Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 74/January 1909/The Progress of Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 74‎ | January 1909

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

WOLCOTT GIBBS

Oliver Wolcott Gibbs, one of the few great men of science given to the world by the United States during the first part of the nineteenth century, died at his home in Newport on December 9. He was born in New York City on February 21, 1822, his father. Colonel George Gibbs, being one of the earliest American mineralogists, and his mother, Laura Wolcott, the daughter of Oliver Wolcott, secretary of the treasury under Washington and Adams, being an artist of ability. Gibbs graduated from Columbia College in 1841, and received the degree of doctor of medicine from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1845. In the meanwhile he had been assistant to Dr. Robert Hare, professor of chemistry in the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania. The next three years were spent abroad; and work was carried on in the laboratories of Rammelsberg and Rose in Berlin, Liebig in Giessen and Regnault in Paris. In 1849 he became professor of chemistry and physics in the Free Academy, later the College of the City of New York, and in 1863 he was elected Rumford professor in Harvard University. In 1887 he became professor emeritus and retired to his home at Newport, where he equipped a laboratory for his chemical researches.

The researches that he accomplished give distinction to this country. His work on the electrolytic deposition of copper as a means of quantitative analysis has become of great significance, and many other methods of quantitative analysis were improved under his guidance. Other works of great importance were his extended experimental studies of complex salts, especially the cobaltamine compounds and those containing some of the rarer elements. These are of great theoretical interest, owing to their relation to theories of molecular structure.

Gibbs was the last surviving founder of the National Academy of Sciences, which he served as president; he had been general secretary, vice-president and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the only American honorary member of the German Chemical Society. His work was recognized by many other societies, and by honorary degrees conferred by Columbia, Harvard, Pennsylvania, George Washington and Toronto Universities. A portrait of Gibbs was published in The Popular Science Monthly for June, 1900. There is here reproduced a letter addressed to the editor in answer to a request for an article. This letter illustrates the courtesy and kindness not less characteristic of Wolcott Gibbs than the eminence of his services to science.

 

OTIS T. MASON

Otis Tufton Mason, head curator of the department of anthropology in the United States National Museum, died at Washington on November 5, in his seventy-first year. He was the son of John and Rachel Thompson (Lincoln) Mason, and was born at Eastport, Maine, April 10, 1838. He was graduated from Columbian (now George Washington) University as A.B. in 1861 (A.M., 1862; Ph.D., 1879; LL.D., 1898). In the following year he married Sarah E. Henderson, and at once entered on his career as a teacher. As principal of the preparatory department of Columbian College, from 1861 to 1884, he used his
 
PSM V74 D101 Wolcott gibbs letter to professor cattell.png
 

opportunities}} for leading the young into correct methods of study, and every leisure moment out of the classroom for perfecting himself in those original investigations that were his life work. Mason's interest in anthropology began in his boyhood days, and his inspiration may be traced directly to the enthusiasm with which he read a copy of Guyot's "Earth and Man" that accidentally came into his hands. Following Guyot, the writings of Maury, Guizot, Lane Fox, Klemm, Lubbock, Tylor and Evans were devoured, and his text for life became "thoughts in things, or human history written in human inventions." Ever a devout churchman and a leader in Sunday school work, he equipped himself with a knowledge of Biblical archeology, which subject he pursued assiduously whenever opportunity afforded. His deep and growing interest in this and kindred studies attracted, in 1873, the attention of Professor Joseph Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, through whose influence Mason's studies became diverted to the American field at a time when but few students were aware of the fruitfulness and the possibilities of the western continent for ethnological and archeological research. In the same year he was made a collaborator of the Smithsonian Institution, and commenced to compile the synonymy of the North American tribes—the inception of what has developed into the "Handbook of American Indians," now in process of publication by the Bureau of American Ethnology. He also prepared schemes for anthropological exhibits at the Centennial Exposition in 1876, and became the editor of the anthropological summaries that appeared in "Harper's Annual Record of Science and Industry" (1874-8), in the American Naturalist (1876-87), and in the Smithsonian Reports (1875-93). Professor Mason was appointed curator of anthropology in the United States National Museum in 1884, and head curator of its department of anthropology in 1902.

Otis Tufton Mason was the most charming of men. Kind, generous, considerate, patient beyond measure, with a fount of humor that bubbled forth on every occasion, one would never suspect from outward appearance that the best years of his life had been blighted by mental anguish. Paralyzed after having passed his sixtieth year, he began life anew, as years before he had begun again, after years of application, when Henry advised him to drop the eastern Mediterranean field and adopt America as the subject of his labors. His right hand being practically dead, in a few weeks he learned to write as well with the left, and planned further work with bravery worthy of a young man in prime physical condition.

