Popular Science Monthly/Volume 83/August 1913/The Progress of Science

Main Building of the Bureau of Science at Manila


The annual report of the acting director of the Bureau of Science, maintained under the government of the Philippine Islands, for the year ending with July, 1912, has just reached this country, and bears witness to the accomplishment of a considerable amount of scientific work. It might be better if the native peoples were permitted to follow their natural lines of development, but scientific investigation and the common schools are probably better for them than the rule of the Spanish friars. In any case, the serious efforts made by the Bureau of Science to investigate the natural history and natural resources of the islands and the tropical diseases that occur there will be of value to the world at large. Government and investigations in a tropical country, however, can be carried forward only at a heavy cost, and we should probably adopt the English policy of paying large salaries and permitting early retirement on a pension.

The present report gives evidence of the difficulty of maintaining a scientific staff. Dr. Paul C. Freer, director of the Bureau of Science from the time of its organization as the Bureau of Government Laboratories in the year 1901, dean of the college of medicine, and professor of chemistry in the University of the Philippines, died last year. The important work that he accomplished in advancing science and education was thus paid for at a heavy price. Several others of the most active workers in the bureau have returned to the United States, and just now Dr. Richard P. Strong, chief of the biological laboratory, has accepted a chair of tropical medicine in the Harvard Medical School.

During the year a new wing was added to the laboratory building, as shown in the foreground of the accompanying illustration. The division of mines, the sections of fisheries and ornithology, the entomological section and laboratories and the library were moved into it. The room in the main building vacated by the library now contains the herbarium, and other rooms left vacant by the readjustments are occupied by laboratories and for clerical work.

The amount of research work accomplished by the bureau is born witness to by The Philippine Journal of Science, established by Dr. Freer. It is published in four sections—one devoted to the chemical and geological sciences and to the industries, one to tropical medicine, one to botany and one to general biology, ethnology and anthropology. During the year under review, there were published in these sections of the journal about one hundred articles, most of them by members of the staff of the Bureau of Science. Among the work published or to be published in the Journal may be noted the proceedings of the International Plague Conference at Mukden in 1911, of which Dr. Strong and Dr. Teague were members. Experiments have been carried on in several directions, including work on beri-beri, surra and entamœbic dysentery. In the botanical section additions have been made to the herbarium which now numbers over 100,000 specimens, but apparently no very great amount of field work has been done. The division of entomology has done economic work in promoting silk culture and has carried on campaigns to exterminate the mosquito and other disease-bearing insects. The section of fisheries has studied shells used in the manufacture of buttons, tortoise shells, the shark-fin industry and the manufacture of leather from the skins of marine animals. Something, but apparently not much, has been accomplished in stocking the streams with game fish and in the
Sir Jonathan Hutchinson,
the distinguished London surgeon and author who has died at the age of eighty-five years.

study of the deep-sea fisheries. An aquarium has been built in the bastion in front of the Real Gate of the city. The chemical laboratory like the biological laboratory is largely occupied with routine work, there having been made last year over 10,000 analyses and tests. The investigations include the study of Philippine soils, coal and Portland cement. A sugar laboratory has been opened at Iloilo, and it is recommended that there be established an experiment station in that region, where sugar cane of various kinds can be tested. The division of mines has, like the other departments, been largely occupied with routine work. Investigations have been made of the black sands, of the ore deposits, including gold veins, and of the raw materials for cement. The division of ethnology has continued the study of the Iloco people and the museum has been developed.

It is three years since the bureau has had an increase in appropriations in spite of the fact that demands upon it have increased in every direction. The need is urged of a new testing laboratory, of enlarging the soil surveys, of the study of animal diseases and of insects injurious to agricultural products, of enlarging the library and of developing the scope of the work on the fish and fisheries of the islands.


