Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/March 1906/The Progress of Science
THE REWARDS OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
Our economic system rests on the free exchange of services. A state of society may some day be reached in which each will aim to give as much as he can and to take as little, but at present it appeals to our sense of fairness that each should ask for his services what someone else is willing to pay. In the increasing complexity of our society this method is working two serious injustices. One of these is the formation of monopolies. Thanks chiefly to the applications of science, many services can now be supplied at a cost less than people would be willing to pay. When free competition is excluded, either by the conditions of the case or by ingenious combination, people may be made to pay more than a fair return for certain services. The problems of monopoly are being discussed on all sides and remedies are being sought in all directions; but the injustice, which in a way is the converse of monopoly, has scarcely been noticed. This is the case in which an individual gives services without an adequate return, owing to the fact that they are not rendered to a single individual or group who will pay for them, but to society as a whole. A surgeon may ask for an operation for appendicitis as large a fee as his patient is willing to pay, but should he after years of research discover a method of preventing appendicitis altogether, he would receive no payment at all, but would, on the contrary, give up all future fees for the operation. The surgeons who by risking and sacrificing their lives discovered how to suppress yellow fever have received no return for their great services.
This state of affairs not only does injustice to the unrewarded individual, but works immeasurable harm to society—a greater injury probably than all existing monopolies. There are more than a hundred thousand physicians in the United States who are practising on their patients for fees, while there are scarcely five hundred who are studying seriously the causes of disease and the methods of preventing it. The conditions are similar in law and in all professions and trades. The scientific investigator is usually an amateur. He has wealth or earns his living by some profession, and incidentally does what he can to advance science for love of the work. This has its good side in producing a small group of men who are not subject to purely commercial standards. But this is after all a minor factor, and the scientific man is likely to look for fame, which is scarcely more ideal than money and can be supplied to but few. Satisfaction in the work itself is the best reward for work; but no one can know that his work is of value except by the reflected appreciation of others, and in the existing social order the simplest and probably the most adequate expression of this appreciation is direct payment for the service rendered. The methods that society has devised to meet this situation, apart from the conferring of honors and fame, are recent and inadequate. Copyrights and patents are the most direct acknowledgment of property in ideas. They have accomplished a good deal, and their scope should be extended. At present only a small part of discovery is covered by the patent office, and this perhaps not the part requiring the greatest genius. It is, however, leading, especially in Germany, to the development of discovery on a sound commercial basis. It is said that one chemical firm employs three hundred doctors of philosophy to carry on scientific investigations. Research has hitherto been forwarded mainly by the universities, where again Germany has led the way. The professorship is given as a reward for successful investigations, and the holder of a chair is expected to devote himself to investigation as well as to teaching. There is a tendency to permit certain professors to engage almost exclusively in research. Thus the astronomical observatories of Harvard, Chicago and California universities are purely research institutions. A further step has been taken in the endowment of institutions, such as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Institute, explicitly for research. The most logical and important advance, however, consists in the direct conduct of research by the government. As the government should control monopolies, so it should conduct the work which is not for the benefit of a single individual, but for the people as a whole. There are of course no end of difficulties in the control of monopolies or the conduct of research by a municipality, state or nation; but it is exactly these difficulties that it is our business to overcome. And we may congratulate ourselves that our national government is at present accomplishing more for research and the applications of science than the government of any other nation.
THE WORK OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION
The most important private foundation for the promotion of research is the Carnegie Institution of Washington, established four years ago by Mr. Andrew Carnegie with an endowment yielding an annual income of $500,000. The fourth year book, which has been recently issued, is of special interest as it is the first under the presidency of Dr. R. S. Woodward. The work of the year indeed was mainly fixed before the president entered on his office, but in his report to the trustees he gives some indications of the policy that he will recommend. He favors large projects carried on under the auspices
of the institution rather than smaller grants made to individuals in other institutions. Astronomy, geophysics and terrestrial magnetism have been especially favored in the past, and this policy will apparently be continued, as the two specific recommendations made by the president are an astronomical observatory in the southern hemisphere and a laboratory for geophysical research. He says that it seems best "to follow lines of least resistance, promoting chiefly those departments of research which promise Mire returns, while seeking at all times to raise the less highly developed to the level of the more highly developed sciences."
