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



For the past eleven years there has been published in Science each summer an article on the degrees of doctor of philosophy and doctor of science awarded by American universities. It appears from these statistics that during this period 42 institutions have given this highest academic degree to 3,093 students. The number in each consecutive year is represented graphically by the height of the column in the accompanying figure. It thus appears that, with fluctuations from year to year, there has been a decided increase in the number of those officially designated as competent to teach and carry forward research work. The annual number first exceeded 250 in 1901 and 300 in 1905. After remaining stationary for about three years, it is this year 378. The middle lines in the columns represent by their distance above the base line the number of

PSM V73 D384 Doctorates conferred by american universities.png

Doctorates conferred by American Universities

degrees in the natural and exact sciences, the balance of the space to the top of the column representing the number in the so-called humanities, including under this term history and political science. It thus appears that nearly but not quite half the degrees are given in the sciences and that there is a slight tendency for the sciences to gain on the humanities.

Three fourths of the 3,093 degrees have been conferred by seven universities as follows: Chicago, 410; Harvard, 380; Columbia, 377; Yale, 350; Johns Hopkins, 333; Pennsylvania, 257; Cornell, 203. The universities of the Atlantic seaboard, with Chicago, thus hold the position that Germany had twenty years ago. As Americans then frequented the German universities for advanced work, so now they tend to go to these seven universities which are private corporations, though perhaps Cornell and Pennsylvania are on the way to become state institutions. The great state universities of the central and western states will probably witness a large development of their graduate schools in the course of the next ten years, and the south will follow the same course in the following decade. Wisconsin gave 17 degrees this year and 19 last, more than double the average for the preceding ten years. Illinois, which this year received the first special appropriation made to a state university for graduate work, conferred five degrees, as many as had been conferred in the preceding ten years. Michigan, Minnesota and California have, however, remained nearly stationary.

About twice as many degrees are conferred in chemistry as in any other science. The numbers have been: chemistry, 374; physics, 177; zoology, 172; psychology, 157; mathematics, 144; botany, 137. There is then a drop to geology with 76, physiology with 48 and astronomy with 35. University work in chemistry is often a professional course for the chemical analyst or engineer and is thus not altogether parallel with the other sciences. It would be well if similar conditions obtained in engineering and the medical sciences, so that there would be larger numbers from which those competent to undertake research work might be selected.

The universities differ in the relative emphasis placed on the sciences and the humanities. Thus at Cornell and the Johns Hopkins nearly sixty per cent. of the degrees are in the sciences, whereas at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Pennsylvania the percentage is about forty. At Chicago the percentage is 49, at New York University it is only nine, and at Boston University only two. It is commonly supposed that the state universities are mainly occupied with the utilitarian sciences, and it is interesting to note that at Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, respectively, 77, 60 and 70 per cent, of the degrees are in the humanities.

The three or four hundred young men added each year to those engaged in the advancement of science and learning are probably the most important factor in our civilization. Not more than half of them will accomplish anything after their doctor's theses, but the others may perhaps have their places filled by those who enter research work otherwise than by the ordinary academic routine. When we remember, however, that about 5,000 physicians and lawyers are graduated each year, the number taking the doctorate of philosophy seems to be small—not in proportion to the population and wealth of the country. There are some 25,000 professors and teachers in our colleges and universities and some 35,000 in the secondary schools; then there are increasing numbers of positions in the government service and elsewhere. The supply of men of the right kind does not equal the demand, and one of the most serious problems that confronts us is to find methods to increase the numbers and improve the quality of those engaged in scientific research.


The center of interest—dramatic, practical and scientific—at present is in the demonstrations of aerial navigation now being made in France and here, especially by Mr. Wilbur Wright at Le Mans and by Mr. Orville Wright at Fort Myer. But the changes are so rapid—at the time of this writing Mr. Orville Wright has broken the record four times in four consecutive days—that only the daily newspapers can follow them. A scientific journal, however, should not go to press without an expression of admiration for the work of those who have so successfully applied scientific principles to the solution of practical problems, and it is not chauvinistic to betray satisfaction in the fact that the United States, in the scientific and applied work of Langley, Chanute and Bell and now in the practical success of the Wright brothers, has led the way.

It may be that flying-machines will only be used in war and in sport, but history has shown time after time that it is not safe to set limits to what science can accomplish. It almost seems to be a longer step from Langley's first experiments to what the Wright brothers have now done, than from this to complete mastery of aerial navigation. It would of course be impossible to accomplish this otherwise than through gradual progress in many directions. What is most needed at present is an engine of increased efficiency for its weight. Should this be devised, the problem would be much simplified. The dangers of aerial navigation are more obvious than real. It is now safer to go down to the sea in ships than to ride along a road on a horse. There is plenty of room in the
PSM V73 D386 Examples of submarine photography.png
Examples of Submarine Photography.

air, and it may be found in the end that this advantage will more than counterbalance the chances of failing to the earth. However these things may be or whatever may happen or not happen, there is every reason to congratulate Messrs Orville and Wilbur Wright on their great achievement and on the careful scientific research which preceded it and on which it rests.

