Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/March 1903/The Progress of Science
THE SMITHSONIAN AND CARNEGIE INSTITUTIONS.
The regents of the Smithsonian Institution held their annual meeting on January 28, and the report of the secretary for the year ending June 30, 1902, has been made public. The first year-book of the Carnegie Institution is nearly ready, and will probably be distributed at about the same time as the present number of the Monthly. Those who are interested in science have, therefore, an opportunity to judge the work of these institutions, so unique in their objects and so great in their possibilities. The two institutions have many points of similarity in their organization and aims. The original bequest of Smithson, approximately $500,000, was about the same as the average endowment of the leading colleges at the time, and the $10,000,000 given by Mr. Carnegie is now about equal to the average endowment of our great universities. Each institution is managed by a board, which meets once a year at Washington and is composed of eminent citizens of the country. Each institution has an executive head, but lacks any body corresponding to the faculty of a university. There are, however, several points of difference. The Smithsonian Institution is concerned with the diffusion as well as with the increase of knowledge, and its activities are supposed to extend 'per orbem.' The Carnegie Institution is confined to the advancement of knowledge by research, and the founder has stated: 'That his chief purpose is to secure, if possible, for the United States of America leadership in the domain of discovery.'
The Smithsonian Institution has performed a service of immense importance, though probably not on the lines expected by the founder. What should be done with Smithson's bequest was for years a matter of debate in congress and elsewhere. When the institution was finally organized in 1846, it was the main center of scientific work in the country. Its 'establishment' was the president of the United States with his cabinet, the vice-president and the chief justice. The regents represented the executive, the supreme court, the senate, the house, the District of Columbia and different states. The secretary was keeper of the museum, librarian and practically the head of all the scientific work done at Washington. But in fifty years the scientific activity of the country has developed in a way that is without precedent. The incomes of our leading universities are twice the original endowment of the Smithsonian, and the national government spends annually on the geological survey or the weather bureau twice this endowment.
The Smithsonian Institution might conceivably have become a branch of the government coordinate with the executive, legislative and judicial branches, but the reverse of this has happened; its functions have become increasingly unimportant, and it probably now is a drag on the government agencies that it still administers. The establishment is a mere name; the regents meet annually for an hour or two to listen to the report of the secretary; there is no more reason why the secretary should continue as keeper of the national museum than as librarian of the national library. The last report of the secretary is certainly appointing. So far from recommending that the National Museum and the Bureau of Ethnology should be given greater autonomy, he proposes to administer at the expense of the government a national gallery of art and has abolished the office of director of the Bureau of Ethnology. The researches done by the institution proper are described in four lines. One memoir of an outsider and three compilations have been published. The only attempt to do anything for the diffusion of science is the reprinting (at the cost of the government) in the annual report of scientific articles from this and other journals, the sales of which in the preceding year amounted to $16.41. The international exchanges are supported by the government to the profit of the institution and, so far as they concern science at all, belong to the age of barter. It is of course easier to criticize than to outline a constructive policy. The regents will hold an adjourned meeting on March 11, when there will be opportunity for discussion of the administration of the institution. Most men of science would agree, if invited to give their opinion, that the National Museum and the Bureau of Ethnology should be given greater autonomy and that the Smithsonian Institution should be brought into closer touch with the scientific interests of the country.
Appreciation is far pleasanter than criticism, but we can not express unqualified admiration for the work of the Carnegie Institution as related in its first year-book. The trustees passed a resolution requesting the executive committee to prepare a report on the work that should be undertaken by the institution, but apparently no definite policy has been adopted. Advisory committees of scientific men were appointed, and their reports, as published in the year-book, give interesting suggestions as to the needs of science.
The members of these committees were, we understand, paid from $100 to $200 and then discharged. Were eminent lawyers, engineers or physicians retained for services so important, their fees would be from $1,000 to $10,000. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the reports are somewhat unequal, and no attempt seems to have been made to coordinate them. There were no general meetings to consider the policy of the institution. Thus the committees on physics and on geophysics recommended an annual expenditure of $400,000, apart from buildings, publications, etc.; yet they probably do not expect the entire income of the institution to be spent as they recommend. If there is any one point on which the various committees tend to agree it is that the scientific work and policy of the institution should be directed by experts, but no provision has been made for such direction. In place of any large plans for the advancement of science, the trustees have appropriated $200,000 for subsidies which have been allotted by the executive committee. The details of these subsidies have not been published, but, in so far as they have become known, they appear to be rather obvious. Grants for the Harvard, Lick and Yerkes Observatories are safe investments, but do not appeal to the imagination. The revival of the Index Medicus is a worthy undertaking, but such a drag-net of medical literature should be supported by the physicians whose cases it further advertises. Fortunately the institution has avoided any serious errors such as the assumption of ownership of the Marine Biological Laboratory on which an option was purchased by the executive committee. The well-meaning but rather colorless policy of the institution is adequately shown by the report of the president which we reproduce.