This is a safe policy. The original deed of gift and the act of incorporation leave more to the imagination, and many, men of science had dreams of an institution that would become the chief center of scientific organization and inspiration for the country. But it is not fair to expect the impossible, and we should perhaps be satisfied if the institution conducts a geophysical laboratory as efficiently as it would be conducted under the Geological Survey and an astronomical observatory on Mt. Wilson doing as good work as that on Mt. Hamilton.
The large projects received, last year, grants as follows:
|Station for Experimental Evolution||$ 12,000|
|Tortugas Marine Biological Laboratory||15,700|
|Desert Botanical Laboratory||6,000|
|Economics and sociology||10,000|
|Paleontology (transferred to minor grants)||1,800|
The minor grants amounted to $130,625, including $26,000 to Professor R. Pumpelly for work in archeology and $10,000 for the conduct of the 'Index Medicus.' The following general appropriations have been made for the current year:
|Publication fund to be continuously available||$ 50,000|
|Grants for departments and large projects||552,600|
|Grants for miscellaneous researches, including grants previously implied||131,000|
No official announcement has been made of the new work that will be undertaken by the institution, but it may be assumed from the recommendations in the report of the president that the larger part of the appropriation for departments will go to the solar observatory on Mt. Wilson, an astronomical observatory in the southern hemisphere and a geophysical laboratory in Washington. It appears further that a department of botanical research has been established and placed under the direction of Dr. D. T. MacDougal.
An establishment such as the Carnegie Institution is face to face with many new and difficult problems. We regret that means have not been found to make the organization more truly democratic and representative of the scientific men of the country; we regret that its great resources have not been more directly applied to what it only could do. But whatever criticism may be directed against the institution, men of science will agree that the conduct of its work could not be in abler and safer hands than President Woodward's.
PROFESSOR ADOLF VON BAEYER
a large group of men active in research, especially from Kekulé. and began the investigations in organic chemistry which have made him eminent. It seems desirable to rail attention to the meat advantages that Baeyer had, which arc paralleled in the lives of many other eminent men. because we need at the present time to learn how far scientific achievement is due to inborn genius and how far to favorable circumstances. It is quite possible that the dearth of distinguished men in the United States is less due to lack of natural ability than to the fact that fifty years ago the environment here was but rarely so favorable as in Germany, France or Great Britain.
Baeyer's fortunate career has continued to the present time. He followed Kekulé to Geneva but soon qualified as a docent in Berlin with a research on uric acid. His promotion at Berlin was slow, but he developed an important laboratory in connection with the Gewerheakademie, where he had as students and assistants Liebermann, Graebe and Victor Meyer, and continued his work on the synthesis of organic compounds. He was called to the chair of chemistry in the newly-organized university of Strassburg in 1872, where he had as students Emil and Otto Fischer, and three years later went to Munich as Liebig's successor. Liebig, who established the first chemical laboratory, had gone to Munich on the condition that he should do no laboratory teaching, and it remained for Baeyer to build up a university laboratory. Here he with his pupils and assistants has since continued to carry forward important researches in organic chemistry. His most important work, however, was the artificial production of indigo, accomplished in 1870, and made commercially possible in 1880. This has given Germany a new and important industry. It is a fine example of the interdependence of pure and applied science.
The German emperor has conferred on Professor Simon Newcomb, the eminent astronomer, the order 'pour le merite' in science and the arts.—At a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, on February 9, Ambassador Reid received the gold medal for 1905, conferred by the society on Professor William Wallace Campbell, director of the Lick Observatory.
It is planned to present to the city of Philadelphia a statue of Dr. Joseph Leidy, to be erected in the City Hall Plaza. Dr. Leidy, who was born in that city in 1823 and died there in 1891, added much to its scientific eminence, and as president of the Academy of Natural Sciences, professor of human and comparative anatomy and zoology in the University of Pennsylvania, and president of the Wagner Free Institute of Science, accomplished much for these institutions.
The U. S. government has commissioned President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford University, and Professor Charles H. Gilbert, head of the department of zoology, to conduct an investigation of the fish and fisheries of Japan and the Island of Sakhalin during the coming summer.—Dr. Otto Nordenskjöld and Capt. Mikkelsen were the guests of honor at a dinner given by the Arctic and Explorer's Clubs in New York City, on February 7. It was announced that Dr. Nordenskjöld would sail on the 8th inst. for his home in Sweden, to arrange for another voyage in search of the south pole. Capt. Mikkelsen is getting ready an expedition to the Beaufort Sea, an unexplored Arctic area west of the Parry archipelago.
Samuel Pierpont Langley,
Late Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution