Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/February 1903/The Progress of Science

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The first convocation week meeting of the American Association and its affiliated societies was a notable event in the progress of science in America. We have on several occasions called attention to the circumstances that led up to this meeting. The American Association with its affiliated societies has hitherto held its meetings in the summer, when the dispersal of men of science and the heat have been disturbing factors. The American Society of Naturalists with its affiliated societies has met during Christmas week when the time was too short, especially for those who traveled from a distance. The American Association was successful in securing a short extension of the Christmas holidays from all our leading institutions of learning, some seventy in number, leaving free for the meetings of scientific and learned societies the week in which the first of January falls. The American Association and the American Society of Naturalists and most of the national societies devoted to the special sciences then united to hold the great congress which met at Washington from December 29 to January 3.

There were at the meetings more scientific men than had ever before assembled on this continent. The enrolment of members of the association was 989, which was increased to 1,352 by the registration of those attending the meeting of affiliated societies, but not members of the association. The attendance was larger than the registration, and may be estimated at considerably more than 1,500. The addresses, papers and discussions were truly bewildering in their number and range. There were about thirty-five special societies and sections of the association meeting nearly or quite simultaneously. Under these circumstances conflicts and inconveniences were not entirely absent, but on the whole the complicated machinery worked with remarkable smoothness. Such a great meeting accomplished much in promoting solidarity among men of science, and in demonstrating their activity and power of organization to the world. It was especially fortunate that this meeting should have been held at Washington, which is now the scientific, as well as the political, capital of the country. Men of science from all parts must have been greatly impressed by the immense quantity and admirable quality of scientific work being done under the national government, whereas the government officers must have been encouraged in their research by the visitors.

A number or even a volume of the Monthly would go but a small way toward publishing the addresses and papers presented at the Washington meeting. We print elsewhere the address of the retiring president, Professor Asaph Hall, one of the world's great astronomers. Other addresses and abstracts of the proceedings will be found in Science; the real scientific work of the meeting, however, must be looked for in the special journals and series of publications.

Dr. Carroll D. Wright, U. S. Commissioner of Labor, was chosen as the next president, and St. Louis as the next place of meeting. The range of the association and its affiliated societies was demonstrated by both selections. For the first time social and economic science was recognized in the election to the presidency, whereas the place of meeting acknowledged the middle west as coordinate with the east in its scientific activity.


While it is quite impossible to give an account of the multifarious activities of the association, what may be accomplished by organized science may be illustrated by two resolutions passed by the council. One of these recognized the service of the late Major Walter Reed in exterminating yellow fever at Havana, the other emphasized the need of expert medical supervision in the construction of the Isthmian Canal. The first resolution reads:

Resolved, That the American Association for the Advancement of Science hereby records its sense of the great loss sustained by science in the death of Major Walter Reed, surgeon in the United States Army, and its appreciation of the far-reaching and invaluable services which he has rendered to humanity. By solving the problem of the mode of spread of yellow fever, Major Reed not only made a great contribution to science, but at the same time conferred inestimable benefits upon his country and upon mankind. To have discovered and demonstrated the methods, which have already been successfully tested in Cuba, of eradicating a wide-spread and terrible pestilence, is a benefaction of imperishable renown, of incalculable value in the saving of human lives, of vast importance to commercial interests, and deserving of the highest rewards in the power of his countrymen to bestow. This association earnestly urges upon the attention of Congress the duty of making full provision for the support of his family.

Resolved, That the President designate a committee of nine members of this Association, with power to increase its number, which shall be authorized and requested to devise and carry out a plan, or aid in similar efforts elsewhere instituted, by which a suitable and permanent memorial of this great benefactor of his race may be secured. This committee shall be authorized to prepare and publish a statement of the services of the late Major Reed in discovering the mode by which yellow fever may be exterminated.

The members appointed to serve as such committee are: Dr. D. C. Gilman, Dr. A. Graham Bell, General George M. Sternberg, Mayor Seth Low, Hon. Abram S. Hewitt, President J. G. Schurman, Dr. S. E. Chaillé, Dr. W. H. Welch, Dr. Charles S. Minot.