PRESIDENT GILMAN'S SUMMARY OF THE PLANS AND METHODS OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION.
As a convenient summary of the plans and methods thus far agreed upon the following minute is approved:
The methods of administration of the Carnegie Institution thus far developed are general rather than specific.
The encouragement of any branch of science comes within the possible scope of this foundation, but as the fund, munificient as it is, is inadequate to meet the requests for aid already presented, not to mention others which are foreseen though not yet formulated, attention has been concentrated upon a selection of those objects which, at this time and in our country, seem to require immediate assistance.
Efforts have been and will be made to secure cooperation with other agencies established for the advancement of knowledge, while care will be exercised to refrain from interference or rivalry with them. Accordingly, ground already occupied will be avoided. For example, if medical research is provided for by other agencies, as it appears to be, the Carnegie Institution will not enter that i field. Systematic education, abundantly provided for in this country by universities, colleges, professional schools, and schools of technology, will not be undertaken. Nor will the assistance of meritorious students in the early stages of their studies come within the scope of this foundation. Sites or buildings for other institutions will not be provided.
Specific grants have been and will be made, for definite purposes, to individual investigators, young or old, of marked ability, and for assistance, books, instruments, apparatus and materials. It is understood that such purchases are the property of the Carnegie Institution and subject to its
control. The persons thus aided will be expected to report upon the methods followed and the results obtained. In the publication of results it is expected that the writer will say that he was aided by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, unless it be requested that this fact be not made known.
In order to carry out the founder's instructions in respect to bringing to Washington highly qualified persons who wish to profit by the opportunities for observation and research afforded by the various scientific bureaus of the United States Government, a certain sum is set apart for this purpose.
In addition, the Carnegie Institution will appoint from time to time a number of persons to be known as research assistants, who may or may not reside in Washington, and who shall undertake to carry on such special investigations as may be entrusted to them by the institution. The appointments will be made for a year, and may be renewed in any case where it seems desirable. Permission may be given to go abroad, if special advantages not accessible in this country can thus be secured.
Publication is regarded by the founder as of special importance. Accordingly, appropriations will be made for this purpose, especially for the printing of papers of acknowledged importance, so abstruse, so extended or so costly that without the aid of this fund they may not see the light.
With respect to certain large undertakings involving much expense, which have been or may be suggested, careful preliminary inquiries have been and will be made.
In order to secure the counsel of experts in various departments of knowledge, special advisers have been and will be invited from time to time for consultation. Valuable suggestions and counsel have already been received from such advisers.
SIR GEORGE GABRIEL STOKES.
In the death, on February 1, 1903, of Sir George Gabriel Stokes, the mathematico-physical sciences have lost one of their most eminent representatives. For sixty years he has been a leader in the British school of mathematical physicists, a school including as peers and contemporaries George Green, Sir William R. Hamilton, Sir George Airy, James Clerke Maxwell, Lord Kelvin and Lord Rayleigh.
Stokes was born at Skreen, County Sligo, Ireland, in 1819. He was educated at Bristol College, and at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he was senior wrangler in 1841. He was
elected a fellow of Pembroke the same year. In 1849 he became Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, and he held this position up to the time of his death. He served his college and university also in numerous other positions of honor, having been master of Pembroke for many years and a member of parliament for Cambridge from 1887 to 1892.
The fields of work to which Stokes devoted his attention chiefly are those of hydromechanics, including the theories of fluid motion and sound; the undulatory theory of light, including among his more recent papers researches on the X-rays; and physical geodesy, including investigations on the figure and constitution of the earth and the variation of the acceleration of gravity at its surface. Taking up the work in these fields at the stage of advancement attained in the early part of the last century, mainly through the labors of the distinguished French investigators, among whom Lagrange, Laplace, Poisson and Fresnel were preeminent, Stokes contributed a large part of the decided progress gained during the past sixty years. He shares with Helmholtz the credit for the important advances in hydromechanics since the epoch of Lagrange; he did more than any other writer to extend the brilliant work of Fresnel; and his additions to the theory of geodesy are the most noteworthy since the epoch of Laplace.
