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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 66/December 1904/The Progress of Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 66‎ | December 1904

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF LOCKE.

John Locke, who was born on August 29, 1632, died on October 28, 1704, a century before the death of Kant, and two centuries before that of Spencer. The two hundredth anniversary of Locke's death was commemorated by the British Academy, where papers by Professors Fraser and Sir William Pollock were read, and at Johns Hopkins University, where Principal C. Lloyd Morgan, Professor F. J. E. Woodbridge, Professor J. McBride Sterrett, Dr. Wm. T. Harris and Dr. William Osier made addresses. Locke ranks in eminence with his contemporary Leibnitz, who controverted his teaching, and with the sage of Königsberg, upon whom he was destined to exert a powerful influence, although Lockism and Kantism have come to mean almost diametrically opposite ways of regarding the world. The friend of Boyle and Newton, he was always interested in experimental science. As a student and practitioner of medicine, he was intimately associated with Sydenham, by whom he was frequently consulted.

Locke's education was in some respects unconventional and his life one of varied incident. Taught at home until his fourteenth year, he was sent for a time to public school, thence to Oxford, with which he was connected as a student or a lecturer successively in Greek, rhetoric and philosophy for many years. At one time he was dismissed by order of the king for alleged complicity in schemes against the crown, but he was already securely ensconced in Holland, where he became the recipient of the favor of William of Orange, under whom he resumed his residence in England after the great revolution. During the troublous times which preceded, he had been actively interested in business and particularly in political affairs, chiefly through his connection with the Earl of Shaftesbury, and had held important public offices. While living in the family of Shaftesbury, as physician, adviser and general literary and social factotum, he undertook the education of an only son of the household. He took an active part in the formation of the Colony of Carolina and at one time contemplated emigrating to America. Never strong, he especially suffered from poor health after middle life, yet he was always of a cheerful j and sociable disposition. He was well on towards sixty when he began to publish the series of works which have made him famous. The products of mature reflection, each of his books was nevertheless called forth by some concrete situation and directed to a definite, practical end. This circumstance, together with their candor and common-sense and the freshness of their style, which is remarkably free from technicalities, early won for even the most obscure of his productions a favorable reception among all sorts of readers, and gave his writings a permanent place in literature.

The 'Essay concerning the Human Understanding,' his most important book, contains his philosophy of knowledge and his classic contributions to psychology. Philosophy before Locke had been highly metaphysical as to its problems, and dogmatic in its method. It took a fresh start under the criticism of Locke, who deliberately set himself the preliminary task of inquiring 'into the original, certainty and extent of human knowledge, together with the grounds of belief, opinion, and assent.' How do we come by our knowledge and what are its limits? These are the problems which Locke regarded as fundamental, and with which philosophy has been largely preoccupied since his time.

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John Locke.

Many of the difficulties which modern speculation has encountered owe their origin directly to the curious turn which Locke gave to the solution of these problems. By introspection he was led to affirm that the mind knows only its own ideas, whence subjective idealism was sure to ensue. In no case do we known things, but only ideas which somehow represent things, thought Locke. He denied the existence of innate ideas of any kind, insisting that all the mind's ideas are acquired afresh by each individual's experience. The mind is a tabula rasa, a perfect blank, to start with. Experience is, however, of two kinds, viz, 'sensation,' whereby ideas of the qualities of external objects are acquired, and 'reflection,' whereby the mind becomes aware of its own operations, i. e., acquires ideas of them. But the mind is marvelously capable of transforming the ideas which experience supplies to it by combining the 'simple ideas,' which are the ultimate data of experience, into 'complex ideas,' by discriminating simple components in complex experiences, by comparison, abstraction, etc. Locke's psychology, which is subservient to his avowed purpose of discovering the origin and limits of knowledge, is rationally one-sided, and is now largely obsolete, but he abounds in observations and analyses of permanent value. He was the first to speak of the 'association of ideas,' although he made no general use of the conception.

Locke's views on education powerfully influenced Rousseau. Education has for its aim the development of 'a sound mind in a sound body.' Physical education is of prime importance, and should consist in a process of hardening the body to endurance, special attention being paid to exercise, fresh air, sleep, diet, clothing and the like. Intellectual and moral education should aim at the development of a virtuous character, a self-respecting and self-supporting English gentleman, wherefore sound morals, good manners and skill in some trade or handicraft were regarded as essential, and given a place above mere learning. Locke thought the schools of the time unfitted to provide this training, and recommended private tutorial instruction. The studies should be useful, should appeal to the natural interest and aptitude of the pupil, and in matters of morality the child's sense of honor should be relied upon, corporal punishment giving place to moral suasion.