Being essentially a worker among collections. Mason's activities were devoted chiefly to the material culture of primitive peoples. This is exemplified by his writings on the "Latimer Collection of Antiquities from Porto Rico" (1876); "Basket-work of the North American Indians" (1884); "Throwing-sticks in the National Museum" (1884); "Cradles of the American Aborigines" (1887); "North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers" (1893); "Origins of Inventions" (1895); "Aboriginal American Zootechny" (1889); "Aboriginal American Basketry" (1902), and many others. He insisted that the most rigid methods of the naturalist should be applied to the investigation of human problems, and that every human act and invention be subjected to this close scrutiny. His long experience in the training of youth made him ever a willing guide and instructor of those in search of the knowledge that he possessed, and many a young student received his first impetus in the study of ethnology through Mason's friendly aid. His scientific papers, numbering many score, are written largely in popular vein, as if designed for the benefit of youth rather than for his fellow
 
PSM V74 D103 Otis Tufton Mason.png
Otis Tufton Mason.
 

workers. With Mason passes one of the founders of the Anthropological Society of Washington in 1879, in the activities of which he took a most prominent part while health lasted, serving as its president from 1893 to 1895. His associates will miss his cordial greeting, his fatherly advice and encouragement, his tender sympathy, the cheering atmosphere that one always felt when in his presence. In time to come Mason will be recognized as the pioneer in the classification and analysis of the material culture of the American aborigines.

 

THE H. K. CUSHING LABORATORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE OF WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

The school of medicine of the Western Reserve University, which is one of those in this country maintaining the highest standards, has been fortunate in receiving from Mr. H. M. Hanna and Colonel Oliver H. Payne a gift of $200,000—to which they have just added $17,000 towards the endowment—for a laboratory of experimental medicine, named in honor of one of the distinguished professors of the school in its early days. The laboratory was dedicated on November 20, when, after a welcome by President Thwing, the principal address was made by William H. Welch, M.D., LL.D., professor of pathology in the Johns Hopkins University. An address was also made by George Neil Stewart, D.Sc, M.D., professor of experimental medicine and director of the new laboratory.

The new laboratory adjoins the main building and the physiological laboratory building of the Medical School.

PSM V74 D104 Original building of the western reserve medical school cleveland.png

The original building of the Western Reserve Medical School, erected in 1844 for the Cleveland Medical College. Replaced in 1887 by the present main building of the Western Reserve University Medical School.

PSM V74 D105 William Henry Welch.pngDr. William H. Welch.
Professor of Pathology in the Johns Hopkins University, who delivered the principal address at the dedication of the H. K. Cushing Laboratory of Experimental Medicine of Western Reserve University.
It is four stories high, of reinforced concrete, faced with brick, and complete in all its appointments. The building contains laboratory rooms, a balance room, a library, photographic rooms, rooms for individual investigations, a refrigerating room, rooms for conducting studies in the nutrition of animals, store rooms, workshops and the office of the director.

The H. K. Gushing Laboratory will fill an important place in the field of medical research and education. So long as medicine was a comparatively simple science it was possible for the physician, while actively practising his profession, to keep himself sufficiently in touch with the fundamental medical sciences such as physiology, anatomy and pathology. The rapid advance, both in the practical arts of medicine and surgery and in the underlying sciences on which they depend has rendered it impossible for any one man to dominate both fields. Therefore the time seems to have come for improving the means of coordinating practical medicine and the medical sciences. It is proposed to accomplish this at the Western Reserve University PSM V74 D105 Neil Stewart.pngDr. Neil Stewart,
Professor of Experimental Medicine and Director of the H. K. Cushing Laboratory of Experimental Medicine of Western Reserve University.
by the establishment of a laboratory and chair of experimental medicine, the occupant of which and his assistants shall be expected to keep themselves in touch, so far as is possible, with clinical work, on the one hand, and physiology and pathology, on the other, and to encourage and direct investigation having a bearing upon both. The new foundation is intended to form a link between the knowledge of the laboratory and the knowledge of the hospital.

The researches which in the future may be carried out in this laboratory are planned to have, as far as possible, a direct practical bearing upon clinical questions. For example, some light has been thrown by experimental investigation on the pathology of such conditions as goitre, diabetes, gout, the anemias, ulcer of the stomach, etc.,

PSM V74 D106 Western reserve medical school and physiological laboratory.png

The Main Building and Physiological Laboratory Building of the Western Reserve Medical School, Cleveland. The main building is of brown stone, and comprises four floors and a basement. It contains two amphitheaters and the Laboratories of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Pathology and Bacteriology and Pharmacology. The building was first occupied in 1887 and cost $240,000. The Physiological Laboratory was built in 1898. It houses the Laboratories of Physiology and Physiological Chemistry with private research rooms and work shops.

but very much remains to be discovered. A deeper insight into problems of this kind may be obtained if investigators at the same time as they are working at the subject from the experimental standpoint in the laboratory, are in a position to study clinical cases of the disease in the hospital, and this it is planned to do in the H. K. Cushing Laboratory.

