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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 87/September 1915/The Progress of Science

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY AND THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

The Popular Science Monthly, since its establishment in 1872 by J. W. Youmans and the firm of D. Appleton and Company, has endeavored to perform two functions which are somewhat distinct. On the one hand, it has aimed to popularize science, and, on the other hand, to publish articles reviewing scientific progress and advocating scientific, educational and social reforms. The objects are both important, but as science grows in complexity it becomes increasingly difficult to unite them in the same journal.

In the earlier years of The Popular Science Monthly the doctrine of evolution excited controversy and wide public interest; it was possible to print articles by men such as Darwin, Spencer, Huxley and Tyndall, which were popular and at the same time authoritative contributions to scientific progress. Dr. Youmans had the fervent faith and missionary spirit which enabled him to conduct a journal to which the word "popular" was properly applied. At that time other magazines, such as The Atlantic and Scribner's also published articles and had departments concerned with popular science.

The last third of the nineteenth century may properly be characterized as the era of science, so rapid was the progress of science and so important the part it assumed in our civilization. This progress not only requires specialization of work, but even makes it difficult for the worker in one field to understand the work accomplished in other fields, though the barrier is perhaps due to the terminology rather than to the ideas. For the general public the difficulties are greater, and there is danger lest it may lose touch with the advances of science. But in a democracy in which science must depend on the people for support and for recruits, it is essential that a sympathetic understanding be maintained. For this purpose two journals are needed rather than one, for it is necessary to address those having different interests.

During the fifteen years since 1900, the editor of The Popular Science Monthly aimed to conduct a journal maintaining high scientific standards and discussing authoritatively problems of scientific importance. The journal was popular, in the sense that it was not special or technical and could be understood by those having education and intelligence, but it was not popular in the sense that it appealed to all people and might number its subscribers by the hundreds of thousands. Manuscripts were received in large numbers which were clearly intended for a magazine of different type, and such a magazine is needed. A well illustrated magazine devoted to the popularization of science should have a wide circulation and be conducted on different lines from a journal concerned with the less elementary aspects of scientific work, just as a high school and the graduate school of a university differ in their methods and in their appeal.

A group of men desiring a journal to which the name The Popular Science Monthly will exactly apply, this publication has been transferred to them, while, beginning in October, a journal on the present lines of The Popular Science Monthly will be conducted under the more fitting name of The Scientific Monthly. This differentiation of The Popular Science

PSM V87 D312 Statue of andrew dickson white by karl bitter.png

Statue of Andrew Dickson White by Karl Bitter,

recently unveiled on the campus of Cornell University. Dr. White, distinguished for his contributions to education, diplomacy, letters and science, contributed his chapters on the warfare of science and religion to The Popular Science Monthly.

Monthly into two journals is in the natural course of evolution, each journal being able to adapt itself to its environment more advantageously than is possible for a single journal. Each can perform an important service for the diffusion and advancement of science.

 

SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS AND THE PUBLIC

In a democracy, journals and a newspaper press fit to educate people of all sorts to an interest in science and to an appreciation of its measureless value for national and human welfare are matters of the utmost importance. Under an aristocratic régime, science, like arts and letters, must be cultivated and patronized from above. In Germany the imperial government has directed and subsidized its schools, universities and research institutions and has aided commercial enterprises based on applied science. In England men of wealth have devoted themselves to scientific research, as they have served without payment as county magistrates and members of parliament. In both countries and in France titles and social position have been used as rewards.

Scientific research can not be undertaken as a profession. In the existing organization of society any service to an individual or to a group of individuals is paid for by them, but service to society is usually not paid for at all. If newspaper publishers, ammunition makers or army officers succeed in causing war they profit; if they advocate and maintain peace they suffer. If lawyers reduce legal complexities and delays, or if physicians decrease the causes of disease, they sacrifice their material interests. If a surgeon performs an operation for cancer he may be paid a thousand dollars for an hour's work; if he discovers an improved technique he may profit somewhat, but scarcely more than other surgeons and far less than the patients; if he should discover a cure for cancer he would receive no money reward; on the contrary, he and other surgeons would in so far lose their means of supporting their families.

So scientific research, of greater value than any other service to society, is not paid for directly. It has been mainly carried forward in this country by men employed to teach in colleges and universities who, as amateurs, give part of their time to it. In recent years the national government, endowed institutions and industrial establishments have undertaken to advance research on a business basis and the gain has been very great-But in order to maintain and increase the work under democratic control people must be taught to value it, and for this purpose the proper treatment of science in magazines and newspapers is more important than any other agency.

The problem is very difficult. One does not expect a high school, a university or a museum to be self-supporting. Even secondary schools for the children of the rich are endowed. If the American Museum of Natural History charged an entrance fee it would be an empty place; the fees for a year would not support the institution for a month. On the other hand, the side shows of a circus may be profitable. Science is so commonly ill-treated in popular magazines and newspapers that the very words "popular science" need to be redeemed. The sensational newspapers, the side shows of the circus and the "movies" supply what people will pay for. It is no discredit to our democracy that these are what they want; on the contrary, it represents a great advance when a hundred million people care for such things. We may be satisfied if progress is made by education and an improved environment in a hundred years if a slightly better germ-plasm is established in a thousand years.

