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

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION AND THE MARINE BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY.

The first information made public in regard to the policy of the Carnegie Institution, beyond the original outline presented by Mr. Carnegie in his deed of gift and some very general statements made by President Gilman and other members of the executive committee, is the announcement that the corporation of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole has voted to transfer its buildings and equipment to the trustees of the Carnegie Institution. This gift can not be accepted until the trustees hold their November meeting, but it was stated to the corporation of the laboratory that the executive committee of the Carnegie Institution would recommend that the laboratory be made a branch of the institution and liberally developed, money being appropriated for buildings and $20,000 a year for current expenses. It is rumored further that a geophysical laboratory will be established at Washington and supported on a large scale.

The Carnegie Institution, the Woods Hole Laboratory and science in America are face to face with complicated circumstances, and difficult problems are involved in any solution. The institution can contribute greatly to the development of science either by establishing and conducting several great laboratories or by cooperating with existing agencies. The majority of American men of science prefer the latter course and will regret the apparent decision of the executive committee to recommend the acquisition of a biological laboratory. It may be said that the various scientific and educational institutions throughout the country and their officers are selfish, hoping to share in the distribution of funds or fearing a new rival. It has, however, also been suggested that the officers of the Carnegie Institution may aggrandize the institution rather than contribute in the most effective manner to scientific research. We, however, believe that both the officers of the institution and the scientific men of the country are entirely sincere in their efforts to make the Carnegie Institution the most potent factor possible for the advancement of science. The executive committee of the institution has appointed advisory committees of men of science in different subjects, and these committees are securing evidence and preparing reports. It is perhaps proper that these reports and even the names of the members of the committees should be kept secret until the executive committee has made its report to the trustees. We hope, however, that the trustees will not commit the institution to any irrevocable policy in November, but will make public all the alternative suggestions presented and permit careful consideration and full discussion before final plans are adopted.

Whether or not it is advisable for the Carnegie Institution to conduct a marine biological laboratory rather than cooperate with the Fish Commission and the various existing laboratories may be an open question, but it is undoubtedly true that most of those interested in the Woods Hole laboratory regret that it has been found necessary to turn it over to the Carnegie Institution. The Woods Hole laboratory is the only institution of national importance that has been conducted by scientific men. The present organization of the laboratory is a corporation, composed of those interested in the research work of the laboratory, which elects trustees, chiefly biologists representing different universities. This democratic form of government must surely be the ideal of scientific men. They may endure the usual board of trustees composed of men of affairs who delegate authority to a president; they may even realize the business efficiency of such an organization; but they look forward to the time when they will choose their own leaders and define their own policy. The laboratory at Woods Hole has illustrated both the strength and weakness of a democratic organization. There has been friction in the management, and the finances have never been in a satisfactory condition. On the other hand, there has been enthusiasm, self-sacrifice and a high ideal of research. If the Woods Hole laboratory is directed from Washington it will go forward with the efficiency of the scientific departments of the government, and will be practically one of these, being for all essential purposes coordinate with the Fish Commission or the Geological Survey, but with scarcely one fiftieth of the income. There will not, however, be found a director who will devote himself to the service of the laboratory without dreaming of receiving a dollar's salary, or men of science ready to give freely the time and money of which they have so little to spare. Those connected with the laboratory will no longer seek to give what they can, but rather to get what they can, and the whole spirit of the place will change.

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!

 

SCIENCE IN AMERICAN JOURNALS.

The fact that the Forum and the International Monthly, both of which include science in their scope, have abandoned monthly publication and will hereafter appear but four times a year is somewhat disquieting; it seems to indicate that journals maintaining a high standard are not well supported in this country. We have left only the North American Review and The Popular Science Monthly, in addition to the monthlies that depend chiefly on politics, fiction or literary gossip. The North American Review has at times tended to rely more on the names signed to its articles than on their contents, and must on the whole be regarded as a political rather than as a literary journal. The Popular Science Monthly has a limited and definite field, for which it is urgently needed and in which it is adequately supported; but the larger part of its contents can not be regarded as literature. We keep within the limits of obvious truth in stating that this journal in its special field has set a standard for other nations which they have not yet met. The same is true of our illustrated monthlies which reflect all degrees of taste and refinement. They have carried mechanical illustration and the short story to a singular point of perfection. But it can not be claimed that photo-engraving and the short story are the highest forms of art. The editor of one of our most prosperous monthlies has recently stated that a magazine should never contain any thing that could as well have been published the month before. The requirements of true literature are the reverse; nothing is literature that could not as well be published a year hence. The magazine seems likely to devour its own offspring, for while there come forward many new writers of short stories, but few survive. A month's life does not encourage a writer to do his best work, and we have in fact no short stories such as those of Hawthorne and Poe. Weekly journals of literature have also declined. The Critic could not continue as a weekly and The Nation has become a compilation from the Evening Post.

