Popular Science Monthly/Volume 85/September 1914/The Progress of Science



An obscure French war of the fifteenth century is known to historians as the guerre folle, but no carnage so well deserves to be called the "mad war" as the international slaughter now raging in Europe. There existed an inevitable conflict of inherited memories between Germany and France, an inevitable commercial conflict between Germany and Great Britain, an inevitable racial conflict between Teutons and Slavs. But these conflicts might have been carried forward to the benefit of civilization instead of for its subversion. The decrease in the death rate, the maintenance of the birth rate, the care and education of children, the improvement of the condition of the laboring classes, the lessening of pauperism, waste, vice and crime, the decrease of debts and the accumulation of wealth, the progress of science and its applications to manufactures and commerce—these are the conditions of national greatness, and each nation as it advances adds to the welfare of its rivals even while it may outstrip them.

Warfare results in the reverse of all these, scarcely less for the nations which win than for those which lose. It is terribly obvious that the death rate is increased both by violence and by disease. The birth rate must decline for a time and afterwards venereal disease is spread broadcast. A recent test in England showed that only one man in a hundred of those apparently in good health gave the reaction for syphilis, while 19 per cent. of those who had been in the army showed the signs of infection. In time of war children are neglected and their interests perverted. In the Franco-German war a hundred and fifty thousand men died, leaving a corresponding host of widows and orphans.

Lass sie betteln geh'n,
Wenn sie hungrig sind.

"Let them beg if they are hungry." Women are in time of war thrust back from their slow advance to equality with men. The laboring classes have the bonds of their industrial slavery more closely drawn. The rich also suffer, though there are always vultures who glut themselves. In the Franco-German war England supplied to half a million French soldiers shoes with paper soles. In the present war the international commerce of Germany, amounting to over three billion dollars a year, will be annihilated. Great Britain. Germany and France have each voted already credits of a billion dollars for the taxing of future generations and a paper wealth by which the well-to-do exploit the poor. Each day of the war more money will be wasted than is needed to endow a university such as Berlin. Everywhere the energies of men are diverted from scientific and social progress to destruction.

Even a, pan-European war does not mean the bankruptcy or suicide of civilization. The hundred and fifty thousand men of France who died in their war are after all a lesser sacrifice than the three million children who each year die needlessly in Russia. Alcohol costs more in wealth and health and lives than any war. Warfare is only a vast dramatic exhibition of our savage origin and semi-barbaric condition. In spite of their bureaucratic military organizations, the great nations of Europe had postponed war for more than forty years. Even now both the governments and the peoples of Great Britain, Russia, Italy and Belgium were disposed to peace. In the United States no mob spirit of war was stirred by the president's invasion of Mexico, and the sympathies of our people are against the aggressor in the wanton war of Europe. There we may look for a second Napoleon the little rather than for a second Napoleon the great. Never again will there be a thirty years' war, destroying over half the population of a great nation. Slowly but surely the energies of men are turning toward peace on earth and good will among its nations.


The official German justification of the mad and wanton European war is that it is a defense of the Teutonic culture and people against the semi-Asiatic and barbaric Slav hordes. The verdict of history will probably be that it was a war of calculation for caste and national aggrandizement and a war of miscalculation. The German emperor and his bureaucratic military entourage probably held that the time was ripe for an extension of German influence in the Balkans and towards Asia Minor, with an increase of its African possessions at the expense of France. But it is by no means clear why, if the serpent was prepared to use its fangs, it did not show its alleged wisdom. If after the rough ultimatum and attack of Austria on Servia, Germany had waited in preparation, it would apparently have been in far better position. If Russia had attacked Austria on behalf of Servia, Germany could have gone to the defense of Austria and had its will in the Balkans. If France had then attacked Germany, Italy could only have avoided war on France by breaking its treaty; Great Britain and Belgium would probably have remained neutral.

The calculation in Berlin was probably that the time had come for the use of its perfected military machine for its glorification at home and abroad. They knew that the Balkan states were at odds with one another, that there were internal disorders in Russia, which was improving its military system and would have four dreadnoughts ready in the autumn, that France had made large appropriations for defensive works and armaments and had increased the period of military service, that England was on the edge of civil war; they assumed that they would have the support of Italy and Turkey, that Japan was not in question, that Belgium would permit the use of its territory, that Great Britain might submit, that a quick and crushing attack on France would give them a war indemnity and new possessions in Africa and that they would then be able to turn the whole force of their arms on Russia. In so far as this was the calculation at Berlin, it has in part, miscarried; the rest lies on the knees of the gods.

