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

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION.

Professor Robert Simpson Woodward, who holds the chair of mechanics and mathematical physics at Columbia University and is dean of the faculty of pure science, was elected president of the Carnegie Institution at the meeting of the trustees held at Washington on December 13. No selection could have been made more certain to meet the general approval of scientific men. They know that Professor Woodward possesses in an unusual degree the scientific eminence, executive ability, sound judgment and sympathetic personality which the position requires. His own researches have given him acquaintance with a wide range of the sciences, he having made contributions to mathematics, physics, geology and astronomy, while he has an intelligent interest in the biological sciences. He has been president and is now treasurer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; he has been president of the American Mathematical Society and of the New York Academy of Sciences; he is one of the editors of Science; he has always done far more than his share to promote all efforts for the advancement of science.

The presidency of the Carnegie Institution is the most important scientific position in the world. There are attached to this office unusual opportunities and at the same time serious responsibilities. As our readers know, Mr. Andrew Carnegie gave three years ago preferred bonds of the United States Steel Corporation of the par value of $10,000,000 to establish at Washington an institution whose objects are defined in the articles of incorporation, as follows:

(a) To acquire, hold and convey real estate and other property necessary for the purposes of the Institution as herein stated, and to establish general and special funds;
(b) To conduct, endow and assist investigation in any department of science, literature or art, and to this end to cooperate with governments, universities, colleges, technical schools, learned societies and individuals;
(c) To appoint committees of experts to direct special lines of research;
(d) To publish and distribute documents;
(e) To conduct lectures;
(f) To hold meetings;
(g) To acquire and maintain a library;
(h) And, in general, to do and perform all things necessary to promote the objects of said institution.

It is not remarkable and it is perhaps fortunate that three years have elapsed without committing the institution to any definite policy. Smithson's bequest 'to found at Washington an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men' was in its objects closely parallel to Mr. Carnegie's foundation. The legacy of about $550,000 was received in 1838. All sorts of projects were embodied in bills, but the congress did not come to any agreement as to its uses until 1846. The delay in this case was certainly fortunate. Soon after the establishment of the Carnegie Institution a number of the leading American men of science took part in a discussion published in Science on its functions, which were summarized in the New York Independent in the following conflicting propositions:

1. Establish large and well-equipped laboratories at Washington for each science.
2. Waste no money on buildings, but utilize existing laboratories wherever they may be.
3. Keep young men from deserting scientific pursuits by granting numerous fellowships to poor but worthy persons.

 
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College Hall, University of Pennsylvania.
 

4. Give no fellowships, but, on the contrary, charge high tuition.
5 Live small sums to many individuals.
6. Money distributed in small amounts is wasted. Give at least $100.000 at a time.
7. Assist unknown and struggling men in small colleges.
8. Make no grants except to tried and proved investigators.
9. Grant only for specific purposes and on definite lines of work.
10. Give the investigator perfect freedom because he can not tell what he is going to dis. cover beforehand, and would not be willing to publish his intentions.
11. Pay salaries of $10,000 a year to the leaders of each science.
12. Expend no money on salaries, but supply only apparatus and books.
13. Publish a handsome series of quarto and folio memoirs.
14. Waste no money on big books and wide margins.
15. Grant degrees and award prizes.
16. Grant no degrees and offer no prizes.

This represents in somewhat exaggerated form the diversity in the views of scientific men; and when there are such differences of opinion, it is wise to move slowly in adopting an irreversible policy. There are possibilities that appeal to the imagination in an institution that can play the part of a special providence throughout the country, scattering money just where it will bring forth fruit a hundredfold and discovering the struggling genius to give him the work he is best fitted to do. But there are difficulties and even dangers in such an undertaking. Under its new president the Carnegie Institution will be in a far better position than hitherto to carry out a policy of this kind. But it is probable that the institution will ultimately become one of the constituents of a great national university.