The second resolution was as follows:

Inasmuch as the construction of the Isthmian Canal is through a region in which without energetic sanitary control there is sure to be enormous loss of human life from preventable diseases, particularly from pernicious malaria and yellow fever, as well as great waste of energy and of money from disabilities caused by such diseases, and

Inasmuch as the measures for the restraint of these diseases, which have already achieved even their extermination in Cuba under American administration, require expert knowledge based upon practical familiarity with tropical diseases, experience in the application of these measures, and large authority in their administration,

Resolved, That the American Association for the Advancement of Science begs most respectfully and earnestly to call to the attention of the President of the United States the importance of appointing as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission a medical man possessed of the qualifications indicated. The association is convinced that the mere employment of such a sanitary expert by the commission will not be likely to secure the desired results.

Resolved, That the permanent secretary of the association transmit a copy of these resolutions to the President of the United States.


Under the sensational heading of 'the germ of laziness,' the daily press has been endeavoring to tell the public something about a new discovery made by the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service. Owing to the wording of the first report, by the New York Sun, many newspapers have not known whether this alleged discovery should be taken seriously or in jest, and the editorial remarks upon the subject have, therefore, varied from the serious to the sarcastic. The following are the facts of the case, as learned by the Popular Science Monthly from a reliable source.

The Eber's Papyrus, an Egyptian manuscript, about 3,500 years old, described a tropical malady as the 'AAA' or the 'U H A' disease, which is characterized by an extreme anemia, pains in the abdomen, palpitation of the heart, and certain other symptoms. This same disease is described by various authors in the eighteenth century, but its cause was not discovered until 1843, when Dubini, of Milan, found a parasitic, roundworm which inhabits the intestine and which he named Anchylostoma duodenale. This worm belongs to the strongyles and is closely related to the 'hookworm,' Uncinaria vulpis, described by Frölich in 1789.

It has been thoroughly established that Dubini's hookworm sucks the blood and produces a poison; also that it causes the conditions known under the various names of St. Gothard anemia, miner's anemia, brickmaker's anemia, Egyptian chlorosis, uncinariasis, ankylostomiasis, etc. This disease is known to be very prevalent in tropical countries, but curiously enough no positive case in the United States was recognized as such until 1893, when Dr. Blickman, of St. Louis, found a German who had brought the infection with him from Europe. Dr. Stiles, zoologist of the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, has maintained for eight or ten years that this disease must be more or less common in the southern portion of this country, and that physicians have undoubtedly confused it with malaria. This view, which he has repeatedly defended before medical and scientific audiences, has been looked upon as extreme and has not been adopted by the American practitioners. Isolated cases of the disease were reported occasionally, but between 1892 and 1902 only about 35 cases were found in the United States, and most of these were imported. Dr. Ashford had, however, shown that the disease is common in Porto Rico. In May, 1902, Dr. Stiles obtained the parasites from three cases which occurred respectively in Virginia, Galveston and Porto Rico, and he showed that they were not identical with the parasite which causes miner's anemia in the Old World. He described this new worm as Uncinaria americana, and using Virginia, Galveston and Porto Rico as the three angles of a triangle, he maintained that this area must harbor a more or less common disease caused by the new parasite. In September, 1902, he started out to demonstrate the correctness of this view and in eight weeks time he proved his point.

The extreme and in some cases nonsensical statements made by the daily press have been startling, but not more so than the more serious and conservative statements Dr. Stiles made before the medical society to which he presented his results. The press has, however, misquoted his statements in more than one particular. His results briefly stated are these:

If we go south from Virginia to the gulf we meet two totally different kinds of anemia, which can be distinguished by the soils on which they occur, the parasites which cause them, the symptoms which result, and the treatment which is necessary. One of these anemias follows the more impervious soils such as clay and is due to malaria, which, as is well known, 13 caused by a minute parasite which lives in the blood and which may be cured by a proper use of quinine. The other anemia, preeminently a disease of the sandy regions, is caused by a parsitic 'hookworm' (Uncinaria americana) which lives in the intestine and which is not affected by quinine but can be killed by the use of thymol. These two anemias have heretofore been confused by most physicians, hence this new discovery clears up a matter of great importance from the standpoint of the practising physician, and it is not an exaggeration to state that it means a revolution in the treatment of fully half of the sick people found in the southern sand areas.

One of the most important symptoms of 'hookworm' disease is an extreme lassitude, both mental and physical; this condition is due to the emaciation and to the thin watery character of the blood, which does not properly nourish either the brain or the muscles. Now, curiously enough, it is especially in the sand areas of the south that the poorer whites, known as the 'poor white trash,' are found, and Dr. Stiles, who has been living among these people for a number of weeks, positively states that it is among these people that hookworm disease is especially common and especially severe. He found entire families and entire neighborhoods affected, and owing to the symptoms which the disease causes, he asserts that this malady is very largely responsible for the present condition of these people. He states in fact that if we were to place the strongest class of men and women in the country in the conditions of infection under which these poorer whites are living, they would within a generation or two deteriorate to the same poverty of mind, body and worldly goods, which is proverbial for the 'poor white trash.'

