Popular Science Monthly/Volume 76/June 1910/The Progress of Science



At the eleventh annual conference of the Association of American Universities Professor G. H. Marx, of Stanford University, presented an elaborate study of the problem of the assistant professor. It appears that assistant professors in the leading universities are of an average age of thirty-seven years, and have an average salary of $1,800. Four fifths of them supplement their salaries from outside sources and many are in debt. They have on the average one child. There seems to be considerable difference in the status of the assistant professor in different universities. In some institutions they have nearly the same influence as the full professor in faculty legislation and departmental control, while in others they state that they are practically ignored. The larger salaries paid to professors are about the same at Harvard and Columbia, but at Harvard the minimum salary of the assistant professor has recently been increased to $2,500, while at Columbia it has been placed at $1,600.

The higher cost of living and the cost of higher living combined—the increase in the price of the necessities of life and the more exacting standards of comfort—bear heavily on those having fixed wages, and perhaps university professors suffer more than any other class. Railway employees can threaten a strike; they are paid more, and rates for passengers and freight are increased, not to the advantage of the professor. Even the clergyman and his congregation can adjust matters. But the university has an income which does not increase automatically, and the larger the number of students the poorer does it become. With the best of will the administration can not obtain an adequate number of teachers and pay them adequate salaries. In the course of the last ten years salaries have remained stationary, while the cost of living has increased fifty per cent, and the standards of living have probably increased in an equal degree. The effective salary of the professor is only about half what it was ten years ago.

While professors are underpaid in comparison with successful men of business or leaders in the other professions, it is not certain that this is the case in comparison with the great mass of their fellow citizens. They are the least privileged members of the privileged classes. There is but little abstract justice in the rewards which the world gives. People get what they can, and what they can get depends on extremely complicated conditions. Lord Kelvin received several million dollars for his inventions and engineering advice, a modest salary as a university professor and nothing at all for his great contributions to mathematical physics. Probably his services to society were the most in the work for which he was not paid and the least in the work for which he was paid the most. But even in the latter case he produced far more wealth than he received. In like manner Mr. Alexander Agassiz earned several million dollars as the result of three or four years devoted to mining, but paid large sums to carry on his scientific work which is of such high value to society.

Society has no way of paying men such as Faraday or Darwin for their immense services. The competitive system applies to teaching, but not to original research and productive scholarship. The importance of teaching. however, as compared with other professions, is now underestimated. The rich man who employs a lawyer and a physician who charge at the rate of $50,000 a year, regards a thousand dollar a year teacher as good enough for his children. The teacher is not as a rule underpaid, but is a man of inferior ability and character.

The difficulty in the case of the relatively small salaries paid to assistant professors and professors is not so much that they are underpaid, as that universities and colleges are satisfied with men who are worth so little. It is, however, true that these institutions depend on the dignity and prestige of the position to attract men, and use this motive in place of salary. The result of this policy, however, is to lower the prestige of the position, so that it can not permanently be used in this way.

But while we may depend on the competitive system to adjust the salaries of teachers and only try to increase in the community the appreciation of the importance of having able and well-trained men, there still remains the problem of how we are to encourage and pay for original research and productive scholarship. These are in the main a by-product of the work of the teacher and are not paid for directly. Institutions want the credit of having men of scientific distinction and men value the honor which follows scientific achievement. But these motives are not sufficient, and become less so as the total number of scientific men increases. While the average salary paid to teachers may be about the same as in the other professions, the leaders do not receive salaries commensurate with the incomes of the leading lawyers, physicians, journalists or even clergymen. Under existing conditions it is probably desirable that they should receive larger rewards in order that society may have the ablest men in its direct service and may give them the strongest motives to do their best work. It is certainly little less than a scandal that the effective salaries of university professors should have been greatly reduced in the course of the past ten years.

Death has taken one more of the great men who gave distinction to the Victorian era. Hooker, Wallace, Lister and Galton are left, but the period is now closing which gave Great Britain such distinction in science as has seldom been equaled in any field or in any country. It is indeed possible that the science of Great Britain in the nineteenth century is the greatest achievement of our race.

Huggins was born in London in 1824. He was privately educated, and held no university or other position, but with ample means erected for himself in 1856 an observatory at Tulse Hill. He took the lead in applying the spectroscope to astronomy and may be regarded as the founder of the science of astrophysics. In his work he had the constant assistance of Lady Huggins. He was president of the Royal Society and one of the five scientific members of the order of merit. We hope to give in some subsequent issue an appreciation of his great contributions to science.