Corresponding with the wide diffusion of physical comfort in a democracy we have an abundant supply of Sunday newspapers, illustrated magazines and current novels. These are well adapted to the readers for whom they are manufactured and demonstrate a degree and extension of intelligence which is all that could be expected, and is on the whole highly satisfactory. But there appears to be no intellectual development corresponding with the large fortunes accumulated by our captains or knights—as the case may be—of industry. As far as journals and reviews are concerned, we must frankly admit our inferiority to Great Britain and France. This does not, however, mean that we should or shall remain quietly or permanently in this position.

We are here especially concerned with science; but we do not admit that science and literature can be divorced. Science supplies to literature both method and subject matter, whereas clear and correct expression is essential to science. There are a few American men of science who have admirable command of the language they write, but the men with exceptional powers of expression are rarer and the average is lower than in France or in Great Britain. The treatment of science in the newspapers and magazines is also less satisfactory here than abroad. Articles of excellent quality are often published, but fads and charlatanism are exploited with equal apparent authority, and the reader must become entirely bewildered, having no means of discriminating one alleged scientific article from another, and the entire scientific miscellany is given about the same attention and credence as the columns devoted to the gossip from Saratoga. Some newspapers and magazines are better than others, but there appears not to be a single one of them that submits its scientific contributions to an expert. Hence while the literary taste of the community is mediocre, its scientific sense is practically nonexistent.

 

A GRADUATE SCHOOL OF AGRICULTURE.

The Graduate School of Agriculture, which held a four weeks' session during the month of July at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, marks an important step of progress in agricultural science and education in the United States. This school was the outcome of a happy thought which came to Professor Thomas F. Hunt, dean of the College of Agriculture and Domestic Science of the Ohio State University, while he was attending the convention of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations at San Francisco in 1899. Seeing how inadequate were the opportunities at such short conventions for the discussion of anything more than the most general problems of agricultural science and education it occurred to him that it would be a good plan to establish a summer school for advanced students of agriculture at which leading teachers and investigators from the agricultural colleges and experiment stations and the United States Department of Agriculture should present in some regular way summaries of the recent progress of agricultural science, illustrate improved methods of teaching agricultural subjects and afford a somewhat extended opportunity for the discussion of live topics drawn from the rapidly advancing science of agriculture. This idea received the cordial approval of President Thompson of the Ohio State University, and on the recommendation of these two men the board of trustees of the university voted to establish such a school and generously made provision for the financial support of its first session.

The Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations at its convention in 1901 favored the plan for the school and voted that, if the success of the first session seemed to justify its continuance, it be made a cooperative enterprise under the control of the association. Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture, also expressed his cordial approval of this movement, and, on his advice, Dr. A. C. True, director of the Office of Experiment Stations, consented to act as dean and other officers of the Department of Agriculture to be members of its faculty. Under these favorable auspices there was a little difficulty in securing a strong faculty. As actually organized this included 35 men, of whom 26 are professors in agricultural colleges, 7 are leading officers of the Department of Agriculture, and 2 are officers of the New York State Experiment Stations. Courses were offered in agronomy, zootechny, dairying, and breeding of plants and animals. The school was housed in the substantial and well-equipped agricultural building of the university, where were illustrated the most approved apparatus of instruction in soil physics, dairying and other agricultural subjects. Besides the livestock of the university farm, leading breeders of Ohio furnished choice animals for the stock-judging exercises.