This is true in spite of the catastrophe that has occurred since these words were put in type. It appears that government officials are responsible for requiring the premature delivery of an aeroplane that would carry two persons. To an outsider it would seem that ballast should have been tried, and that protective clothing should have been worn.


At the seaside laboratory of Roscoff, in 1893 and subsequently, Dr. L. Boutan made the first submarine photographs by means of a submerged camera. He was not successful with a camera immersed directly in sea water, owing to the lack of a suitable lens, but got clear and good photographs with cameras enclosed in water-tight boxes, both with sunlight and in deeper water with the use of the magnesium flashlight and electric arc lamps. Since that time excellent aquatic photographs in aquaria have been made by Dr. R. W. Schufeldt, Mr. A. R. Dugmore and others, but the photography of fishes and other subaquatic life has by no means reached the degree of perfection that has recently been obtained in photographing birds and wild mammals in their natural habitats.

PSM V73 D387 Albrecht von Haller.png

Albrecht von Haller.
Eminent as physiologist, botanist and poet, the two hundredth anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated by the University of Bern on October 15.

Professor Jacob Reighard, in a recent bulletin of the Bureau of Fisheries, has taken up the subject and describes methods of subaquatic photography, both when the camera is outside the water and when it is submerged. The former method must be used when the water is shallow, and good results can be secured when ways are found by which the light reflected from the surface of the water is cut off and a smooth surface is obtained. In deep water, however, and for many purposes it is necessary to use a submerged camera. Professor Reighard describes the apparatus he used at the Tortugas, and examples of the photographs taken are here reproduced. According to Professor Reighard's description, in the upper picture a butterfly-fish (Chætodon capistratus) with a stripe through the eye and an eye-like spot on the tail is seen over a flat expanse of coral (Meandrina) and at the base of a large, branching gorgonian. The photograph was taken while the fish was in rapid movement. The expanded polyps may be seen on the gorgonian just above the fish and elsewhere. The lower picture shows a group of parrot fishes, of at least three species, and several surgeons against a background of branching gorgonians on a ledge of rock. Near the center is a blue and yellow-striped grunt, Hæmulon flavolineatum. At the left of this is a blue parrot-fish, Callyodon cœruleus. At the right of the grunt is a green parrot-fish, Callyodon vetula, about eighteen inches long. Beneath the green parrot is a mottled parrot-fish (Sparisoma?). Above the grunt is a second mottled parrot and to the left of this a third. At the extreme left are two surgeons, Hepatus hepatus; a third is seen below the green parrot. Above the green parrot, in the background, is a purple sea fan, Rhipidoglossa. In most of the fish the details of the markings and the outlines of the scales are clearly shown in the original photographs.

Subaquatic photographs such as these show a lack of distinctness which appears to be due to the turbidity of even the clearest water and to reflected light. But, as Professor Reighard points out, the lack of distance and flatness of the objects are truthful representations of the conditions that actually obtain. From the artistic point of view, they can not be regarded, therefore, as defects, though from the scientific point of view they place limitations on subaquatic photography.


We record with regret the death of M. Antoine Henri Becquerel, the eminent French physicist, and of Dr. Friedrich Paulsen, professor of philosophy at Berlin.

Professor C. O. Whitman, head of the department of zoology in the University of Chicago, has resigned the directorship of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass., which he has held for the past twenty years. Professor Frank R. Lillie, of the University of Chicago, the assistant director, has been elected to the directorship.—Mr. F. J. Seaver, assistant botanist of the North Dakota Agricultural College, has been appointed director of laboratories in the New York Botanical Garden.—Professor Rufus I. Cole, of the Johns Hopkins University, has accepted the directorship of the Research Hospital of the Rockefeller Institute of New York City.

By the will of the late Senator William F. Villas the University of Wisconsin will ultimately receive his entire estate, valued at between two and three million dollars. By the provisions of the will, Mrs. Villas receives the income during her lifetime, and after her death her daughter receives $30,000 a year. After the property is given to the university, part of the income will be reserved until the principal becomes $30,000,000. The will provides for the erection of a Henry Villas Theater, and for the establishment of ten professorships, each with a salary of not less than $8,000, nor more than $10,000 a year.—By the will of Frederick Cooper Hewitt, Yale University receives $500,000; the New York Post-graduate School and Hospital $2,000,000, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art $1,500,000 and the residue of the estate.—An anonymous gift of $100,000 has been made to the Vienna Academy of Sciences for the establishment of a "Radium Institute" in connection with the new physical laboratories of the University of Vienna.