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

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

TEN YEARS OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION

The tenth yearbook of the Carnegie Institution of Washington is of special interest, as it records a further gift from the founder of ten million dollars and reviews the history of the institution for its first ten years. The endowment is now $22,000,000 in five per cent, bonds of the steel corporation, worth at least $25,000,000. The investment in property of the institution from its income is about $1,700,000 and there is a reserve fund of $250,000. During the ten years the cost of administration has been $400,000, of publication $300,000, and the sum of $4,000,000 has been applied directly to research. There have been published 201 volumes under 156 different titles.

The Carnegie Institution has definitely adopted the policy of devoting its income to the support of its own departments rather than to attempting to conduct an emergency fund for research. Some minor grants and research associates are maintained, but these also are-semi-permanent in character, but few new special appropriations having been made recently. Last year about $500,000 was devoted to the ten departments of the institution.

The president states that the last fiscal year was the most fruitful on record for the ten specially organized departments of research. The solar observatory has now four telescopes—two tower telescopes, a horizontal 30-inch reflector and a 60-inch equatorial reflector. It has proved impossible to obtain a perfect cast for the 100-inch telescope, but the disc supplied by the French founders is being ground in the hope that the flaws will not interfere with its accuracy. The meridian determinations of stellar positions at the

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The 100-inch Disk on the Grinding Machine.

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Goose Island.

temporary observatory in Argentina have been completed. The non-magnetic ship Carnegie has traversed some 25,000 miles, measuring magnetic declination at 252 different points. The Geophysical Laboratory has continued its work on the chemical and physical problems presented by the materials of the earth's crust. To the work in astronomy and geophysics the institution devotes considerably more than half its resources.

The nutrition laboratory and three departments devoted to the biological sciences each receive appropriations of somewhat over $30,000. The Desert Botanical Laboratory has found an interesting problem in the results following the drying up of the Salton Sea, and has carried on researches on the effects on plants of altitude, dryness and other factors. The Department of Marine Biology has constructed a yacht, named in honor of the founder of the Naples Botanical Station, which enables it to carry on work

 

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Scene at the Desert Laboratory.

in addition to that undertaken on the Tortugas. The Department of Experimental Evolution has, among other work, collaborated with the Eugenics Record Office in the study of human heredity, constructed a vivarium for cave life and used Goose Island to study the changes a domesticated species undergoes in becoming feral.

Endowed institutions for research are of vast importance for the progress of science. Under existing social conditions investigation can not be undertaken as an independent profession. The sales of the publications of the Carnegie Institution are less than one per cent, of the cost of the work which they represent. It is necessary that society should in some way pay for the research work which is of benefit to society as a whole, but can not be sold to an individual. In Germany investigation has in the main been carried forward in connection with university chairs, and during the nineteenth century remarkable results were obtained with a small expenditure. In England much of the most important scientific work has been produced by men having inherited wealth. In this country our universities have not yet equalled those of Germany in their productiveness, and we have but few amateurs.

The United States has, however, taken the lead in the amount of scientific work done under the government, and the two foundations for research endowed by Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Rockefeller have larger resources than those of any other nation. After the efflorescence of the medieval universities there was a period in the seventeenth and eighteen centuries during which the academies of sciences and the newly-established observatories, museums and botanical gardens became the most important centers of research. Perhaps the institutions endowed for research will in the twentieth century be the chief centers of scientific investigation. We may, however, hope that the universities, the research institutions, the national, state and municipal governments and industrial enterprises will unite to advance science and its applications. The United States has the largest natural resources of any nation, and in so far as these are used, the proceeds should in large measure be expended on scientific work, which will provide an economic equivalent for the fertility of the soil, the forests, the mining products and other natural resources which we are consuming.

 

LORD LISTER

In recording the death of Francis Galton somewhat less than a year ago, it was noted here that of the great men of science who gave distinction to the Victorian era only three remained—Hooker, Wallace and Lister. Hooker has since died at the age of ninety-four years and on February the eleventh Lister died at the age of eighty-four years. An English journal recently compiled a list of the ten greatest men of the world, and Lister would perhaps have been the name on which there would have been the most general agreement. Like Galton and Hooker, Lister had distinguished scientific ancestry, his father having been a fellow of the Royal Society, who, among many other services, gave us the existing compound microscope.

Joseph Lister was born at Upton in Essex on April 5, 1827. He received the degree of bachelor of medicine in 1847 and that of doctor of medicine in 1852 from the University of London. While house surgeon at University ColHospital he made researches on gangrene and pyemia. In 1856 he became assistant surgeon in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, in 1860 professor of surgery at Glasgow University, in 1869 professor at Edinburgh University and in 1877 at King's College, London. He was created a baronet in 1883 and was raised to the peerage in 1893, with the title of Baron Lister of Lyme Regis. In Edinburgh he married the daughter of Professor Syme, the eminent

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Lord Lister

surgeon, to whose chair he succeeded. His nephew is a leading man of science, but he left no children.

It was at Glasgow, where the infirmary was a hotbed of septic disease, that Lister, using the discovery of Pasteur that decomposition in organic substances is due to living germs which are descended from parents like themselves, applied the antiseptic treatment in surgery, an advance only paralleled by that of the discovery of antiseptics. It was not an isolated discovery, but was preceded and followed by important researches, which led up to it and perfected it. Perhaps no one else has accomplished so much as Lister for the relief of suffering and the prevention of premature death.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the death of Professor George Jarvis Brush, the eminent mineralogist of Yale University, and of Dr. Waldemar Koch, of the University of Chicago, known for his researches in physiological chemistry.

M. Lippman has been elected president, and Professor Guyon vice president, of the Paris Academy of Sciences.—The Academy of Sciences at Bologna has awarded the Élie de Cyon prize of 3,000 lire to Professor E. A. Schäfer, of Edinburgh.—Among the British honors are knighthoods conferred on Professor W. F. Barrett, F.R.S., formerly professor of physics in the Royal College of Science, Dublin, and Professor E. B. Tylor, F.R.S., emeritus professor of anthropology in the University of Oxford.—It is proposed to have painted and to present to the American Philosophical Society a portrait of its president, Dr. William W. Keen, who, on January 19, celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday.