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



It is well known that the past quarter of a century has been one of extraordinary advances in the sciences of heat, light, electricity and magnetism. It is less well known, however, that this period has been one of extraordinary losses by death of the eminent mathematical physicists who have contributed to those advances.

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J. Willard Gibbs.

Maxwell, Kirchhoff, Hertz, Helmholtz, Fitzgerald, Rowland, Stokes, and now Gibbs, have all fallen since 1879. Only two of those leaders, Helmholtz and Stokes, passed the proverbial three score and ten years; Kirchhoff and Gibbs attained only a little more than sixty years; while the others, as if to indicate that it is the pace of hard thinking that kills, all fell at the age of fifty or less.

Josiah Willard Gibbs was born at New Haven, Connecticut, February 11, 1839, and he died at the same place April 28, 1903. He was the son of Josiah Willard Gibbs, professor of sacred literal ire in Yale College from 1822 to 1861, and Mary Anna (Van Cleve) Gibbs. His preliminary academic studies were pursued at the Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, and he entered Yale College, at the early age of fifteen years, in 1854. As an undergraduate he easily won distinction, and he took prizes for meritorious work in Latin and in mathematics.

After graduation from Yale College, in 1858,he spent five years there as a student of the mathematico-physical sciences especially. From 1803 to 1866 he served as a tutor at Yale. The next three years he spent in Europe, studying at the universities of Paris, Berlin and Heidelberg. In 1871 he was elected to the professorship of mathematical physics at Yale, and he held this chair up to the time of his death.

Early in his scientific career Professor Gibbs appears to have concentrated attention on the field of thermodynamics, and during the decade following his appointment to a professorship he produced a series of papers which placed him in the front rank of workers in this field. Indeed, the most important of these papers, 'On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances,' is now regarded as marking an epoch in the history of thermodynamics and as furnishing the foundation for the new science of physical chemistry. The comprehensive knowledge of mechanical philosophy which made him a master in thermodynamics, made him also an authority in electromagnetic science, and during the decade from 1880 to 1890 he published several noteworthy papers on the electromagnetic theory of light anti kindred topics. He was likewise a profound student of pure mathematics. His vice-presidential address, 'On Multiple Algebra,' read before the section of astronomy and mathematics of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 188G, is an original contribution of great merit in a domain already well worked by Möbius, Hamilton, Grassmann, Peiree, Tait and others. His more recent contributions to science are found in two volumes of the Yale Bicentenial Publications, namely, 'Vector Analysis,' edited by a pupil, Dr. E. B. Wilson, and 'Elementary Principles of Statistical Mechanics.' The unpretentious title of the latter work, though strikingly characteristic of the author, is too modest; for it appears destined to take rank among the small number of fundamental contributions to the science of mechanics.

Professor Gibbs was the recipient of many honors from scientific societies at home and abroad. He knew well how to economize his time, however; and although one of the most genial and kindly of men, he mingled sparingly with the world, and was thus, alas! too little known and appreciated, especially by the younger generation of his fellow-countrymen interested in science.


The dedication of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition on April 30 demonstrated to a hundred thousand visitors that the preparations are unusually far forward. Many of the buildings are practically ready, and the fencing, grading, road-making and the like of the 1,200 acres are well advanced. Indeed, the exposition bids fair to be bigger and more successful than might have been anticipated. Thanks to hitting upon the psychological moment in international relations and of domestic liberality, money is being spent by the tens of millions. and a world somewhat weary of world fairs is arousing itself to an active interest in the St. Louis Exposition. Of most immediate scientific concern is the Congress of Arts and Sciences, described by Professor Hugo Münsterberg, of Harvard University, in the Atlantic Monthly for May.

Professor Münsterberg tells us that he proposed to substitute for the congeries of international congresses which have formed a part of recent world fairs a single congress demonstrating the unity of human knowledge, and that his plan has been adopted in all its details. There will doubtless be

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Educational Building, Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
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University Hall, Washington University, Executive Building of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

some protest against the scheme from men of science, as it is difficult to draw the line between demonstrating the unity of knowledge and illustrating the tenets of Professor Münsterberg's system of philosophy. The catalogue of Harvard University or the names of our national scientific societies would give a more objective classification of the sciences.