The corporation of D. Appleton and Company were losing ten thousand dollars a year on The Popular Science Monthly when they decided that they were not justified in continuing it. It was worth that much and far more to the people, just as the American Museum of Natural History is worth three hundred thousand dollars a year and Columbia University is worth four million dollars a year. But a private corporation can not be expected to subscribe indefinitely ten thousand dollars a year for the benefit of the public. The weekly journal Science was in like manner supported for a time by Dr. A. Graham Bell and Mr. Gardiner G. Hubbard, at a total expense of about eighty thousand dollars. There are over a hundred journals and proceedings devoted to the publication of research work in America not one of which pays its expenses on a regular business basis. Magazines connected with applied science and popular mechanics may do so. This represents a step in advance, which we may hope indicates that ultimately there may be a general interest in other and more fundamental departments of science.

It would probably be undesirable for scientific journals to be directly subsidized or endowed. Indirectly they are now subsidized by the work of contributors and editors supported by endowed or tax-supported institutions and by subscriptions from public libraries. In so far as they require additional support, it can probably best come through an increase in the number of public libraries subscribing for such journals and by an increase of subscribers among those who may realize the importance of supporting an institution essential to society and its betterment.

 

SCIENCE AND NATIONAL WELFARE

One of the alleviating circumstances in the disaster of this war is the fact that it thrusts on the attention of all the place that science holds in national and international affairs. Science does not necessarily or at once make us moral or wise, although its general influence is in this direction. Human nature can not be greatly altered by a change in the environment effective for a short period and on some individuals. But when the new conditions become general and individuals are favored who fit into them, so that an altered race is preserved by natural selection, science will make our morality and enforce its observance. We may look forward to the

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Copyright by The International Press Exchange, New York.

Field Railway used in the German Advance in Russia. Within a week of the capture of Warsaw an express railway service has been established between Lille and Warsaw.

PSM V87 D315 Flame thrower used by the germans to repulse attacks in ww 1.png

Copyright by International Press Exchange, New York.

The so-called "Liquid Fire" used by the Germans in repulsing Attacks.

time when war will be no part of this morality and will no longer exist.

Those who can not understand or do not accept the argument that science will ultimately control human conduct must be convinced by the brute argument of accomplished fact that science is essential to national efficiency. Germany, against superior numbers, advances its lines in Poland and Russia and holds them in Flanders and France, it adjusts the nation to be self supporting and self-sufficient, because it has a better organization of science than the other nations. Germany did not spend so much per capita on its army and navy as Great Britain or France, but it spent more on science and regarded science more highly. It has been stated that the British government at present employs 17 chemists, the German government about 1,000. We hear it said that Germany has developed an efficient military machine by subordinating the individual to discipline from above. It is not less true that the German university has been one cf the most anarchic of institutions—both students and professors having had freedom greater than they have in American universities—and at the present moment Germany owes more to its universities as they have been conducted in the past than to its army as it is now organized.

A complicated machine is not useful in order to meet an emergency, but rather the scientific attitude and the scientific training which can react to the new situation. A superdreadnaught built at a cost of $15,000,000 may be an asset or a burden. An equal sum spent in selecting and educating 3,000 scientific men would nearly double the number of men the country competent to advance science. The dreadnaught is a continual expense, it depreciates 'it the rate of a million dollars a year, Its existence tends to exert an influence toward a war of aggression. The three thousand scientific men would add to the wealth of the country in peace, to its strength in a war of defense. If two years ago the officers of the German army had been put on the ships of the British navy and the ships had been sunk in the Atlantic, it would have been for the welfare of the world. If the number of men engaged in scientific research and in the applications of science could be doubled, the gain would be incalculable.

If we wish to make the nation strong in defense we should care for our children and our schools, for our scientific men and our universities—in this particular number of The Popular Science Monthly it may be permitted to add—for our journals devoted to the diffusion and advancement of science.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the death of Frederick Ward Putnam, the distinguished anthropologist of Harvard University; of Dr. John Ulric Nef, head of the department of chemistry of the University of Chicago, and of Dr. Joseph Austin Holmes, director of the U. S. Bureau of Mines.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science held a successful meeting at San Francisco, Berkeley, and Stanford University, during the first week of August. The address of the president, Dr. W. W. Campbell, director of the Lick Observatory, which was printed in the issue of Science for August 20, is entitled "Science and Civilization."

A marble chair is to be placed in the open-air Greek Theater of the University of California in honor of Eugene Waldemar Hilgard, professor of agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture from 1875 to 1906, and now professor emeritus.—Professor R. A. Millikan, of the department of physics, has been elected president of the University of Chicago Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. William H. Welch, professor of pathology in the Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Simon Flexner, director of the laboratories of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, have sailed for China where they go on behalf of the China Medical Board of the Rockefeller Foundation to report on the medical schools and hospitals.—The schooner George B. Cluett, chartered by the Crocker Land relief expedition to go in quest of Donald B. MacMillan and the members of his party in Greenland, has sailed from North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Dr. Edmund Otis Hovey, of the American Museum of Natural History, chairman of the Crocker Land Exploration Committee, is in charge.

Governor Dunne has signed the bill giving $5,000,000 to the University of Illinois for the biennium. It is the largest grant made in a single law to any university in the United States.