Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/864

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Metric Bureau, Tufts College, the Watertown, Arsenal, the Old South, and many other places of interest to strangers.

It has been objected that too much time is generally spent at these meetings in social enjoyment; but it is not to be forgotten that this is a cardinal object of the organization. It is both possible and desirable that in future years the management will be so improved that the social element without being impaired will be so regulated as to economize time and offer the least hindrance to the legitimate and solid work of the society. But the Association grew out of a social need which is more urgent, perhaps, in this country than in any other. The organization of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, half a century ago, was not only a very important movement in giving efficient direction to scientific labor, but it was an inevitable result of the growth of scattered activities which required to be brought into coöperative relations. It was found that scientific observers, experimenters, and discoverers are not mere eccentric and infatuated devotees, content to pass their lives in the cloistered seclusion of laboratories and observatories, but that they are normal human beings with social sympathies and necessities, who require to know each other and to be brought into relations of freer intercourse with the people. The British Association was formed for the promotion of the interests of science by systematizing the work of research, and by bringing large numbers of scientific men together annually for several days, and it was made migratory that its public influence might become effective in all parts of the country. The advantages of this associated action were real and important, and it was proved that the time had fully come to enter upon it. A new impulse was given to original study; there were new accessions to the ranks of scientific students, scientific work became more effective and efficient, and the people extended to it increasing encouragement and a more hearty and liberal support.

So successful was this plan of operations devised and carried out by the English scientists, that it has been imitated in different nations, and with the same satisfactory results. In this country such a project was both more necessary and more difficult. The scientific men were here widely distributed over a continent, and generally worked alone in the colleges, so that they very rarely met their brethren to compare notes and gain the benefits of mutual criticism. In England it was different. London was a great center of resources, a sort of scientific world of itself, while the country is so small that the metropolis is readily accessible to everybody. In the United States there was no such commanding center of scientific influence, and the distances and the expenses of travel were so great that scientific professors, generally living upon small salaries, could hardly afford to travel, even if there had been any great central headquarters to visit. The adoption of the English plan of a movable scientific association, to hold its meetings in different and widely separated localities, met the requirements of our scientific men to a much greater degree than it did the English.

This kind of association, therefore, does a more important work here than anywhere else. There are obstacles to the advance of science which are more refractory in the United States than anywhere else. Institutions for training scientific men are neither so numerous nor so thorough as in England and on the Continent. Material interests are more absorbing, and the effect of our "popular intelligence" is that subjects and questions foreign to science have an intense hold and a predominant control over the public mind. There is no way to stem these tenden-