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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/January 1903/The Progress of Science

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE CONVOCATION OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and in affiliation with it the American Society of Naturalists and more than twenty special scientific societies will meet in Washington at the end of December and beginning of January. This first of the convocation week meetings of scientific societies will probably always be an important date in the history of science in America. It is a truism to say that the progress of science consists in cooperation among men of science. For such cooperation two main agencies exist which are equally essential—the printing press and personal contact. Books and journals bring the whole world together and make science truly international; but the coming together of the men of science of the country is necessary for a national spirit. This spirit has suffered in the past owing to the dispersion of our scientific workers over an immense area with no one center, such as exists in all foreign countries. A year and a half ago the American Association and its affiliated societies met for the first time west of the banks of the Mississippi, and a year ago the American Society of Naturalists and its affiliated societies met for the first time west of the Atlantic seaboard. Now these two associations and the twenty special societies affiliated with them will for the first time meet together, and we are about to have our first national congress of scientific men.

A convocation week in mid-winter for the meetings of societies has been provided by the action of the leading universities and other institutions, which have extended their Christmas holidays or made other provision by which the week in which the first of January falls is left free from academic exercises. Under these circumstances it is a duty as well as a privilege for all to attend the meetings who are able to do so, and there is no doubt but that the number of scientific men at Washington will be the largest that has ever been gathered together in this country. While the special societies are for scientific experts, it should be remembered that the American Association is concerned with the diffusion as well as with the advancement of science. Its membership is divided into fellows and members. The former class consists of those who are engaged in research, while the latter class contains those who are interested in science. Readers of this journal can obtain information in regard to membership from the permanent secretary, Dr. L. O. Howard, Cosmos Club, Washington, D. C. It may be said here that the dues are only $3 a year, and that members receive free of charge the weekly journal, Science. We should be pleased if ten thousand readers of this journal would join the association. They would receive a full return for the small membership fee and would at the same time perform an important service in keeping men of science in contact with the large public from which sympathy, support and recruits must be drawn. Science in the United States has suffered seriously from the fact that there is too great a gulf between the professional man of science and the educated public. In Great Britain there exists a class bridging this gulf, and from it have come men such as Darwin, Rayleigh, Avebury, Huggins and many more. Much would be accomplished for the promotion of such a class here if the ship of the American Association were made twice or ten times what it now is.

Both the scientific man and those only interested in science will be amply repaid by attendance at the Washington meetings. Indeed no scientific man can afford to be absent. Those who wish merely to keep in touch with the forward movement of science will profit much from attendance. They can visit Washington at a favorable time at greatly reduced rates and hotel charges, and there will be much to interest them in the programs. President Roosevelt is honorary president of the local committee and it is expected that he will open the meetings. It would be impossible to quote the titles of the hundreds of papers that will be presented, but their general character is indicated by the names of some of those who will give official addresses: Before the Association President Asaph Hall, and before the sections of the association vice-presidents Hough, Weber, Derby, Culin, Welch, Franklin, Flather, Nutting, Campbell, and Wright; before the Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America, President Simon Newcomb; before the Chemical Society, President Ira Remsen; before the American Society of Naturalists, President J. McKeen Cattell; before the Botanical Society, President J. C. Arthur; before the Geological Society, President N. H. Winchell; before the Psychological Association, President E. C. Sanford, etc. Public lectures will be given before the Association by Professors Russell and Heilprin on the volcanoes of the West Indies, and before the Naturalists by Dr. Merriam on protective and directive coloration. The discussion before the Naturalists is on 'How can endowments be used most effectively for research?', the speakers including Professors Chamberlin, Welch, Boas, Wheeler, Coulter and Münsterberg. These are only a few of the hundreds of scientific men who will be present and present papers or take part in the discussions of the meetings, which promise to be more interesting and important than any ever before held on this continent.

 

THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION.

It might be expected that after the annual meeting of the trustees of the Carnegie Institution on November 25, some statement could be made here in regard to the policy of the institution. Nothing has, however, been made public beyond the news item given to the reporters to the effect that $200,000 had been appropriated for the work to be determined by the executive committee, $40,000 for publication, $50,000 for administration and $100,000 for a reserve fund. The institution will, however, publish a year-book, which will doubtless contain various matters that have hitherto been kept secret, such as the names of members of the advisory committees of scientific men and their reports. Though no official announcement has been made, it appears that certain grants have been approved by the executive committee. Thus the medical papers report that $10,000 a year has been appropriated to revive the 'Index Medicus,' formerly compiled under the direction of Dr. John S. Billings, now vice-president of the institution.