A glance at the accompanying map shows roughly the distribution of the races in Europe. National sentiment is somewhat dependent on racial origin, on language, on religion and on other institutions; but only in a temporary and limited way. All the nations of Europe are composed of peoples of complex racial descent. Switzerland maintains admirably its national homogeneity with diverse races and languages. Protestant Prussia has united with catholic Bavaria. Austria is a complex of nations, languages and races. New York is a collection of cities of diverse nationality, race, language, religions and institutions. In the present war there can be no real conflict of Teuton and Slav, when the Austrian population is more Slav than Teuton and German dominion has already encroached on Slavic population to the east. There may result a change in national boundaries, but scarcely of racial dominance. Germany has already as an evil inheritance from Bismarck a small French population on its west. It can only annex the northern coast of France and Belgium at an untold cost for a future generation; the same holds for Russian Poland and the Baltic provinces. Russia has better claims to reconstruct an autonomous Poland and annex parts of Austria.

We may hope in the interest of future peace that the map of Europe will not be considerably altered. The chief changes are likely to be in Africa where apart from the English and Dutch in the south there are no real colonies, only exploiting "protectorates." Great Britain controls nearly 2,800,000 square miles, France some 2,300,000 square miles, Germany nearly 1,000,000 square miles; Belgium, Portugal and Italy possess large areas. If Germany loses in the war, Great Britain is almost certain to seize German East Africa to control the path from the Cape to Cairo. France, Belgium, Italy and Portugal will probably increase their holdings at the cost of Germany. If Germany should dominate Europe, it will seek to control Africa and to increase instead of losing its possessions in the far east. It will aim to supplant Great Britain as a world-wide empire. But the time has probably gone by when Germany can establish colonies as Great Britain did. It may rule subject races as Great Britain does in India, but it can not supply men for colonies such as Canada and the Australian commonwealth. In 1850 German-born residents of the United States outnumbered a hundredfold those born in Austria-Hungary, Russia and Italy together, now the immigration from each of these nations is ten times that from Germany. There are some 13,000,000 Germans in North and South America, but the total emigration from Germany to the United States has decreased

From the N. Y. Evening Post.

Boundaries of Central Europe and the Distribution of Races.

From the N. Y. Sun.

The European Possessions in Africa.

to 25,000 and to all other non-European countries to one or two thousand. The birth rate in the city of Berlin has fallen from 40 per thousand to 20 per thousand. Germany has no larger population than it can provide for and needs at home. It has none to spare for emigration, still less for the field of battle.

The birth rate and the natural increase of population are the fundamental factors in racial advance. The Slavs have overrun northwestern Europe and will continue to spread to the south and west. Their natural increase of population far exceeds that of Germany, and will do so increasingly as the death rate declines in Russia and the birth rate continues to decline in Germany. There are now three Russian children born for each German child. How can Germany's army of four million soldiers contend against a surplus of five million children born each year in Russia? If Germany had waited a little longer for its war, England would have been on its side. But nothing except a decline in the Russian birth rate can check its ultimate triumph. We can only hope that it will be a victory of peace and civilization.


We record with regret the death of Dr. Francis Humphreys Storrer, long professor of agricultural chemistry at Harvard University; of the Rev. Horace Carter Hovey, known for his publications on caverns; of Dr. Frederic Lawrence Kortright, professor of chemistry at the University of West Virginia; of Professor Franklin William Hooper, director of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences; of Professor Albert Smith Bickmore, emeritus head of the department of public instruction of the American Museum of Natural History; of the Rev. Osmond Fisher, at one time tutor of Jesus College, Cambridge, known for his important contributions to geology, and of Professor Paul Reclus, the distinguished Paris surgeon.

Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard University, has been elected a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.—Professor Elie Metchnikoff, assistant director of the Institut Pasteur, will next year celebrate his seventieth birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of his doctorate. A committee has been formed, under the presidency of Dr. Roux, director of the Institut Pasteur, for the celebration of the anniversary which will include the publication of a "Festschrift."

The following American scientific men have accepted invitations to attend the Australasian meeting of the British Association as the guests of the New Zealand government: Dr. C. G. Abbot, Smithsonian Institution; Dr. L. H. Bailey, Cornell University; Mr. Lyman J. Briggs, Department of Agriculture; Professor A. P. Coleman, University of Toronto; Dr. Edwin G. Conklin, Princeton University; Dr. Charles B. Davenport, Carnegie Institution; Professor William M. Davis, Harvard University; Dr. George A. Dorsey, Field Museum of Natural History; President G. C. Creelman, Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph; Professor R. T. Ely, University of Wisconsin; Professor E. C. Franklin, Stanford University; Professor P. H. Hanus, Harvard University; President E. F. Nichols, Dartmouth College; Dr. Ira Remsen, The Johns Hopkins University; Professor William M. Wheeler, Bussey Institution, Harvard University.

Mr. Asa G. Chandler has given $1,000,000 and citizens of Atlanta have guaranteed $500,000 for the establishment of an Atlanta University, under the auspices of the Methodist Church. It is said that a theological school will be the first to be opened.