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

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 74‎ | May 1909

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE RESEARCH WORK OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION

The seventh year book of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, like its predecessors, gives an interesting account of the investigations carried on last year. The work is now in the main conducted by its departments; only a few minor grants are made to scientific men in other institutions, and these are nearly all in continuation of work begun when it was the policy to distribute the larger part of the income in special grants.

The institution has now ten departments, or twelve, if the Index Medicus and the horticultural work of Mr. Luther Burbank are included. Two of the principal departments are in astronomy, two in geophysics, three in biology, one in physiology and two in economics and history. The amount of the grants for these departments last year was: astronomy, $105,000; geophysics, $139,000; biology, $70,000; physiology, $35,000; economics and history, $50,000. There was a special grant of $50,000 for publications.

In astronomy the institution conducts the solar observatory on Mount Wilson in California, under the directorship of Dr. George E. Hale, and last year established an observatory in Argentina for meridian astrometry, under Dr. Lewis Boss. The solar observatory has made notable progress in its elaborate installations and has carried forward research work in several directions. The 60-inch reflecting equatorial telescope has been mounted in a new steel dome, and the tower telescope and the horizontal telescope, together with the spectroscopic laboratory in Pasadena, have been in use. The most important work relates to sun-spots and flocculi, giving new results in regard to the constitution and rotation of the sun. The study of the motion and structure of the stellar system has been continued in the Dudley

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Steel Building and Dome foe the 60-inch Reflector.

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The Nutrition Laboratory at Boston.

Observatory at Albany and is now being extended to the southern hemisphere in the observatory erected at San Luis in the Argentine Republic, where the work is under the immediate charge of Professor R. H. Tucker, who has been given leave of absence from the Lick Observatory for this purpose.

The work in terrestrial magnetism under Dr. L. A. Bauer includes the completion of the third cruise of the Galilee on the Pacific, where altogether over 60,000 nautical miles have been covered in regions where magnetic data were especially needed. With the extensive work done on land in different countries by the institution and by other agencies a new set of magnetic charts covering nearly one third of the globe can now be constructed. A new magnetic survey yacht is being built, which, on its completion this summer, will be sent to the north Atlantic. The geophysical laboratory at Washington, of which Dr. A. L. Day is director, is now in efficient working order and has entered on a systematic study of rock formation, with excellent equipment for producing such effects of temperature, pressure, etc., as may have occurred in the history of the earth's development.

In biology, the institution supports a desert botanical laboratory in Arizona; a station for experimental evolution on Long Island and a marine biological laboratory in one of the Tortugas Islands. With the desert laboratory at Tucson as headquarters, very interesting experiments are being made on the effects of moisture, altitude, etc., in plants, including a study of the vegetation following the receding area of the Salton Sea. Especially noteworthy have been the experiments of Dr. D. T. MacDougall on the production of new kinds of plants by subjecting the reproductive organs to chemical action. Elaborate experiments in breeding have been carried forward under the direction of Dr. C. B. Davenport at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, including the crossing of poultry, canaries, cats, sheep, goats, insects and plants, and observations on human traits, which give quantitative data of importance for determining the laws of heredity. The station at Dry Tortugas, under Dr. A. G. Mayer, offers admirable facilities for marine biological work of certain kinds of which some ten investigators took advantage.

The nutrition laboratory, under Dr. F. G. Benedict, was last year in the stage of construction and equipment. It is adjacent to the Harvard Medical School and several hospitals, which will give opportunity to work with pathological cases. In the new building, shown in the accompanying illustration, work is now beginning with the calorimeter and in other directions.

The work of the institution in economics, sociology and history has consisted in the collection of data and the classification of records. The department of economics and sociology has suffered through the recent death ot the director. Dr. Carroll D. Wright. No work, or hardly any, has been done in anthropology, psychology, philology, literature or art.

Some twenty-four publications were issued by the institution during the year at a cost of about $64,000. The administration building at Washington, erected at a cost of about $220,000, at the southeast corner of Sixteenth and P streets, is now nearly ready.

 

LIEUTENANT SHACKLETON'S ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION

Lieutenant Shackleton's expedition has been remarkably successful, whether viewed as adventure or as scientific exploration. The results are the more noteworthy in view of the unofficial character of the expedition and its somewhat modest outfit. The expedition seems throughout to have been accompanied by that kind of good fortune which may properly be attributed to expert knowledge and skilful foresight.

The Nimrod, it may be remembered, left New Zealand on January 1, 1908, and included in its scientific staff Professor Edworth David, F.R.S., of Sidney University, and Lieutenant Adams, R.N.A., geologists; Sir Philip Brocklehurst, surveyor and map-maker, and other scientific men. It had been Lieutenant Shackleton's intention to find a convenient place on King Edward's Land at the eastern end of the ice barrier, but the conditions were unfavorable, and it was necessary to take up quarters in McMurdo Sound, close to the place occupied by the Discovery in 1902.

The first expedition started on March 5 and ascended Mt. Erebus, the great Antarctic volcano, the summit of which, at an altitude of 11,000 feet, was reached on March 10. It was ejecting vast amounts of steam and sulphurous gas to a height of 2,000 feet.

The Antarctic winter was made use of for collections, observations and photographs. In the early spring, three exploring parties set out, one under Mr. Armitage going westward, gathering geological and topographical data; the second under Professor David going southward and reaching the magnetic pole on January 16 in latitude 72° 25" and longitude 154° east. The party journeyed 1,260 statute miles in a hundred and twenty-two days, suffering many hardships and making important discoveries.

The most dramatic expedition, in which Lieutenant Shackleton was accompanied by Messrs. Adams, Marshall and Wild, left Cape Royd on November 29, taking with them four ponies. On December 26 they reached the Discovery expedition's southernmost latitude. Proceeding south and southeast they reached a high range of mountains and discovered a glacier 120 miles long and forty miles wide, which they ascended, contending with deep crevasses. On December 8 they discovered another great mountain range. On December 26 they reached a plateau at an altitude of 9,000 feet. During this time there was a constant southerly blizzard of wind and drifting snow, with temperature ranging from 37 to 70 degrees of frost. On January 9 they reached latitude 88° 23″ and longitude 162° east, the most southerly point ever attained and 1° 17′ nearer the pole than

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Map of the Antarctic Region,
Showing the expeditions of the Shackleton parties toward the south geographical pole and to the south magnetic pole.—From the Independent.

Peary's farthest north. They were then 111 miles from the south pole, and saw a great plain without mountains stretching towards the south at an altitude of 10,000 or 11,000 feet above sea level. One pony after another had been killed and eaten, and during the latter part of the trip the supply of food had been reduced to a minimum. The return was accomplished with great hardships, the headquarters being reached on March 4, after an absence of 126 days, during which the distance of 1,708 statute miles was covered. Coal measures were found in the limestone, and eight distinct mountain ranges with over 100 peaks were discovered.

 
TWO GREAT FRENCH NATURALISTS

In the deaths of Jean Albert Gaudry and Alfred Giard, France has lost two naturalists of distinction, whose contributions to our knowledge of organic evolution were important factors in the most notable scientific advance of the second half of the nineteenth century. They both had in common with their great leader, Charles Darwin, an accurate knowledge of facts in broad fields of the natural sciences and a deep interest in theories and philosophical generalization. They shared fully the quick perception, wide insight and clear expression which are characteristic of French genius.

Gaudry was born near Paris in 1827; as a boy he was interested in natural science and the collecting of fossils. At the age of twenty-six he was appointed assistant professor of paleontology in the Paris Museum of Natural History. Before and after the publication of "The Origin of Species" he was engaged in his researches on the late Tertiary vertebrate fauna at Pikermi, near Athens, and on Mont Leberon. His work on the evolution of horses, rhinoceroses and other animals of these regions is of fundamental and classic importance. Other researches

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Jean Albert Gaudry.

followed, including work on the Patagonian vertebrates, and much attention was given to the collections of the museum. Wide influence was exerted by his less technical writings in paleozoology and organic evolution.

Giard was born in 1846 in Valenciennes; like Gaudry and so many other naturalists, he was eagerly interested in nature and in collecting as a child. He became professor of natural history at Lille in 1873, and in 1888 there was established for him at the Paris Sorbonne a chair of "evolution of organic beings," a valuable step that should be followed by other universities. In the meanwhile, Giard had in 1874 founded at Wimereux, near Bologne, a marine biological station from which there have been issued not fewer than fifty volumes containing a vast amount of important research. His own work covered nearly the whole range of the biological sciences and extended to botany. Perhaps his work on parasitology is best known, but his researches are encyclopedic in their extent, equally at home in minute details and in broad theories.

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Alfred Giard.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We regret to record the deaths of Dr. H. M. Boye, the chemist, who at the age of ninety-seven years was the only surviving founder of the American Association; of Dr. Persifor Frazer, the chemist and geologist of Philadelphia; of Mark Vernon Slingerland, who held the chair of economic entomology at Cornell University, and of Dr. William Jones, who was killed while engaged in anthropological explorations in the Philippines. Among foreign men of science, we note with regret announcements of the deaths of Dr. Hermann Ebbinghaus, professor of philosophy at Halle, and of Professor Arthur Gamgee, F.R.S., the physiologist.

The centenary of the birth of Oliver Wendell Holmes has been celebrated at Harvard University, where he was professor of anatomy and physiology from 1847 to 1882.—Congress has appropriated $5,000 for the erection of a memorial to Major J. W. Powell, on the brink of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, which he explored.—The committee in charge of a fund for a memorial to the late Dr. Andrew J. McCosh announces that more than $100,000 has been subscribed. The fund will be devoted to some portion of the new buildings of the Presbyterian Hospital, with the surgical service of which Dr. McCosh was identified.—It is proposed to endow as a memorial to the late Dr. William T. Bull an institution for surgical research to be connected with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.

The Royal Academy of Stockholm has presented Mr. Thomas A. Edison with its Adelskiold gold medal for his inventions in connection with the phonograph and the incandescent light. This medal is conferred once in ten years.—The ambassadorship to Great Britain has been offered to President Eliot after his retirement from the presidency of Harvard University, but it is said that he is not likely to accept.

It is announced that President Taft has requested Surgeon General Wyman to draw up a tentative plan for the consolidation under one bureau of the agencies exercised by the federal government for the preservation of the public health.