Popular Science Monthly/Volume 78/February 1911/The Progress of Science



The convocation week meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the affiliated scientific societies was held this year at Minneapolis beginning on the evening of December 27. The attendance of scientific men was in the neighborhood of 1,200, which is about half as large as at the recent meetings in eastern cities. Although the number of men of science in the central states is continually increasing, and the center of scientific population will soon coincide with the center of the general population, Minneapolis is in the far northwest of the region, and it is a considerable railway journey from the seats of other universities. It is well known that the distance from the east to the west is psychologically longer than the reverse. There were at Minneapolis about a hundred scientific men from the eastern seaboard.

The chemists had as usual the largest attendance and the most extensive program. Next came the zoologists and botanists. The geologists had a competing meeting elsewhere; the anthropologists did not meet, and the section of social and economic science had a very small attendance. The national societies devoted to these subjects and to engineering do not meet with the association and it is difficult to decide what should be done in such cases. Probably the best solution is to have no program of special papers, but to plan one or two sessions of general interest, such as the papers on aviation arranged this year by the officers of the section of mechanical science and engineering.

The number of papers on the program to be presented before each section of the association or the corresponding affiliated societies was as follows:

Mathematics and astronomy 34
Physics 40
Chemistry 178
Mechanical science and engineer­ing 21
Geology and geography 24
Zoology 122
Botany 81
Anthropology and psychology 41
Social and economic science 8
Physiology and experimental medi­cine 13
Education 30
Total 592
At the opening session the retiring president, Dr. David Starr Jordan—distinguished equally as a zoologist, a university president, an advocate of peace and in other good causes—after introducing the president of the meeting, Professor A. A. Michelson, of the University of Chicago—one of the most eminent of living men of science—gave his address, entitled "The Making of a Darwin." Dr. Jordan argued that the fundamental elements in the making of an investigator are the original material, to which we may look to heredity alone; meeting nature at first hand and meeting her early and persistently, and the personal inspiration and enthusiasm derived from some great teacher. It was refreshing to hear a university president characterize at their true value the machinery and paraphernalia of the modern university. Perhaps the address was not so judicial as might have been expected in view of the double office held by the speaker, but it was none the less interesting on that account. The group of zoologists drawn to the Johns Hopkins

Dr. Charles E. Bessey,
President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

University in its earlier years largely by fellowships and using laboratory methods of investigation will bear comparison better than Dr. Jordan seems to think with the earlier group of naturalists of the school of Agassiz.

The addresses of the vice-presidents of the association maintained high standards and were in most cases of general interest. Thus Professor Minot, of Harvard, treated the method of science; Professor Brown, of Yale, the relation of Jupiter with the asteroids; Dr. Bauer, of the Carnegie Institution, research in terrestrial magnetism; Professor McPherson, of Ohio State University, the production of carbohydrates in plants; Director Brock, of the Canadian Geological Survey, northern Canada, and Professor Ritter, of the University of California, mechanism and vitalism. The addresses before the special societies and the discussions and papers of more than ordinary interest can not even be mentioned by title in a short note.

Dr. Charles E. Bessey, professor of botany at the University of Nebraska, dean and on several occasions acting president, distinguished for his contributions to science and for establishing in a western university a center of botanical teaching and research whose influence has extended over the whole country, was elected president of the American Association to preside over the meeting to begin at Washington on December 27, 1911.

While the American Association and a large group of national scientific societies were meeting at Minneapolis, other societies were meeting elsewhere. At Ithaca the American Society of Naturalists under the presidency of Dr. D. T. MacDougal had an interesting program devoted to problems of experimental evolution. With them met the eastern zoologists and the bacteriologists. The geologists, geographers and paleontologists met in Pittsburgh, the physiologists at New Haven, the mathematicians in New York and the anthropologists in Providence. There are scientific and social advantages both in a large convocation-week gathering o£ all men of science and in smaller meetings of groups devoted to a single science. Probably the best results are obtained by adopting different plans on different occasions.