Dr. Louis W. Sambon, of the London School of Tropical Medicine, who is about to visit the United States in response to an invitation to join the Pellagra Commission which is working in South Carolina, contributes to the last number of The British Medical Journal an article giving an account of several cases in Great Britain and of his theory of the natural history of the disease. Pellagra has been recognized for two centuries, but until recently was supposed to be confined to the peasantry in parts of Italy and other regions adjacent to the Mediterranean. The symptoms are first a red smarting rash—whence the name of the disease—headache, giddiness and diarrhœa. It appears in the spring, declining towards autumn, and is likely to recur with increased intensity the following spring. Death frequently follows, or a complete disorganization of the nervous system, leading to imbecility and a mummified condition of body.

The theory of Lombroso that pellagra is caused by eating moldy maize was widely accepted, until Dr. Sambon at a meeting of the British Association

Professor William Morris Fontaine,
for thirty-one years professor of natural history and geology in the University of Virginia, who has died at the age of seventy-eight years.

in 1905 suggested that it was probably of protozoal origin, and was communicated by sand flies, as sleeping-sickness is by the tsetse fly or malaria and yellow fever by mosquitoes. Since that time Dr. Sambon has made careful studies in Italy and elsewhere, and his views are accepted by a number of leading authorities, he calls attention to the analogy with malaria, especially in its seasonal occurrence. While Dr. Sambon has been able to produce no experimental evidence of the causes of the disease, Dr. W. H. Harris, of Tulane University, has recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association a note on experimental production of pellagra in monkeys. These monkeys were injected with filtrates, made through a Berkefeld filter, obtained from cases of pellagra shortly after death, and all showed the typical symptoms of the disease.

As recently as 1906 Sir William Osier in the sixth edition of his "Principles of Medicine" stated that the disease has not been observed in the United States. In the following year. Dr. G. H. Searcy in Alabama and Dr. J. W. Babcock and J. J. Watson in South Carolina recognised the disease. Their reports were received with skepticism and even with ridicule, but now pellagra is known to exist in no fewer than thirty-three states and there are probably at present 30,000 cases. It is strange that pellagra and the hookworm disease, both of which are so prevalent and so disastrous in our southern states, should have remained until recently unrecognized. Both diseases are preventable, and we may look forward to a great advance in health and social efficiency when they have been brought under control in the south. We should be grateful to the General Education Board for the work that it has accomplished in this direction, but the national government, the states and the municipalities should now take up the suppression of preventable diseases with all the resources at their command.


We record with regret the death of Dr Horace Jayne, formerly professor of vertebrate morphology in the University of Pennsylvania; of Professor N. H. Alcock, professor of physiology in McGill University, and of Dr. Philip Lutley Sclater, from 1859 to 1902 secretary to the Zoological Society of London, distinguished for his work on systematic zoology.

Dr. Joseph Swain, president of Swarthmore College, has been elected president of the National Educational Association; Dean Gardner C.Anthony, of Tufts College, president of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, and Dean Victor C. Vaughan, of the University of Michigan, president of the American Medical Association.

In the article on "Ancient Man, his Environment and his Art," which appeared in the July number ofThe Popular Science Monthly, Fig. 4 is from a photograph by Professor V. Commont, and Figs. 7-10 are from photographs by Count Bégouen.

The editor has received a letter from Professor Karl Pearson, the Francis Galton Eugenics Laboratory, University of London, under date of June 9, in which he says:

The following paragraph occurs in your June issue in a paper by Professor H. E. Jordan: "We are now in possession of facts, thanks mainly to the labors of Professor Karl Pearson and his collaborators at the Galton Eugenics Laboratory, and to Professor Davenport and his staff of assistants at the Eugenics Record Office, showing that the inheritance of several scores of human physical and mental traits are in close conformity with Mendelian formulæ" (p. 580). Such a statement will astonish those who are acquainted with the work done here, and I feel bound at once to state that, as far as my experience reaches, I find no physical or mental trait with which we have dealt hero to be "in close accordance with Mendelian formulæ." The almost amusing aspect of the matter is, that the one paper in which I have dealt with the mulatto was an endeavor to show that Mendelian formulæ did not hold for him.