Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 66/February 1905/The Progress of Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 66‎ | February 1905



The American Association for the Advancement of Science has been fortunate in its associations with Philadelphia. In our last issue we called attention to the fact that its first meeting was held there in 1848, and it was there again in 1884 that the registered attendance reached its maximum of 1,261, including 303 representatives of the British Association. If we include the members of societies which met in affiliation with the association at the third Philadelphia meeting, held during convocation week in December, the number of scientific men in attendance must be estimated as about 1,200, although only 581 members registered under the several sections of the association. Perhaps there has never been a larger gathering of American workers in science. More significant than mere numbers is the representative character of the men in attendance, the spirit of the convocation as a whole and its influence upon the general public. In all these respects the recent meetings at Philadelphia were eminently successful. There were, in addition to the nine sections of the association which were in session, thirty affiliated societies and scientific clubs, including a majority of the national societies in the exact and natural sciences. More than 500 papers were read, covering even a wider range of topics than the names of the societies would indicate.

The societies were comfortably accommodated in the beautiful buildings of the University of Pennsylvania, many of which were independent objects of interest to visiting members. The material conveniences were but typical of the hospitality which the several societies enjoyed at the hands of the provost, vice-provost and faculty of the university and the local committee. A feature in the entertainment of guests was the lunch provided daily for all in attendance. There were the usual receptions, smokers, etc., and excursions to many places of interest to all scientific men or to special groups, including such important local institutions as the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Cramp's Ship Yard, the United States Mint and the Navy Yard.

The number and variety of papers of popular interest was notable, including discussions of some of the most promising applications of science in invention and industry, in agriculture, in medicine and in social economics. All the societies were fortunate in that the American Association had secured the services of Mr. Theodore Waters, as press secretary, in older to insure more adequate reporting of the meetings than has been possible hitherto. This is an important consideration, as it is assuredly one of the purposes of the association to impress upon the general public the dignity and importance of science. Modern civilization is increasingly dependent on the progress of science, and men of science must profit by the sympathy and support of the public benefiting by their labors. Owing partly to geographical conditions, partly to inadequate organization, though doubtless not wholly to these causes, there is here less public interest and general participation in the annual meetings of the American Association than is the case in England with regard to the British Association. It is evident, however, that our public interest

PSM V66 D385 Henry Pickering Bowditch.png

H. P. Bowditch.
Professor of Physiology, Harvard Medical School, Vice-President for Physiology and Experimental Medicine.

not only comes short of what it should be, in view of the real importance of science in our life and the possible value of the association to the nation, but it at present comes far short of what it is destined to become, we venture to hope, in the not distant future. All sympathizers with science, that is, all intelligent sympathizers with civilization, should be enrolled as members of the association. The present membership of about 4,000 should be speedily doubled, if not tripled, if the association is to do the work for which it is fitted. Its growth has been steady, but not commensurate with the growing needs of American science. Since the last meeting 377 new members have been added. Especially desirable is it that all scientific workers be members of the association as well as of their respective technical societies. It may not be generally known that any scientific society so desiring may, by vote of the council, become affiliated with the central association, without in the least sacrificing its autonomy, thereby gaining not only the advantage of profiting by the arrangements for the meetings which the association undertakes, but securing representation in the counicil in proportion to the number of its members enrolled as fellows of the association.

PSM V66 D386 Leonard Parker Kinnicutt.png

Leonard P. Kinnicutt,
Professor of Chemistry, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Vice-President for Chemistry.



The fifty-fourth meeting of the American Association was presided over by Professor William G. Farlow, the eminent botanist of Harvard University, who responded to the address of welcome tendered by Provost Harrison of the University of Pennsylvania. We are pleased that we are able to give here portraits of the vice-presidents who presided over the sections and of the permanent secretary and the secretary of the council. No report of the sectional meetings can be attempted, and only a brief account of the more important business proceedings. In some respects this is a critical period in the development of the association. With the increasing specialization of methods and of the sciences, a number of special societies of experts have arisen, which tend to replace, in a way, the older and more general association. Just what relation the latter should bear to the several societies affiliated with it is an important question of policy awaiting early solution. It is thought by some that the association should aim to serve as a central legislative body and to coordinate and represent to the public at large the common interests of the several special bodies, while yielding to these the sessions for the reading of technical papers. The Philadelphia convocation was notable

PSM V66 D387 David S Jacobus.png

David S. Jacobus,
Professor of Experimental Mechanics and Engineering Physics, Stevens Institute of Technology, Vice-President for Mechancal Science and Engineering.

for the harmony which prevailed between the special societies and the general association. In several cases the sections had charge of a general session in one half the day, and the affiliated societies of a meeting during the other half. Those sections of the association with which affiliated societies met were naturally the most largely attended. In regard to other questions, such as time and place of meeting, a certain amount of conflict of interests is bound to occur. It may be desirable and feasible for the association to hold two meetings annually, one during convocation week, primarily in the interests of scientific organization in America, another in the summer, somewhat more along the old lines familiar to our readers. These and other vexing questions of policy come up at Philadelphia, and were reported on by the committee on the policy of the association. This committee was empowered to exercise a general executive control of the preliminary arrangements for meetings and of the publications, and President R. S. Woodward, of the Carnegie Institution, was appointed as its permanent chairman, continuity and responsibility being thus insured. The national character of the association

