Popular Science Monthly/Volume 79/December 1911/The Progress of Science



Germany and France have happily settled their differences in regard to Morocco; but the German chancellor is charged in his own country with yielding not to France, but to Great Britain. France, which a hundred years ago lorded it over the Germanic nations and forty years ago believed that its military forces were superior to those of the German empire, has now almost lost its place among the great nations of Europe. Paris is nearly the same city it was forty years ago; Berlin is a new city. This alteration in the position of France is due to its stationary population. At the end of the last century the population of France formed one quarter of that of the civilized powers of the world, while at present it has fallen to seven per cent.

This state of affairs is causing much anxiety in France; it is discussed in detail in a recent book by Dr. Jacques Bertillon, chief of statistics for the city of Paris. The data which he reviews in detail deserve consideration not so much because, as he claims, they are peculiar to France, but rather because France has been first to exhibit a state of affairs likely soon to be evident everywhere. The charts here reproduced show the birth rates and death rates of four nations during the second half of the nineteenth century and the birth rates in the different regions of France for the first and last decades of the nineteenth century. It is almost incredible that there should be departments in which there are three deaths for every two births. In Lot the population has in the course of twenty years decreased from 271,514 to 216,611.

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Birth Rates and Death Rates.
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Birth Rates in the French Departments

Every nation except France is increasing in population; but the birth rate is decreasing everywhere. Statistics can be misapplied to almost any purpose. Thus since 1876 the birth rate for France has decreased from 25 to 21 per thousand, whereas for England it has decreased from 36 to 27, and it might be alleged that, should the same decrease continue, the birth rate after an equal period would be about the same for France and England, and about a hundred years thereafter would be 5 in France and less than nothing in England. This is obviously absurd, but it is by no means unlikely that the birth rate will fall below the death rate in all civilized nations and later in other nations as they are brought within the circle of European civilization.

The increase in population during recent years has been due to the decreased death rate. This has resulted directly from the applications of science to medicine and hygiene and indirectly from the improved conditions of living which science has made possible. In all civilized countries the birth rate is now smaller than the death rate was formerly. But the death rate can not decrease indefinitely; it has indeed possibly reached in Great Britain a lower level than can be maintained. A death rate of 16 per thousand in a stationary population means that the average length of life is over 60 years and as one fourth of those who die are under five years of age the average age at death of those surviving infancy would be about 80 years. Odd as it may appear at first sight the decreased death rate of a country such as Great Britain is largely due to a decreasing birth rate combined with an increasing population. Such conditions give a population in which there are fewer children under five and fewer old people over sixty, in which groups the death rate is about 60 per thousand, whereas between the ages of 5 and 35 it is below 5. In France there are fewer children than have ever existed in any population, which reduces the death rate; but there are more old people—twice as many as in Great Britain—which increases it. The proportion of old people will further increase in France,
PSM V79 D621 French birth and death rates at the beginning and end of 19th century.png
At the Beginning and End of the Nineteenth Century.

and will be tripled in Great Britain. It should also be remembered that the death rate of those over 4.1 has increased continually, owing mainly to the keeping alive of weakly people at earlier ages.

It seems unlikely that the death rate will ever be considerably smaller than it now is in England, whereas the conditions which have lowered the birth rate seem destined not only to continue but to increase. The physiological limitations will doubtless increase as children grow up who could not be born naturally or be nursed naturally or live through the harsher conditions that formerly obtained. The economic and social causes—the increase and wider diffusion of wealth, prudence and knowledge—will almost surely become more potent.

Dr. Bertillon discusses in detail the causes of the depopulation of France and the measures which he recommends to arrest it. The latter are indeed feeble in comparison with the former, and he puts on his title page the pessimistic motto "Il n'est pas besoin d'espérer pour entrependre ni de réussir pour persévérer." Apart from a moral regeneration leading people to want to do what they can rather than to get what they can, the remedy is in the direction recommended in the book, but requires far more radical measures. Children are no longer a financial asset to their parents, but they are this to the state and to the world; the state must ultimately pay for their birth and. rearing.


Four of the leading eastern universities—Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Yale—have provided new laboratories for their departments of zoology. At the Johns Hopkins the laboratory is part of buildings planned for the whole university on its removal to a new site. At Princeton great buildings have been erected for the natural sciences and for physics, and similar buildings are in course of erection for Yale. The new building at the
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Zoological Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania.