 

CONVOCATION WEEK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science held its first meeting in Philadelphia in 1848. After an interval of thirty-six years it met for the second time in Philadelphia in 1884, when the attendance was 1,261. This was the largest meeting in the history of the association, but the numbers were increased by 303 members of the British Association, which met that year in Canada. At the Boston meeting of 1880 there were 997 and at the Montreal meeting of 1882 there were 937 members in attendance

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Houston Hall.

 
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The New Medical Laboratories.
 
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The Vivarium and Botanical Garden.
 

These meetings represent a culminating point in the history of the association, and an important epoch in the development of science. Until 1882 there were only two sections of the association, one for the exact sciences and one for the natural sciences. But at about this period specialization and differentiation became imperative. The conditions Ave re in part met by dividing the association into sections, but more adequately by the establishment of special societies. The American Society of Naturalists was organized in 1883, and has since held winter meetings, the membership being confined to professional students of the natural sciences. The American Chemical Society had been established in 1870: the Geological and Mathematical Societies were organized in 1888. Since that time special societies have been founded for all the leading sciences, and there is a tendency for them to divide into branches for the different sections of the country.

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The Randel Morgan Laboratory of Physics.

The establishment of these special societies represents an important advance, but its first effect was to weaken the parent association. Professional men of science found the amateur element too prominent in the summer meeting and the time was inconvenient for many of them. In spite of the great increase in the numbers of scientific men in the country, the meetings became smaller and the membership decreased. But this was only a temporary phase. The interests of men of science are not exactly limited by the conventional bounds of a single science. A zoologist, for example, may be interested in anatomy, physiology, pathology, paleontology, geography, botany, psychology, chemistry or some other science. It is also the case that those who attend the annual meetings like to see their friends from other parts of the country who may be working in fields remote from their own. It is advantageous consequently for the special societies to meet in groups at times,

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The Flower Astronomical Observatory.

even though they may like occasionally to be isolated, and some machinery is necessary to make local arrangements, to secure reduced railway fares and the like.

Then while a small group of experts is the ideal condition for the presentation and discussion of special research, there are wider aspects of science and interrelations between the sciences for the adequate consideration of which workers in different departments must come together. There are also conditions of scientific progress, such as educational methods, scientific institutions, publication, government activities, etc., that need criticism and control. Neither trades unions nor corporations meet with universal approval at the present time, but it is obvious that some union among men of science is desirable for the support of their common interests, which in this case are fortunately identical with the interests of society. Lastly a federation of societies and a large gathering of scientific men is an important factor in keeping scientific work in touch with the outside world and in impressing on it the unity and weight of scientific research.

The complicated conditions appear to have been met by the establishment of 'convocation week' at the end of the Christmas holidays. Under the general auspices of the American Association arrangements are made at some large center for the meeting of the association and of the special societies that care to join with it. The special societies have complete control of their place and time of meeting, of their programs and membership; but without interfering with their autonomy the advantages of a great gathering of scientific men are assured. Thus at Philadelphia, beginning the day after Christmas, there will meet the American Association and its ten sections; the American Society of Naturalists, and some twenty special societies, including those devoted to astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, botany, zoology, paleontology, bacteriology, physiology, anatomy, anthropology, psychology and philosophy The societies are fortunate in their place of meeting this year. Philadelphia is centrally situated, at least for the Atlantic seaboard. The city is noted for its scientific societies and institutions. The University of Pennsylvania is one of the great universities which can offer admirable accommodations to all the societies and at the same time much to interest all men of science. Houston Hall, the beautiful club house of the students, will be an admirable center for social intercourse. The magnificent new medical laboratories will not only give excellent places of meeting for the societies devoted to the biological sciences, but a visit to them would repay a trip from Boston or even from Chicago. Each group of scientific men will find something to interest them in the advances made by the university during the ten years of Provost Harrison's administration. These include the laboratories of physics and of chemistry, the engineering hall, the observatory, the botanical garden, the vivarium and the museums, to mention only certain of the developments connected with the natural and exact sciences.