General problems of agricultural science and pedagogy were discussed at the inaugural exercises and at Saturday morning conferences. Among the topics thus treated were the history of agricultural education and research in the United States; the organization of agricultural education in colleges, secondary schools, nature study courses, correspondence courses, farmers' institutes and various forms of unversity extension; what constitutes a science of agriculture; educational values of courses in agriculture; methods and values of cooperative experiments. Through social assemblies, visits to typical Ohio farms, and much informal discussion wherever the students met each other, the educational influences of the school were greatly extended. Seventy-five students were in attendance. These were drawn from 28 states and territories, including such widely separated regions as Maine, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Alabama. There was one student from Canada and one from the Argentine Republic. There was also one woman, and the colored race was represented by teachers from the Tuskegee Institute and the North Carolina Agricultural College. Twenty-seven of the students are professors or assistant professors in agricultural colleges, thirty-one are assistants in the agricultural colleges and experiment stations, nine are recent college graduates, and eight are engaged in farming.

Considering the character of the faculty and students, it goes without saying that the whole period of the session was occupied with the most earnest and profitable work. Without doubt the influence of this school will be felt throughout the country in the improvement of courses of instruction in agriculture and the strengthening of the lines and methods of investigation of agricultural subjects. In other ways the school will exert a beneficial influence. So rapid has been the accumulation of materials for a real science of agriculture during the past few years that even professional students of agriculture have not realized how large a mass of knowledge is already available for molding into a systematic body of truth which may be utilized for pedagogic purposes, as well as for inductions of scientific and practical value. The summaries given by the experts gathered at this graduate school have emphasized this fact and shown in a striking manner that agricultural education and research may now be properly and efficiently organized with reference to the science of agriculture itself, rather than be, as heretofore, very largely a matter of the sciences related to agriculture. This will serve to stimulate greatly the movement already begun for the reduction of the materials of agricultural science to 'pedagogic form' for use in colleges and secondary schools, and for the reorganization of agricultural institutions of research on the basis of the divisions and subdivisions of agriculture, instead of physics, chemistry, botany and other primary and secondary sciences. The day will thus be hastened when the science of agriculture will rank with such tertiary sciences as geology, geography and medicine as one of the great systems of knowledge of direct benefit to mankind.

We are without doubt in this country just on the edge of a great popular movement for the improvement of the conditions of rural life through the improvement of the rural schools. As one phase of this movement there will come the broadening of the instruction in the principles of agriculture so that in addition to college courses we shall have secondary courses in ordinary and special high schools and even some elementary instruction in the common schools. In establishing the lines and methods of secondary and elementary instruction in agriculture so that it may be useful and attractive to the masses of our rural youth, the leaders in agricultural science gathered in the Graduate School of Agriculture this summer will play an important part, and it is believed that they have gone out from this school with much inspiration to renewed efforts in this direction. For both the thorough establishment of the science of agriculture and the wide popularization of this science the new school will, it is believed, be an efficient agency.

It is to be hoped therefore either that some other university will open its doors for a second session of the school another year, or that the Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations will assume this burden, or that through the cooperation of the association with universities and the Department of Agriculture the Graduate School of Agriculture may become a permanent institution.

 

BIOGRAPHIES OF EMINENT CHEMISTS.

August Wilhelm von Hofmann is the subject of a biography published on the 8th of April, 1902, as an extra number of the Reports of the German Chemical Society, that date being the 84th anniversary of the birth of the distinguished chemist. It was begun by Dr. Tiemann, for many years Hofmann's assistant, but after his untimely death it was completed by Emil Fischer and Jacob Volhard, assisted by others, all of whom had been pupils of the energetic master. Of Hofmann's career several sketches have already been published, as 'Memorial Lectures of the Chemical Society [of London],' read May 5, 1893, the first anniversary of his death; these were 'Personal Reminiscences' by Lord Playfair, as well as by Sir Frederick Abel, and the 'Origin of the Coal-Tar Industry,' by Dr. Perkin, and 'The Scientific Work of Hofmann' by Professor Armstrong. Notwithstanding these valuable contributions to the subject by English contemporaries and fellow-workers, the biography issued by the German Chemical Society will long be the standard. It portrays more in detail Hofmann's strong personality, his relations to society especially during his long residence in London, his pleasure travel with agreeable souvenirs of the visit to the United States in 1883, and narrates anecdotes illustrating his genial disposition and humor; at the same time the volume does not neglect summarizing his fruitful chemical researches carried on through a period of more than fifty years with never-dying industry and enthusiasm. The number and variety of the discoveries made in the laboratory by Hofmann but faintly reflect his truly extraordinary capacity for hard work; even after passing his seventieth birthday he occasionally worked in the laboratory until two or three o'clock in the morning.

