Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/February 1906/The Progress of Science

The Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture.



The annual report of the secretary of agriculture is a record of scientific investigation and attainments by the national Department of Agriculture for the past eight years. The broad relations of the department's work give the report a wide general interest, and it illustrates anew the many practical benefits which may accrue to every-day affairs from intelligent and well-directed research and experimentation.

Secretary Wilson assumed charge of the department in the spring of 1897, and has been at its head since that time. This unusual period of service has been marked by rapid developments in work and organization, and by the elevation of the department as a scientific institution and in public estimation. The appropriations during this period have more than doubled, as has also the personnel of the department, and the scientific staff has increased from 925 in 1897 to 2,326 at present. Viewing the department's work in retrospect, it is somewhat surprising to note how many of the features which have brought it into prominence date from the present administration. The work in forestry, for example, which has assumed a position of such widespread importance, has been almost entirely developed during the past eight years. With the offer of practical assistance to forest owners in the management of their tracts, 'the field of action shifted from the desk to the woods'; and this was the beginning of a comprehensive movement, resulting in the formation of an intelligent public opinion and sound national sentiment which are rapidly placing the handling of forests and of the forest reserves upon a more enlightened and conservative basis.

The agricultural experiment stations in Alaska, Hawaii and Porto Rico have all been established and placed upon an efficient working basis under the present administration, and the influence and assistance of the department have thus spread to these remote possessions. The investigations in problems relating to irrigation from an agricultural standpoint, as distinguished from the strictly engineering features, have been inaugurated and organized upon a comprehensive scale. This work has proved so eminently practical and so important to irrigated agriculture that it has grown rapidly in extent and in scope, its appropriation having increased nearly tenfold. Out of it have sprung the work in land drainage and the still newer investigations upon agricultural machinery, so that operations covering practically the whole field of rural engineering have been inaugurated as an entirely new feature.

The breeding and selection of plants and varieties better adapted to special conditions or uses have been developed into a conspicuous feature, as has also the introduction of plants from foreign countries. Agricultural exploration for this purpose was instituted by the present secretary in 1898, with a small portion of the congressional seed fund which he was given authority to expend for that purpose. This has resulted in a vast number of introductions, such, for example, as the date palm, Turkestan alfalfa, Japanese rice, durum or macaroni wheats, and numerous other cereals. Durum wheat was first introduced in 1899, and has proved of such advantage in semi-arid lands that about twenty million bushels were raised this year. The propaganda for sugar-beet culture was inaugurated soon after the present secretary came to the department, and the widespread tests of its adaptation to different parts of the country have shown the regions especially adapted to the crop and been followed by a nearly tenfold increase in beet-sugar production.

The Weather Bureau has greatly extended the range of its observations and its investigation in the domain of meteorological science, with the result of increasing efficiency and a wider application of its work. It is now said to be the most highly developed weather service in the world. The soil survey has been entirely developed under the present administration, and constitutes the first systematic attempt to make a comprehensive soil survey of the United States. In economic entomology there have been very important developments, and the scope of the work has been more than doubled, not to mention the extensive scale on which the Bureau of Entomology has worked in the campaign against the cotton boll weevil.

The Bureau of Animal Industry, in addition to stamping out an outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in New England, has attained very important results in the study of animal diseases and their control, and the meat inspection in its charge has very materially increased. The inspection work has also been extended under the Bureau of Chemistry to other food products intended for export and import, and a system of food standards has been worked out as a basis for guidance in federal, state and municipal food inspection.

These are only a few of the many lines enumerated in which investigation has been inaugurated or important progress made. The showing is a gratifying one, and affirms how definite has been the aim in expanding and developing the department to meet the manifold needs of our unusually diverse agriculture. In a word, its twofold object has been 'to add to the sum of intelligence of the man, and to increase the productive capacity of the acre.' In this it has been strongly supported by the agricultural experiment stations of the country, to which the secretary makes appreciative acknowledgment. "Not only have the stations been a vital factor in making the department's work more effective," he says, "but they have by their own investigations lifted American agriculture to a higher plane." These two great agencies working together have laid the foundation of a science of agriculture as a basis for teaching and practise, and have won the confidence and appreciation not only of the farmers but of the general public.