A form of application for grants has been printed and approved by the trustees, to which it seems that men of science are likely to object, if indeed reputable men of science will consent to sign it at all. This form requires scientific men to promise to begin the research 'forthwith and to prosecute it diligently,' not to publish their results elsewhere if the institution wants them and to give all their apparatus, material, collections, etc. to the institution. These and other conditions on the contract seem to be almost an affront to men of science, calculated to profit the Carnegie Institution at the expense of others. It is perhaps premature to criticize the institution when so little is known in regard to its plans. So long, however, as these are not disclosed the institution must be judged by what has been made public. It is known that when the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole asked for the assistance that it so well deserves, the executive committee replied that they would assist the laboratory if it were given to them, and the corporation actually voted to give the laboratory to the institution.

We hope and believe that the appearance of seeking to aggrandize the Carnegie Institution at the cost of other agencies and of men of science, instead of cooperating with them for the advancement of science, is not real, but due only to lack of information in regard to the purposes of the institution. It is, however, but just to men of science that this information be made public at an early day. The lines of Mr. Carnegie's great gift were drawn broadly and generously, and in spite of the apparent mistakes that have been made, there is every reason to believe that the institution will be conducted in the spirit in which it was founded.

 

THE BRITISH EDUCATION BILL.

It is a striking fact that the British parliament and the British people have in recent months been occupied chiefly with the concerns of primary education; and it is at the same time somewhat depressing to consider that almost no attention is paid to the subject here, the daily papers publishing fuller details of the last divorce case connected with the nobility than of the bill now before parliament. The bill which the House of Commons has sent to the House of Lords is really of very great interest. The affairs of primary education in Great Britain and Ireland have been somewhat anomalous. About half the children who receive free education attend the board schools, supported by the state and by local taxation, and corresponding pretty closely to our public schools. The voluntary schools, controlled chiefly by the church of England, provide for the other half of the children. They do not share in the local taxes, but when they remit tuition fees they receive from the general government a per capita grant of $1.25 for each student. The main feature in the bill passed by the House of Commons is the support of the voluntary schools by taxation, local and central, leaving them largely under the control of the church. This is undoubtedly a step in the direction of local and state control, and might be supposed to be acceptable to the liberal and radical parties and distasteful to the conservative and church parties. The exact reverse is the case; the bill has been made the chief measure of the government, and has been bitterly opposed in and out of parliament by liberals and nonconformists. It is claimed that it is a subversion of the principles of free government to tax the community for schools which are conducted by the church and which teach the creed of the church. As a matter of fact the denominational schools are already supported in part by taxation as is also the established church. It, however, appears to be a real hardship that the children of dissenters must be sent to schools where rites are practised that are distasteful to their parents. Our public schools are so completely exempt from denominational control that we can scarcely understand the position of the bishop of London when he says in a public address 'an undenominational education is a rotten system.' The bill will doubtless be passed, and the church will for a while receive from rates what has hitherto been paid by subscription. But it seems almost evident that the voluntary schools will be less subservient to the church than hitherto and that a long step has been taken in the direction of popular control.

 

OGDEN N. ROOD.

In the death of Professor Ogden N. Rood, America has lost one of its few men of genius. He belonged to a type of the scientific man which seems to be disappearing. Scientific work is becoming in its methods somewhat like any other business and the man of science, the man of letters and the

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OGDEN N. ROOD.

artist no longer belong to distinct types. They take their places in an organized army with generals, petty officers and privates; there is no longer place for the adventurer. But Rood was a man of genius, in the sense in which the word is popularly and perhaps properly used. There was something unexpected and unaccountable both in his scientific discoveries and in his personal traits. He was not a mathematician, he was not always familiar with work that had been done in the same direction as his own, he did not have assistants nor use the ordinary machinery of research. But he had ideas, which he worked out with originality and persistence, devising his own methods and making his own instruments.

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Rood was born in Connecticut on February 3, 1831, his father being a clergyman. He was dismissed from Yale College for some student escapade it is said because he stopped chapel by shooting an arrow into the face of the college clock and it was with some satisfaction that he received the doctorate of laws from Yale University on the occasion of its bicentennial.

He graduated at Princeton in 1852, and spent several years in study abroad, a course not common in the fifties. For five years he was professor in a small denominational institution at Troy. Then at the early age of thirty-three he was called to Columbia College and at the same time was made a member of the National Academy of Sciences. For thirty-eight years he held the professorship of physics while Columbia developed from a small college into a great university, his own work adding much to its fame. His researches in experimental physics are too numerous even for naming, extending as they do over a large part of the science. They include work on photography, projectiles, vacuum pumps, electricity and especially physiological optics. Every one of his papers, perhaps seventy-five in number, embodied a new idea, worked out with ingenuity and persistence. He was also an artist, his water-color sketches being highly esteemed, and was perhaps especially interested in those phases of research that required the knowledge of the physicist, the psychologist and the painter.