An adequate life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, has been written by Professor Silvanus P. Thompson and published by Macmillan and Co. Although an editorial note on Lord Kelvin's life and work was published in a recent issue of the Monthly (November, 1909), too much honor can not be paid to one of the greatest geniuses of the nineteeth century. We reproduce two from the many interesting portraits which are included in the volumes and Professor Thompson's final paragraph. After describing the funeral in Westminster Abbey, he writes: "For once, in the
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Sir William Huggins.

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Lord Kelvin with his Compass.
universal tribute rendered to the memory of Lord Kelvin, there seemed to be some revival of recognition of what the nation owes to science and to her great men. That which impressed Voltaire nearly two hundred years ago at the funeral of Newton was the public recognition which the England of that day accorded to the great representative of science. To-day the man of action looms larger in the world than the man of thought; and mankind which worships success is apt to heed little the thought and toil without which success is not achieved. In an age which has been preeminent over all that ever went before for the advances of science, the fashion of glorifying the warrior and the orator seems a grotesque anachronism. Mr. Gladstone's dictum, 'that the present is by no means an age abounding in minds of the first order,' did but reveal that he too shared the general blindness. The fact is that there never was an age so rich in minds of the first order in science. The nineteenth century has, intellectually, been the golden age, not of drama or of adventure, but of science. It has been an epoch distinguished by a galaxy of men who made it great, and who. whether the world recognizes it or not, were great men. Though Lord Kelvin was not the last of these, be was assuredly the greatest; and his name will be revered and
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Lord and Lady Kelvin in 1906.

his memory cherished long after those who sat at his feet and listened to his voice shall have passed away. His words, his thoughts remain. And not his thoughts only; for though he was essentially a man of thought, he was also a man of effort to whom came the high privilege of achievement. That laborious humility for which he was conspicuous, that unceasing activity which drove him, as by an internal fire, from success to success, mark him as a man of purpose. In an age that threatens, now to fester into luxury, now to swell into the degenerate lust of bigness, now to drivel into sport, such a strenuous career as his, and such high ideals of intellectual endeavor as illuminated his whole life, are possessions not lightly to be lost."


We record with regret the deaths of Dr. H. T. Ricketts, of the University of Chicago, who had been in Mexico conducting research on typhus fever and died from that disease; of Dr. Eugene Hodenpyl. the pathologist, of New York City; of Professor William Graham Sumner, of Yale University, eminent for his contributions to sociology and economics, and of Sir Robert Giffen, the British statistician.

Members of the National Academy of Sciences have been elected as follows: Forest Ray Moulton. assistant professor of astronomy in the University of Chicago; William Albert Noyes, professor of chemistry in the University of Illinois; Thomas Burr Osborne, research chemist in the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; Charles Schuchert, professor of paleontology in Yale University; Douglas Houghton Campbell, professor of botany in Stanford University; Jacques Loeb, professor of physiology in the University of California, who will become head of a department in the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and John Dewey, professor of philosophy in Columbia University.

Sir William Ramsay will be president of the British Association for the meeting to be held next year at Portsmouth.—Dr. John Trowbridge, who retires this year from the active duties of his chair at Harvard University, has been appointed honorary director of the Jefferson Physical Laboratory. Dr. Abraham Jacobi, emeritus professor of the diseases of children in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, celebrated his eightieth birthday on May 6. On April 23, exercises were held at the Mount Sinai Hospital in his honor. A bronze bust was presented to the hospital by the medical and surgical staff, and a new library named in his honor was given by the board of directors. At a dinner given the same evening by the trustees of the German Hospital announcement was made that the new children's ward which Mrs. Anna Woerishoffer has given to the hospital will be known as "The Dr. Abraham Jacobi Division for Children."

The will of Alexander Agassiz, dated September 17, 1906, was filed at Newport, on April 14. He bequeathed $200,000 to Harvard University, half for the Museum of Comparative Zoology and half for its publications. The university also receives scientific apparatus and books, and will ultimately receive the further sum of $12,000. Mr. Agassiz further bequeathed $50,000 to the National Academy of Sciences and an equal sum to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. $25,000 is left to the Newport School of Manual Training, to which ultimately $6,000 will be added. Mr. Agassiz's will further provides that in the case of the death of any one of his three sons without issue his share of the estate shall ultimately go to Harvard University for the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

More than $2,000,000 has been contributed to Washington University, St. Louis, for the medical department. The donors are Messrs. William K. Bixby, Adolphus Busch, Edward Mallinckrodt and Robert S. Brookings. Added to this are the resources of Barnes University, recently absorbed; the Martha Parsons Hospital and the original endowment fund of the university. New appointments have been announced as follows: Dr. George Dock, of Tulane University; Dr. John How] and, of the University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College; Dr. Eugene L. Opie. of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and Dr. Joseph Erlanger, of the University of Wisconsin. Construction of new buildings, to cost more than $1,000,000, will begin at once.