Popular Science Monthly/Volume 63/July 1903/The Progress of Science



There has been in progress in the columns of the London Times a correspondence on certain serious topics that has aspects both amusing and pathetic. Lord Kelvin, in moving a vote of thanks at the close of a lecture before the Christian Association of University College, London, said that "science positively confirmed creative power. . . . Modern biologists were coming to a firm acceptance of something, and that was a vital principle. . . . They were absolutely forced by science to admit and to believe with absolute confidence in a directive power." Lord Kelvin subsequently explained that a fortuitous concourse of atoms would account for the formation of a crystal, but that creative power is necessary for the growth of a sprig of moss. Sir William Thistleton-Dyer, director of the Kew Botanical Gardens, calls Lord Kelvin sharply to account, saying that 'for dogmatic utterance on biological questions there is no reason to suppose that he is better equipped than any person of average intelligence.' Sir William is, however, ready to enter the field of physics, and tells Lord Kelvin that his ether is 'a mere mathematical figment.' Sir John Burdon-Sanderson intervenes to express regret that "A most distinguished British botanist has thought it necessary to 'cross swords' with the most distinguished of British physicists with reference to a question on which it is desirable that all men of science should be in accord," and to disclaim on the part of his own science, physiology, the opinion that Lord Kelvin is not competent, when von Helmholtz has spoken of his 'surprising acuteness, clearness and versatility.' But Sir John immediately proceeds to state that physiologists do not believe in a vital principle, that the processes of animal and plant life are governed by the natural laws which have been established for the inorganic world. Mental processes and organic evolution can not, however, be directly measured or observed. In spite of the desirability of accord and of Lord Kelvin's great competence, he is mistaken as regards Sir John's science, though psychology and organic evolution may very well be outside the range of exact science. Sir Oliver Lodge, the eminent physicist, does not like the phrase 'creative power,' but believes that the formation of an animal or plant requires in addition to the laws of mechanics 'the presence of a guiding principle or life germ.' He also regards 'telepathy' as a recently discovered fact. Professor Ray Lankester, director of the British Museum of Natural History, thinks that an injustice would be done both to Lord Kelvin and to his critics unless he points out the significant features of the matter. Professor Karl Pearson, Mr. W. H. Mallock and others have joined in the discussion, and it is the theme of editorial articles in the Times and The Spectator, both of which are orthodox and dogmatic.

It is a fact of some interest that British physicists have been inclined to religious orthodoxy—Faraday, Maxwell, Stokes and Kelvin may be mentioned. Sir Oliver Lodge believes in telepathy and Sir William Crookes in ghosts. The physical sciences have outlived their conflict with current theology, whereas in the past half century biology has had to bear the brunt. The physicists hold that their realm is governed by their laws, but that the biological kingdom is a theocracy. It appears that there is as much or as little evidence for teleology in an earth suited for life as in its inhabitants, as much or as little evidence for creative purpose in a crystal or a solar system as in a sprig of moss or a man. But perhaps such a statement is in continuation of the dogmatism, to which attention has been called.


There have recently been celebrated the centenary of Dalton's discovery of the atomic theory and the hundredth anniversary of Liebig's birth. The ceremonies in honor of Dalton were at Manchester, a city which gave birth to two of the great scientific advances of the last century, the atomic theory and Joule's work on the mechanical equivalent of heat. Manchester has an ancient and active Literary and Philosophical Society, which invited Professor F. W. Clarke of the U. S. Geological Survey, chairman of the International Commission on Atomic Weights, to give its Wilde lecture. He reviewed the history of the atomic theory from its first conception among the Greeks to the present day and outlined the work still needed. Professor J. H. van't Hoff, of Berlin, was presented with an address by the Owens College Chemical Society, and laid the cornerstone of the extension of the chemical laboratory. The Wilde medal of the Literary and Philosophical Society was presented to Professor Clarke, and he and Professor van't Hoff received the degree of Doctor of Science from Victoria University.

John Dalton was born in 1766 of Quaker parentage. He began to teach school at the age of twelve, and supported himself through life by teaching, and later by making analyses for local manufacturers, being thus one of the earliest professional chemists. From 1793 until his death in 1844 he lived quietly at Manchester, unmarried and entering but little into society. He was made secretary of the Literary and

Memorial Tablet over door of house in which John Dalton was born.

From a photograph supplied to Nature by Mr. A. Humphreys. The inscription on the tablet reads:—"John Dalton, D.C.L., LL.D., the Discoverer of the Atomic Theory, was born here Sept. 6, 1766. Died at Manchester July 27, 1844."

