Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/November 1903/The Progress of Science

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Bird's-eye View of the Buildings of the College of the City of New York.



Since 1848 the College of the City of New York and its predecessor, the Free Academy, have carried forward an educational work the importance of which is scarcely appreciated. Yale and Princeton are household words, where the existence of the City College is unknown. Yet the college has rivaled the more prominent institutions both in numbers of students and in the efficiency of the courses of instruction. From the point of view of this journal, it is sufficient to note that at least two members of the National Academy of Sciences are graduates of the college, and that the only living ex-president of the academy was formerly one of its professors. There is reason to believe that September 29, when a new president was installed and the corner-stone of the new buildings was laid, will mark an epoch in the history of the institution, and that it will become one of the chief centers for the educational progress of the future.

The ceremonies of installation and dedication were themselves imposing. Those who hold that academic processions, gowns and the like are somewhat out of place in a modern democratic community were at least given the pleasure of seeing gowns handed out with an even hand to all, whether or not they possessed academic degrees. The fact of special interest was the representation on the program of republicans and democrats, of protestants, catholics and jews, all united in the service of the college without regard to political or denominational differences. Mayor Low spoke immediately after Mr. Shepard, his rival in the contest for the mayorality two years ago, and Ex-President Cleveland followed Senator Depew. Other speeches were made by Governor Odell, the presidents of Columbia, Cornell, Yale and the Johns Hopkins Universities, and by representatives of the trustees, faculty, alumni and students of the college. The new president of the college made an admirable inaugural address, showing full appreciation of the problems before the college and the city.

Dr. John Huston Finley was offered the presidency of the college after a careful search had been made through the whole country for the best attainable man. That one born in Illinois, at the time professor in a university in another state, regarding whose political or religious affiliations no questions were asked, was chosen, shows that municipal institutions can be conducted without local or partisan prejudice. General Webb, who retires from the presidency at the age of sixty-seven years, held the office for twenty-three years. A graduate of West Point and a general in the regular army, he possessed valuable qualifications for the office, but he was not an educational leader. The students were well trained and well drilled, but instructors were assigned to teach subjects with which they were not familiar and investigation was not sufficiently encouraged. The college did not take an important place in the educational and scientific progress of the country. Dr. Finley has the vigorous personality and has had the training and experience fitting him for a college presidency—one of the most responsible and influential, and at the same time one of the most complicated and difficult of positions. As a boy he worked on a farm and in a

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"Copyright 1903, by Pirie MacDonald, Photog'r of Men, N. Y."
Dr. John Huston Finley, President of the College of the City of New York.
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St. Nicholas Terrace Facade—Main Building.

printing office. He was called to the presidency of Knox College five years after graduating from it. He had pursued graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University and had been secretary of the State Charities Aid Association of New York. He resigned the presidency of Knox College after seven years of useful service, and was engaged on the editorial staff of Harper's Weekly and McClure's Magazine. In 1900 he was called to

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Gymnasium and Sub-Freshman Building.

the professorship of politics at Princeton University. And this wide experience he has gained before the age of forty. From his administration of the college much may be expected.

The new buildings of the college, some illustrations of which are here shown, are worthy not only of the work that the college has done, but also of what may be expected from it. They stand on rising ground a mile north of Columbia University, occupying a somewhat similar site, but not so 'completely shut in by apartment houses. Gothic architecture, like academic gowns, seems to belong to the past rather than to the future, but a traditional environment carries with it much that is good, and there is perhaps move danger in innovation than in imitation. The architect, Mr. Geo. B. Post, has certainly fitted the buildings admirably to the site and united them to a picturesque whole. It is unfortunate that the modern college and the scientific laboratory have not developed a significant architectual form, but it is useless to complain of the inevitable.

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Chemical and Mechanical Arts Buildings from College Grounds.

It has been indicated that the College of the City of New York may become one of the storm-centers of educational development. In spite of remarks made at the installation ceremonies by several of the speakers, including university presidents, the New York City College is not unique. There are somewhat similar institutions in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and Cincinnati has a municipal university. But the New York institution, coordinate with the great state universities, must lead the way. Here all the questions of the relation of the college to the high school and to the university, of liberal to technical studies, of higher education to the state, of public to semi-private and semi-religious institutions, will become pressing. We do not hesitate to express the opinion that the maintenance of education is as completely a public duty as the maintenance of the courts or of the army, that higher education should no more be left to private initiative than elementary education, and that ultimately all the educational and scientific institutions of New York City will be unified under the control of the people of the city.


