Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/193

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189
DISTRIBUTION OF AMERICAN GENIUS

THE GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF AMERICAN GENIUS
By Dr. SCOTT NEARING
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

THE last few years have witnessed a friendly controversy between the champions of nature and the champions of nurture, over the forces that are responsible for greatness. The nature advocates have insisted upon the importance of heredity in shaping men's lives. The nurture advocates have laid equal emphasis upon environment. Each of these groups has relied upon New England as one proof of the contention.

Both parties to the controversy are willing to admit that New England has produced a considerable proportion of the great men of America. Those scientists who throw emphasis on the importance of heredity hold that New England, having made a contribution to the number of distinguished men in the United States wholly out of proportion to its population, stands as a substantial proof of the importance of race qualities. Those scientists who adhere to the opposing view maintain with equal positiveness that the supremacy of New England has long been exaggerated. There was no time, these men insist, at which New England had an immense lead in the production of greatness over the other sections of the country, if its percentage of population at that time was taken into consideration. Furthermore, so the argument continues, the supremacy of New England in the production of distinguished men is being rapidly taken over by the middle west. It is in that section that the leaders of the next generation are being born.

The contention is, in its nature, both interesting and endless, unless some facts can be obtained which will throw some light upon the questions at issue. These, I take it, are three:

1. Was there ever a time when the number of distinguished men born in New England was greater in proportion to its population than the proportion for other sections of the United States?

2. Has there been any change in the proportion of distinguished persons contributed by New England?

3. What contributions of distinguished persons are now being made by the various sections of the United States?

These questions can not be answered with certainty. The available facts make unimpeachable conclusions impossible. Nevertheless, approximations may be made which should throw some light on the questions.

The volume entitled "Who's Who in America" for 1912-13 contains