Professor Münsterberg divides the sciences into seven groups, of which four are theoretical and three practical. The theoretical sciences are normative (philosophy and mathematics), historical (which do not deal with the description and explanation of phenomena), physical and mental. The practical sciences are utilitarian, regulative and cultural. These seven divisions are subdivided into twenty-five departments and one hundred and thirty sections. The congress is to open on Monday, September 19, when the three members of the organizing committee will make introductory addresses—Professor Newcomb on scientific work, Professor Münsterberg on the unity of theoretical knowledge and Professor Small on the unity of practical knowledge. In the afternoon there are to be addresses in each of the seven divisions on its fundamental conceptions. On the next day there will be two addresses in each of the twenty-five departments, one on its development during the last hundred years the other on its methods. On the following four days the seventy-one theoretical and the fifty-nine practical sections will each be addressed by two speakers, one treating the relation of the section to other sciences and the other the problems of to-day. The addresses before the divisions and departments are to be made by Americans, and at least one of those before each of the one hundred and thirty sections by foreigners. The authorities of the exposition have made a liberal appropriation—$200,000 it is said—toward the expenses of the congress. The speakers will be paid, and their addresses will be published.


The Fourteenth International Congress of Medicine met at Madrid during the last week of April; the American Medical Association held its fifty-fourth annual meeting at New Orleans in the first week of May, and the Congress of Physicians and Surgeons held its sixth triennial session at Washington during the following week. The multiplicity of sections, societies' addresses and papers is bewildering and beyond the possibility of brief description.

At Madrid there were some 5,000 delegates, those from foreign nations being proportioned as follows: Germany and Austria, 1,000; France, 825; Great Britain, 235; Russia, 290; Italy, 335; other European countries, 327; United States, 193; South America, 13G. The prize for original research, established by the city of Moscow, in honor of the meeting of the congress in that city in 1897, was awarded to Professor Metchnikoff, and that of Paris to Professor Grassi. The next congress will be at Lisbon in 1906. No discoveries of an epoch-making character were presented to the congress, though the programs contained the titles of many papers of importance.

The meeting of the American Medical Association was attended by about 2,000 members. Dr. Frank Billings in his presidential address reviewed the present condition of medical education in the United States. There are in the country 156 medical schools which last year graduated 5,000 physicians. To maintain the present ratio of one physician to 600 of the population, which in the cities, at least, is rather an oversupply, only 3,000 recruits are needed annually. Dr. Billings held that the overcrowding of the medical profession must be controlled by higher standards of education. The American Medical Association has recently organized a house of delegates for the discussion of the interests of the medical profession, and this year a code of ethics was adopted. According to the reports presented, the association is in a flourishing condition. Its membership is over 12,000, having nearly doubled within five years. In this period its funds have increased fourfold, the net increase last year having been $40,000. The prosperity of the association is largely due to its weekly journal, which has a circulation of over 25,000.

The Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons, which meets once in three years at Washington, is an affiliation of national medical societies devoted chiefly to different departments, but including the Association of American Physicians, which is a small and select body of practitioners. These societies, sixteen in number, had special programs, holding their sessions in the mornings, while the congress met as a whole in the afternoons and evenings. The president. Dr. W. W. Keen, of Philadelphia, chose as the subject of his address 'The Duties and Responsibilities of Trustees of Medical Institutions.' The subjects for special discussion were 'The Pancreas and Pancreatic Diseases' and 'The Medical and Surgical Aspects of the Diseases of the Gall-bladder and Bile Ducts.'


Paul Belloki Du Chaillu, the explorer and author, died at St. Petersburg on April 29. He was born in New Orleans in 1838, and in 1855 he went from New York to the west coast of Africa, where he made the well-known expedition described in his 'Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa.'

At the recent meeting of the National Academy of Sciences new members were elected as follows: T. C. Chamberlin, professor of geology, University of Chicago; William James, professor of philosophy, Harvard University; E. L. Mark, professor of anatomy, Harvard University; Arthur G. Webster, professor of physics, Clark University; Horace L. Wells, professor of analytical chemistry and metallurgy, Yale University.

The board of regents of the University of Wisconsin on April 21 elected Dr. Charles R. Van Hise, professor of geology, to the presidency of that institution.—The Walker Grand Prize, which is bestowed once in five years by the Boston Society of Natural History, has just been awarded to J. A. Allen of the American Museum of Natural History for his able and long continued contributions to American ornithology and mammalogy.—Professor Simon Newcomb, of Washington, has been appointed a delegate from the National Academy of Sciences to the International Association of Academies, which meets in London this coming June. Mr. S. F. Emmons and Mr. Geo. F. Becker, of Washington, and Professor C. R. Van Hise, of Madison, Wis., have been appointed delegates to the International Geological Congress, which meets in Vienna in August of this year.

Mr. Andrew Carnegie has given $1,000,000 for a building for the engineering societies. It is to be situated in New York City, and will provide an auditorium, a library and headquarters for five engineering societies, namely, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Mining Engineers and the Engineers Club. Mr. Carnegie has also given $1,500,000 for the erection of a court house and library for the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague and $600,000 to the endowment fund of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.'