It is true that the poorer whites are found on clay soils as well as on sand, but Dr. Stiles maintains that on clay soil these people are healthier, stronger and more intelligent, hence that they are better fitted for the competition in life, from which the hookworm disease practically excludes the poorer whites of the sand farms. He has further traced families from sand to clay or to the cities and proved their improvement under the new conditions; and conversely he has traced families from clay to sand and proved their deterioration.

An important point claimed in these investigations is that hookworm disease is especially prevalent among children, and that it not only interferes with their school attendance, but that children who are afflicted with the malady and who have gone from sandy districts to a city have the reputation among their teachers of being more or less backward and even stupid in their studies. All this agrees with well established symptoms of the disease, for it is thoroughly established, not only by Dr. Stiles's investigations, but by observations in Europe and Africa, that hookworm diseases stunts both the physical and the mental development. Dr. Stiles states in fact that he has found patients of twenty to twenty-three years of age who both mentally and physically were not developed beyond the average boy or girl of eleven to sixteen years old.

There are other points in connection with this work, such as the perverted habit of dirt-eating, the presence of the disease among factory hands who formerly lived in the country, the financial loss involved, etc., into which we can not enter here at present. The happiest part of the entire work is that the disease can be easily prevented and that it can be cured. Under these circumstances, we may look for decided improvement among the poorer whites in the sand districts of the south, although this remark is not to be interpreted as meaning that we consider that 'hookworm disease' gives us a complete explanation of all ills in the southern states.

The full report of these investigations will be in the printers' hands this month and will be issued as a bulletin of the Hygienic Laboratory, U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service.


It is the purpose of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, among other plans, to encourage exceptional talent by appointing a certain number of research assistants.

These positions will not be those commonly known as fellowships or scholarships; nor is the object of this provision to contribute to the payment of mechanical helpers or of assistants in the work of the institution. It is rather to discover and develop, under competent scrutiny and under favorable conditions, such persons as have unusual ability. It is not intended to provide means by which a student may complete his courses of study, nor to give assistance in the preparation of dissertations for academic degrees. Work of a more advanced and special character is expected of all who receive appointment.

The annual emolument will vary according to circumstances. As a rule, it will not exceed $1,000 per annum. No limitations are prescribed as to age, sex, nationality, graduation or residence. Appointments will at first be made for one year, but may be continued.

It is desirable that a person thus appointed should work under the supervision of an investigator who is known to the authorities of the Carnegie Institution to be engaged in an important field of scientific research, and in a place where there is easy access to libraries and apparatus—but there may be exceptions to this.

Applications for appointments may be presented by the head of, or by a professor in, an institution of learning, or by the candidate. They should be accompanied by a statement of the qualifications of the candidate, of the research work he has done, and of that which he desires to follow, and of the time for which an allowance is desired. If he has already printed or written anything of interest, a copy of this should be enclosed with the application.

Communications upon this subject should be distinctly marked on the outside envelope, and on the inside, Research Assistant, and should be addressed to the Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1439 K Street, Washington, D. C.

The Carnegie Institution has made a grant to the Marine Biological Laboratory and now has at its disposal twenty tables in the Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., for the season of 1903. These tables are intended for the use of persons engaged in original research in biology, and carry with them the right to be furnished with the ordinary supplies and material of the Laboratory. Applications for the use of one of these tables should be addressed to the Secretary of the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D. C, stating the period for which the use of the table is desired, and the general character of the work which the applicant proposes to do.


Dr. Carroll D. Wright, U. S. Commissioner of Labor, was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the recent Washington meeting. The vice-presidents for the sections are: Section A, Mathematics and Astronomy, 0. H. Tittmann, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey; B, Physics, E. H. Hall, Harvard University; C, Chemistry, W. D. Bancroft, Cornell University; D, Mechanical Science and Engineering, C. M. Woodward, Washington University; E, Geology and Geography, I. C. Russell, University of Michigan; F, Zoology, E. L. Mark, Harvard University; G, Botany, T. H. Macbride, University of Iowa; H, Anthropology, M. H. Saville, American Museum of Natural History; I, Social and Economic Science, S. E. Baldwin, New Haven; K, Physiology and Experimental Medicine, H. P. Bowditch, Harvard University.

Charles Darwin