Popular Science Monthly/Volume 81/July 1912/The Progress of Science



At its recent commencement exercises, the University of Cincinnati celebrated the opening of its new engineering building and the graduation of the first classes from the cooperative engineering course. The university itself and its cooperative engineering course are among the most interesting and promising educational experiments now in progress in this country. Cincinnati is the only city which maintains a municipal university. The state universities are the best witnesses that can be called in favor of our democracy. An institution such as the University of Wisconsin, liberally supported by the state and repaying many fold this support, covering the whole field of university work from the most special research to the most practical extension of knowledge among the people, has demonstrated what a democracy can do for a university and what a university can do for the state which maintains it. But centralization and great size have their dangers. It seems to be neither desirable nor possible for the university of a state to provide education for all its citizens. There are at present about twenty thousand students in the universities and colleges of the state of Ohio. The number has doubled in the past ten years and will probably again double in the course of a decade; within thirty years it may be expected to be between one and two hundred thousand. Under these circumstances it seems to be necessary that not only the state but also the larger cities should maintain universities. The University of Cincinnati has demonstrated that this is feasible. At the beginning there may be neglect or political intrigue, but these are sure to be automatically outgrown as in the case of

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The Gymnasium of the University of Cincinnati.
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The Engineering Building of the University of Cincinnati.

the state universities. In the end the university is likely to become a center of civic pride, providing higher education locally and coordinating the libraries, museums and other institutions of the city.

The University of Cincinnati in June dedicated not only its fine engineering building, but also a gymnasium, the two buildings having been erected by the city at a cost of $550,000. At the same time President Dabney was able to announce that gifts from private citizens were the largest in number and the greatest in amount—about $250,000—ever received. There is no reason why private citizens and alumni should not give as liberally to a municipal or state university as to a private corporation, and we may expect to see a still more remarkable growth of state supported institutions as the alumni increase in numbers, in wealth and in power.

One of the advantages of having local universities rather than only a central state institution is illustrated by the cooperative engineering course of the University of Cincinnati, from which students were this year for the first time graduated, and it is an interesting fact that the first experiment of this character should have been initiated by the first municipal university. Owing to the initiative and skill of the dean of the college, Professor Herman Schneider, arrangements have been made by which students work alternate weeks at the university and at commercial shops. The theory is taught at the university and the practise is obtained in the manufacturing plants. Students are paid for their work in the shops at the same rate as other men doing the same work, and no inconvenience is caused by the plan of alternate weeks as the men work continually in the shops in two relays. Students can thus practically support themselves while they are taking the engineering courses in the university. They probably learn more in the shops than by practical courses which the universities could arrange, and the shops obtain superior men. The course is five years, and students probably can gain as valuable an education during this time as in four years wholly devoted to engineering studies. Night schools, extension courses, correspondence schools and the like are all useful, but the plan of working half the time at the university and half the time in practise seems to be superior to any other. There is no reason why the system should not be extended in other directions, as to teachers in the public schools of a city. The University of Cincinnati is certainly to be congratulated on having inaugurated a movement which demonstrates the peculiar usefulness of a municipal university.


The Carnegie Foundation has published a bulletin on medical education in Europe, prepared by Mr. Abraham Flexner, with an introduction by Dr. Henry S. Pritchett, president of the foundation, which, like its predecessor on medical education in the United States and Canada, issued two years ago, is a document of considerable interest. It appears that in the German Empire, in Austria and in France there is about one physician to each two thousand of the population, in Great Britain about one to 1,100, while in this country there is one physician for 568 persons. The distribution is naturally such that the supply of physicians is relatively much greater in the cities than in the country districts. This is a difficulty which, as Dr. Pritchett indicates, can probably be overcome only by some sort of state support. It is emphasized by the fact that the abler physicians are likely to be drawn to the cities, while it is in the country, where hospital facilities and specialists are lacking, that physicians are needed who are able to meet every emergency.