PSM V66 D388 William Francis Magie.png

Wm. F. Magie,
Professor of Physics, Princeton University, Vice-President for Physics.

was emphasized by the selection of New Orleans as the place of meeting during next convocation week, beginning on December 29, 1905. Boston was recommended as the place of meeting for 1906. It was also recommended that a summer meeting be held in Ithaca in 1906. Professor Calvin Milton Woodward, of Washington University, St. Louis, was elected president of the association for the New Orleans meeting. Professor Woodward was born at Fitchburg, Mass. August 25, 1837. He is a graduate of Harvard (1860) and a doctor of philosophy from Washington University (1883). He has occupied the chair of mathematics and applied mechanics at the Washington University since 1870, and for many years he served as dean of the school of engineering. In 1879 he originated the St. Louis Manual Training School, of which he has been director ever since. Dr. Woodward has been an active member of the St. Louis school board and the president of the board of regents of the Missouri State University. He has written important books on manual training in education. A member of the association since 1883, he has been interested in the work of three of its sections, those of mathematics and astronomy, of mechanical science and engineering and

PSM V66 D389 Benjamin Lincoln Robinson.png

B. L. Robinson,
Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany, Harvard University, Vice-President for Botany.

of social and economic science, having been secretary for the last two, and at different times elected to the vice-presidency of the same. At Philadelphia he gave the vice-presidential address before Section D on 'Lines of Progress in Engineering.' His portrait will be found in the issue of the Monthly for February. 1904. Space does not permit more than a list of the well-known names of the newly elected vice-presidents, which are as follows:

Section of Mathematics and Astronomy—Professor W. S. Eichelberger, Washington. D. C.

Section of Physics—Professor Henry Crew. Evanston, Ill.

Section of Chemistry—Professor Charles F. Mabery, Cleveland, Ohio.

Section of Mechanical Science and Engineering.—Professor F. W. McNair. Houghton, Mich.

Section of Geology.—Professor William North Rice, Middletown, Conn.

Section of Zoology.—Professor H. B. Ward, Lincoln, Nebr.

Section of Botany.—Dr. Erwin F. Smith, Washington, D. C.

Section of Anthropology.—Dr. George Grant McCurdy, New Haven, Conn.

Section of Social and Economic Science.—Professor Irving Fischer, New Haven, Conn.

Section of Physiology and Experimental Medicine.—Professor William T. Sedgwick, Boston. Mass.

PSM V66 D390 Clinton Hart Merriam.png

C. Hart Merriam,
Chief of the U. S. Biological Survey, Vice-President for Zoölogy.

Dr. L. O. Howard, of Washington, D. C., was reelected for a term of five years, as permanent secretary; Profeessor C. A. Waldo, of Lafayette, Ind., as general secretary and Professor John F. Hayford, of Washington, D. C., as secretary of the council.



The address of the retiring president, Dr. Carroll D. Wright, formerly U. S. Commissioner of Labor, now president of Clark College, was an event of unusual significance. Dr. Wright, as is well known, is an economist, and he chose for his subject 'Science and Economics.' After referring to the revolutionizing influence of science in the realm of theology and religion, President Wright pointed out a similar influence, not as yet generally appreciated, in the sphere of political economy. The subject was, properly, presented in broad, general outlines, touching as it does a wide range of topics, such as the Malthusian theory of population, the law of diminishing returns, the iron law of wages, and the like, and even the tariff, together with such matters as the relation of chemistry and engineering science to problems of national and international politics, and the

PSM V66 D391 Eugene E Smith.png

Eugene A. Smith,
State Geologist of Alabama and Professor of Geology in the University of Alabama, Vice-President for Geology and Geography.

physiological and psychological conditions of efficiency as factors in the labor problem. It was shown how the progress of science has resulted in the abandonment or modification of the hard and fast theories of the classic school of political economists and the substitution of more flexible formulas, suited to the number and variety of facts brought to light by newer methods of investigation not only in economic and social science, but in the so-called exact and natural sciences as well. Modifications of old 'laws' also become necessary as the result of the progress of applied science, the extensive use of machinery, e. g., tending to modify the operation of the 'law of diminishing returns.' Agricultural science, or more accurately, the agricultural sciences, stand in the closest relation to the economic situation in any civilized country, and consequently not only to the science of economics, but to governmental policy.

