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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 73/December 1908/The Progress of Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 73‎ | December 1908

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

TWO GREAT UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS

The development of the American university during the last quarter of the nineteenth century is perhaps the most important chapter in our recent history. In this remarkable movement two institutions have led, and their prominence is personified in two great educational leaders, President Eliot, of Harvard, and President Gilman, of the Johns Hopkins. The oldest of our universities, with its high traditions, its faculty of eminent scholars and its alumni throughout the country, and the youngest of our universities, unentangled by precedents and engagements, free to plan its work and choose its

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President Charles W. Eliot.

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President Daniel C. Gilman.

men, were the institutions best placed to lead the way, but they might not have done so had they not found the right presidents at the right lime. From the point of view of this journal it is worth emphasis that both owed their preparation to scientific training and teaching. Dr. Eliot was professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when called to the presidency of Harvard, and Dr. Gilman was professor of geography at Yale when he took up administrative work.

Dr. Gilman resigned the presidency of the Johns Hopkins in 1901, on reaching the age of seventy years and after twenty-six years of office. His death last month recalls vividly his great services to higher education. Dr. Eliot has now resigned the presidency of Harvard to take effect next spring, when he will have served forty years in the office, and will be in his seventy-fifth year. Mr. Gilman was at the time of his resignation in full vigor of body and mind and was able afterwards to undertake the difficult task of organizing the Carnegie Institution, while performing many other public services. President Eliot has never seemed more competent to direct the affairs of a university than at present; there has not during the past forty years been a time when he has been so gladly followed as a leader. He is likely to remain for years to come the chief influence at Harvard and the leading private citizen of the United States.

At the inaguration of Mr. Gilman as president of the Johns Hopkins University on February 22, 1876, Mr. Eliot said: "In the natural course of your life you will not see any large part of the real fruits of your labors; for to build a university needs not years only, but generations." This is only partly true. The traditions and ideals of the university are a long growth, but they may be transplanted to a new soil and flourish there. Relatively to other institutions at least, it is probable that the Johns Hopkins will never again be so great as it was in the eighties, and Harvard will never again be so preeminent as it is at the close of Mr. Eliot's administration. The seven professors on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins at the beginning far surpassed the average of any present faculty, and the hundred students in the early years, the average of any present student body. This great feat was again repeated by Mr. Gilman when the medical school was organized. Harvard has accomplished more in the past forty years than during the preceding centuries of its history. It set standards of freedom and culture when such standards were most needed. It now shares its leadership with other institutions and will probably fall behind the greater of the state universities.

There is more instinctive admiration for the puritan aristocrat than for the opportunist, but in so far as Mr. Eliot stands for the plan of free electives, for culture prerequisite to the professional school, and Mr. Gilman for a group system of studies leading chiefly to the professional school and research, the majority of scientific men will side with the latter.

Mr. Eliot's position could only be filled by a man of equal distinction after forty years of service. It is probably well that it can not be filled. The constitution of the state of Massachusetts places measures before men. It is-better for the university to be a democracy of scholars, rather than for its scholars to be subject to the will of one man. The Harvard corporation will not purposely reorganize the university on a democratic and representative basis, but they will probably contribute to this end by the president whom they will elect.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the death of O. T. Mason, head curator of anthropology in the U. S. National Museum; of Dr. Francis H. Snow, formerly chancellor and professor of entomology in the University of Kansas, and of Professor Berger, the eminent French surgeon.

There was held at the Sorbonne in Paris, on October 4, a meeting in memory of the great chemist, Marcellin Berthelot. M. Raymond Poincaré made an address on his work, and was followed by M. Fallière, president of the Republic.—A bronze tablet to the memory of the late Major James Carroll, eminent for his work on yellow fever, was unveiled in the main medical building of the University of Maryland, on November 11. Dr. William H. Welch delivered the principal address.

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Sir Archibald Geikie,
The Eminent Zoologist, elected to the Presidency of the Royal Society.

By the will of the late Grace M. Kuhn, Harvard University receives $175,000 to endow a department of biological chemistry.—The Draper's Company will erect for Oxford University an electrical laboratory at a cost of £22,000 and will give an additional sum of £1,000 for its equipment.