His long and active career was crowned with recognition such as falls to few men of science. Universities and learned societies of his own and foreign countries conferred upon him the highest marks of distinction; while at the 'Stokes Jubilee,' celebrated at Cambridge in the summer of 1899, the whole scientific world united in presenting the heartiest tribute of appreciation of his laborious and fruitful life.
THE NEW YORK ZOOLOGICAL PARK
The New York Zoological Park and Society have made important progress during the past year. We have already called attention to the fact that the New York Aquarium has been placed under the charge of the Zoological Society. The city appropriates $45,000 for the maintenance of the aquarium, while the society undertakes the scientific control. The importance of the aquarium as an educational institution is borne witness to by the fact that the average daily attendance is 5,000 persons. The new director, Dr. C. H. Townsend, has made a number of improvements in the aquarium. He has planned a fish-hatching exhibit, which will be in operation throughout the year, and alterations that will greatly improve the illumination and ventilation. He also proposes to bring the aquarium in closer touch with the
school system of New York by providing material for biological classes and in other ways.
The Zoological Park has during the year greatly enlarged its buildings and its collections. The city provided $85,000 for maintenance, which is this year increased to about $105,000. The board of estimate and apportionment last year made a special appropriation of $250,000 for the improvement and extension of the park, which was used for the making of paths, etc., and for the construction of several buildings. The most important of these is the lion house, erected at a cost of $150,000. We give views of the interior of the main hall, which is 192 feet in length, and of one of the cages, which is 18 x 22 feet in size. It will be noticed that the cages are enclosed with netting instead of with bars. The cages are covered with glass tiling of a dull jungle green color, which forms an excellent background for the display of the animals and has many sanitary advantages. A unique feature of the building is a studio for artists, which will encourage painters and sculptors to make studies of animal life.
The lion house was opened in February; a new antelope house, costing $50,000, will soon be ready. The sum of $25,000 has been subscribed chiefly for the increase of the collections and valuable gifts have been received. The society pays special attention to scientific work, having established a pathological laboratory and appointed scientific
curators in place of the usual keepers. The park was visited last year by 731,515 persons, in spite of its present inaccessible position; when the rapid transit system is completed, the attendance will doubtless be doubled or trebled.
We record with regret the deaths of Dr. H. E. Schunk, F.R.S., the British chemist; of the Rev. Dr. Henry W. Watson, F.R.S., known for his contributions to mathematics and physics; of Mr. James Winshurst, F.R.S., known for his work in electricity; of Dr. John Young, lately professor of natural history at Glasgow University; of M. Pierre Lafitte, professor of the history of science in the College de France; of Professor Leonard Landois, professor of physiology at Greifswald, and of Dr. Morrill Wyman, one of the best known American physicians.
The Nobel prizes for 1902 were formally awarded on December 10—the prize in chemistry to Professor Emil Fischer, of Berlin; the prize in medicine to Professor Ronald Ross, of Liverpool University, and the prize in physics to Professor H. A. Lorentz, of Leiden, and Professor P. Zeeman, of Amsterdam. The value of each of the prizes is about $40,000. The Desmazières prize of the Paris Academy of Sciences has been awarded to Professor Roland Thaxter, of Harvard University, for his study on the parasitic fungi of American insects.
Professor F. W. Clarke, of the U. S. Geological Survey, has been invited to deliver the Wilde lecture before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society next year on the occasion of the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the propounding of the atomic theory at Manchester by Dalton.—Dr. Edgar Smith, professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania, has been elected president of the American Philosophical Society.— Commander Robert E. Peary, U.S.N., was elected president of the American Geographical Society, New York, at its annual meeting on January 27.—Sir William Turner, professor of anatomy, has been appointed principal of the University of Edinburgh.—Professor G. N. Stewart, of Western Reserve University, has been appointed professor of physiology at the University of Chicago, to fill the vacancy caused by the removal of Dr. Jacques Loeb to the University of California.
The hundredth anniversary of the birth of Heinrich Daniel Rhumkorff was celebrated at Hanover on January 15. A tablet was placed on the house in which he was born and a new street was given his name. Professor W. Kohlrausch made an address on Rhumkorff's scientific work.—Mr. Carnegie has intimated to the provost of Greenock that he is prepared to present to a properly authorized authority in the town the sum of $50,000 to defray the cost of the erection of a memorial to James Watt.