 

THE U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

Much has been written of late about the work of the National Department of Agriculture, and widespread public interest aroused in its developments. There have been occasional criticisms of particular investigations, but there has been much to commend, which has appealed to people as having an important bearing in the development of agriculture. Interest in its annual report is by no means confined to the farmers and horticulturists, and no one can read it without being impressed by the fact that under the direction and stimulus of the present secretary of agriculture it has become an agency of great activity and aggressiveness in all that pertains to agricultural science and practise.

No reasonable expense or effort is evidently being spared to introduce or originate plants of improved quality, or better adapted to particular sections, to find remedies for diseases and pests of plants and animals, to extend the market for agricultural products, and to bring about an improved and more intelligent agriculture. In this the department is ably seconded by the agricultural experiment stations, located in every state and territory of the union, whose services the secretary acknowledges in the opening clause of his report and elsewhere. Many of the investigations reported from the department have originated and been worked out at the experiment stations, but they have been fostered and exploited by the department. Much of this work is a joint undertaking. The relations between these agencies are so close in object and method that specific reference to the stations is not made in each case, although evidently implied in a summary of what has been accomplished. The secretary endorses the movement for increasing the federal appropriation to the state stations, a bill for which is now pending in congress, and commends their work unsparingly.

Among the exigencies of the year which have called for special attention are the control of cattle scab and mange in the west, of which the individual states were unable to prevent the spread, and the serious and threatening ravages of the cotton-boll weevil in Texas and Louisiana. The latter work has been widely described in the press. The past season was a favorable one in bringing out the value of macaroni or durum wheats, introduced by the department in the semiarid west a few years ago. It is estimated that fourteen million bushels were grown, and a great impetus was given to their culture. The growing of pedigreed sugar beet seed is showing home-grown seed to be equal to the imported seed, and often better. A sweet orange of the hardy type, produced by crossing, is thought to give promise; and breeding and selection work is being carried on with tobacco to improve the leaf. Much needed studies have been made upon the cold storage of fruit, to determine the conditions of growing, picking and handling for that purpose and for export. During the year over fourteen hundred kinds of seeds and plants were introduced, through agricultural explorers and correspondence, from various parts of the world. In this line special attention is being paid to the development of dry-land farming in the west. Evidence is presented of the value of copper sulphate for ridding water supply of obnoxious algæ, and progress is reported in the direction of making practically useful the important discoveries of Hellriegel, Wilfarth and others as to the assimilation of nitrogen from the air by plants with the aid of certain bacteria. An important new line of work is that relating to the breeding of animals, which has been undertaken on a systematic basis in co-operation with the experiment stations and with a special appropriation from congress.

In the investigations on human nutrition, the respiration calorimeter has been developed to a point of high scientific accuracy, and is being employed in studies on the comparative value of fat and carbohydrates as sources of energy to the body. Investigations have been completed on the much-agitated question of the value of the whole-wheat and graham flours as compared with ordinary flours, and dietary studies made at public institutions. Laboratories have been established for the inspection of imported food products, the character of which has greatly improved under this inspection; and investigations nave been made of the effect upon health of food preservatives, such as borax. The irrigation investigations have had to do especially with the water requirements of crops, the economy of water, method of applying it, and pumping trials. Drainage investigations have been added, to include the large drainage problems growing out of the formation of marshes from irrigation, reclamation of the everglades of Florida, tidal marshes, etc.; and it is urged that this work in agricultural engineering be extended to include farm buildings and farm machinery, upon which there is much call for expert information.

The publications of the department, which reflect its activity and growth last year, reached the large number of 972 separate documents, the editions of which aggregated nearly twelve and a half million copies. Nearly half of these were 'farmers' bulletins' of popular character. A constantly increasing demand is noted for the department's publications by educational institutions, to be used for class work; and two thirds of the publications sold by the superintendent of documents were those of the Department of Agriculture. This attests the increasing appreciation of its work.