University of Pennsylvania, shown in the accompanying illustration, is the largest and best equipped building in this country, if not in the world, devoted wholly to zoology.

The architecture is of early English Renaissance, with walls of red brick in a variety of shades trimmed with Indiana limestone. The front facade, facing the north, is 216 feet in length; the south wing connects with the vivarium erected in 1900. The form of the building and the large windows give ample light to all rooms. Excellent as are the architectural effects they have in all cases been adjusted to the needs of the scientific work. The unit system of construction has been followed, so that rooms are of standard size and partitions can be readily added or removed.

The large lecture room seats 327 students and the smaller sixty, while the laboratories may also be used for lectures. Ample space is provided for the library and for a synoptical museum, but duplication of the exhibition museums of the Academy of Natural Sciences was wisely avoided. The elementary work is confined to the first floor, with four laboratories for general zoology, leaving the two upper floors for advanced work and research. The basement contains rooms for breeding, constant temperature, photography and other purposes, the heat and light being supplied from a central station.

The United States would make unparalleled contributions to the advancement of science if these follow in proportion to the material equipment of its universities and government bureaus. But men are more important than their tools. It happens that of the great universities of the Atlantic seaboard the two—Harvard and Columbia—which lead all others in their zoological work are the only ones not having new laboratories. They will doubtless soon have them, but how much their investigations will be aided by the building, equipment and care of new laboratories is an open question. At Pennsylvania there is only one full professor of zoology. The interest on the cost of the building and grounds and the charge for care and depreciation is much larger than the salaries paid to the teachers and investigators who occupy the building. The writer has good reason to remember well the old Biological Hall of the University of Pennsylvania. It cost perhaps $30,000; it was likely not only to burn down but to tumble down. Yet in that building some twenty years ago worked Leidy, Cope and Ryder, with two other professors in the zoological sciences, two professors of botany and a professor of psychology, all actively engaged in research work. Our universities doubtless need big buildings, but the need of great men is far more urgent.


We record with regret the deaths of the Rev. Henry C. McCook, of Philadelphia, known for his publications on popular entomology; of M. Louis-Joseph Troost, the eminent French chemist; of Professor August Michel-Levy, the distinguished French geologist; of M. Alfred Binet, director of the psychological laboratory of the University of Paris; of Dr. Wilhelm Dilthey, formerly professor of philosophy in the University of Berlin; of Dr. J. Hughlings-Jackson, F.R.S., eminent English neurologist, and of Professor Florentino Ameghino, the well known paleontologist and director of the Museo Nacional in Buenos Aires.

Mr. Andrew Carnegie has given $25,000,000 to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, incorporated by the legislature last June. The objects of the corporation are "receiving and maintaining a fund or funds and applying the income thereof to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding among the people of the United States, by

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Plan of the First Floor of the Zoological Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania.

aiding technical schools, institutions of higher learning, libraries, scientific research, hero funds, useful publications, and by such other means as shall from time to time be found appropriate therefor."

By the will of Mr. Joseph Pulitzer the million dollars which he had set aside for a School of Journalism at Columbia University is released, and the promise of an additional million on condition that the school he successfully conducted for three years is confirmed. $250,000 is bequeathed to Columbia University to continue the special scholarships for students of the New York public schools. $500,000 is bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an equal sum to the Philharmonic Society of New York. The income to be paid to two of his sons is limited until they have reached the age of thirty, and the balance is to be divided between Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philharmonic Society. This amount may apparently exceed $500,000 annually.

The will of Miss Emma Carola Woerishoffer leaves $750,000 to the trustees of Bryn Mawr College, of which she was a recent graduate.

The estate of John S. Kennedy is even larger than has been previously announced. The share of Columbia University is $2,429,943. The New York Public Library receives $2,779,790; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, $2,929,943; the Presbyterian Hospital, $1,514,086; New York University and the Presbyterian Board of Aid for Colleges, each $976,647; Robert College, Constantinople, $1,847,295. The specific bequests, not dependent on the size of the size of the estate, include $100,000 each to Yale, Amherst, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Hamilton and Glasgow.