Philosophical Society in 1800, was its president after 1817, and carried on his chemical work in the rooms of the society. He was a member of the Paris Academy before he was elected to the Royal Society, but finally received all the usual honors. Dalton once said:

With regard to myself, I shall only say, seeing so many gentlemen present who are pursuing their studies, that if I have succeeded better than many who surround me in the different walks of life, it has been chiefly—nay I may say almost solely—from unwearied assiduity. It is not so much from any superior genius that one man possesses over another, but more from attention to study and perseverance in the objects before them, that some men rise to greater eminence than others. This it is, in my opinion, that makes one man succeed better than another.

Yet his own life supports the theory of innate genius, for though he worked diligently to the end, his great discoveries were made while he was a young man. It is generally known that he discovered color-blindness, sometimes called Daltonism; he also did much work in meteorology, recording over 200,000 observations; he is said to have enunciated the law of the expansion of gases before Gay-Lussac; he carried on research in different departments of physics and chemistry. But of course his great discovery was the atomic theory, the centenary of which has just been celebrated. The theory, like most others, was of gradual development, but. as Dalton says in a letter to his brother in 1803, he had 'got into a track that has not been much trod before,' and this track has become the highway of modern chemistry.

Justus von Liebig was born on May 12 of the year in which Dalton formulated the atomic theory, and the hundredth anniversary of his death has been celebrated in Germany and here. In New York there was a meeting of chemists, which was addressed by President Remsen, of the Johns Hopkins University, whose laboratory has done much to carry forward the work in organic chemistry which Liebig founded; by Professor Brewer, of Yale University, one of Liebig's oldest pupils, who has continued his work on agricultural chemistry, and by Dr. Carl Duisberg, managing director of the Farbenfabriken of Elberfeld, who spoke of Liebig's influence on the chemical industries.

There will be found articles on Liebig in the third, ninth and twentieth volumes of this journal, the last being an extremely interesting autobiography. Like many others who have attained eminence in science, Liebig did not profit much from the existing system of education; out as a boy he read all the books on chemistry in the order in which they stood on the shelves of the

Court Library and made his own experiments. At the university things were not much more to his taste. He attended the lectures of Kastner, regarded as an eminent chemist, but capable of telling his students that the influence of the moon upon the rain is clear for as scion as the moon is visible a thunderstorm ceases.' The science of the universities was under the domination of the 'speculative physics' of Hegel and Schelling, whose chemistry is fairly represented by such a quotation as "Water contains just the same as iron, but in absolute indifference as yonder in relative indifference, carbon and nitrogen, and thus all true polarity of the earth is reduced to an original south and north which are fixed in the magnet." What Liebig accomplished will be better appreciated if the deplorable state of science in the German universities is recalled.

Liebig was made professor of chemistry at Giessen at the age of twenty-one, and full professor two years later. He immediately proceeded to establish a laboratory for students, the prototype not only of chemical laboratories, but of the laboratory method in science. In 1852 he removed to Munich, where he died in 1873. Like many other men eminent in research, Liebig was a great teacher, an editor and a popularizer of science. He also combined the discovery of facts with the formulation of wide-reaching theories. Neither the facts nor the theories can be described here; it suffices to say that Liebig may properly be regarded as the founder of organic, physiological and agricultural chemistry.


The thirty-fourth annual report (that for 1902) of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City records the events of a prosperous year for the institution. During the year the membership increased materially, and the attendance on lectures was larger than ever before. Several scientific societies held their regular meetings in the building. In October, 1902, the International Congress of Americanists held its thirteenth annual session at the museum, and discussed subjects relating to 'The Native Races of America' and 'The History of the Early Contact between America and the Old World.'

In May 1902, upon the arrival of the news of the disaster in Martinique, Dr. Hovey, of the Geological Department, was detailed by the president to investigate the causes of the eruptions, and his work has placed the museum among the leading contributors to seismology.

The additions to the collections of mammals during the year numbered more than 2,000, secured largely through the museum collectors. The gift of the Peary Arctic Club of about one hundred mammals, collected by Commander Peary on his last Arctic expedition, is especially noteworthy. The museum is now the richest in the world in mammals from Arctic America. The donations from the New York Zoological Society and the Central Park Menagerie are of great value to the museum. The specimens of mammals obtained by the Andrew J. Stone Expedition in North British Columbia form the largest single collection that has ever been brought down from the north. In the Bahamas and Virginia material was collected for special bird groups for the museum. The vertebrate paleontological collections of the museum were enriched by expeditions maintained in the field, and the establishment of a fund by a member of the board of trustees for providing material to illustrate the origin and development of the horse produced immediate results of the highest importance. The Cope collections, the purchase of which was effected in the year, include fossil reptiles, amphibians and fishes, and the Pampean collection of fossil mammals from South America.