There are at least three objects attained by attendance at scientific meetings. The papers and discussions are the official occasion, and are certainly of importance. They exhibit contemporary and common interests in a way that is not otherwise possible, and they often serve as a stimulus to research work both before and after the meeting. Of scarcely less consequence are the personal acquaintances and renewed friendships. The third advantage of migratory meetings is the opportunity to visit different parts of the country and to see their scientific and educational institutions. The more distant the place of meeting, the more interesting they are likely to be. So men of science are repaid for their journeys in direct proportion to their length.

A long trip would be well rewarded by the opportunity to see the University of Minnesota. The development of our state universities is probably the most significant movement in higher education, and nowhere are the opportunities and problems exhibited on a more comprehensive scale than in Minnesota. The adjacent states of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota possess four of our greatest universities. For many years Michigan led the way; more recently Wisconsin has made the most rapid advances, both in the standards reached in its faculties and in its influence in the state. Illinois and Minnesota, established later, are now likely to press forward in friendly rivalry for leadership. The state of Illinois has two private universities—one of them

Folwell Hall, the College Building.

rivaling Harvard and Columbia in its endowments and standards—which will continue to share with the state institution the educational leadership of the state. Minnesota has no competition; and its situation in a large city and adjacent to the capital of the state gives it certain advantages, especially for its professional schools. It has been more fortunate than other state universities in retaining possession of its land grants and in finding them to be the site of vast mineral resources. Most of all it is happy in the possession of a population of high character and intelligence.

Historians are likely to describe the epochs of a country's history under the reigning sovereigns, whether these personages have played a significant or an insignificant part in its affairs. Universities are in like manner known by the administrations of their successive presidents.

Dr. W. W. Folwell was in charge during the infancy of the University of Minnesota, from 1869 to 1884. Dr. Cyrus Northrop has in truly patriarchal fashion guided its vigorous youth. Almost his last official act was to welcome the scientific societies to Minneapolis. Dr. G. E. Vincent, professor of sociology in the University of Chicago, active in its educational management and in the Chautauqua movement inaugurated by his father, now assumes the presidency. It is difficult to exaggerate the possibilities of the development of the university during his administration.

All the buildings now on the campus have been erected within the past twenty-five years. In spite of or on account of their varying and somewhat naive styles of architecture they make a pleasing impression. Folwell Hall, the headquarters for the scientific societies, is a building admirably constructed for class work. Chemistry, physics and the natural sciences have satisfactory buildings, though it is planned to replace or alter them. Extensive groups of buildings are to be erected for the engineering and medical departments. The university has not as yet made use of its position

The Library.

Main Building of the School of Agriculture.

on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, but plans have been drawn to remodel the entire arrangement of the buildings with a view to taking advantage of its fine site.

Land, buildings and equipment, students and teachers in large numbers, the university will surely have. It is now a big university and will become much bigger. Whether it will become one of the great universities of the world will depend on whether it can find great men for its chairs. This is the question before all our universities: it should be the dominant concern of Minnesota at the present time.


Presidents of the national scientific societies have been elected as follows: The American Society of Naturalists, Professor H. S. Jennings, of the Johns Hopkins University; The American Chemical Society, Professor Alexander Smith, of the University of Chicago; The Botanical Society of America, Professor W. O. Farlow, of Harvard University; The Geological Society of America, Professor W. M. Davis, of Harvard University; The Association of American Geographers, Professor Ralph S. Tarr, of Cornell University; The American Paleontological Society, Professor William B. Scott, of Princeton University; The Society of Biological Chemists, Professor L. B. Mendel, of Yale University; The American Anthropological Association. Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, of the Bureau of American Ethnology; The American Psychological Association. Professor C. E. Seashore, University of Iowa; the American Philosophical Association, Professor Frederick J. E. Woodbridge, of Columbia University.

The Nobel prizes, amounting to about $40,000 each. have been distributed by the King of Sweden with the usual ceremonies. The prize-winners in science—Professors Van der Waals (physics), Wallach (chemistry) and Kossel (medicine)—were present to receive their prizes and give the statutory lectures.