Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/314

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310
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
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the first volume of an important work on mathematical optics. He has also been trained as a lawyer and has broad interests in philosophy and education.

It is a fact of some interest that Mr. Lowell is a member of the corporation of the institute and with Dr. Pritchett represented the institute in the joint committee of the corporations which recommended the merger with Harvard. The most important action of Harvard since the election of Mr. Lowell has been the calling of two heads of departments of the institute, Professor Swain and Professor Clifford, to its Graduate School of Applied Sciences.

 

ENGLISH VITAL STATISTICS

The recently published report of the English registrar general shows that the death rate of England and Wales during 1907 reached the remarkably low figure of 15 per thousand of the population. This is 2.4 per thousand lower than it was ten years ago; it is lower than for any other nation, except perhaps Sweden and Norway, though the lowest recorded death rates appear to be in Indiana and Michigan, where in 1905 they were 12.8 and 13.5, respectively. There is nothing more appalling than, and at the same time so hopeful as, the great differences in the death rates in different parts of the civilized world. It seems almost incredible that in one country or in one city twice as many people of each thousand inhabitants die as in others. We may sympathize with Tolstoy in his grief for the cruel executions that occur in Russia, but they are after all an insignificant matter compared with the fifty million people who have died needlessly in that country in the course of the past twenty-five years. But we need not go to Russia for a warning, when the death rate in New York is twenty per cent, higher than in London, when ten times as many in proportion to the population die from typhoid fever in Pittsburg as in New York, or when the death rate in one Massachusetts town is twice as high as in another.

It is gratifying that the infant mortality in England in 1907 was as low as 118 per 1,000 births, as compared with an average of 145 in the ten preceding years. But it is an ominous fact that the birth rate has fallen even more rapidly than the death rate. The birth rate in 1907 in England and Wales was 26.3, as much as 0.8 lower than in the preceding year and 10 lower than in 1876. If this fall should continue there would be no children born in England at the close of the present century. Absurd as this may appear, it is difficult to see why if the average family has decreased from four to three in the course of thirty years, it may not continue to decrease to two and to one.

On the other hand, the death rate can not continue to decrease indefinitely, and indeed it seems to have almost reached its minimum. When one thinks of the vast amount of intemperance, poverty and preventable disease in England, it might appear that there is room for endless improvement. But even a death rate of 15 is paradoxical. This means that only one person in 66.6 dies each year, and if the population were stationary the average duration of life would be 66.6 years. As one infant in seven dies, the average age at death of those who survive the first year would be 77, which obviously it is not, nor is likely to be. The paradox is explained by another paradox, namely, that a high birth rate tends to give a low death rate. Countries, cities and classes having a high birth rate usually have a high death rate and the infant death rate is nearly ten times the average; yet it is the high birth rate in England in past years which gives it its present low death rate.

If the birth rate of a country should