Popular Science Monthly/Volume 80/January 1912/The Progress of Science



The sixty-third meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Washington from December 27 to 30. This is the tenth of the annual convocation week meetings, the first of which was in Washington in 1901-2. In consecutive years meetings have been held in St. Louis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and Minneapolis. Although the zoologists and anatomists meet at Princeton, there will be in session at Washington some thirty-nine-societies and sections with an attendance probably exceeding two thousand scientific men. The formal opening will be in the new National Museum on Wednesday, when President Taft will welcome the association, and the annual presidential address will be given by Professor A. A. Michelson, of the University of Chicago.

Since the first meeting of the American Association in 1848, great changes have taken place in the condition of science in this country, in which the association has been an important factor and to which it in turn has been compelled to adjust itself. Sixty years ago all the scientific men in the country could meet together in one room and take an intelligent interest in the same problems. There are now some ten thousand scientific men, scattered over a wide area, engaged in special problems, which in many cases are comprehensible only to other specialists in the same field.

It was not until 1875 that the association was divided into two sections—one for mathematics, physics and chemistry and one for the natural sciences. In 1882 nine sections were organized, each with a vice-president as its presiding officer. But provision was needed for still greater specialization, and at about the same time national societies began to be established for the different sciences. The American Chemical Society was organized in 1876, and the Geological Society of America and the American Mathematical Society in 1888, and there are now some thirty societies devoted to different departments of science.

These special societies have to a considerable extent taken over one of the principal functions of the American Association, namely, the presentation and discussion of scientific work. The association has adapted itself to these conditions by becoming a center of affiliation for the various societies, omitting the reading of technical papers before its sections when the affiliated society devoted to the same subject meets at the same time and place.

The second function of the American Association—the diffusion of science—it still performs, especially through its publications. It seems impossible to accomplish all that might be done at the meetings, for even when attractive programs of general interest are offered, it is difficult to obtain an audience, and the newspapers and other journals of the country give very inadequate accounts of the meetings. It seems that there might be large numbers of people interested in the general problems of science, who would like to attend the meetings if the advantages were brought properly to their attention. It is not intended that membership shall be confined to those engaged
The National Museum from the Mall.

in scientific research, but rather to ally with the association all who are interested in scientific progress. Those who might like to become members of the association and attend the Washington meeting, should communicate with Dr. L. O. Howard, permanent secretary, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. The third object of the association is to unite those engaged in scientific research and those interested in science in an organization that will advance the interests of science and of scientific men. Fortunately these interests are coterminous with the interests of all the people, as the greater the advance of science the greater the benefit to all.


Washington is in many ways an admirable place for a large scientific meeting. There is much of interest in the city, both in its scientific establishments and in other directions. It is within reach of the chief centers of the country, and the climate is comparatively pleasant at this time of the year. But there are no places for the meetings so satisfactory as are offered by our larger universities. Within the last year there has, however, been a great advance in this direction by the completion of the new building of the United States National Museum. It possesses one good-sized lecture room in which the opening exercises and public lectures may be held, and the collections are a great attraction.

When the Smithsonian Institution was organized in 1846 congress entrusted to it the care of the national collections, and later undertook to provide for the maintenance of the museum and of the library. An adequate building for the National Library was built some years ago, and the new building for the National Museum has this year been completed, and the collections have been installed. The museum building covers a greater area than any other government structure in Washington, except the Capitol, and it is satisfactory that two of the most beautiful and well-arranged buildings

Ground Plan of the National Museum.
The National Museum from the Street.

in the city should be devoted to a library and to a museum. The general aspect of the museum and the ground plan are shown in the accompanying illustrations. The new building is placed on the Mall, the development of which still remains in large measure for the future, in front of the Smithsonian building, which it faces. It is a massive structure, four stories in height, with a frontage of 561 feet, a depth of 365 feet and a dome rising 162 feet above the ground level. The exterior of the building is not greatly ornamented, but its massive white granite and the lines and proportions give a pleasing effect.

The lower floor, called the basement, although it is raised several feet above the adjoining street, contains laboratories, workshops, storerooms and offices, used largely for the research work of the scientific staff. It also unfortunately contains a heating plant and ventilating system which pumps dust into the collections. The main floor presents a continuous floor space, the middle part of each wing being carried up to the second story. Three exceptionally large halls are thus formed, well adapted to the exhibition of the collections. The second story has less floor space, but ample galleries; the third story is reserved for laboratories and the storage of the collections intended for scientific research.


Sir Joseph Hooker is now dead at the age of ninety-five years. Only Wallace, aged ninety years, and Lister, aged eighty-five years, remain of the company of great men who were the contemporaries of Darwin. Since the birth of Roger Bacon, eight centuries ago, to the Victorian era, England has produced a succession of leading scientific men. We may hope that the hereditary genius of the race is not exhausted and that some part of it has been bequeathed to us in this country. Indeed Hooker himself is evidence of the persistence of genius, for his father was a botanist of equal eminence.

William Jackson Hooker, born in 1785, had independent means, which in
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker

England have so often led to a scientific career. He made important expeditions, devoted himself to the formation of a herbarium, and edited and published works contributing greatly to the advancement of botany. In 1820 he became professor of botany at Glasgow, and in 1841 director of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. His son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, was born on June 30, 1817, and immediately after taking the M.D. at Glasgow accompanied as assistant surgeon Sir James Ross's Antarctic expedition, the botanical results of which he subsequently published. Four years in India produced contributions of even greater importance, and later journeys were undertaken to many regions, including Palestine, Morocco and the United States. In 1855 he became assistant director of the Kew Gardens and succeeded his father as director in 1865.

Hooker's relations with Darwin were intimate, and he is perhaps best known to those who are not botanists for his support of the theory of evolution by natural selection, beginning with his presidential address before the British Association in 1868. But his botanical contributions are immense in range and importance. It is only necessary to mention here the "Flora of the British Isles," "The Flora of British India" and the great "Genera Plantarum."


We record with regret the deaths of Dr. George Davidson, eminent for his contributions to geodesy, geography and astronomy, emeritus professor in the University of California; of Surgeon General Walter Wyman, of the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service; of Sir Samuel Wilkes, London physician, author of works on pathological anatomy, and of Dr. Max Jaffe, professor of pharmacology at the University of Königsberg.

The Nobel prizes have been awarded in the sciences to Mme. Marie Curie, of the University of Paris, in chemistry; to Professor Wilhelm Wien, of the University of Würzburg, in physics, and to Professor Allvar Gullstrand, of the University of Upsala, in medicine.

The Symons gold medal of the Royal Meteorological Society has been awarded to Professor Cleveland Abbe, of the United States Weather Bureau.

The following awards have been made by the president and council of the Royal Society: a Royal medal to Professor George Chrystal, Edinburgh, whose death has meanwhile occurred, for his researches in mathematics and physics, especially his recent work on seiches and free oscillations in the Scottish lakes; a Royal medal to Dr, W. M. Bayliss, F.R.S., for his researches in physiology; the Copley medal to Sir George H. Darwin, K.C.B., F.R.S., for his scientific researches, especially in the domain of astronomical evolution; the Davy medal to Professor Henry E. Armstrong, F.R.S., for his contributions to chemical science; the Hughes medal to Mr. C. T. R. Wilson, F.R.S., for his investigations on the formation of cloud and their application to the study of electrical ions.