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



The eighth year book of the Carnegie Institution of Washington gives an account of its activities during the past year. The appropriation amounted to about $650.000—about $467,000 being for the maintenance of its departments; $50,000 for minor grants; $30,000 for research associates and assistants; $54,000 for publication, and $50,000 for administrative expenses. As indicated in the last issue of the Monthly, the administration building was dedicated in November. No new department was inaugurated during the year, but the observatory for meridian astronomy at San Luis, Argentina, began its work under the direction of Dr. Louis Boss, of the Dudley Observatory, Albany. The Nutrition Laboratory adjacent to the Harvard Medical School was also for the first time in working order. The magnetic ship Carnegie made its first voyage. A new tower telescope, 150 feet high and extending 75 feet below the ground, has been begun at the Solar Observatory on Mt. Wilson, California. The work of the Geophysical Laboratory, of the Department of Botanical Research, the Cold Spring Harbor Station and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Tortugas were continued. During the year nineteen volumes were published containing 4,907 pages.

The scientific men who are working in the departments of the Carnegie Institution are accomplishing a great amount of valuable research; but it is not certain that the contributions from the United States have been increased to the extent that might have been hoped from the expenditure of four million dollars. All the leading officers of the institution were engaged in scientific work before its establishment, and it is a question whether their work is better than it would have been if they had remained in their previous positions. The places which they held have been filled by others and there is

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The Geophysical Laboratory, Upton Street, Washington.

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Main Building, Desert Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona.

thus opportunity for more workers. But the difficulty in the United States appears to be a lack of men rather than a lack of positions or of equipment. Those employed by the Carnegie Institution are somewhat isolated in their research stations and their influence in attracting men to research work and training them to it is less than it would be at the universities. University professors have positions which should make the scientific career attractive to young men of ability and purpose. The associations of the university are on the whole pleasant and honorable. With his colleagues, his ] assistants and his more advanced students the professor has a stimulus to good work and opportunity to make it I effective. As a rule the position is a life appointment; there are pensions, vacations and sabbatical leaves of absence. Yet, in spite of these attractions, it is difficult to find men of distinction for university chairs. It may be that they are not being born in sufficient numbers, but it is more likely that they are not found. The comparatively small salaries and the somewhat unsatisfactory methods of university control may be partly responsible. Whatever the difficulty may be, the pressing need of the present time is to find men: providing positions and equipment is scarcely of use except in so far as this may attract men.

The Carnegie Institution has taken men from universities and from other institutions; it has not made new men of science or attracted men to scientific work. This it might have done by giving opportunity to men who could not otherwise find it, or by paying such salaries and conferring such privileges on scientific men as would make the career attractive to the best men. The salaries paid are not made public, but they are probably as small as will obtain and retain the men that are needed. The bureaucratic or department store system, which is the chief danger of the university, is in the case of the Carnegie Institution carried to an extreme, for the collective sentiment of a group of scholars, which is the balance wheel of the university, is there absent. It may be impossible for such an institution to accomplish more for science than it is doing; but certainly the official statement of its plans published eight years ago appeal more to the imagination. It reads:

It is proposed to found in the city of Washington, in the spirit of Washington, an institution which, with the cooperation of institutions now or hereafter established, there or elsewhere, shall, in the broadest and most liberal manner, encourage investigation, research
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General View of Station of Department of Experimental Evolution, Cold Spring Harbor.

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Main Building, Tortugas Laboratory

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Transit-circle, Southern Observatory, San Luis, Argentine Republic.

and discovery, encourage the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind; provide such buildings, laboratories, books and apparatus as may be needed, and afford instruction of an advanced character to students whenever and wherever found, inside or outside of schools, properly qualified to profit thereby. Among its aims are these:

1. To increase the efficiency of the universities and other institutions of learning throughout the country, by utilizing and adding to their existing facilities, and by aiding teachers in the various' institutions for experimental and other work, in these institutions as far as may be advisable.

2. To discover the exceptional man in every department of study, whenever and wherever found, and enable him by financial aid to make the work for which he seems specially designed, his life work.

3. To promote original research, paying great attention thereto, as being one of the chief purposes of this institution.

4. To increase facilities for higher education.

5. To enable such students as may find Washington the best point for their special studies to avail themselves of such advantages as may be open to them in the museums, libraries, laboratories, observatory, meteorological, piscicultural and forestry schools and kindred institutions of the several departments of the government.

6. To insure the prompt publication and distribution of the results of scientific investigation, a field considered to be highly important.

