Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/417

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS

Research institutions are themselves scientific experiments on a large scale, for it is an open question whether research work can be supported to greatest advantage under our universities, by separately endowed institutions or directly by the government. While the answer to this question is important, we can safely assume that scientific and scholarly investigations should be carried forward by all possible agencies, for the returns on the average and in most cases are many fold the cost, both in economic applications and in their contribution to ideal ends. It seems undesirable to urge, as Dean Burgess of Columbia University has done recently, that the establishment of research institutions is unwise and unfair to the universities, or, as is frequently asserted, that the scientific work under the government and in the experiment stations should be confined to the applications of science.

President Woodward, of the Carnegie Institution, is certainly correct when he writes in his last annual report: "The common notion that research demands only a portion of one's leisure from more absorbing duties tends to turn the course of evolution backwards and to land us in the amateurism and the dilettanteism wherein science finds its beginnings." We can not depend, as in the past England has in large measure, on amateurs of independent means to carry on scientific research. Work such as Charles Darwin did at Down and Lord Rayleigh still does at Sterling Place is not attempted in this country. Among our thousand leading scientific men only eleven may be classed as amateurs, and they are not those of the highest distinction. Practically all our scientific men are employed by the universities, in the government service, or by the newly established research institutions.

In the universities the professors are too much occupied with elementary teaching and enmeshed in the machinery of administration. In the government service the experts are too much limited to the application of science and subject to official routine and red tape. In both cases the salaries paid are smaller than in business concerns, and probably less initiative and freedom are allowed. The scientific man has a more desirable intellectual life; it is truly unfortunate that this should be counterbalanced by irksome restriction.

The research institutions have a great opportunity, and the two to which Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Carnegie have given their money and their names represent a new era in the development of science. Both the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research have begun well. They can draw their members from university chairs and government bureaus, whereas the reverse movement has not appeared. But it is easier to begin well than to continue in good works. The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago began with new ideals of research and of the professorship, but they have relapsed to nearly the common level. The United States Geological Survey began with a fine spirit, but it can not be said that the value of its work has increased with the multiplication of its appropriation.

If the research institutions are to do for this country in the twentieth century what the universities accomplished for Germany in the nineteenth century, they must not become bureaucratic machines but must be controlled by their scientific men. They must also be fertile in teaching, no less than in research, as they