Readers of The Popular Science Monthly may naturally expect to find here more or less authoritative statements in regard to scientific matters exploited in the newspapers. One of the subjects that has attracted particular attention recently is the aerodrome of Dr. S. P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The somewhat sensational character of the attempt to fly and the secrecy with which the proceedings are surrounded have naturally excited public curiosity, and the newspapers have found the failure of the machines a good opportunity for jokes, so that we read of 'airships as submarines' and the like.

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The Aerodrome as it might appear in the Air.

Dr. Langley has carried forward important researches in aerodynamics, and has done more than any one else toward constructing an aeroplane that would fly. After numerous experiments and failures a machine was launched in 1896 that stayed in the air from one to two minutes. We reproduce from the 'Report' of the Smithsonian Institution for 1900, two pictures of this aerodrome, one an imaginary sketch, the other from a photograph taken by Dr. A. Graham Bell. The total length was about 16 feet and the width between the wings about 12 feet. The weight was about 30 pounds, of which one fourth was represented by the machinery, the engines, which could supply one to one and a half horse-power, weighing 26 ounces, and the boiler about 5 pounds.

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The Aerodrome. Ready for Launching.

Dr. Langley has not published a scientific account of his work, but contributed a popular article to McGlure's Magazine for June, 1897, which he reprinted in the 'Report' of the Smithsonian Institution for 1900, and to this our readers may refer. It appears to us that Dr. Langley takes rather too little credit for his work on aerodynamics and rather too much for the practical success of his flying machine. Hundreds of patents for aeroplanes had been taken previously, and toys had been constructed that would fly. The Langley aerodrome was not steered, nor tried in a breeze, nor able to carry any weight, nor kept in the air as long as two minutes. This record has of course been much surpassed by dirigible balloons and perhaps by artificial flight. Aeroplanes can doubtless be made to fly; as Lord Rayleigh, quoting Mr. Maxim, has said, 'it is mainly a question of some time and much money.' Aeroplanes will probably be used for military purposes and for adventure, but not for the ordinary uses of transportation and commerce. Dr. Langley seems to claim too much when he writes in a popular magazine that he has demonstrated the practicability of mechanical flight and that 'the great universal highway overhead is now soon to be opened'; that aerodromes 'may be built to remain days in the air,' 'to travel at speeds higher than any with which we are familiar.'

The secretary of the Smithsonian Institution should be the representative of American science and should be extremely careful not to do anything that may lend itself to an interpretation that will bring injury on the scientific work of the government or of the country. Dr. Langley has stated that for 'the commercial and practical development of the idea it is probable that the world may look to others.' We think that it would have been better if the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution had adhered to this resolution and had not spent large sums on secret experiments for the War Department. He could have placed his scientific knowledge at the disposal of army officers and expert mechanicians, and this would have been better than to attempt to become an inventor in a field where success is doubtful and where failure is likely to bring discredit, however undeserved, on scientific work.


Professor Alexander Bain, for many years professor of logic in the University of Aberdeen, died on September 17, at the age of eighty-five years. Dr. Bain was the author of an important series of books on psychology, logic and English. His works on 'The Senses and the Intellect,' in 1855, and 'The Emotions and the Will,' in 1859, in many ways laid the foundations of modern scientific psychology.

Dr. W. A. Notes, of the Rose Polytechnic Institute, has accepted the position of chemist in the National Bureau of Standards.—Professor J. Mark Baldwin, of Princeton University, has been called to organize a graduate department of philosophy and psychology at the Johns Hopkins University.—Dr. T. H. Montgomery, Jr., assistant professor of zoology at the University of Pennsylvania, has been appointed to the professorship of zoology in the University of Texas, vacant by the removal of Professor W M. Wheeler to the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Herbert S. Jennings, assistant professor of zoology at the University of Michigan, and now at Naples, has been called to the assistant professorship of zoology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Robert E. Peary has been given three years' leave of absence from the navy to continue his Arctic explorations. His plan contemplates the construction of a strong wooden ship with powerful machinery, in which he will sail next July to Cape Sabine and, after establishing a sub-base there, force his way northward to the northern shore of Grant Land, where he will spend the winter with a colony of Whale Sound Esquimaux, who will be taken there by him from their homes further south. This winter base will be at or in the vicinity of Cape Columbia or Cape Joseph Henry, situated about the 82d degree of north latitude.

The new medical buildings and laboratories of Toronto University were officially opened on October 1. The opening address was given by Professor Charles S. Sherrington, of Liverpool. Speeches were made by representatives of various institutions, and an address in the evening was made by Professor William Osier, of the Johns Hopkins University. A special convocation was held on October 2, at which the following visitors received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the university: William Williams Keen, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia; William Henry Welch, Johns Hopkins University; William Osier, Johns Hopkins University; Russell Henry Chittenden, Yale University; Charles S. Sherrington, University of Liverpool; Henry Pickering Bowditch, Harvard University.