Rood was one of the marked men of Columbia University and of New York City. Striking in appearance and in manners, possessing and possibly affecting certain peculiarities, working behind locked doors, sometimes living with his family and sometimes not, in part a recluse, though not averse to congenial company or an evening at the Century Club, he possessed altogether a notable personality. He was a good enemy and a good friend; and the present writer regards it as a special privilege that he was counted a friend.

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The Naples Station.

 

THE PROPOSED ENLARGEMENT OF THE NAPLES STATION.

The untiring energy of the founder of the Naples Station, Professor Anton Dohrn, has made it possible, with the help of generous friends, to add a new building to the two already existing ones. When first started, in 1873, the station consisted of a single building the middle one of the three in the accompanying figure. It soon became necessary to add another part, and the building to the left in the figure was tend erected. The station has now outgrown both of these, and another building is about to be added. As shown in the figure the new part will be a duplicate of the oldest building as far as the exterior is concerned. In the interior, however, the arrangement will be entirely different. It is proposed to have a large laboratory on the first floor devoted to physiological research; another on the floor above to physiological chemistry. In addition there will be a large number of private rooms for zoologists and physiologists. A new feature will be rooms in which the water in the aquaria can be kept at any desired temperature throughout the year. This will give an opportunity, not only for keeping alive a number of different kinds of animals that will not live at ordinary temperatures, but will also give to the investigator a chance to carry out important researches on the effect of different temperatures on marine forms.

The addition to the station will double its working capacity, since the new part will be entirely devoted to investigation, while in the two older buildings there are the public aquaria, the collecting department, and the library. Zoology, botany physiology, physiological-chemistry and psychology will benefit the world over by this enlargement of the Naples Station. Professor Dohrn deserves to be heartily congratulated that his labors have been crowned by success. May the time come before long when the station will be made symmetrical by the addition of a fourth building!

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The Proposed Enlargement of the Naples Station.

 

ARE SOLUTIONS MECHANICAL MIXTURES OR NEW SUBSTANCES?

In a recent volume Duhem sketches the development of our ideas in regard to solutions. If we drop a lump of sugar into a glass of water, the sugar disappears and we have in the tumbler a colorless liquid which looks like water, but which has a different taste. We are all agreed as to the fact, but there has always been a difference of opinion as to what became of the sugar. One view is that the sugar and water are still there, but so finely divided that we do not see the sugar. If we grind a little dry sugar together with a good deal of charcoal, we get a black mixture in which the eye does not detect the sugar though the sugar is unqestionably there. Another view is that we have neither water nor sugar in the tumbler, but a new substance having properties differing more or less completely from those of the sugar and water. This is the view that we take in regard to sugar itself when we speak of it as made up of charcoal and water. The first view, of a mechanical mixture, was held by the Greek atomistic philosophers under Epicurus while the second view was defended by Aristotle and the peripatetic philosophers. Through the Middle Ages, the views of Aristotle prevailed; but Bacon and Descartes brought the atomistic view to the front again, while Newton modified the views of Descartes by substituting assumptions in regard to mutual attractions and repulsions for assumptions as to the shape of the atoms. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the application of thermodynamics to chemistry has led to the discovery of new laws, and these discoveries have been made without assuming anything in regard to atoms. The natural tendency is therefore to reject the atomic theory as a superfluous hypothesis. The only distinction that we can draw between chemical compounds, like sugar or salt, and solutions, such as a mixture of sugar and water, is that the composition of the solutions can vary continuously while the composition of the compounds can not. The natural inference is that solutions are to be looked upon as compounds or new substances with varying composition. The scientific world has thus come back to the view of Aristotle. The matter stands now as it stood centuries ago. One school still holds the views of Epicurus, another stands ready to break a cudgel for Aristotle. Even now we do not know what happens when we put sugar in our coffee though we know why we do so—except where it is merely a matter of habit.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We regret to record the death of Professor Henry Mitchell, the eminent engineer, and of Major Walter Reed, well known for his researches on the relation of the mosquito to yellow fever.

Dr. W J McGee, ethnologist in charge, Bureau of American Ethnology, has been appointed to represent the United States on the American International Archeological Commission.—Professor J. Willard Gibbs, of Yale University, has been elected a corresponding member of the Munich Academy of Science.

It is reported that the Nobel prizes for this year will be awarded as follows: In chemistry, to Professor Emil Fischer, of Berlin; in physics, to Professor S. A. Arrhenius, of Stockholm; in medicine, to Professor Niels E. Finsen, of Copenhagen, and to Major Ronald Ross, of Liverpool. The value of these prizes, it will be remembered, is about $40,000 each.