A number of archeological collections not before exhibited were installed, notably the valuable collections made in the southwest under grants furnished by the Messrs. Hyde. Through the generosity of the Duke of Loubat and contributions made by the president of the museum and the Messrs. Hyde, the museum came into the possession of a very large amount of material illustrating the culture of ancient Mexico. Another exhibit worthy of note is that of a portion of the material obtained during the researches in the Delaware which have been carried on for more than twenty years. It seems to show that man was in the valley of the Delaware at the time that certain of the glacial deposits and those immediately following were made. The year was signalized by the conclusion of the explorations of Messrs. Bogoras and Jochelson, on account of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, and their return to the museum with vast quantities of ethnological material. The expedition has covered the whole district from Columbia River in America westward to the Lena in Siberia, and it is already evident that the relationship between Asia and America is much closer than had hitherto been supposed. The Huntington California Expedition and the North American Research Expedition were continued in 1902, and much information gained in regard to certain of the native races of America. The east Asiatic work of the Expedition to China promises important scientific results. The Hyde Expedition carried on work in the southwest and in northern Mexico. The results of the work of the Mexican Expedition throw much light on the burial customs of the ancient Zapotecans, and the collections obtained add materially to the importance of the collection in the museum. Rare specimens of gold, copper and jadeite secured by the expedition, added to those already in the museum, make this part of the Mexican collection the best in any museum. From the Duke of Loubat the museum received a gem collection of great importance from the state of Oaxaca. Local explorations were carried on in the Shinnecock and Poosepatuck reservations on Long Island and Staten Island and at Shinnecock Hills.

Several additions were made during the year to the gem collection, in the Department of Mineralogy, namely, five magnificent crusts of amethyst, a large yellow sapphire, two parti-colored sapphires, an immense star sapjihire, and a curious archaic axe of agate, gifts of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan. A splendid collection of gold and silver coins from the Philadelphia mint, the gift of Mr. Morgan, was placed in the gem room.

The Department of Invertebrate Zoology received an important accession in a collection of West Indian corals, actinians and alcyonarians collected in Jamaica. The New York Zoological Society and the Department of Parks were the principal donors of reptiles and batrachians.

A section of one of the giant trees of California has been placed on exhibition and attracts considerable attention. The tree from which the section was cut was 1,341 years old; it was almost 30 feet in diameter at the base, and had reached a height of 300 feet. Cards indicating the discoveries in biology during the life of the tree have been attached to the mounted section.

In the Department of Entomology, the Hoffmann collection of butterflies was transferred to the new cases, and the Schauss collection of moths provisionally arranged. From the Black Mountains of North Carolina, 7,000 specimens were obtained for this department. The death of the Very Reverend Eugene A. Hoffmann, D.D., LL.D., removed a warm friend of the museum and a substantial support from the Department of Entomology.

The publications of the scientific results attending the investigations of the museum in various lines progressed during the year. Two numbers of the 'Memoirs' were issued, namely

Scenes from the Ptarmigan Group.

Central Portion of the Group of Beach-Breeding Birds of Cobb's Island.

Kwakiutl Texts' by Franz Boas and. George Hunt, and 'The Night Chant, a Navaho Ceremony' by Washington Matthews. The amount of 'Bulletin' matter published is the largest in the history of the museum. Nine numbers of the Museum Journal and six 'guide leaflet' supplements were issued. The supplements describe collections in the museum, and their popularity is shown by the fact that several thousand were sold in the year at the entrances.

Several courses of lectures were offered under various auspices: To teachers, to members of the museum, and to the public (holiday course), under a grant from the state; to teachers, by the museum, in cooperation with the Audubon and Linnæean Societies; to the public, by the City Department of Education in cooperation with the museum.

In summing up his report, the president mentions several items that indicate the progress of the institution: "In concluding this my twenty-second report, I take pleasure in assuring the members of this board that the past year has been one of achievement. The increase in the annual appropriation, the growing popularity of the lectures, the large sums spent for laboratory research, the long list of publications, the opening of new exhibition halls, the appropriation by the city of $200,000 for a new power house, the receipt of large invoices of ethnological material from Siberia and China, the conclusion of negotiations leading to the purchase of the Cope collection, and the departure of several exploring expeditions, are only a few of the indices of activity at the museum, of the generosity of our friends, and of appreciation on the part of the city officers and the visiting public."


In the complex organization of American scientific societies, the American Philosophical Society 'held at Philadelphia for the promotion of useful knowledge' seems to be maintaining a place of its own. It was originally a national society founded on the model of the Royal Society, and the general meetings held last year and this show that it has to a certain extent maintained this position. Members from Philadelphia and the vicinity acted as hosts, and were able to welcome a considerable number of members from different parts of the country. Both the arrangements for social intercourse and the program compared very favorably with those of the meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, held at Washington in the same month. The meeting lasted for three days. In one of the evening sessions Dr. Edgar F. Smith, professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania and president of the society, made an address on its origin and early history, drawing from original documents much interesting information in regard to the beginnings of science in America. At the same session Dr. D. C. Gilman, president of the Carnegie Institution, spoke of its work during the past year. After these addresses, which were given in the hall of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, there was a reception, and on the following evening a dinner was given at the Hotel Bellevue, at which Professor W. B. Scott, of Princeton University, was toastmaster.

The meetings were held in the hall of the society, and a considerable number of interesting papers were presented. The American Philosophical Society includes philology and economics in its scope, and papers were presented by Professor March, of Lafayette College, on the development of the English alphabet; by Professor Haupt, of the Johns Hopkins University, on archeology and mineralogy; by Professor Jastrow, of the University of Pennsylvania, on the Hamites and Semites in the tenth chapter of Genesis, and by Professor Schelling, of the University of Pennsylvania, on the supernatural in Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. We give these titles, as it is not usual to combine in one program papers in the natural and exact sciences and in the philological and historical sciences. The whole question of the relation of these two great groups of sciences to each other requires solution, and it is of interest to note that they were successfully combined at Philadelphia. The following new members were elected:

Residents of the United States—Edward E. Barnard, Sc.D., Williams Bay, Wis.; Carl Hazard Barus, Ph.D., Providence, R. I.; Franz Boas, Ph.D., New York; William W. Campbell, Sc.D., Mt. Hamilton, Cal.; Eric Doolittle, Philadelphia; Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, LL.D., Baltimore; Francis Barton Gummere, Ph.D., Haverford, Pa.; Arnold Hague, Washington, D. C; George William Hill, LL.D., Nyack, N. Y.; William Henry Howell, Ph.D., Baltimore; Edward W. Morley, Ph.D., Cleveland; Harmon N. Morse, Ph.D., Baltimore; Edward Rhodes, Haverford, Pa.; Alfred Stengel, M.D., Philadelphia; William Trelease, Sc.D., St. Louis.

Foreign Residents.—Anton Dohrn, Naples; Edwin Ray Lankester, LL.D., F.R.S., London; Sir Henry E. Roscoe, F.R.S., D.C.L., London; Joseph John Thomson, D.Sc, F.R.S., Cambridge, Eng.; Hugo de Vries, Amsterdam.

Action was also taken looking to the adequate celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Franklin, the founder of the organization. This was expressed in the following preamble and resolution which were unanimously adopted:

Inasmuch as the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin occurs in January, 1906, it is proper that the American Philosophical Society, which owes its existence to his initiative and to which he gave many long years of faithful service, should take steps to commemorate the occasion in a manner befitting his eminent services to this society, to science and to the nation. Therefore be it

Resolved, That the president is authorized and directed to appoint a committee of such number as he shall deem proper to prepare a plan for the appropriate celebration of the bi-centennial of the birth of Franklin, and report the same to this society.


Professor J. Peter Lesley, the eminent geologist, died at Milton, Mass., on June 1, aged eighty-three years.

The freedom of the city of Rome has been conferred on Mr. G. Marconi.—The German Chemical Society has conferred its gold Hofmann medals on Professor Henri Moissan and Sir William Ramsay.

Dr. a. C. Abbott, professor of hygiene at the University of Pennsylvania, has been appointed chief of the Bureau of Health at Philadelphia.—James Harkness, A.M., since 188S professor of mathematics at Bryn Mawr College, has been appointed by the board of governors Redpath Professor of Mathematics at McGill University.—Dr. W J McGee has been appointed chairman of the committee of the International Geographical Congress of 1904, succeeding General A. W. Greely, who has resigned owing to ill health and the pressure of official duties.—Dr. A. Graham Bell has resigned the presidency of the National Geographic Society.

At the meeting of the board of trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University held on June 1, Mrs. Leland Stanford resigned and surrendered all the powers and duties vested in her by the terms of the grant founding the university, under which she had complete control. That control is now vested in the board. Mrs. Stanford will be elected a trustee, and will be elected president.