One of Hofmann's most valuable series of investigations was his study of coal-tar derivatives; begun in 1845 it reached a lofty point in 1858 and culminated in the discovery of a long line of magnificent dyes whose hues and names have become household words; it is true that all aniline colors are not Hofmann's own, but he worked out the fundamental principles governing their existence, and pointed out the way for their creation by the labors of his pupils and others. Hofmann was an energetic and agreeable lecturer to classes in the university and he excelled in devising original and brilliant experiments for illustrating these lectures; some of these he made known through his 'Introduction to Modern Chemistry,' published in 1865, and in articles contributed to the Berichte in succeeding years (1871-1882). Hofmann was married four times and had eleven children born to him, eight of whom survive him. The biography is illustrated by two portraits of the eminent chemist, one representing him in the twenty-eighth year, and the other in the seventy-third year of age.

It is rather singular and hardly creditable to French authors that no adequate biography of the centenarian chemist, Michel Eugène Chevreul, has as yet appeared. Chevreul was born August 31, 1786, and on the occasion of his hundredth birthday he was presented with a gold medal, with ceremonies that included addresses from men of distinction. An account of this function was published at Rouen, in 1886, illustrated by an engraved portrait of the veteran chemist and with a facsimile of the medal. In the same year there appeared at Paris a full catalogue of Chevreul's contributions to science, numbering 547 different articles and extending from 1806 to 1886. This is, however, incomplete, for Chevreul did not die until April 9, 1889, and his literary activity continued to the end. Chevreul's 'Researches on Fats' (1823) forms the starting point of one of our great industries and his essay on 'Colors—their Application to Industrial Arts,' has borne valuable fruit. An obituary of Chevreul by A. W. von Hofmann appeared in the Reports of the German Chemical Society in 1889.

One of the greatest benefactions conferred on mankind by modern science was the method of manufacturing common soda invented by Nicolas Leblanc. The biography of this little appreciated and poorly rewarded chemist was published in 1884 by his grandson, Auguste Anastass.

After the outbreak of the Revolution in France the industrial needs of the country became more and more pressing, the Academy of Sciences offered a prize of 12,000 livres for a practical method of manufacturing carbonate of soda from common salt; this problem attracted the attention of a modest physician devoted to chemical studies, Nicolas Leblanc. The history of his chemical success, and his practical misfortunes, his financial distress, and his shocking death by his own hand make very sad reading; this tragic event occurred in 1806.

An appendix to this biography has also a sad interest; it is an inventory of the apparatus and chemicals contained in the laboratory of Lavoisier, made five months after his execution, and signed by Nicolas Leblanc.

Henry Morton, who died May 9, 1902, will be best remembered as a physicist, but he began his scientific career as a professor of chemistry. An artistic and beautifully illustrated 'Biographical Notice of Dr. Morton' forms a volume prepared by his friends, Coleman Sellers and Albert R. Leeds, and printed for private circulation in 1892; this portrays his career as an exceedingly versatile man endowed by nature with the gifts of artist, poet, linguist and inventive ability, as well as those attributes which caused him to become widely known as a successful scientist. One of Dr. Morton's intellectual feats deserves recording; while still a college undergraduate he translated and designed an artistic monograph on the Rosetta Stone, which was afterwards reproduced by lithography in all its gay colors. His contributions to science are briefly narrated; his success in filling the responsible position of president of the Stevens Institute of Technology for many years, and his great generosity to the same, will require another volume yet to be written.

 

THE COMPARATIVE GROWTH OF BACTERIA IN MILK.

