Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/481

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465
SUCCESS WITH SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS.

credited to the American Forestry Association, a comparatively small body, which, in its peregrinations north and south, and east and west, has brought many thousands of people to its way of thinking, and with them not a few of their lawmakers. In 1891 Congress authorized the President to set apart as a reservation any public land wholly or in part covered with trees; in two years this law has recovered tracts aggregating twelve million acres. For the proper forestry administration of these and other lands of the Federal Government the association is the only organized means of agitation in the country. Perhaps one reason why the American Social Science Association does not exert the influence it merits is that its gatherings always take place in Saratoga; this, too, while its British prototype observes the rule of itineracy. Even the National Academy of Sciences, whose investigations are of the most recondite order, migrates for one of its semi-annual meetings. To take the example of an industrial organization that keeps to the road let the National Electric Light Association be named: its tours throughout the land serve to refresh men devoted to an arduous profession; in their examination, on these tours, of all kinds of electrical installations practice everywhere tends to rise to the level of the best; and wherever the association goes it gives a local stimulus to the interest in Nature's master force in all that it means for the relief of toil and the refinement of life. When an organization to promote science pure or applied is put on wheels another advantage arises: its visits to a chain of towns and cities rarely fail to bring out a good deal of amateur talent—confirming tastes and talents which do much to cheer their possessors amid the drudgery of office or shop. The trained inquirer may look askance at the amateur, but it is well to remember that Dr. William Huggins, the President of the British Association in 1891, an astronomer who has notably furthered the science and art of stellar spectroscopy, calls himself but an amateur; Mr. Thomas D. Anderson, of Edinburgh, another amateur, last year discovered the new star in Auriga so earnestly discussed as probably confirming the meteoritic hypothesis of stellar accretions; an amateur, too, it was who, in the person of James Prescott Joule, first ascertained the mechanical equivalent of heat, the basis of the doctrine of the conservation of energy. In no infrequent case an intellectual man of leisure, who has not yet formed habits of idleness, has had a genuine and lasting interest aroused by the advent of a learned or scientific society in his neighborhood.

While the advancement of science is the stated purpose of the American Association, it has accomplished much else that could ill have been spared. It has periodically brought together old friends whom the exigencies of professional or business careers