Open main menu

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

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF HERBERT SPENCER

Spencer's "Autobiography," stereotyped during his lifetime and published in two large volumes shortly after his death in December, 1903, is now followed by two further volumes, a "Life and Letters," prepared by Dr. David Duncan in accordance with a clause in Spencer's will which read as follows: "I request that the said David Duncan will write a Biography in one volume of moderate size, in which shall be incorporated such biographical materials as I have thought it best not to use myself, together with such selected correspondence and such unpublished papers as may seem of value, and shall include the frontispiece portrait and the profile portraits, and shall add to it a brief account of the part of my life which has passed since the date at which the Autobiography concludes."

Dr. Duncan, who was Spencer's secretary and assistant for two years in the late sixties and was subsequently in India as professor of logic at Madras, had a task made extremely difficult by the preexisting autobiography. This, like all Spencer's works, makes a different appeal to different minds; some find it tedious, while to others it is of absorbing interest. In any case it is a work of genius written by a man of genius. It is so full and complete that most of the material of real interest had been used, except for the last years when Spencer was a confirmed invalid and found his own life wearisome.

Spencer says: "It is a provoking necessity that an autobiography should be egotistic." As a matter of fact the autobiography emphasizes the egotistic, the priggish and the petty sides of his character much less than does the biography, while the true largeness, sincerity and kindliness of the man emerge

PSM V73 D287 Herbert spencer at the ages of nineteen and forty six.png
Herbert Spencer when nineteen Herbert Spencer when forty-six
 
PSM V73 D288 Herbert Spencer.png
 

in the autobiography more clearly than in Dr. Duncan's pages. Indeed the lack of skill and tact in the biography gives the impression of a tinge of maliciousness. It is all very well to reproduce the accounts of Spencer's amiable foibles, given by Mr. Galton and Lady Courtney, but it is scarcely necessary to quote the letter according to which Carlyle called him "an immeasurable ass," and the amount of space given to his attitude towards the honors he declined, to his misunderstandings with Huxley and Harrison and to the difficulties about his portrait is out of proportion to their significance. It is proper to quote Spencer as writing: "Twice or thrice I have taken up Plato's Dialogues and have quickly put them down with more or less irritation," but then it seems scarcely desirable to close the biography with "What Professor Theodor Gomperz says of Plato may be said of Spencer," etc. The care that Spencer took about his autobiography and biography compared with Darwin's belief that his autobiographical sketch would be of interest only to his children places in sharp relief a real difference in character which is fully confirmed by all we know of the two men. Still,-the inference may fairly be drawn that it is better for the reputation of a great man to have his biography written by his son than by his private secretary. It would not be possible in a brief note to select material from the "Autobiography" and from the "Life and Letters" which would give any impression of Spencer's life and character, and it is of course out of the question to attempt to expound, appreciate or criticize the vast contributions to philosophy and science which have had such a large share in making the evolutionary standpoint dominant everywhere. Readers of this journal are familiar with Spencer's work, for he contributed to it nearly a hundred articles. It was indeed established by Dr. E. L. Youmans in 1872 largely with a view to provide a suitable medium for printing Spencer's "Study of Sociology," and the Popular Science Monthly may be regarded as one of the by-products of his genius.

The "Life and Letters" is published by Messrs. D. Appleton and Company, who for fifty years have been performing an important service by giving to American readers authorized editions of the works of Spencer, Darwin and Huxley. By their courtesy we reproduce the accompanying portraits.

 

THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE PROFESSOR IN AMERICA AND IN GERMANY

The second bulletin of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, issued under the title given above, contains information that is of interest not only to those who receive salaries from American colleges and universities, but also to all those who realize that the future of our civilization depends largely on ideals of service and research for which the university is the natural home. There is no more important question than how the best men can be drawn to the universities and how they can be led to do their best work. The part played by salaries in accomplishing these objects is not obvious. It might be that large salaries would attract the wrong kind of men and lead them to spend their time in unwise ways. Ecclesiastical and military organizations, which in the past have developed the ideals of loyalty and service which should now be found at our universities, have not been dependent on salaries, though office and honors have played a considerable part. In an industrial democracy, however, it seems that men are likely to be esteemed in accordance with their incomes, and if the office of professor is to be made honorable it must be well paid, or at least certain positions must exist that are highly paid.

