Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/519
FAMILIES OF AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE
��Americans, three are astronomers ; and astronomy is the only science in Avhich thirty years ago the facilities for research work in this country were equal to those of the leading European nations. Of the remaining three, two have not been engaged in teaching, and the third has been practically freed from teaching for his research work. We may hope that when conditions become as favorable for other sciences as they have been for astronomy, the United States will assume leadership in scien- tific productivity.
In order to answer questions such as the extent to which the scien- tific work accomplished in America is due to native endowment, whether such endowment is general or specific, how far it occurs in family lines, what part of those endowed are able to prove their ability, the influence of education and example, the effects of opportunity, en- couragement and rewards, it is necessary to make a study of individual cases. A large mass of material is at hand concerning the relatives of scientific men who have shown scientific productivity or have attained distinction, but these data are not in order for publication and should be supplemented by answers to many enquiries. In the meanwhile the writer may say that it is his opinion that while we should welcome and support a eugenic movement tending to limit the birth of feeble- minded and defective children and encouraging the birth of those that are well endowed, it appears that under the existing conditions of knowledge, law and sentiment, we can probably accomplish more for science, civilization and racial advance by selecting from the thirty million childen of the country those having superior natural ability and character, by training them and giving them opportunity to do the work for which they are fit. We waste the mineral resources of the country and the fertility of the soil, but our most scandalous waste is of our children, most of all of those who might become men and women of performance and of genius.
Eugenics may become the most important of all a])plied sciences, but at present its scientific foundations must be laid by the study of comparative genetics, on the one side, and the study of human conduct, on the other. There is more immediate prospect of improving our civilization than our germ plasm. It is easier to decrease or eliminate typhoid fever by hygienic measures than to attain racial immunity, although this is not equally the case for tuberculosis and still less for cancer. We can increase to any desired extent from the existing popu- lation by proper selection and training the number of scientific workers in the United States. The number capable of exhibiting genius is limited, but many of them are lost through lack of opportunity. It is our business, it should be our principal business, to improve our civili- zation by giving opportunity to those who are fit, while at the same time investigating the conditions which will give us a better race.
(To be continued)