 

THE CONVOCATION WEEK MEETINGS AT THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

The scientific meetings to be held at Baltimore during the week following that in which Christmas falls promise to be of very great interest. In addition to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with its eleven sections covering the entire field of the natural and exact sciences, no less than twenty-five independent societies will meet in affiliation. These national societies include those devoted to mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, geography, paleontology, physiology, astronomy, bacteriology, zoology, entomology, botany, psychology, philosophy and anthropology. The officers and members of the American Association, of the American Society of Naturalists and of these special societies, are practically identical with the productive scientific men of the country. It is likely that fully two thousand of them will be at Baltimore and that the number of papers read will exceed five hundred.

While the special scientific societies and their technical programs are probably the chief factors promoting and guiding the advancement of science in this country, a large meeting of scientific men has certain other advantages, the most important of which are perhaps

PSM V74 D107 Proposed plan for johns hopkins university.png

Present needs: A, Library; B, Administration Building; C, C, Class Rooms; D, D, D, D, Laboratories: E, Levering Hall (Y. M. C. A.): F, Dining Hall; G, Dormitory; H, Gymnasium; S, Athletic Field; T, Tennis Courts. Future needs: K, Assembly Hall; L, L, Museums; M, Chapel; N, N, Laboratories; O. Museum; P, P, P, P, P, P, P, Dormitories; R, President's House.

the widening of personal interests and acquaintance, and the development of a spirit of loyalty to science and scientific ideals. The machinery for conducting a large meeting of this character is not fully adjusted—it is only five years ago that the first of the convocation week meetings was held in Washington—but each year the friction has become less, and the advantages have become more evident.

The first general meeting will be held at ten o'clock on the morning of December 28 in McCoy Hall of the Johns Hopkins University. Addresses of welcome will be made by Dr. Ira Remsen, president of the university, and Dr. William H. Welch, chairman of the local committee, both past presidents of the association, and the president of the meeting, Professor T. C. Chamberlin, will reply. In the evening, the retiring president. Professor E. L. Nichols, will give his address, and during the week the vice-presidents for the sections and the presidents of many of the special societies will make addresses. These will in most cases be of general interest to scientific men, and special sessions will be arranged that will be of general interest. The most notable is an entire day (January 1) with a dinner in the evening devoted to the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the "Origin of Species." A symposium on public health will be held on December 31.

When the Johns Hopkins University was opened in 1876, it adopted the wise policy of spending its means on men rather than on buildings. Its laboratories are. however, admirably equipped, and with its medical school—unfortunately at some distance from the other departments—it offers all needed facilities for a large scientific meeting. The university will, when money is obtained, remove to the beautiful site it has purchased on the outskirts of the city. In addition to athletic grounds there is at present in use only some equipment for the botanical department. The site will be developed and buildings erected in accordance with the plan here given.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

In addition to Wolcott Gibbs and Otis T. Mason, the country has lost in the death of William Keith Brooks one of its most eminent men of science. A biographical sketch of Professor Brooks, who had been professor of zoology at the Johns Hopkins University since 1876, together with a portrait, will be found in the issue of The Popular Science Monthly for July, 1899. We regret also to record the death of Dr. Andrew J. McCosh, a leading surgeon of New York City; of M. Alfred Ditte, the French chemist, and of W. E. Ayrton, the British physicist and electrician.

Dr. Richard C. MacLaurin, for the past year professor of mathematical physics in Columbia University and previously professor of mathematics in the University of New Zealand, has been elected president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.—Professor W. W. Campbell, director of the Lick Observatory, has been appointed lecturer for next year on the Silliman foundation at Yale University.

Nobel prizes in the sciences for 1908 have been awarded as follows: For chemistry. Professor Ernest Rutherford, director of the physical laboratories of the University of Manchester, England; for physics, M. Gabriel Lippmann, professor of physics in the University of Paris; for medicine, divided between Dr. Paul Ehrlich, of Berlin, and Professor Elie Metchnikoff, of the Pasteur Institute of Paris.

The Royal Society has awarded medals as follows: the Copley medal to Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, in recognition of the great value of his numerous contributions to natural history, and of the part he took in working out the theory of the origin of species by natural selection; the Rumford medal to Professor H. A. Lorentz, for his investigations in optical and electrical science; a Royal medal to Professor John Milne, for his preeminent services in the modern development of seismological science; a Royal medal to Dr. Henry Head, for his researches on the relations between the visceral and somatic nerves and on the functions of the afferent nerves; the Davy medal to Professor W. A. Tilden, for his discoveries in chemistry, especially on the terpenes and on atomic heats; the Darwin medal to Professor August Weismann, for his eminent services in support of the doctrine of evolution by means of natural selection; the Hughes medal to Professor Eugene Goldstein, for his discoveries on the nature of electric discharge in rarefied gases.