New York State. There he married one of his fellow students. He taught school and studied at the University of Michigan, where he became interested in astronomy under Professor Brünnow. In 1857, when he was twenty-eight years old, he obtained a position in Harvard College Observatory under Professor Bond, with a salary of $3 a week. Appointed professor of mathematics in the U. S. Navy at the beginning of the year 1863, he worked first with the 912-inch equatorial; from 1868 to 1875 he was in charge of the small equatorial, and from 1875 until his retirement in 1891 he was in charge of the 26-inch equatorial. Dr. Hall was professor of astronomy at Harvard University from 1895 until last year. He is vice-president of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of many foreign scientific academies. He has received the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Lalande prize and the Arago medal of the Paris Academy of Sciences; he has received the degree of LL.D. from Yale and Harvard Universities and many other honors. A recent portrait of Dr. Hall is given as a frontispiece; an earlier portrait and an extended biographical sketch will be found in the issue of The Popular Science Monthly for October, 1894.

 

AN AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY.

While we have in this country societies for nearly all the sciences, a society for anthropology has not hitherto been established. The section of the American Association representing anthropology has to a certain extent filled the function of a special society, having in recent years held a separate meeting in mid-winter. The time, however, appears to have come when a national anthropological society can be established to advantage, and the formation of such a society is now under discussion. Professor Franz Boas, in a paper read before the Anthropological Society of Washington, presented very clearly the need of such a society and the precautions that should be taken in its establishment. He points out that anthropology is one of the subjects in which there is a considerable popular interest, without a very large body of well-trained specialists, and that there would be some danger in establishing a society to which every one would be admitted. Not only might the meetings of such a society assume the character of popular lectures, but it might interfere with the proper work of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professor Boas proposes that a national society be established in cooperation with the American Association, and the council of the association has appointed a committee to consider the plan. It contemplates all members of the Anthropological Society being members of the American Association, assuming for the special society the conduct of the special papers and discussions, and leaving to the general association such steps as may be desirable for the popularization of the science. This plan appears to be in the line of development. We need in each center societies composed of specialists in a given department. These societies should unite, on the one hand, to form a local academy and on the other to form a national scientific society. Then, in addition to these special students, it is important that all those who wish to ally themselves with science and to assist in its development should be permitted to become members both of the local academy and of the national association.

 

THE ROYAL SOCIETY'S CONVERSAZIONE.

It is an open question whether it is for the interests of science that there should be in a country a number of small centers or one chief capital where its intellectual life is gathered. The civilizations of Greece, Italy and Germany seem to have been advanced by their competing cities and principalities, whereas France and England seem to have profited by the great concentration in Paris and in London. The Paris Academy of Sciences and the London Royal Society occupy positions unrivaled by the societies of other countries; and there are certainly very great advantages in the intimate union of all the men of science of a country in a single society. These advantages are illustrated by the conversaziones annually held by the Royal Society at which are exhibited the scientific advances of the year. A similar exhibition and reception was for several years held by the New York Academy of Sciences, and it is to be hoped that this may be resumed. It can not be expected, however, that the scientific advances made in a single city of the United States will compare with those of London which represent in large measure those of the whole kingdom.

It appears from the descriptive catalogue that there were fifty-six exhibits at the conversazione of the Royal Society held on May 14. They all represent valuable scientific advances, but without any really noteworthy discovery, so that it is somewhat difficult to select any of the exhibits for special mention. The new fields opened up by the discoveries of the X-rays and of the inert gases of the atmosphere, have ever since furnished material for the exhibits. This year, for example, Mr. Davidson showed an X-ray stereoscope, Mr. Cossor a new tube and Mr. Pidgeon a new electrical influence machine for X-ray work, while Professor Ramsay exhibited a vacuum tube containing crypton, the color of which appears to some observers to be lilac and to others green. Other physical exhibits were a kymograph in which the writing pen is moved instead of the drum, an improved coal calorimeter and an electricity meter. Color photography was well represented, apparatus being shown and exhibits made, those of special interest being in photomicrography. The methods of manufacture of synthetic indigo, now threatening to supersede the use of the indigo plant, were exhibited. The Marine Biological Association presented an exhibit showing how the age of fishes is indicated by the growth of layers of scales somewhat similar to the eccentric lines on the section of the trunk of a tree. The School of Tropical Medicine exhibited a parasite from human blood resembling that found in animals suffering from the tsetse fly disease. Several of the exhibits were more or less connected with America. Thus Dr. Roberts showed lantern slides in natural colors of the Canyon of the Colorado and the Yellowstone Park, and similar American scenes painted by Miss Breton were exhibited. Professor Schuster exhibited a Rowland grating of one meter focus arranged to show the lines of iron in the flame of a Bunsen burner. Professor Lankester exhibited models of deep-sea fishes, based in part on the figures and text of Goode and Bean's 'Oceanic Ichthyology,' while the Royal Astronomical Society exhibited photographs of the nebula surrounding Nova Persei taken at the Yerkes Observatory.

