Popular Science Monthly/Volume 71/November 1907/The Progress of Science

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Members of the International Zoological Congress at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.


The Bureau of the Census has just issued its annual report on mortality statistics for the year 1905. There is surely nothing more dramatic than tables of death rates, however uninteresting they may appear to the casual observer. Thus the death rate in Indiana and in Michigan is scarcely above 13 a thousand, whereas in European Russia it is 33. If the population of European Russia is assumed to be 130 million, this means that of the 4,290,000 people who die annually in that country 2,600,000 would not die if the conditions were as favorable as they are in Indiana and Michigan. There is no reason to suppose that the Russians are naturally less vigorous than those living in our central states, and this great loss of life—besides which the number of those killed in the Russian-Japanese war is insignificant—must be due to conditions of life which could be remedied. It is probable that in the cases of the states quoted, and in some parts of Great Britain, Norway and Sweden where the rate is equally low, it is still very much higher than it should be. We may hope that the publication of the death rates may itself have a tendency to call attention to the enormous annual sacrifice of life, and it is consequently fortunate that the Bureau of the Census is now able to publish annually a volume of statistics and that the area covered by the statistics tends to increase.

In 1890 the states in which registration was effective had a population of about twenty million, and in addition there were registration cities having a population of about ten million. In the year 1900 the states of California, Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and South Dakota were added to those which maintain effective registration. The population now included in the registration area is over thirty-six million, or nearly half the total population.

Indiana and Michigan have the lowest death rates among the registration states; the death rates being, respectively, 15.3 and 14.7 in their cities, and 12.7 and 12.8 in their rural districts. In New York City the death rate was 19.4 as the average of the five years from 1900 to 1904. The cities having the lowest death rates were St. Joseph, Mo., St. Paul, Minn., and Minneapolis, Minn., where rates, respectively, of 7.6, 10 and 10.6 are assigned. Charleston, S. C, has the highest death rate—31.3—but here, as in other southern states with abnormally high death rates, the incidence is on the negro population. The death rate at Charleston, for example, is 22.9 for whites and 44.3 for negroes.

Tuberculosis of the lungs is still by far the most fatal of all diseases, causing 172 deaths each year for each hundred thousand of the population. It is followed by pneumonia with 135, heart disease with 121, diarrhoea with 113, and nephritis and Bright's disease with 94. There is a tendency for diseases such as apoplexy and cancer, which affect mainly elderly persons, to increase, and this is of course a gratifying indication that the relative number of those living beyond middle age is increasing. Contagious diseases naturally show large fluctuations, but scarlet fever appears to have decidedly decreased, the number of deaths per thousand having fallen from 12 to 7.

We reproduce diagrams originally
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Average Annual Birth Rates of Certain European Countries per 1,000 of Population, by Decades (Stillbirths excluded).

prepared under the auspices of the French government showing graphically the average annual number of births and deaths per thousand of population in those countries which publish adequate statistics. It will be noted that in all parts of the civilized world both the birth rates and the death rates tend to decrease, and that, as a rule, those countries having the lowest death rates have also the lowest birth rates. As is well known, the low-est birth rate is that of the French—22.2 during the decade 1891 to 1900 and still falling. This is followed very closely by the figures for Ireland—23. There is then a break to Sweden and Switzerland, with birth rates, respectively, of 27.2 and 28.1. The highest birth rates recorded are in Servia and Roumania. Germany has a birth rate of 36.1; England and Wales of 29.9. During the last twenty years the birth rate has fallen in every country and the death rate has also fallen in practically all countries. The lowest death rates, 16.1 and 16.3, respectively, are in Sweden and Norway. The highest, 33.4 and 30, respectively, are in Russia and Spain.

It should be remembered that the birth rate and the death rate have
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Average Annual Death Rates of Certain European Countries per 1,000 of Population, by Decades (Stillbirths excluded).

probably decreased even more rapidly than the statistics show, as births and deaths, as a rule, tend to be more accurately recorded now than formerly. Thus it is by no means certain that the birth rate in England increased from the period 1841-50 to 1871-80. Even now when an infant dies at an early age, the registration of both birth and death is sometimes not recorded, and this custom was doubtless formerly more prevalent than it is at present.


