Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/520

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One of the most serious aspects of the war is the diversion from scientific work which it involves. Should the contributions to pure and applied science in the course of the next ten years be reduced to one half, the loss to the world in life and wealth would be far greater than that caused directly by the destruction of war. It may be guessed that in the course of the past hundred years the death-rate has been reduced to one half in the more civilized nations and the annual production of wealth has been increased by a hundred billion dollars. If a comparable advance would have been made in the next ten years apart from the war and this should be reduced to half as v. result of the war, the loss would be so great as to be almost incredible. Thus the death rate in England has been reduced from 23 per thousand to 14 per thousand in the course of fifty years. If by the advances of science and civilization in the course of ten years the death rate would have been reduced to 12 per thousand and as the result of the war the reduction should be only to 11, so that for a period of ten years the death rate is one per thousand larger than it otherwise would have been, the deaths in England chargeable to the war apart from those directly caused by it would be in the neighborhood of 400,000 and in the civilized world of 4,000,000. There would be a corresponding excess of ill health and disease over what would have been suffered had there been no war.

In like manner it may be calculated that if the increased production of the world's wealth which might have been expected from new applications of science should be decreased to one half by the war for a period of ten years the economic loss would be in the neighborhood of fifty billion dollars. These calculations are, of course, subject to a very large probable error. We may hope that the advance of science will not be checked to the extent of one half for a. period of ten years. It has been said that it will be a generation before the nations involved will regain the position they now hold, but it may, on the contrary, be the case that the loss will be far less than is assumed as the basis of these calculations. It depends on the length of the war and on many other conditions of which we are ignorant.

But figures such as these, even though they have but small reliability, may impress on us the magnitude of the value of science for the world and the injury done by an interruption to its progress. A loss of four million lives and of fifty billion dollars from a slackening in scientific work due to the war is greater than the destruction which will be directly caused. While we are helpless in presence of the direct destruction from the war, this is not equally the case with the loss due to the failure in scientific research and the applications of science. We should in this country do what we can to carry forward the work which will 1 e dropped by the disabled nations.


Some idea of the relative contributions to science by the different nations may be gathered from the number of scientific men recorded in "Who's Who in Science," an international biographical directory edited by H. H. Stephenson and published here by The Macmillan Company. In this compilation there are recorded 1,678 scientific men from the United