The meeting of the association at New Orleans during the Christmas holidays was thoroughly enjoyed by those members who were able to be present, and was of service in increasing in the south the influence of the association and interest in scientific work. The attendance was small, only 233 members being registered, but this was foreseen. The trip from the main centers of scientific activity was long for the Christmas holidays, and in most of the sciences meetings were being held simultaneously in more accessible places. The total number of scientific workers in the south is lamentably small. It appears from a computation recently made of the residence of the thousand leading men of science of the United States that only four of them live in the states of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi; whereas there are 144 in Massachusetts, 43 in Connecticut, 35 in New Jersey and 47 in Maryland. The south has enjoyed a noteworthy development in its material resources in the past decade, and there is every reason to assume that its universities and other institutions concerned with the advancement of science W. S. Eichelberger, Professor of Mathematics, U. S. Naval Observatory, Chairman of the Section of Mathematics and Astronomy. will in the course of the next decade witness a parallel progress. And to this end the visit of the association to New Orleans will surely contribute.

New Orleans has the characteristics which with some exaggeration we attribute to the south. Its people are pleasure-loving and hospitable; the streets and restaurants are crowded; there were during the week of the meeting two race tracks in W. T. Sedgwick, Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chairman of the Section of Physiology and Experimental Medicine. operation and two companies giving grand opera. As might have been expected the welcome to the association was cordial, spontaneous and unorganized. The meeting was truly appreciated, for in no place is science more highly esteemed than in New Orleans at the present time. As the Hon. C. F. Buck worded it in his address of welcome: "Our people are in a mood of worship in this regard. Through all the generations of the past has hung a dread, impenetrable shadow over our destiny. F. W. McNair, President of the Michigan College of Mines, Chairman of the Section of Mechanical Science and Engineering. A mysterious disease which baffled human skill in its treatment and defied inquiry into its coming and going threatened all our hopes and expectations indefinitely. Science has lifted the shadow and unlocked the mystery. We look the future in the face with a new hope and an unshaken confidence. Your coming to us, so far away from the usual centers, just at this time, appeals to us like a voice of succor and a helping hand in a wilderness."

An interesting series of addresses was given by the retiring president, Professor W. G. Farlow, of Harvard Henry Crew, Professor of Physics, Northwestern University, Chairman of the Section of Physics. University, and by the vice-presidents of the sections—Professor Alexander Ziwet, of the University of Michigan; Professor Leonhard Kinnicutt, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Professor E. A. Smith, of the University of Alabama; Henry B. Ward, Professor of Geology, University of Nebraska. Chairman of the Section of Zoology. Dr. C. Hart Merriam, of the U. S. Biological Survey; Professor W. F. Magie, of Princeton University; Professor B. L. Robinson, of Harvard University, and Dr. Martin A. Knapp, of the Interstate Commerce Bureau Commission, and Professor David S. Jacobus, of Stevens Institute. Wm. North Rice, Professor of Geology, Wesleyan University, Chairman of the Section of Geology and Geography. These addresses are in course of publication in Science. Dr. F. P. Venable, president of the University of South Carolina, gave a presidential address before the American Chemical Society, and Mr. Elwood Mead, of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, gave a lecture complimentary to the citizens of New Orleans. The programs of the sections, presided over by the vice-presidents, some of whose portraits we are able to give, were of unequal scientific value. The section of anthropology had no meetings, and in the cases of geology and zoology the programs were small. This is explained by the fact that the anthropologists were meeting' at Ithaca, the geologists at Ottawa and the zoologists at Ann Arbor. On the other hand, the chemists had their usual strong meeting with a program of eighty-two titles.

The section of social and economic science also presented a full and good list of papers. Perhaps the most appropriate and interesting program was that of the section of physiology C. F. Mabery, Professor of Chemistry, Case School of Applied Science, Chairman of the Section of Chemistry. and experimental medicine, which arranged a discussion of yellow-fever and other insect-borne diseases, taken part in by some of those who have contributed in an important measure to our knowledge of these diseases, including Dr. James Carroll, who made the original experiments proving that yellow fever is transmitted by the mosquito and not by direct contagion.