Influential as a moralist, an economist, and the leader in many public reforms, Locke was preeminently a defender and expositor of liberty. In a time of religious bigotry he wrought famously and well for toleration, and his name will be forever enshrined in those doctrines of civil rights which molded the public sentiment that gave birth to the United States. Before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, Locke had declared that 'all men are naturally in a state of freedom, also of equality.'

Locke has been rightly called the 'intellectual ruler of the eighteenth century,' and while it would not be safe to say that he is the greatest of English philosophers, he is certainly the most characteristically English, and probably the most widely influential.

 

THE MONUMENT OF PASTEUR AT PARIS.

In France scientific men are not without honor in their own country. It is probable that the conditions are more satisfactory here, where scientific work is adequately supported both by the state and by private endowments, although the scientific worker is likely to be unknown outside his own circle. But reputation and fame have so long been regarded as the rewards of certain kinds of service that the homage paid in France to a man such as Pasteur may attract young men to a scientific career, even though it may not be a very important factor in stimulating their subsequent work. Monuments in memory of Pasteur have been erected in various parts of France. At Dole, where he was born; at Arbois, where he lived as a child; at Marnesla-Coquette and Vaucresson, where he lived in later years; at Besançon, Lille and Alais, whose silk-worm industries he saved; at Melun and Chartres, where he performed the same service for the cattle and sheep.

Pasteur's chief monument is indeed the Institute Pasteur, erected and endowed in his life time by public subscription, and now containing his tomb. But there was recently unveiled at Paris a monument, of which an illustration is here reproduced from La Nature. The figure in marble is the last work of the eminent sculptor Falguière, who died before it was completed. Around the base are allegorical figures, humanity offering a child to be cured of the most dreaded disease, a shepherd relieved from all anxiety for his flock, and the like. The monument, for the erection of which about $70,000 was contributed by international subscription, was unveiled in the presence of the president of the republic and his cabinet, and commemorative addresses were made by those most competent to tell of the work of one of the greatest of men of science and of benefactors of his race.

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Monument of Pasteur.

 

PROFESSOR VAN'T HOFF.

In 1895 the Prussian Academy of Sciences called Professor J. H. van't Hoff from the chair of chemistry at Amsterdam to Berlin. He was to receive a salary and a laboratory and was to have no duties other than those which he might choose to assume. In order that van't Hoff might lecture if he wished, he was appointed to a professorship at the University of Berlin, also without specified duties. The remarkable feature of this arrangement is that it was primarily as a member of the Academy that van't Hoff went to Berlin. No such honor has been paid a man in Germany since the time of Frederick the Great. An outline of van't Hoff's career will prove that the tribute was deserved.

When only twenty-two years old van't Hoff showed that certain unexplained cases of isomerism would be accounted for if structure formulas were so written as to represent the arrangement of atoms in space and not merely relations in a plane. The importance of this new point of view lay in the fact that it enabled chemists to classify substances which rotate the plane of polarized light and to predict what substances will possess this property. The branch of chemistry known as stereochemistry is the outgrowth of the paper published by van't Hoff in 1874 and of the independent statement of the same idea by LeBel a few months later.

In 1878 van't Hoff was appointed professor of chemistry, mineralogy and geology at the new University of Amsterdam. From this time forward his work has been in physical chemistry rather than in organic chemistry. In the next six years he rediscovered the law of mass action; he worked out the generalized theory of reaction velocities; he showed that the quantitative relation between chemical affinity and heat effect has the same form as the relation between electrical energy and heat effect deduced by Helmholtz. In addition to this he established the theorem which bears his name, on the quantitative displacement of equilibrium with change of temperature.

In 1885 a new period begins. Some experiments by the botanist, Pfeffer, were the starting-point. Pfeffer had been studying the rise of sap in trees and had found that a high pressure is necessary to prevent the diffusion of water through a membrane of colloidal copper ferrocyanide into a solution of sugar in water. Van't Hoff showed that the results of Pfeffer could be predicted if it were assumed that a dissolved substance exercises an osmotic pressure equal to the pressure which it would exert if converted completely into a gas occupying the volume of the solution and having the same temperature. This assumption not only explained Pfeffer's results; but also those of Raoult on the vapor-pressures, boiling-points and freezing-points of solutions. When the osmotic pressure theory of solutions was supplemented by Arrhenius's theory of electrolytic dissociation, it needed only the energy and enthusiasm of Ostwald to raise physical chemistry in the short space of twenty years to the position which it now holds.

In 1894 van't Hoff was offered the chair of physics at Berlin, made vacant by the death of Kundt. This was declined; but the ideal position offered by the Prussian Academy in the following year was accepted and van't Hoff left Amsterdam in 1896 for Berlin. Since that time he has worked systematically at a problem which had interested him off and on for many years previously. What this problem is can be learned from van*t Hoff's own outline of his plans in an address before the Prussian Academy on July 2, 1896.

