Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/289

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION AND ITS SECRETARY

The regents of the Smithsonian Institution at their annual meeting on January 23 elected Dr. Charles D. Walcott to succeed the late Samuel Pierpont Langley as secretary of the institution. Born in New York State in 1850, Dr. Walcott became assistant in the Geological Survey of the state in 1876, passing to the U. S. Geological Survey in 1879. In 1894 he succeeded Major Powell as director of the national survey, which under his administration has enjoyed an unprecedented development, the annual appropriation by congress for its work being in the neighborhood of $1,500,000. The survey has been criticized for bureaucratic methods, for trespassing on fields occupied by other geologists and for turning out a vast amount of routine work rather than discoveries of the highest order. To this it is replied that the efficiency of a government bureau, especially one that is rapidly developing, requires adequate business management, that the spirit of cooperation and research in the survey is excellent, that when a new institution develops on a large scale a certain amount of temporary conflict of interests is inevitable, that the standing of geologists in the survey is as high as of those in the universities, that indeed in no single science in any institution in the world are there so many men engaged in scientific research.

When the Reclamation Service was established by the congress, its extensive work in irrigation was placed under the Geological Survey, and it has been carried forward with an efficiency and economy comparing most favorably with the conditions on the Isthmian Canal. When the service was well organized it was separated from the survey. On the organization of the Carnegie Institution, Dr. Walcott became secretary, and was responsible for a large share of the administrative work. He, however, withdrew from this position after Dr. Woodward's election to the presidency. He was also for a short time acting-assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum, and has been since 1892 honorary curator of paleontology in the museum.

Dr. Walcott was vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1903, has been president of the Washington Academy of Sciences since 1899 and became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1896. He has received the doctorate of laws from Hamilton, Chicago, Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania. He has become eminent for his researches on the stratigraphy and paleontology of the lower Paleozoic formation and the sedimentation, stratigraphy and contained faunas of the Cambrian formation.

The acceptance of the secretaryship of the Smithsonian Institution involves unusual responsibilities. It is generally regarded as the highest scientific office in the country; indeed it is possible that a too obvious halo has been painted about the head of the secretary. The organization of the institution is such as to give to him great, perhaps undue, powers. The regents are the vice-president and the chief justice of the United States, six congressmen and six citizens. They have, as a rule, met for an hour or two once a year to listen to the report of the secretary; they have neither time nor competence to direct the policy of