Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/June 1906/The Progress of Science

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 68 June 1906  (1906) 
The Progress of Science


It is too late to describe here the appalling disaster that has overtaken San Francisco and the neighboring regions and too soon to attempt to present a scientific survey of the causes leading to the catastrophe and the precautions that should be taken to avoid its recurrence. We can but add one more expression of the universal sympathy and a further appreciation of the undaunted courage which leads men to assert their supremacy even in the face of the most terrible exhibition of the powers of nature.

The progress of science and the conditions of modern civilization have been the chief causes of the calamity; yet we may confidently look to the same factors to prevent its recurrence. Earthquakes occur daily, and a shock such as that of April 18 would have done but small damage to a farming community. The trouble was due, on the one hand, to large piles of masonry or flimsy brickwork unsuited to resist vibrations, and, on the other, to the conflagation. The live electric wires, the methods of heating, lighting and applying power, the dependence of a modern city on its fire department and a supply of water through mains, not only explain the San Francisco fire, but made it almost inevitable. On the other hand, the steel frames and concrete reenforced with steel wires, proved themselves, as had been foreseen, well fitted to resist destruction. The only trouble was the shaking off of the stones and bricks and the inflammable contents. If it were not for the esthetic effects, such buildings might be covered with metal sheathing and be made fire-proof within as well as without. They would then be earthquakeproof—at least for such shocks as are known to have occurred—and would be as effective as open spaces in stopping the spread of a conflagation. San Francisco will take all needful precautions. Whether cities less likely to suffer should do so is more doubtful. The effects of an earthquake in New York City would be appalling. The people would rush into the streets, too narrow to hold them, while the stones would be shaken down on their heads, the conditions being similar to those of a vast theater fire. But more lives are needlessly sacrificed in New York City each month than have been lost in the California disaster, and more money is wasted each year than is needed to rebuild San Francisco.

The causes of earthquakes are somewhat obscure and are doubtless of different kinds. They are part of the vast terrestrial phenomena which have lifted the continents and the mountain ranges. The main stresses may be due to contraction of the crust of the earth or to changes in its shape, while the proximate causes are the local geological formations. The conditions at San Francisco are fairly well understood. There is a fault in the peninsula along the Portolá Valley, where for about forty miles the rocks on one side have at some time sunk two thousand feet. At the time of the recent earthquake, the land on the west side of the fault was forced northward from three to six feet, and the violent dislocation accounts for the shock. Mr. G. K. Gilbert has been instructed by the U. S. Geological Survey to make a thorough study of the causes, and we may be able to print a special article on the subject in due time. In the meanwhile there is given above an article by Professor Turner on our present knowledge of earthquakes. There is also printed in this number of the Monthly a paper by Major Dutton suggesting a hypothesis to account for the allied phenomenon of volcanoes. Those of our readers who wish to inform themselves on the nature of earthquakes and the methods of recording and studying them should read the book on the subject by Major Dutton, recently published in the 'Science Series' by the Putnams.


The corner stone of the United Engineering Building in New York City, already more than half completed, was laid on May 8 by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, to whose munificence the building is due. It will be remembered that, in view of Mr. Carnegie's gift of one and one half million dollars, the United Engineering Society was incorporated on May 11, 1904, under the legislature of the state of New York for "the advancement of the engineering arts and sciences in all their branches, and to maintain a free public engineering library." The 'Founder Societies' represented in the corporation are the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Mining Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The building of the United Society will provide permanent headquarters for these three national engineering societies and for the Engineer's Club, and also places of meeting and office room for such other engineering and scientific societies as may from time to time be admitted as 'associates.' Power to administer the trust is invested in a board of trustees of nine members, consisting of three representatives elected by each of the Pounder Societies. The expense of maintenance must be shared by the three societies participating in the foundation, in accordance with regulations imposed by the United Society. The following are the charter members of the corporation: Charles F. Scott, Bion J. Arnold and S. S. Wheeler, of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; C. W. Hunt, F. R. Hutton and James M. Dodge, of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; A. R. Ledoux, Charles Kirchoff and Theodore Dwight, of the American Institute of Mining Engineers.

The building of the new society is in process of erection on the north side of thirty-ninth street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the site covering five city lots with a total front of 125 feet and a depth of 100 feet. The new building utilizes only 115 feet of the front and as it controls the other side, space is left on all sides of the granite pile of thirteen stories, which thus presents an imposing monumental appearance. The plans are entrusted to Messrs. Hall and Rogers, and Henry Gr. Morse, associate architects, for the three engineering societies and Messrs. Whitheld and King for the Engineering Club. The building, as shown in the illustration, is a notably worthy product of the modern science and art of building construction that may well serve to typify the purposes for which it was conceived.

Primarily it must serve the convenience of the individual societies which enter it as founders. To this end a floor provides adequate rooms for each of the societies, as shown in the case of the electrical engineers in the accompanying plan. In addition meeting rooms and auditoriums are to be furnished for the regular and special meetings of the societies and for scientific lectures and demonstrations. Other assembly rooms have been specially adapted to suit the various uses for which they may be required.

There is one large auditorium with accommodations for 1,000 persons, on the first floor above the street. The foyer and corridors afford ample space for withdrawal from the assembly hall,
PSM V68 D572 The engineering building.png
The Engineering Building.
which offers means of exit at all four corners. The seats are arranged on a grade conforming to the modern practise in theaters. On the floor above are two assembly rooms with a seating capacity of 450 and 300 persons, respectively, which may be used, as preferred, independently or together. Smaller assembly, conversation and service rooms adjoin. On the floor above are lecture rooms for smaller meetings or for the sectional meetings of large organizations. These will be supplied with electric current, with compressed
PSM V68 D573 Entrance floor of the engineering building.png
Entrance Floor of Engineering Building.
PSM V68 D573 Tenth floor occupied by the electrical engineers.png
Tenth Floor, occupied by the Electrical Engineers.

 air and also gas and water, and all meeting-rooms will be fitted for the use of the projection lantern.

Commodious provision is made for the libraries of the various societies on the two upper floors. The entire top floor, for which the best possible illumination will be provided, is to be given over to the great library hall and its auxiliary rooms, while the floor immediately below the reading rooms will ultimately be used for book stacks. Facilities for photographic reproduction, drawing and the like are also provided.

Eight alcoves open into the large central library room, devoted to general reference books, reference periodicals, the books of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and of the American Institute of Mining Engineers and to the periodicals of each of these three societies. The union library thus arranged for should be of immense service to each of the societies represented and extremely useful to the whole engineering profession. The public will be given free access to the most important engineering library in the country.

It is expected that the building will, by the office and meeting accommodations it is designed to offer, prove an important means of advancing the interests of numerous engineering and quasi-engineering societies and indirectly of promoting the solidarity and efficiency of the scientific profession of engineering.


The trustees of the Carnegie Foundation have adopted rules for granting retiring allowances which are characterized by foresight and wisdom. The question of charity has been so carefully eliminated that the plan will dignify the profession of teaching and will directly and indirectly improve the conditions in our institutions for higher education. There remain, of course, the fundamental issues between variety and uniformity, flexibility and permanence, autonomy and centralization, individualism and socialism. It can not be doubted that this great foundation favors centralization and a caste of professors. But there seems to be no other solution of the complicated problems of modern civilization than industrial socialism relieved by intellectual individuality.

The provisions for granting normal retiring allowances are as follows:

1. A normal retiring allowance is to be awarded to a professor in an accepted university, college or technical school, on the ground of either age or length of service. The term professor, as here used, is understood to include presidents, deans, and other administrative officers, professors, associate professors and assistant professors, in institutions of higher learning.

2. Retiring allowances shall be granted under the following rules, upon the application of the institution with which the professor is connected.

3. In reckoning the amount of the retiring allowance the average salary for the last five years of active service shall be considered the active pay.

4. Any person sixty-five years of age, and who has had not less than fifteen years of service as a professor, and who is at the time a professor in an accepted institution, shall be entitled to an annual retiring allowance computed as follows:

(a) For an active pay of sixteen hundred dollars or less, an allowance of one thousand dollars, provided no retiring allowance shall exceed ninety per cent, of the active pay. (b) For an active pay greater than sixteen hundred dollars the retiring allowance shall equal one thousand dollars, increased by fifty dollars for each one hundred dollars of active pay in excess of sixteen hundred dollars, (c) No retiring allowance shall exceed three thousand dollars.

5. Any person who has had a service of twenty-five years as a professor, and who is at the time a professor in an accepted institution, shall be entitled to a retiring allowance computed as follows:

(a) For an active pay of sixteen hundred dollars or less, a retiring allowance of eight hundred dollars, provided that no retiring allowance shall exceed the active pay. (b) For an active pay greater than sixteen hundred dollars, the retiring allowance shall equal eight hundred dollars, increased by forty dollars for each one hundred dollars of active pay in excess of sixteen hundred dollars, (c) For each additional year of service above twenty-five, the retiring allowance shall be increased by one per cent, of the active pay. (d) No retiring allowance shall exceed three thousand dollars.

6. Any person who has been for ten years the wife of a professor in actual service may receive during her widowhood one half of the allowance to which her husband would have been entitled.

7. In the preceding rules, years of leave of absence are to be counted as years of service but not exceeding one year in seven.

8. Teachers in the professional departments of universities whose principal work is outside the profession of teaching are not included.

9. The benefits of the foundation shall not be available to those whose active service ceased before April 16, 1905, the date of Mr. Carnegie's original letter to the trustees.

Institutions supported by the state were excluded by the terms of the original gift, but this provision has not been included in the act of incorporation and the question is under consideration. Institutions controlled by a religious organization, requiring sectarian tests, or teaching distinctly denominational tenets are excluded. The fact that a university such as Chicago is excluded, while a college whose spirit is essentially sectarian may be accepted, will at first work inequality, but the institutions will doubtless adjust themselves to the conditions. It would probably have been better if the denominational question had been ignored. A sectarian university is a contradiction in terms, as an institution can not be at the same time sectarian and a university, but under existing conditions a certain amount of denominational control seems to be innocent enough, especially in the case of small colleges. The definition of a college, based in part on the New York state ordinance, is as follows:

An institution to be ranked as a college, must have at least six professors giving their entire time to college and university work, a course of four full years in liberal arts and sciences, and should require for admission, not less than the usual four years of high school preparation, or its equivalent. A technical school, to be eligible, must have entrance and graduation requirements equivalent to those of the college, and must offer courses in pure and applied science of equivalent grade. To be ranked as a college an institution must have a productive endowment of not less than two hundred thousand dollars.


We regret to record the deaths of Professor Israel Cook Russell, head of the Department of Geology at the University of Michigan, of Walter F. R. Weldon, F.R.S., Linacre professor of comparative anatomy at Oxford University, and of M. Pierre Curie, professor of physics at the Sorbonne, Paris, eminent with Mine. Curie for the discovery of radium.

Stanford University suffered severely by the recent earthquake, the loss being estimated at nearly $3,000,000. The buildings totally wrecked are the church, the memorial arch and the new library and gymnasium buildings. The buildings occupied by the laboratories and lecture rooms are not seriously damaged, and the university will be able to resume its work at the opening of the next term on August 23. The University of California suffered but little injury, either at Berkeley or San Francisco. Buildings owned by it in San Francisco, however, were destroyed and will seriously curtail its income, which will also suffer by the decrease of taxation in the state, unless this is made good by the legislature. The University of the Pacific suffered to the extent of about $60,000 with its buildings and collections. The building of the California Academy of Sciences was completely burned, but the type specimens and records were saved.

The New York legislature has passed a bill providing for a new building for the State Museum, State Library and the Education Department, to cost not more than four million dollars. The bill carries an appropriation for the acquisition of a site and the preparing of plans. The legislature also passed a bill to acquire Watkins Glen, one of the ravines running into the Finger Lakes of western New York, for a state reservation. This region was described by Professor Tarr in the last issue of the Monthly.

Dr. E. Ray Lankester, director of the British Museum of Natural History, has been elected president of the British Association for the meeting to be held this year at York.—Dr. Henry H. Donaldson, since 1892 professor of neurology at the University of Chicago, has been elected professor of neurology at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy, Philadelphia.—Dr. K. E. Guthe, associate physicist at the National Bureau of Standards, has been appointed professor of physics and head of the department of physics at the State University of Iowa.

The late Stephen Salisbury, of Worcester, Mass., has bequeathed the residue of his estate to the Worcester Art Museum, which, it is said, will receive more than $3,000,000. Many other public bequests have been made by the will, including, in addition to $200,000 to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, some $250,000 to the American Antiquarian Society and $5,000 and a site for a building for the Worcester Natural History Society.

The yacht Galilee, engaged in the magnetic survey of the North Pacific Ocean under the auspices of the Department Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, arrived at San Diego some time ago, having completed a successful series of magnetic observations embracing the regions between San Francisco, San Diego, Honolulu, Fanning Island and the magnetic equator.—Dr. Sven Hedin has proceeded to Persia, where he proposes to explore thoroughly, from a scientific point of view, the salt deserts of Dasht-i-Kavir and Dasht-i-Lut in the eastern part of the country. He hopes afterwards to proceed through Afghanistan to India, and there organize an expedition for the exploration of Central Tibet.—Professor C. S. Sargent, of Harvard University, has sailed for Chili and the mountains of South America to obtain specimens for the Arnold Arboretum.

The endowment fund for increase of salaries, at Harvard University amounts to nearly $2,300,000. The scale of salaries is to be as follows:

Upon appointment $1,200
Yearly increase 100
Maximum 1,500
Assistant Professors:
In the first five-year term 2,500
In the second five-year term 3,000
Associate Professors:
Upon appointment 3,500
Maximum 4,500
Upon appointment 4,000
Maximum 5,500