"The line along which I shall work is clear; the application of mathematics to chemistry remains my chief aim, and each opportunity to promote this in my new surroundings will be welcome. For the present, therefore, I shall devote myself to that portion of physical chemistry which deals with the so-called inversion phenomena, with the formation of double salts, and with double decomposition. The application of mathematics is possible in this field and there is the fascinating prospect of applications to the Stassfurt industry and to geology. I do not need to state that industrial applications will not be the object of the work. I have left my native land because I know that in Germany, more than elsewhere, we find widespread the conviction that the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is the highest aim of human efforts."

The special form of the problem was a systematic study of the conditions of equilibrium in their bearing on the salt deposits at Stassfurt, but the general results are applicable to all cases in which the deposits consist chiefly of any mixtures of the chlorides and sulphates of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Although not yet finished, the work is a masterpiece and shows what can be expected from an application of physical chemistry to geology and mineralogy.

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Professor J. H. van't Hoff, Berlin.

The work of van't Hoff can be divided crudely into four parts: 1872-1877, organic chemistry; 1878-1884, chemical affinity; 1885-1895, theory of solutions; 1896-1904, oceanic deposits. Much of the organic chemistry of today is the direct outcome of the work done in the first period; the second and third periods made physical chemistry possible; the fourth period has probably introduced a new era in geology, of which the geophysical laboratory at Washington is a sign. It was because van't Hoff is a great exponent both of organic chemistry and of physical chemistry that he was the first man to be awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry. A man who commands the whole field of chemistry and who is deemed able to fill the chair of physics at the University of Berlin as successor to Kundt is a man who is well worthy of the exceptional honor paid by the Prussian Academy of Sciences to van't Hoff.

 

THE HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.

Columbia University, which received its charter as King's College in 1754, appears to be the sixth in age of American Colleges, having been preceded by Harvard (1636), William and Mary (1692), Yale (1701), Pennsylvania (1740) and Princeton (1746). Our universities are young in comparison with European institutions, whose obscure beginnings go far back into the medieval period; but it may be called to mind that the University of Berlin was founded in 1809 and the University of London in 1836. Our colleges were, indeed, established early in the history of the settlements, New York having been a trading village of less than 15,000 inhabitants when 'a public lottery was authorized to raise money for the advancement of learning and towards the founding of a college.' The first president, Samuel Johnson, in the announcement issued in 1754, offered an ambitious if somewhat vague program of studies. He proposed "to instruct and perfect the Youth in the Learned Languages, and in the Arts of reasoning exactly, of writing correctly, and speaking eloquently; and in the Arts of numbering and measuring; of Surveying and Navigation, of Geography and History; of Husbandry, Commerce and Government, and in the Knowledge of all Nature in the Heavens above us, and in the Air, Water and Earth around us, and the various kinds of Meteors, Stones, Mines and Minerals, Plants and Animals, and of every Thing useful for the Comfort, the Convenience and Elegance of Life, in the chief Manufactures relating to any of these Things." Dr. Johnson being the entire faculty until his son was added, it may be assumed that the actual course was limited to 'the learned languages' and elementary mathematics. The first professorship, however, was in mathematics and natural philosophy, established in 1757, when Dr. Johnson, in accordance with the original agreement, 'retired to some place of safety out of town when the smallpox prevailed.'

Columbia was a comparatively small institution until about 1860, but it has taken a leading part in the development of scientific education. A medical school was established in 1767, two years after the first American school had been founded in Philadelphia. In 1864 was established the School of Mines, the first institution of the kind in the country. In the small faculty of the college have been a considerable number of prominent scientific men, including Bard, Hosack, Mitchill, Adrian, Torrey, Newberry, Egleston and Rood. Barnard, president from 1864 to 1889, was a scientific man of eminence, who had broad ideas on education. After President Low's inauguration in 1890, a notable development followed, not least evident in the enlargement of the scientific departments, and this development continues under the administration of President Butler. Columbia now stands in the small group of the leading universities of the world, both in number of students and in contributions to the advancement of knowledge. It has earned the right to celebrate with satisfaction its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary.

The exercises were scarcely so elaborate as the Princeton sesquicentenial and the Yale bi-centenial. A large reception to the alumni was given by the
 
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KING'S COLLEGE IN 1760.
 