George Grant McCurdy, Lecturer in Anthropology, Yale University; Chairman of the section of Anthropology.

The association decided to hold a special meeting at Ithaca at the end of June, and to hold its regular annual meeting at New York next winter. The decision to hold two meetings, reached after careful consideration at Philadelphia and at New Orleans, is an important movement, showing the growth of science in the country and the increase in the influence of the association which has now 4,300 members.

The vice-presidents elected are:

Section A—Dr. Edward Kasner, New York City.
Section B—Professor W. C. Sabine, Cambridge, Mass.
Section C—Mr. Clifford Richardson, New York City.
Section D—Mr. W. R. Warner, Cleveland, O.
Section E—Professor A. C. Lane, Lansing, Mich.
Section F—Professor E. G. Conklin Philadelphia, Pa.
Section G—Dr. D. T. MacDougal, Washingington. D. C.
Section H—Professor Hugo Münsterberg, Cambridge, Mass.
Section I—Mr. Chas. A. Conant, New York City.
Section K—Dr. Simon Flexner, New York City.

Dr. W. H. Welch, professor of pathology in the Johns Hopkins University, was elected president of the association to preside at the Ithaca and Now York meetings. His portrait is given as a frontispiece to the number. Here again the advance of science and the growth in the scope of the association are shown, as pathology and bacteriology are for the first time recognized in the highest honor that his colleagues can confer on a man of science. They are fortunate in knowing that there is a student of pathology in the country who is preeminent in his science, and as the same time a leader in all good causes concerned with his profession.


We regret to record the deaths of Dr. William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago, of Dr. Richard Hodgson, secretary of the American branch of the American Society for Psychical Research, and of Professor Charles Jasper Joly, F.R.S., astronomer royal of Ireland.

The committee appointed to carry the proposal of a memorial to Rudolf Virchow into effect has now a sum of $20,000 at its disposal. Of this amount $9,000 has been contributed by subscribers and $11,000 by the city of Berlin.—A memorial to Professor Albert von Kollicker will be erected in Würzburg by the German Anatomical Society, of which he was an honorary president.—A memorial medal in honor of Andree has been made by Londberg, the Swedish engraver. The artist represents Andree's balloon rising from the ice. The explorer is looking anxiously toward the north. A group of young men are applauding, while an old man looks toward the horizon doubtfully. Below is the date, July 11, 1897. On the obverse appears the profile of André.

A department of botanical research to include the Desert Laboratory and other botanical projects, was established by the action of the trustees of the Carnegie Institution at a recent meeting. Dr. D. T. MacDougal has resigned as assistant director of the New York Botanical Garden to accept the post of director of the newly organized department.—Major D. Prain, hitherto director of the Botanical Garden at Calcutta, has been appointed to the directorship of Kew Gardens, vacant by the retirement of Sir William Thiselton-Dyer—Mr. F. W. Dyson, F.R.S., chief assistant at Greenwich Observatory, has been appointed astronomer royal for Scotland, in the room of the late Professor Copeland.

The will of the late Charles T. Yerkes, who owed his large fortune to the direct application of recent advances in science, makes provision for three important institutions, which are to bear his name. The Yerkes Observatory, to which he has already contributed liberally, receives $100,000, the Yerkes galleries and the Yerkes hospital are to be established in New York City, on the death of his widow, or sooner should she wish. The hospital will also be established in case of the death of one of the two children. After certain bequests to Mrs. Yerkes, to his son and daughter and to others have been made, a trust fund is established, most of which will ultimately go to the support of the hospital. It is said that the value of the house on Fifth Avenue to be used for the galleries is $1,000,000, and that the value of the collections is $4,000,000. $750,000 are provided as an endowment fund for the galleries, which will be under the control of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The hospital, which is to be situated in the borough of the Bronx, will receive, it is estimated by the daily papers, from $5,000,000 to $16,000,000.