Popular Science Monthly/Volume 75/July 1909/The Progress of Science



At this commencement season university presidents and others are likely to make addresses to academic audiences and the problems of the college and of the college student are likely to be subjects for comment in the daily papers and the monthly magazines. This year two addresses have attracted special attention. Some rather incidental remarks of President Wilson, of Princeton University, are of intrinsic interest, and the Phi Beta Kappa address of President Lowell, of Harvard University, preceding his inaugural address, gives the first indication of his attitude toward questions concerning which his influence and responsibility are very great.

It is somewhat curious that the president of Princeton appears to be more modern in his point of view than the president of Harvard. President Wilson is reported as saying:

I believe in athletics. I believe in all those things which relax energy that the faculties may be at their best when the energies are not relaxed, but only so far do I believe in these diversions. When the lad leaves school he should cease to be an athlete. The modern world is an exacting one, and the things it exacts are mostly intellectual.

A danger surrounding our modern education is the danger of wealth. I am sorry for the lad who is going to inherit money. I fear that the kind of men who are to share in shaping the future are not largely exemplified in schools and colleges.

So far as the colleges go, the sideshows have swallowed up the circus, and we in the main tent do not know what is going on. And I do not know that I want to continue under those conditions as ringmaster. There are. more honest occupations than teaching if you can not teach.

This is characteristically well put, but the point of view is unexpected. It was supposed that the officers of Princeton were comparatively well satisfied with their rich boys, their professional athletics and their preceptorial system. It seems that on this occasion the president of Princeton is too iconoclastic and too pessimistic. The rich boys and the college boys will surely do more than the average in "shaping the future," even though this may be accomplished by a kind of monopoly control. The boy need not cease to be an athlete when he leaves the preparatory school; the trouble in our colleges is not that there are too many athletes, but too few, and those few over-trained and over-exploited. The college boy can do athletic stunts better than any one else can and better than he can do anything else; so there is much to be said for letting him do them. Satan can find worse mischief for idle hands.

When Mr. Wilson says that the things which the modern world exacts are mostly intellectual, he presumably I refers to the kinds of things the Princeton preceptors try to teach. But what the world wants is men who will do the right thing at the right time. The boy i who is to be a scholar in after life i should be a scholar in college. But the average boy gains more from running the college paper or fraternity house than by writing Latin verses or even reading the innocuous literature prescribed by the College Entrance Examination Board. Certainly both college students and college teachers could be more usefully employed than they are at present; but it is odd that the president of Princeton should rub this in.

Mr. Lowell had undertaken to give the Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia before he was elected to the presidency of
PSM V75 D104 Plan of the university of pittsburgh.png

Plan of the University of Pittsburgh.

Harvard. He was reported in the daily papers to have spoken in favor of inter-collegiate athletics and against the elective system. This would indeed be a cry of "le roi est mort," and explain why one seventh of the members of the Harvard corporation did not vote with the majority in the presidential election. As a matter of fact, Mr. Lowell spoke with skill and with caution. He did, however, argue that the elective system interferes with competition in college studies, and that the cooperative competition of athletic games should be applied to the work of the class room. But he did not tell how he thought that this could be accomplished. His main argument was from the competition in the English universities. He said: "The result is that by the I sis and the Cam there is probably more hard study done in subjects not of a professional character than in any other universities in the world." This is scarcely correct. The "poll" men at Oxford and Cambridge do even less work for their degrees than the average students at Harvard and Princeton. The men in the honor courses are doing professional work of much the same character as is done in the Harvard graduate and professional schools and with much the same rewards in the way of fellowships and positions. The greater direct competition in examinations which does obtain in the English universities is not necessarily an advantage. Indeed the arrangement of men in the order of merit in the mathematical tripos has just now been abandoned at Cambridge on the ground that it led to "cramming."

Scholarship is more highly esteemed in England and in Germany (where there is no class-room competition in the universities) than here. Probably as time goes on there will be an equalization due to greater respect for the scholar here and to relatively higher regard for other forms of accomplishment there. Mr. Lowell said: "Universities stand for the eternal worth of thought, for the preeminence of the prophet and the seer." But the country can not support 80,000,000 prophets and seers.

To one hearer Mr. Lowell's address seemed somewhat naive, and left an impression of uncertainty as to how he would confront the complicated problems which the latter-day university president is expected to manage.


In January, 1908, the University of Pittsburgh acquired a new location, consisting of 43 acres near the entrance to Schenley Park and within a short distance of the Carnegie Institute. The ground is partially rising and partially level, permitting an effective grouping of the buildings. Under the direction of Professor Warren P. Laird, an architects' competition was held in which sixty-six designs were submitted. The group plan accepted was that of Palmer & Hornbostel, a reproduction of which is here shown. The style of architecture is Grecian and is well adapted to the natural features of the ground. The location of the several departments of the university is determined and for the most part the exact buildings which will be erected.

The first building of the group, the School of Mines, is completed and has just been dedicated. Its cost is approximately $200,000. The second building, costing an equal sum, is in process of erection and will be ready for occupancy in September. The state appropriation provided by the last legislature permits the erection of another building, which will belong to the medical group. The architects are working upon the plans for this building, the erection of which will be commenced on July 1, permitting the medical department to begin its work in the new location in 1910.

As rapidly as buildings can be provided the other departments, law, dentistry and pharmacy will be transferred to the new location. The university

PSM V75 D106 University of pittsburgh school of mines.png
The School of Mines Building of the University of Pittsburgh, the first to be erected on the new site.

comprises the following departments: college, graduate, observatory, summer school, Saturday and evening classes, engineering, mining, medicine, dentistry, law and pharmacy.

The students in the regular classes during the past year have numbered 1,129. Those taking special work were 114, making a total of 1,243. The region in which the university is now located is remarkable because of the large number of fine buildings housing various educational and other institutions of the city. It bids fair to become one of the famous centers of the country.

The former buildings of the college and engineering school have been sold and the proceeds placed in the permanent fund of the university. During the past year nearly $300,000 have been raised by popular subscription. The first charter of the university was granted in 1787. The present year marks practically the first consolidation of the several departments under the absolute ownership and control of the university.


In 1904 Mrs. Percy Sladen endowed with £20,000 a trust fund for the furtherance of research in the natural sciences in memory of her husband, who had died four years previously. The trustees of this fund, who are themselves men of science, are allowed

PSM V75 D107 Walter Percy Sladen.png
Percy Sladen.

wide discretion in its administration, but have adopted the policy of assisting expeditions. The first of these has been a zoological exploration of the Indian Ocean under the leadership of Mr. J. Stanley Gardiner, the results of which are how published in the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. They fill a volume of 419 pages, the different groups of animals being worked over by leading specialists. The trustees of the fund are now supporting an anthropological expedition to Melanesia under the leadership of Dr. W. H. R. Rivers, and a third expedition will be sent to study the botany of West Africa, under Professor H. H. W. Pearson.

The volume containing the account of the expedition to the Indian Ocean is prefaced by an introduction on the life and work of Sladen by Mr. Henry Bury, with a portrait here reproduced from the painting by Mr. H. T. Wells, in the possession of the Linnean Society. Born in 1849, Sladen was educated at a public school where little or no attention was paid to science and he did not attend a university. He became interested in science through the local scientific society and museum at Halifax, and received his training through them and through his own work. He accomplished scientific work of accuracy and importance, but was an amateur in the sense that he held no scientific position. Darwin is the most notable instance of the great contributions to science made in Great Britain by those having hereditary wealth and devoting their lives to scientific work, but he is only one of a large class, including men of great eminence, such as the two last presidents of the Royal Society, Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Huggins, and many others, such as Sladen, whose work may not be widely known, but is of a high class. It is to be hoped, though scarcely to be expected, that these traditions will be maintained in Great Britain and adopted here, as the number of our wealthy families increases.

Sladen concerned himself in the main with scientific work on the starfishes. In the course of twenty years he published thirty-five papers, the most extensive being the report on the Asteroidea collected by the Challenger which describes 184 new species. In an early paper he described an extraordinary form from a single specimen since lost which he placed in a new family intermediate between the Ophiurids and the Asterids. Another discovery of evolutionary interest was of certain "cribriform" organs in a family of starfishes. The function of these organs is not known; they appear in one family only with no indication as to how they may have been evolved, their number is fixed for each species, though it varies greatly within the family.

Though Sladen's scientific work was narrowly limited, he was a man of public spirit and wide accomplishments. He knew Persian as well as European literatures and was an expert collector and student of old books and manuscripts. He was zoological secretary of the Linnean Society and secretary of several committees of the British Association. His biographer says of him: "Cheerful, humorous and of a remarkably even temper, Sladen presented to his many friends a singularly lovable nature, in which unselfishness, sincerity and a generous appreciation of the work of others were some of the leading characteristics."


We record with regret the deaths of Dr. Georg von Neumayer, the eminent German meteorologist; of Dr. Wilhelm Engelmann, professor of physiology at Berlin, and of Dr. F. G. Yeo, F.R.S., the physiologist.

Among those who will have received an honorary degree from Cambridge University on the occasion of the Darwin centenary are three Americans: Professor Jacques Loeb, of the University of California; Dr. Charles D. Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Professor E. B. Wilson, of Columbia University.

Dr. Ira Remsen, president of the Johns Hopkins University, has been elected president of the Society for Chemical Industry.—Dr. E. F. Nichols, professor of experimental physics at Columbia University, has been elected president of Dartmouth College.—Mr. Lazarus Fletcher, F.R.S., the keeper of the department of mineralogy since 1880, has been appointed to the post of director of the natural history departments of the British Museum.