Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/365

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



THIS is an assembly composed substantially of members and friends of the New York Academy of Sciences, united to do homage to one whose genius has been long felt in our meetings, and whose influence is now recognized in every field of intellectual endeavor. The example of Darwin's precision in observing, of his wisdom in interpreting, and of his truthfulness in recording the phenomena of nature, has transformed zoology—the subject assigned to me—from prosaic description to acute speculation, from a merely interesting study to an aggressive science.

This change has taken place in an incredibly short space of time, and it may be worth while, on an occasion such as this, to examine the condition of scientific academies and similar organizations in America at the time of the publication of the "Origin of Species," to note the first center of appreciative acceptance and to trace the spread of the belief in Darwinism as it betrayed itself in the publications of the time.

Fifty years ago there were in America five leading centers of organized scientific activity.

In Philadelphia were the American Philosopical Society, founded by Franklin, and then well along in its second century of "promoting useful knowledge," and the Academy of Natural Sciences, approaching its semi-centennial.

In Boston were the adolescent Boston Society of Natural History, approaching its thirtieth birthday, and the mature American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780.

In New Haven was the Connecticut Academy, founded in 1786.

In Washington, although the National Institution for the Promotion of Science (founded in 1810) and the Smithsonian Institution had been publishing for eleven years, men of science apparently did not unite in an academic way until the Philosophical Society of Washington was organized in 1871. Even the National Academy was not incorporated until 1863, four years after the announcement of the "Origin of Species."

In New York, this academy (then called the Lyceum of Natural History) was meeting at Fourteenth Street, at a point now occupied by the headquarters of Tammany Hall. Of those then attending its meetings, but one now remains.

  1. An address given at the American Museum of Natural History on February 12.