Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/192

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186
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION AND ITS DEPENDENCIES.

The lamented death of Major Powell should not affect the work of the two great national institutions for the creation and organization of which he was chiefly responsible. Powell resigned the directorship of the U. S. Geological Survey in 1894, leaving it one of the strongest scientific agencies of the government. During the later years of his life when his health began to fail, he entrusted the administration of the Bureau of American Ethnology to his principal assistant, Dr. W J McGee, who was given the title 'ethnologist in charge.' Such divided control is not usually advisable, but in this case there was perfect sympathy and cooperation, and Major Powell appeared to have provided with remarkable foresight for the continuation of the work that he had inaugurated and successfully conducted. It is a serious blow to scientific work under the government and to anthropology in the country that Powell's plans have failed.

Many do not know that three of the important scientific institutions supported by the government are administered by the Smithsonian Institution namely, the National Museum, the National Zoological Park and the Bureau of American Ethnology. The two first secretaries of the Smithsonian, Henry and Baird, were always ready to undertake plans for 'the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,' in accordance with the terms of Smithson's remarkable bequest. When a scientific movement had been inaugurated they were glad to place it under the conditions most favorable to its development. It suffices to mention the weather reports inaugurated by Henry and now conducted as the' Weather Bureau under the Department of Agriculture, and the movement for fisheries inaugurated by Baird, which has become the Fish Commission. In accordance with this policy, Henry recommended the separation of the National Museum from the Smithsonian Institution, believing that it would be more liberally supported under direct governmental control and that the institution would be freed for work that it only could do.

The policy of his predecessors has not been followed by the present secretary of the institution. It is generally believed that the miserable building of the museum would long ago have been replaced by a building such as is possessed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and that the collections would be far larger and more symmetrical than they are if the museum had been handed over to the Department of Agriculture. The development of the museum under adverse conditions was largely due to the late G. Brown Goode. On the occasion of his death some six years ago, however, the secretary of the institution did not for some time appoint a successor at the museum, but divided the work among three head curators. Now, on the occasion of the death of Major Powell, the secretary has given to one of these curators the directorship of the Bureau of American Ethnology, not, however, giving him the title of 'director,' but that of 'chief,' thus lessening the importance of the position, while subordinating it to the National Museum and to the secretary of the institution. If this were done in order that the secretary might take more direct interest in the work of the