Mr. Flexner and Dr. Pritchett hold that the supply of physicians in this country is excessive and demoralizing, and place the blame on the large number and low standards of our medical schools. It is not, however, certain that in view of our greater wealth the supply is relatively larger than in Europe; nor is it certain that conditions would be greatly improved by suppressing the weaker schools. If it were possible to select in the right numbers the men best fitted to become physicians and to give them the best possible education, this would clearly be the most desirable state of affairs; but such ideal conditions do not obtain anywhere in our complicated civilization. Medical education is already so prolonged and expensive that if requirements are further increased the career will be open only to the rich; it seems necessary to train more physicians than are needed in order that the best may be selected, and it does not follow that those who are unable to support themselves as physicians are the worse for having had a medical education. It would be well if more children were born to fit parents and fewer to those who are unfit, and the apostles of eugenics are performing a useful service in preaching from this text. But the Carnegie Foundation places itself in the position of the practical eugenicist who would put unfit parents out of the way. This is a delicate and difficult undertaking, which (me is scarcely prepared to entrust to Dr. Pritchett and Mr. Flexner.

The proprietary schools without proper laboratory and clinical facilities are probably being eliminated about as rapidly as is desirable. The American Medical Association publishes annually a list of those which are inadequate, and the Carnegie Foundation has given wide publicity to the deficiencies of these institutions. Such information is desirable, but it may be that the Carnegie Foundation is not the best agency to exploit it. Thus the foundation refused to give pensions to the professors of the University of Illinois at Urbana on the ground that its medical school in
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Thomas Harrison Montgomery,

Late professor of zoology in the University of Pennsylvania.

Chicago did not maintain standards sufficiently high, and the university has just now abandoned its medical school. This may have been the best thing to do, but it seems undesirable that a private foundation should be able to dictate by purchase the educational policy of a state university.

The conditions are of such great educational and public concern that they should be clearly understood. The powers of the Carnegie Foundation may be illustrated by an example. It was originally established to grant pensions for length of service as well as for old age and disability. The length of service pensions were abandoned through lack of means, but the trustees, practically all of whom are university or college presidents, instructed the executive committee to "safeguard the interests" "of those whose twenty-five years of service includes service as a college president." Under this clause Dr. Wilson, when retiring from the presidency of Princeton University to be a candidate for governor of New Jersey, applied for the pension to which he was entitled by his services. The application was refused, and in some way information in regard to the matter was made public to Governor Wilson's political injury. The trustees at their last meeting rescinded the resolution in favor of the university president, and Dr. Pritchett states in his report that "no person has ever been retired under this authority." But the president of the State University of Iowa, not in an accepted institution and not eligible to retire for age, was granted a pension in August, 19-11. The members of the executive committee of the foundation are in politics strongly opposed to Governor Wilson, and the secretary of the foundation was elected to the vacancy caused by the retirement of the president of the University of Iowa. Their action may have been altogether uninfluenced by these considerations; but they illustrate the dangers possible under a centralized pension system in which the pensions may be used by the president and the executive committee for ulterior purposes.


We record with regret the death of Wilbur Wright, eminent for his achievement in the development of the aeroplane; of Dr. William McMichael Woodworth, of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, and of Dr. Ed. Strasburger, professor of botany at Bonn.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington has undertaken to publish the manuscripts left by the late Professor C. O. Whitman, including their preparation for the press and the maintenance and further study of the collection of pigeons that he left. Dr. Oscar Riddle is in charge of the work.—As a memorial of Professor Ralph S. Tarr a volume is to be published consisting of essays on physiographic and geographic subjects by men trained under him.—At a meeting of the London Institution of Electrical Engineers on May 16, a marble bust of the late Lord Kelvin was presented to the institution on behalf of Lady Kelvin.

Professor Theodore W. Richards, of Harvard University, has been awarded the Willard Gibbs medal by the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society.—Dr. Franz Boas, professor of anthropology at Columbia University, has been given the doctorate of science by Oxford University.