 

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY.

The Rev. Dr. Francis L. Patton, who succeeded the Rev. Dr. James McCosh as president of the College of New Jersey in 1888, resigned the presidency of Princeton University on June 9, and the trustees immediately elected as his successor Dr. Woodrow Wilson, McCormick professor of jurisprudence and politics. It would be pleasant to join in the general expression of surprise at President Patton's resignation, of admiration for his administration and of eulogy of his successor. But principles are more important than men; and this journal represents certain principles at variance with the policy of the authorities of Princeton University. President Patton's resignation was not a surprise to those familiar with the inside history of the university, nor do they regard the material growth of Princeton in money and men during the past fourteen years as due to him. Dr. McCosh was in advance of his church and his college; he did much to forward the teaching of organic evolution and of psychology as a science. Dr. Patton was once a hunter down of heretics in his church; the ethics that he teaches are but little concerned with the principles of evolution or of psychology. He has an acute mind of a scholastic turn and an attractive individuality; but his influence at Princeton has not been great.

Through the loyalty of its alumni, Princeton has increased in wealth and in numbers under President Patton's administration; but nothing has been done to justify the change of name from college to university. Fourteen years ago Harvard, Yale and Princeton might with some reason have been mentioned as our leading institutions of learning; now Princeton can be ranked with Harvard, Columbia and Chicago only by those who gain their information from the pages of the daily press devoted to athletic sports. Princeton has no school of law or of medicine. The theological seminary in the village represents the least progressive elements in the Presbyterian church. The last catalogue of Princeton University contains the names of 117 graduate students, but sixty-eight of them live in the halls of the theological seminary. Princeton has a school of science; but its students must take thirteen and a half hours in language (including Latin) as compared with eight hours in science; they are not permitted to begin the study of physics until the junior year.

There is reason to doubt whether President Wilson will accomplish at Princeton what President Hadley may be expected to accomplish at Yale. Dr. Wilson is a brilliant essayist; like his predecessor, he is one of the few college presidents who can speak with credit on the same platform as President Eliot. But from the scientific point of view, there is not a great difference between the literary-theological and the literary-legal mind. When Dr. Eliot in 1869 resigned the professorship of chemistry in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was installed as president of Harvard University, he laid down a program of progress to which his administration has been devoted. The recently installed presidents of Yale, Johns Hopkins and Columbia have thought it wiser to confine their inaugural addresses to generalities, and there is reason to suppose that the president of Princeton will follow their example. We therefore reprint above the concluding part of the official oration given by him on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Princeton University. President Wilson's attitude toward science might be misstated; it is better to let him speak for himself.

 

THE ABUSE OF ALCOHOLIC TEACHING.

The success of certain well-meaning but intemperate women in securing the enactment of laws requiring the teaching in the public schools of the injurious effects of alcoholic beverages, etc., is now receiving serious attention. Professor W. T. Sedgwick, in his presidential address before the Chicago meeting of the American Society of Naturalists, and the New York State Science Teachers Association, through the report of its committee, give the subject the attention it deserves. The question is certainly complicated, opening up many problems in sociology, education, psychology and morals which can not be settled off-hand. Whether the moderate use of alcohol is injurious, whether the attempt should be made to prevent its excessive use by law, whether its dangers should be taught to children, are questions to which science can not give a definite answer. On the other hand, there is substantial agreement on the part of educators and scientific men that the existing laws prescribing the constant teaching of the dangers of alcohol as part of the science of physiology are undesirable. In the state of New York, for example, all children below the second year of the high school and above the third year of school work—say from the ages of nine or ten to fifteen or sixteen years—must have thirty lessons a year on the effects of alcohol, etc. The lessons must be one fifth of the work in physiology and hygiene and the subject must be treated in connection with the various chapters, further the text-books in physiology are practically supervised by Mrs. Mary H. Hunt, who calls herself 'World and National Superintendent of the Department of Scientific Temperance of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.' Now it is evident that all that is known in regard to the effects of alcohol on the tissues can be told in an hour or two; the arguments against its use are economic and moral. If morals are to be taught in the public schools, as is the case in France, the issue should be fairly met. If temperance is a proper subject for instruction, it is reasonable to assume that the abuse of alcohol should not receive more attention than the abuse of legislation and physiology, as exemplified by what Mrs. Hunt calls 'organized motherhood.'

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We note with regret the death of Professor Adolf Kussmaul, of Heidelberg, eminent for his work on aphasia and other forms of nervous disease; of Mr. George Griffith, assistant general secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and of Professor Emmett S. Goff, who held the chair of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin.

The Geological Society of London has elected as foreign correspondents Professor T. C. Chamberlin, of the University of Chicago; Professor S. W. Williston, just called to the University of Chicago, and Dr. T. Thoroddsen, of Iceland.—The Linnean Society of London has elected among four foreign members Professor C. S. Sargent, of Harvard University.—Dublin University will confer the degree of Doctor of Science on Professor J. Willard Gibbs, of Yale University.—The Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture, and Dr. B. F. Galloway, chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, have received the degree of LL.D. from the Missouri State University.—Dr. Carlos Finlay, of Havana, eminent for his work on yellow fever, has been given the degree of Doctor of Science by Jefferson Medical College, from which he graduated in 1855.

The Senate has passed a bill authorizing the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries to establish a biological station on the Great Lakes.—Plans have been prepared for the erection of a bacteriological laboratory in Washington, under the control of the Marine Hospital service.—Yale University has received for the Sheffield Scientific School a new building for mineralogy, geology and physiography.—A new building, chiefly for surgery, is to be erected for the Johns Hopkins Medical School at a cost of $100,000.—Friends of Columbia University have purchased from the New York Hospital for $1,900,000 the two blocks of land facing the University. It is hoped that this land may be ultimately acquired for the use of the University.—The final appraisement of the estate of the late Jacob S. Rogers shows a value of $6,063,173. After deducting the costs of administration and the legacies it is estimated that the residuary estate which will go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art under the will is $5,547,922.60.—According to an official statement recently issued the endowment of the Nobel Foundation is about $7,500,000, and the value of each of the five prizes to be awarded at the close of the present year will be nearly $40,000.

At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, held on May 14, it was voted to award the 'Rumford Premium' to Professor George Ellery Hale, of the Yerkes Observatory, 'for his investigations in solar and stellar physics, and in particular for the invention and perfection of the spectro-heliograph.' It was also voted to appropriate the sum of $750 from the income of the Rumford Fund to be expended for the construction of a mercurial compression pump designed by Professor Theodore W. Richards and to be used in his research on the Thomson-Joule effect. An appropriation from the Rumford Fund was also made to Professor Arthur A. Noyes in aid of his research upon the effect of high temperatures upon the electrical conductivity of aqueous solutions.

In connection with the proposal to enlarge the Royal Society so as to include representatives of the historical, philological and moral sciences, or to establish a new academy for these sciences, Mr. Charles Waldstein, of King's College, Cambridge, has proposed the establishment of an Imperial British Academy of Arts and Sciences, which would include four sections as follows: The Royal Society for the natural and mathematical sciences, a new Royal Society of Humanites for the historical, philological and moral sciences, the present Royal Academy for painting, sculpture, architecture and the decorative arts, and a new Royal Academy of literature and music.