Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/485

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469
SUCCESS WITH SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS.

the visitors, can in some degree requite the debt of hospitality. In their main outlines the conquests of science, in the hands of a skilled exponent, never fail to awaken the enthusiasm of popular audiences. To the essential democracy of the sympathies of research, conceived on broad lines, let the thousands testify who have seen Prof. E. S. Morse at the blackboard busy with both hands tracing the development of birds from reptilian forms, or Prof. E. E. Barnard, of Lick Observatory, as he has thrown on the screen images of myriad stars seized in new spheres of space only through the exquisitely sensitive and tireless eye of the camera.

There is sound policy as well as justice in the sedulous cultivation of points of contact between every-day interests and the highly specialized work which only remotely may issue in a utility. A chemist may be enabled to experiment on di-nitro-sulphophenol, and publish his results, because an intelligent manufacturer has through the labor of chemists found a market for coal-tar products, or furnace slag, once thrown away. The links between science pure and applied might well receive more illustration at scientific gatherings than they commonly do. In carefully maintaining its features of popular instruction in this and other respects, the British Association has done much to win its long sustained pre-eminence. To what else can that primacy be attributed? To its continuity of work and supervision the year round. Its committees, some fifty in number, are charged with investigations, botanical, zoölogical, and other; they confer as to standards of measurement and establish them; they ascertain the properties of solutions, or consider electrolysis in its physical and chemical bearings. All this labor is constantly enrolling new workers, and enabling the officers to appraise the talents and availability of workers new and old. At the meetings he must be a specialist indeed who does not find his particular study illuminated in the committee reports.

Be the object of a society what it may, on the programme of a meeting the main items, of course, are the addresses and papers. When by seasonable solicitation these latter are in hand, printed copies of them, subject to revision, can be distributed prior to their being formally offered. This plan, adopted by the American Institute of Mining Engineers and a few other organizations, should become general. It saves time at a session, where only abstracts need be presented; or, where the writer of a paper can instead of an abstract, give in an extemporaneous word the gist of his manuscript, the printing a paper in advance gives those who are interested in its subject the information needful for comment and criticism. Discussion is of the very essence of a meeting's value, and the institute just named always endeavors