The generally optimistic character of the report indicates a commendable faith and enthusiasm in the work which the department is doing, and in the ability of science to solve many of the problems which now confront the agriculture of this country.

 

THOMAS MESSINGER DROWN.

By the untimely death of Thomas Messinger Drown, LL.D., on November 16, Lehigh University has lost a wise, and beloved president, and American science a versatile and accomplished chemist, while a large circle of friends mourns the loss of a singularly winning personality, always cheerful, gentle, kindly and helpful. Dr. Drown was born on March 19, 1842, at Philadelphia. After graduating in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, he pursued graduate studies in chemistry under

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W. M. Flickinger, Photographer.

Thomas Messinger Drown.

leading American and German masters. For seven years he occupied the chair of analytical chemistry at Lafayette College, and for ten years a similar chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the founders of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, he served with conspicuous efficiency for ten years as its first secretary and editor of its Transactions, being later elected to honorary membership and in 1897 to its presidency. Dr. Drown did important original work in quantitative analysis in two directions. In metallurgy he devised methods which have become standard in the analysis of iron and steel. In sanitary chemistry 1 he introduced improvements both in the methods and in the interpretation of water analysis. As chemist in charge of the investigation of the natural waters of Massachusetts, he instituted a series of investigations which resulted, among other things, in the unique map showing the distribution of 'normal chlorine' in the springs and wells of the entire state. Dr. Drown was consulting chemist to the Massachusetts State Board of Health till the time of his death.

In 1895 Dr. Drown was called to the presidency of Lehigh University at a time when that institution's influence was at a low ebb. With rare courage and a faith in the institution, since justified by events, he restored to the university its own wavering faith and waning courage, gave it a good business administration, widened its educational horizons, and, by his sympathetic, intelligent guidance, fostered the steady, healthful growth characteristic of recent years.

During President Drown's administration the number of students has been increased from 325 to 650. The teaching staff has been proportionally increased and the grades of assistant professor and assistant, characteristic of modern university organization, have been introduced. Mineralogy and metallurgy have been divided into independent departments; likewise geology has been separated from mining, and electrical engineering from physics. A department of biology, inclusive of bacteriology, has been established, with adequate laboratory equipment, and a department of economics and history, intended equally for students in engineering and in arts. The department of philosophy and psychology, formerly an adjunct to the chaplaincy, has been given its independence, a psychological laboratory and courses in pedagogy being added. Hand in hand with President Drown's policy of expansion and differentiation went that of correlation. The School of General Literature has grown steadily by the side of the technical schools, which in

turn have been increasingly hospitable to the introduction of liberal studies. Dr. Drown had long cherished a plan to evolve a six-year course fitted to furnish both a broad culture and an adequate training for the professional work of the engineer.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

It is reported that Nobel prizes will be awarded to Sir William Ramsay in chemistry and to Lord Rayleigh in physics.—The Royal Society has awarded its Rumford medal to Dr. Ernest Rutherford, professor of physics at McGill University, for his researches on radio-activity.

Professor Charles A. Young, who celebrated his seventieth birthday on December 15, will retire from the chair of astronomy at Princeton University at the close of the present year and will become professor emeritus.—Dr. George H. Howison, professor of philosophy in the University of California, celebrated his seventieth birthday on November twenty-fifth, when he was presented with a Festschrift prepared by his former students.

During the recent excursion of the Eighth International Geographic Congress to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona, a meeting was held in memory of Major J. W. Powell, in which his exploration of the canyon, his western surveys and his work as director of the United States Geological Survey and as organizer of the Bureau of Ethnology were briefly described. At the close of the meeting it was resolved to erect a monument in memory of Powell on the edge of the plateau overlooking the Grand Canyon.