The statistics in regard to salaries now published by the Carnegie Foundation give details for 103 institutions paying $45,000 a year or more in salaries, to the instructing staff, and of 54 smaller institutions which were selected as showing that good results can be obtained with comparatively small resources. The average salary of the full professor in the hundred leading institutions is about $2,500, varying from about $4,800 to about $1,400. Higher salaries are paid in a few cases, but salaries of $5,500 at Harvard or $5,000 at Columbia are practically the maximum money prizes open to teachers. These prizes are not open to free competition; for in' this country a professor can as a rule only reach the highest position in his own institution. In this regard, the German method of calling a man freely to what is regarded as a better position has certain advantages. A professor may be called to Berlin at the age of sixty, receiving a higher salary and a more honorable position than any that we have, and this possibility may be a stimulus to good work. Here a man who receives the average salary of $2,500, at the average age of appointment of 35 years, is not usually able to look forward to further promotion. His expenses increase, especially if he has a family, and he finds himself less well off than the successful physician and lawyer in the same town, who are continuously increasing their incomes and the material advantages they can give to their children.

The Harvard plan seems on the whole to be the best hitherto put in practise in this country. After a graded series of promotions and increments of salary, a full professorship is reached at the average age of forty with a salary of $4,000, and the salary is increased by $500, at intervals of five years, until it reaches $5,500. If a man shows unusual ability—ordinarily it must be acknowledged by being called elsewhere—he may be promoted more rapidly than in accordance with the usual routine; in general, however, the salaries are not in proportion to ability or to needs, but are equal with slowly increasing increment. This method and the system of pensions gives security and dignity to the office. It is an open question whether the lessening of competition and ambition which it favors is a good or an evil.

The comparison of the salaries given by different institutions should result in the improvement of conditions where these are unsatisfactory. Thus Syracuse University pays its assistant professors an average salary of $978 and its full professors an average salary of $1,808, and in its non-professorial departments has one instructor for twenty students. Haverford College pays its assistant professors $2,240 and its full professors $3,440 and has one instructor for six or seven students. These are extreme cases, but there are many anomalies in the tables. It is of course true that the effective salary is dependent on the cost and standard of living. A salary of $2,000 in a small town may have as much purchasing power as twice that amount in >Jew York City.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the deaths of James Duncan Hague, the American geologist and engineer; of AncetoGarcio Menocal, an eminent Cuban engineer in the service of the United States government; of Mr. Arthur Lister, F.R.S., known for his work on the mycetozoa; of Mylius Erichson, the Danish explorer; of Dr. F. Noll, professor of botany at Halle, and of Dr. Oskar Liebreich, professor of pharmacology at Berlin.

Professor George E. Hale, director of the Solar Observatory of the Carnegie Institution, has been elected a foreign correspondent of the Paris Academy of Sciences in the place of the late Asaph Hall.—Count Zeppelin, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, has been awarded an honorary
 
PSM V73 D291 John Muller.png
See the article by Dr. Philip B. Hadley in the June issue
 

doctorate of science by the University of Tübingen. He has also been made an honorary citizen of the cities of Constance and Stuttgart, and has been given the gold medal for art and science by the King of Wittemberg. M. Bouchard has been elected president of the Paris Academy of Sciences to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of M. Becquerel to become permanent secretary. M. Picard succeeds M. Bouchard in the vice-presidency.

The monument in honor of Robert Bunsen, designed by Professor Volz, of Karlsruhe, was unveiled at Heidelberg on August 1.—The German emperor has supported the medical and scientific men in Berlin in objecting to the form of the monument designed in honor of Virchow. It is not a statue of Virchow, but introduces as the chief group a symbolic representation of his lifework, in the form of a struggle between a giant and a fabulous beast, while on a pedestal a medallion portrait of Virchow is placed.

The San Jacinto Valley in California will hereafter be known as the Cleveland National Forest. It has been so renamed by President Roosevelt in honor of the president under whose administration the first national forests were created. In 1897, in honor of Washington's one hundred and sixty-fifth birthday anniversary, and upon the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, President Cleveland created thirteen national forests, containing about 23,000,000 acres. The San Jacinto forest was one of the original thirteen so created.

In connection with an article by Dr. Philip B. Hadley on Johannes Müller, printed in the June issue of the Monthly, there was reproduced a portrait, which it appears was of Johannes von Müller, the Swiss historian. Our attention was called to this error by Professor George H. Parker, of Harvard University, by whose courtesy we are able to give a portrait of the great German physiologist.