 
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COLUMBIA COLLEGE IN 1857.
(From a daguerrotype reproduced in the Photographic and Fine Art Journal, June, 1857)
 

trustees on October 28. On October 31 there was a university convocation, when President Butler made a commemorative oration and degrees were conferred on distinguished alumni. There was a banquet of the alumni in the evening and various other gatherings. Perhaps the most interesting event, as witnessing the continual growth of the university, was the dedication of the building for physical education of Teachers College, erected and furnished at a cost of $400,000 and the laying of the cornerstones of a chapel, of a school of mines building and of two dormitories. The school of mines is built in the same general style as the four buildings for the sciences already erected. The dormitories must be adjusted to a city environment, where land is expensive, the two city blocks on the side of which they stand having cost $2,000,000. In connection with the celebrations, there has been published by the Columbia Press a history of the university prepared by Dean Van Amringe and other authorities, which is a work of interest not only to alumni, but also to all who are concerned with the history of higher education in the United States.

 

THE FORESTS OF THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS.

Mr. William L. Hall, in charge of forest extension of the Bureau of Forestry, has drawn up a report on the forests of the Hawaiian Islands which is of some general interest. The forests are of two entirely different kinds, which in no case meet. Those near the sea-level consist of a single species, now covering at least fifty thousand acres, all of which sprang from a single algaroba tree, which grew from a seed planted in 1837. These forests have considerable economic value. They supply cord wood and posts, and live stock feed on the pods. The land occupied by these trees is mostly worthless for any other purpose; they are so hardy and so fully appreciated by the people that they will be cared for without any special action on the part of the government.

The conditions are different in the case of the native forests, which cover or formerly covered the mountains of the islands. These forests, which consist of lehua, koa and other native trees are tropical in character, containing none of the familiar trees of the north temperate zone. The trees are not very valuable commercially, but the forests themselves are said to be of the utmost value in conserving the water supply of the islands. There is an abundant and luxuriant undergrowth with a great quantity of humus, possessing an enormous capacity for holding water. When the forests are cleared, either purposely or by accident, there is danger that there will not be enough water conserved to supply the sugar plantations. These supply the chief industry of the islands, the exports of sugar being valued at some $25,000,000, ninety-six per cent, of the total exports of the islands. The forests have in part been destroyed in a curious way. Cattle were introduced into the islands in the eighteenth century and were turned out to run at large. They trampled down and ate the undergrowth, without which the ground dries up and the shallow-rooted trees die. Goats, pigs and deer also run wild in the forests. In view of the conditions cooperation of some character is essential, and the people of Hawaii have through their legislature passed a bill creating a forest reservation, and appropriating $28,000 annually for its support. A trained forester has been appointed, and the work is being carried forward with the cooperation of the Division of Forestry of the Department of Agriculture.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

Professor Clemens A. Winckler, the eminent chemist, died at Dresden on October 8, at the age of sixty-six years.—Professor Nils Finssen, of Copenhagen, known for his discovery of the light cure for lupus, died on
 
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Interior of Lehua Forest.
 

September 24. A committee has been formed to collect a fund for the erection of a monument.—Professor Max Bartels, of Berlin, known for his publications on ethnology, died on October 22, at the age of sixty-two years.—Major Henry F. Alvord, chief of the dairy division of the United States Department of Agriculture, died at St. Louis on October 1, as the result of a stroke of paralysis.

Professor Simon Newcomb has been elected a corresponding member of the Vienna Academy of Sciences.—The medal of the Society of Chemical Industry, awarded every second year for services to applied chemistry, has been presented to Dr. Ira Remsen, president of the Johns Hopkins University.—It is reported that the Nobel prize for medicine will this year be awarded to Dr. Robert Koch. He has been presented with a portrait bust and a Festschrift on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday.—Columbia University has conferred the degree of D.Sc. on Sir William Ramsay, the retiring president, and on Mr. W. H. Nichols, the president-elect, of the Society of Chemical Industry.—A memorial tablet to Dr. Jesse Lazear, who died in Cuba in 1900 while investigating the causes of yellow fever, has been unveiled at the new surgical building of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.—King Edward has directed that a new medal be struck for service in polar regions. The officers and crew of the Antarctic exploration ship Discovery will be the first recipients of the medal.

The St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine has sent an expedition to the shores of the Black Sea to inquire into the prevalence of malaria, especially in the neighborhood of Gagory.—The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine proposes to despatch a second yellow fever expedition to the Amazon in view of the necessity of investigating still further this malady. The late Dr. Walter Myers was selected by the school, together with Dr. Herbert Durham, to undertake an expedition to Para to investigate the disease, only a few years ago. Both members of the expedition were attacked by the malady and Dr. Myers died. The expedition will probably start at the end of the year.—Professor Robert Koch has recently returned from Detmond, where he was engaged in investigating an outbreak of typhoid fever for the German government, and has since been at Paris, where he was entertained by the Pasteur Institute. In the course of the winter he will proceed to German East Africa in order to continue those studies of tropical and other diseases which he had not completed during his recent visit to Rhodesia. In particular he will continue to investigate the part played by ticks in conveying the infection of various cattle diseases.