Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/103

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE CONVOCATION WEEK MEETINGS OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

The sixty-third meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Washington from December 27 to 30. This is the tenth of the annual convocation week meetings, the first of which was in Washington in 1901-2. In consecutive years meetings have been held in St. Louis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and Minneapolis. Although the zoologists and anatomists meet at Princeton, there will be in session at Washington some thirty-nine-societies and sections with an attendance probably exceeding two thousand scientific men. The formal opening will be in the new National Museum on Wednesday, when President Taft will welcome the association, and the annual presidential address will be given by Professor A. A. Michelson, of the University of Chicago.

Since the first meeting of the American Association in 1848, great changes have taken place in the condition of science in this country, in which the association has been an important factor and to which it in turn has been compelled to adjust itself. Sixty years ago all the scientific men in the country could meet together in one room and take an intelligent interest in the same problems. There are now some ten thousand scientific men, scattered over a wide area, engaged in special problems, which in many cases are comprehensible only to other specialists in the same field.

It was not until 1875 that the association was divided into two sections—one for mathematics, physics and chemistry and one for the natural sciences. In 1882 nine sections were organized, each with a vice-president as its presiding officer. But provision was needed for still greater specialization, and at about the same time national societies began to be established for the different sciences. The American Chemical Society was organized in 1876, and the Geological Society of America and the American Mathematical Society in 1888, and there are now some thirty societies devoted to different departments of science.

These special societies have to a considerable extent taken over one of the principal functions of the American Association, namely, the presentation and discussion of scientific work. The association has adapted itself to these conditions by becoming a center of affiliation for the various societies, omitting the reading of technical papers before its sections when the affiliated society devoted to the same subject meets at the same time and place.

The second function of the American Association—the diffusion of science—it still performs, especially through its publications. It seems impossible to accomplish all that might be done at the meetings, for even when attractive programs of general interest are offered, it is difficult to obtain an audience, and the newspapers and other journals of the country give very inadequate accounts of the meetings. It seems that there might be large numbers of people interested in the general problems of science, who would like to attend the meetings if the advantages were brought properly to their attention. It is not intended that membership shall be confined to those engaged