These and kindred objects may be attained by providing the necessary apparatus, by employing able teachers from various institutions in Washington and elsewhere, and by enabling men fitted for special work to devote themselves to it, through salaried fellowships or scholarships, or through salaries, with or without pensions in old age, or through aid in other forms to such men as continue their special work at seats of learning throughout the world.
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Peter Lesley.


The life and letters of Peter and Susan Lesley have been edited by their daughter, Mrs. Mary Lesley Ames, and published in two volumes of considerable size by Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons. The biography and the letters are largely personal in character. They are documents of human interest in depicting the lives of two superior and attractive personalities in their relations to the social conditions of New England and Philadelphia during the larger part of the last century. They also throw some light on the history of science in this country.

Lesley was born in Philadelphia in 1819 of Scotch presbyterian stock and dedicated to the ministry. His health being broken at the age of nineteen he obtained a place as assistant in the newly-organized geological survey of Pennsylvania, in order that he might have outdoor work for a season. Thus he was drawn to geology almost by an accident, as indeed it may be held that the comparatively considerable contribution of America to geology during the last century was a by-product of the development of our natural resources. Lesley completed his theological studies at Princeton, studied in Germany at a time when this was unusual, became a missionary in the forest counties of Pennsylvania, and for three years had charge of a church in Milton, near Boston. There he was married and there he returned to live in his old age. But he was not sufficiently orthodox for the ministry and was fortunately driven back to geology.

In Philadelphia he became a geological and mining expert. He made maps of coal fields for the Pennsylvania Railway and compiled an iron manufacturer's guide. He was for many years secretary and librarian of the American Philosophical Society and in 1872 became professor of geology in the University of Pennsylvania. In 1874 the second geological survey of Pennsylvania was inaugurated and Lesley accepting the directorship carried out the great work of his life, though begun at the age of fifty-five years. The hundred and twenty volumes of the reports of the survey are due to the men he selected for the work, to his constant oversight, and to his careful editing. The work gives him high rank among those who have done most to advance geology in this country.

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Peter and Susan Lesley.

Lesley's interests were wide, being by no means confined to geology. He himself says in a letter to Professor O. N. Rood "I have done nothing worthy of record in science." He then tells what he believes his services to have been—improvements in certain instruments—the odometer, the measuring divider and the aneroid barometer; the introduction of contour curves in geological field work; and two theories—the determination of the present system of surface drainage by the dimpled form of the plicated original surface and the production of modern topography chiefly by the underground solution of limestone strata.

In 1893 Lesley's health failed and he lived quietly until his death in 1903 at the age of eighty-four years. The photograph which his friends regard as the best is here given, and a reproduction of a portrait painted in the old age of her parents by Mrs. Bush-Brown.


We record with regret the deaths of Dr. Friederich Kohlrausch, the eminent German physicist, of Dr. William Bradley Rising, professor of chemistry in the University of California, and of Dr. William George light, formerly professor of geology at Denison University and the University of New Mexico.

A national testimonial to Commander Robert Peary was held at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, on February 8. Governor Hughes presided and a telegram was read from President Taft which expressed the hope that congress would take some substantial notice of Commander Peary's great achievement. Governor Hughes presented Commander Peary with a purse containing $10,000, which he immediately contributed toward fitting out an Antarctic expedition.—The Langley medal of the Smithsonian Institution, created in 1908 in commemoration of Professor Langley and his work in aerodromics, was presented to Messrs. Orville and Wilbur Wright on February 10. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and Senator Lodge made addresses and Chief Justice Fuller presented the medals.

A statue of the late Morris K. Jesup, for many years president of the American Museum of Natural History, was unveiled in the foyer of the museum on February 9. Addresses at the unveiling were made by Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, who has succeeded Mr. Jesup as president of the museum, and Mr. Joseph H. Choate, one of the founders of the museum.

A department of experimental biology has been organized in the Rockefeller Institute. Professor Jacques Loeb, of the University of California, has been elected head of the department.—The Geological Society of London has awarded the Wollaston medal to Professor W. B. Scott, of Princeton University.—The French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences has elected Professor William James, of Harvard University, a foreign member of the society, in the room of the late M. de Martens, of St. Petersburg. Professor James has been a corresponding member of the academy since 1898.

The late Darius Ogden Mills, of New York City, has bequeathed $100,000 to the American Museum of Natural History, $50,000 to the New York Botanical Garden and $25,000 to the American Geographical Society of New York City.—The Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University has received from Messrs. George G. Mason and William S. Mason $250,000 for a laboratory of mechanical engineering.