At the last meeting of the American Society of Bacteriologists Professor H. W. Conn described a series of experiments, the design of which was to determine what species of bacteria develop in milk during the first twenty-four hours and what species disappear. The general purpose of the experiments was to determine as far as possible the relation of milk bacteria to the healthfulness of milk. The conclusions presented by the paper were as follows: (1) Milk freshly drawn from the cow contains a large variety of bacteria. (2) For the first six hours and sometimes more, there is no increase in the number of bacteria, even when the milk is kept at 70°. On the contrary, there is commonly a decrease due to what has been called the 'germicide power' of milk. (3) In the fresh milk the largest number of bacteria are streptococci, which come, in most cases, directly from the udder of the cow. (4) During the first forty-eight hours there is a very great increase in the number of bacteria, but the number present after one or two days' growth is quite independent of the number present at the start. In many cases milk, which when fresh contained a small number of bacteria, at the end of forty-eight hours contained a number far greater than other samples of milk which at the outset had a larger number of bacteria present. (5) During the first forty-eight hours there is a considerable increase in the number of streptococci, followed by their decrease and final disappearance. (6) At the outset the number of lactic bacteria is extremely small, so small as, at times, quite to escape observation. (7) These lactic bacteria are, at least in the series of experiments described, derived from sources external to the cow and never, or rarely, from the milk ducts. (8) The lactic bacteria, though very few in number at the outset, increase far more rapidly than any other types, so that within twenty-four hours they are commonly in the majority, and by the end of forty-eight hours they commonly comprise considerably over ninety per cent, of all the bacteria present.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

Dr. Charles Kendall Adams died at Redlands, Cal., on July 27. He was president of Cornell University from 1885 to 1892, when he resigned and became president of the University of Wisconsin. This post he held actively until 1901, when he retired on account of ill health.

President David Starr Jordan has been successful in securing a valuable collection of fishes in the Bay of Apia, Samoa, some four hundred and fifty species, many of them new, having been collected.—Gen. A. W. Greely, chief of the U. S. Signal Service, has returned from Alaska, where he had been inspecting the work on the Government telegraph line from Valdez to Eagle City.—Mr. F. H. Newell, chief hydrographer of the U. S. Geological Survey, has gone to the West to supervise in connection with the work in irrigation authorized by Congress. Surveying parties are in the field in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado.

A statue of Pasteur was unveiled at his birthplace, Dole, Jura, on August 3.—The centenary of the death of Bichat, the celebrated anatomist and physiologist, was commemorated on July 22, under the auspices of the French Society of the History of Medicine.—The centenary of the birth of the Norwegian mathematician, Niels Henrik Abel, will be celebrated at Christiania in September. Abel was born in 1802 and died at the early age of twenty-seven years, but in this short period attained rank among the foremost mathematicians of the century.—A memorial to John Fitch, who is said to have been the first to apply steam to the running of a boat, has been erected in Warminster, Pa. It bears the inscription: "John Fitch here conceived the idea of the first steamboat. He ran a boat with side-wheels by steam on a pond below Davisville in 1785. Bucks County Historical Society."—A bronze tablet has been unveiled at Lafayette College in memory of the late James H. Coffin. The inscription reads as follows: "In memory of James Henry Coffin, LL.D. Long a main-stay of Lafayette College, professor of mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy, 1846-1873; vice-president and college treasurer, 1863-1873. A tireless teacher and administrator, an officer of the church, a friend of the slave. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, author of 'Winds of the Globe.' He annexed the atmosphere to the realm of science, and searched the highways of the winds and the paths of vagrant storms. Born in Williamsburg, Mass., September 6, 1806; died in Easton, February 6, 1873. The class of 1866 has erected this tablet."

Professor W. E. Ritter, of the University of California, has secured funds for the erection of a marine laboratory at San Pedro, which will be used as a center for the biological study of the Pacific coast.—Mr. W. H. Evans, of the office of Experiment Stations, U. S. Department of Agriculture, has returned from Porto Rico, where he was in conference with Mr. F. D. Gardner, in charge of the Porto Rico Station, with reference to the selection of a permanent site and the development of the station there.—The French Minister of Agriculture has established an office for agricultural information, the object of which is to act as a bureau of correspondence and a means of popularizing scientific agriculture.—Queensland has given up its weather bureau, and the services of Mr. C. L. Wragge and others have been dispensed with. It is hoped that an arrangement may be made by which the service will be continued by the federal government.—Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan has presented to the Museum of the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, the collection of precious stones formed by Mr. George F. Kunz for the Buffalo Exhibition.

The Berlin Academy of Sciences has announced that its academic prize of 5,000 Marks, will be awarded in 1904 for an investigation of the kathode rays and in 1905 for an investigation of the theory of functions of several variables which admit of linear substitution. The income of the Cothenius legacy—$2,000—for 1904 will be awarded for investigations of new varieties of grain. The papers may be written in English and must be presented without the name of the author to the Bureau of the Academy, Universtät Strasse, 8, Berlin.

 
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Rudolf Virchow