President Wright's address was typical of the interests and objects for which the association exists. The Popular Science Monthly has consistently maintained that science is not a thing apart, the curious pastime of an exclusive clique, but that it is nothing more nor less than the most complete and exact statement of fact that can be reached by the most careful and thorough methods of inquiry, and that

PSM V66 D392 Walter Hough.png

Walter Hough,
Assistant Curator, Division of Ethnology, U. S. National Museum, Vice-President for Anthropology.

its results belong not to the few, but to the many, apply not in the domain of industry and our material civilization alone, but over the whole range of life's activities, are not for individual advantage chiefly, but for the public good. When society in general and governments in particular appreciate the true source and guardian of their highest welfare, then many things now desired, and many more no less needful, will be possible of attainment. It does not follow that because nations have for the most part stumbled along through a process of trial and error without planning their trials or measuring the significance of their errors, that they will always entail such waste in a needlessly blind pursuit of progress. The world proceeds by gradual evolution, yet, as we have often insisted and again repeat, this time in the words of Mr. John Morley, 'evolution is not a force, but a process; not a cause, but a law.' Ideas may be forces, purposes may be causes, and intelligent cooperation and organized effort may minister to the economy of social progress as they have to the promotion of success in the whole world of private business. The like principle holds for the internal organization of scientific men and scientific bodies themselves. There must be a solidarity of sympathy and aims among scientific workers if total efficiency, and not merely partial efficiency here and there, is their aim. When the forces of

PSM V66 D393 Martin Augustine Knapp.png

Martin A. Knapp,
Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Vice-President for Social and Economic Science.

science shall have become satisfactorily organized within, then it will be possible for science as a whole to take its proper place in public affairs.

Among the important societies which met with the association were the American Chemical Society, under President Arthur A. Noyes; the American Physical Society, with President Arthur A. Webster in the chair; the Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America, presided over by Professor Simon Newcomb; the Geological Society of America under President John C. Branner; the newly organized American Geographers' Association, Professor W. M. Davis presiding; and the American Society of Naturalists with its several affiliated societies, including those devoted to botany, zoology, anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, etc. Notable too was the interest shown in the vigorous societies devoted to the application of science, in agriculture, horticulture, entomology and other lines. The meeting of the American Chemical Society, the first to affiliate with the association, was particularly successful, 240 chemists having registered. It was necessary to subdivide into smaller sub-sections

PSM V66 D394 Charles S Howe.png

Charles S. Howe,
President of the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, Ohio; General Secretary o the American Association.

for the reading and discussion of the sixty odd papers that were presented. Under the auspices of the Naturalists, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn gave an interesting illustrated lecture in the lecture hall of the famous old Academy of Natural Sciences, his subject being 'Recent Discoveries of Extinct Animals in the Rocky Mountain Region, and their Bearings on Present Problems of Evolution.' 'The Mutation Theory of Organic Evolution' was discussed in a series of specially prepared papers by representatives of the most advanced research in their respective fields; plant breeding being represented by Dr. D. T. MacDougal, animal breeding by Professor W. E. Castle, cytology by Professor E. G. Conklin, paleontology by Professor W. B. Scott, anatomy by Professor Thomas Dwight, taxonomy by Professor Liberty H. Bailey and ethology by Dr. W. M. Wheeler. This was one of the best discussions that has been held before the Naturalists, as generally interesting as it was timely. It illustrates the value and need of comparison and coordination of the results of investigation in different fields for the solution of problems common to all. If methods are becoming more and more specialized with the growth of exactitude in the sciences,

PSM V66 D395 L O Howard.png

L. O. Howard,
Chief of the Division of Entomology, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Permanent Secretary of the American Association.

there is at the same time a growing class of problems which may be termed synthetic, to which special students must devote themselves without reference to the traditional boundaries of the separate sciences. These include the problems of evolution and many of the most pressing problems of solar research, geophysics, and the like, and still more of such applied sciences as medicine, agriculture and engineering. This suggests one of the strongest reasons, appealing to the interests of pure research itself, for a common meeting-ground of investigators in artificially separated though not unrelated fields, which shall serve as a clearing house for different classes of students at work on the same problems.

Professor William James, the eminent psychologist, who made a notable presidential address before the psychological association this year, was elected president of the American Society of Naturalists for the next meeting. There will inevitably be some separation of the societies next year, but it is hoped that all will be reunited for an especially good general meeting at Boston the year following.


The Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to Lord Rayleigh, professor of natural philosophy at the Royal Institution. The chemistry prize is conferred upon Sir William Ramsay, professor of chemistry at University College. M. Pavloff, professor at the Military Academy of Medicine at St. Petersburg, receives the prize for physiology and medicine. The literature prize is divided between M. Mistral, the Provencal poet, and Don Jose Echegaray, the Spanish dramatist. The peace prize has been awarded to the Institute of International Law.

Mr. Luther Burbank, whose important work on plant-breeding was described by President Jordan in the last issue of the Monthly, has been appointed a special lecturer at Stanford University. He has received a liberal grant from the Carnegie Institution, which will permit him to devote himself to scientific work—Professor Svante Arrhenius has been made head of a laboratory for physical chemistry, to be established at Stockholm by the Nobel Institute.—Dr. Horace Jayne has resigned the directorship of the Wistar Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor S. W. Burnham, astronomer at the Yerkes Observatory, has been awarded the Lalande gold medal of the French Academy of Sciences for his researches in astronomy.—The Lavoisier medal has been awarded to Sir James Dewar.—Professor G. Sergi has heen made president for the International Congress of Psychology to be held at Rome from April 26 to 30 of the present year.—Lord Kelvin has accepted the nomination of the council for the presidency of the London Faraday Society, in succession to Sir Joseph Swan.