Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/127

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117
SKETCH OF PROF. JOHN LE CONTE.

and then retired from executive duties in order to build up more thoroughly his own department of work. On the resignation of President Gilman in 1875, Dr. Le Conte was induced again to assume the presidency, which he retained until June, 1881, but still performing the duties of his professorship. Since that date he has confined himself to his chair of Physics.

Through nearly the whole of life the two brothers, John and Joseph Le Conte, have been closely associated, each attaining eminence, the elder as a physicist, the younger as a geologist. The elder preceded the younger by six years at Franklin College, in Georgia. They went almost together to the South Carolina College, and likewise to the University of California. This fact has often led to their names becoming confounded by strangers.

Dr. Le Conte is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Philosophical Society and Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the California Academy of Sciences. To this list might be added various other bodies which have bestowed upon him honorary membership.

A list of some of the more important of Dr. Le Conte's published writings is appended. The entire list is too long for insertion, amounting to about a hundred papers.

Of the first dozen, which show the direction of his tastes as a physician, perhaps the most interesting is No. 9, in which by original experiments he proved that the alligator is able to execute deliberate and determinate movements after decapitation and even after destruction of the spinal cord.

In No. 10 he shows that the mortality from cancer has increased in modern times; that it augments regularly with increasing age, and that it is greater in France than in England. The same subject is pursued still further in No. 28 and No. 49, in which he shows important errors in the usual methods of interpreting vital statistics, and that the average mortality from cancer is fully three times as great among females as among males.

In No. 16 he gives the first rational explanation of a whole class of ice phenomena as manifested both in the ground and in plants. In No. 17 the investigation is continued, and from numerous experiments it is shown that many plants may be completely frozen without injury.

No. 19 is a criticism of Moseley's theory of the descent of glaciers, in which it is demonstrated that the descent can not be produced by expansions and contractions of the ice due to changes of temperature.

In No. 20 it is shown that Maury's theory of the winds is un-