The first bulletin of the Carnegie Foundation, which is concerned with the admission of the officers of state universities to retiring allowances, contains a good deal of interesting information in regard to the growth of these institutions, part of which is summarized in the accompanying table. The first column gives the date of founding, and some may be surprised to find that the first state universities were established in the south, Michigan, often looked upon as the oldest state university, being in fact the tenth in order. Another circumstance perhaps not generally known is the fact that two state universities were established in Ohio at the early dates of 1804 and 1824, and that the Ohio State
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University at Columbus was not established until 1870. The University of Florida, established in 1904, makes the number of state universities thirty-nine, and, as there are three in Ohio, the number of states and territories having state universities is thirty-seven.

Nearly all the universities of the eastern states have at one time or another received appropriations from the state and have been to a certain extent under state control, and at present certain universities, such as Pennsylvania and Cornell, may be regarded as partly state institutions. In each case the governor of the state is a member of the board of trustees and appropriations are made by the state for the support of the university.

The next column of the table gives the numbers of instructors and students, according to which the University of New Mexico, with 89 students and nineteen instructors, is the smallest of the institutions, while the largest are Wisconsin, with 3,571 students and 317 instructors; Minnesota, with 3,955 students and 317 instructors; Illinois, with 4,074 students and 408 instructors; Michigan, with 4,136 students and 332 instructors, and California, with 4,173 students and 403 instructors. According to the figures annually' compiled by Professor Tombo and published in Science, the five largest universities which are independent of the state are Harvard, with 5,343 students and 583 instructors; Chicago, with 4,731 students and 341 instructors; Columbia, with 4,650 students and 600 instructors; Cornell, with 4,075 students and 525 instructors; and Pennsylvania, with 3,934 students and 375 instructors. It will thus be seen that the leading corporations do not differ greatly in size.

The table next gives the annual tuition fees, whence it appears that Indiana, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma charge no fees, while in a number of other states the fees are nominal. Several of the universities charge higher fees to non-residents than to residents of the state. Perhaps the most interesting data on the table are the comparisons of the annual income apart from tuition fees of these universities in 1896 and 1906. There is here an increase that holds for every institution without exception and which is certainly most remarkable. Thus the annual income of the ten principle universities of the middle west was in 1896 $1,689,200, whereas ten years later it was $4,577,700. The figures given in the table are, however, somewhat obscured by the fact that there is no distinction made between appropriations for current income and for new buildings. The two following columns give the approximate total appropriations from the state and gifts from private sources, showing clearly how largely state universities are dependent on the public for support. Thus Illinois, wnich has received $6,000.000 from the state, has only received $25,000 by private gift. Some of the universities, as Michigan and California, have, however, received considerable gifts. In his report President Pritchett urges that the universities must depend either on public appropriations or on private gifts, and this point of view is on the whole supported by these figures and by conditions in foreign countries. The conditions, however, are not necessarily final. In New York City, for example, there are admirable museums of natural history and of the fine arts and botanical and zoological gardens which are supported almost equally by the city and by private gifts.


We regret to record the deaths of Major James Carroll, U. S. A., known for his researches on yellow fever, and of Professor W. O. Atwater, of Wesleyan University, known for his researches on nutrition.

An institution for the suppression of tuberculosis is planned in Germany in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the discovery of tuberculosis by Professor Robert Koch. Appeal is made for contributions sufficient to make the institution a tribute of gratitude to Koch, similar to those with which the name of Pasteur has been honored in France and that of Lister in England.—A "Morley Chemical Laboratory," named in honor of Dr. Edward W. Morley, emeritus professor of chemistry, will be built at Western Reserve University during the present year.

Professor A. N. Skinner, of the U. S. Naval Observatory, has retired on reaching the age limit of 62 years.—Dr. Ellwood Mead, chief of irrigation investigation of the U. S. Department of Agriculture and professor of irrigation in the University of California, has accepted the office of chief of irrigation investigations for Australia.