Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/470

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By Professor SIMON NEWCOMB, U. S. N. (retired),


AMONG the numerous attractions of the Universal Exposition at St. Louis, there is one which appeals with special force to all interested in the progress of learning. The assembling of congresses on various subjects has, especially in recent years, been so prominent a feature of great expositions of industry that such gatherings have recently tended to lose in interest. But the directors of the St. Louis World's Fair decided, at an early stage in their preparations, to make special efforts for bringing together a congress which should be more comprehensive in its scope, of wider interest in its discussions, and of more permanent value as a memorial of the exposition, than the usual conventions of this class. After holding several consultations with eminent scholars it was decided that the field of the congress should be as wide as that of science itself. The first question to arise in considering such a scheme would be how it was possible with the present multiplication of specialties in science to arrange a congress whose discussions should embrace a field as wide as that of knowledge.

It must be admitted that if the principal aim were to rend and present scientific papers and researches nothing could result but the addition of a few more volumes to the almost unmanageable collection of published scientific literature. Farther consultations with educators and others led the directors to adopt a new plan for reaching the desired result, which was suggested and worked out in detail by Professor Münsterberg. Its idea was to supplement all the specialties by a discussion of the principles of the more important groups of sciences, and of the methods by which the sciences should be brought together, unified, and made mutually helpful.

That some effort of this kind is desirable must be evident to any one who contemplates the almost alarming increase of specialties in scientific research, coupled as it necessarily is with lack of knowledge on the part of any one investigator of the work being done by his fellows. We all know that new fields of research are continually being opened, and that the older fields are continually being extended into minuter specialties. New societies with their proceedings, and new journals are continually being established. Moreover the volume of papers published in any one established journal frequently goes on