Popular Science Monthly/Volume 63/September 1903/The Progress of Science

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John Ericsson.



The centenary of the birth of John Ericsson was celebrated on August 1 by the unveiling of a statue in the Battery, New York City. A bronze statue by Mr. Jonathan S. Hartley had for ten years stood near the Custom House, but the sculptor wished to improve it, and at his own expense made a new statue, in which the same metal was used. By the courtesy of Mr. Hartley, we reproduce a photograph of the model as it stood in his studio. The ceremonies connected with the unveiling of the statue were elaborate, the army and navy being represented, and the Swedish-American Societies taking a prominent part. Mayor Low accepted the statue for the city and Colonel W. C. Church, author of the life of Ericsson, made an address. Both speakers naturally referred to the building of the Monitor and its destruction of the confederate ironclad Merrimac on March 9, 1862. It will be remembered that on the preceding day the Merrimac had destroyed the Cumberland and the Congress, and was about to disperse the rest of the government's wooden fleet, when the Monitor, which had been built by Ericsson in New York in one hundred days, altered the course of events and perhaps the whole result of the civil war, for if the federal government had had no fleet, European intervention would have been likely. Shortly after Ericsson came to the United States in 1839, he built the Princeton for the United States Navy, the first vessel having the propelling machinery below the water line, and this vessel set the model for all subsequent naval construction. Ericsson is consequently remembered largely in connection with the development of ships of war. to which he made the most important contributions. His other great scientific inventions, however, should not be forgotten, especially the screw propeller, which while originally designed for warships has become one of the greatest factors in steam navigation. Europe was long sceptical as to the possibility of the propeller, it being claimed that a vessel would not steer when power was applied at the stern, even after many vessels were being successfully navigated in the United States.

Ericsson began his inventions when a boy in Sweden, and at the age of twenty-two constructed a condensing flame engine of ten horse power. In 1828, when twenty-five years of age, he made the first application to navigation of the principle of condensing steam and returning water to the boiler. In 1829, when twenty-six years old, he built the steam carriage, Novelty, which competed with George Stevenson's for the Liverpool and Manchester railway prize. It surpassed all competitors, including Stevenson's Rocket, in lightness and speed, attaining the remarkable speed of thirty miles an hour. At this period and a little later he made numerous important inventions, including the tubular steam boiler with artificial draught and the caloric heat engine. He also made some important instruments for scientific work, including the self-registering deep-sea lead, a pyrometer and a hydrostatic gauge. Ericsson must be regarded as one of those who made the nineteenth century before all else an era of the applications of science.


A movement is now in progress to establish a great school of technology in connection with the University of London. Through the efforts of Lord Rosebury, chancellor of the university, a sum of $2,500,000 has been subscribed for buildings and land. The London County Council has agreed to contribute $100,000 a year for maintenance on condition that the government and other municipalities take part in the movement. In all the discussions in regard to the establishment of this school of technology, reference has been made to the fact that Germany and America are in advance of Great Britain in their provision for technical education, and of all our schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the most noteworthy.

Proposed Plan for the Enlargement of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The institute is at present seriously considering the desirability of obtaining a new site. The land on which its buildings now stand having become part of the business quarter of the city, land adequate for the needs of the institute could only be purchased at great expense. The institute has recently obtained powers from the legislature to sell its present site should it wish to do so, it having originally been a condition that it forever be preserved from sale. This permission was not obtained without a considerable amount of opposition, and the parallel bill on behalf of the Society of Natural History has not been passed. There still appears, however, to be some opposition to the change. Mr. Henry A. Phillips contributed to the last number of The Technology Review a plan for developing the institute on its present site, as shown in the accompanying figure. The buildings now occupied by the institute are the Rogers, the Walker, the Engineering and the Pierce buildings. It is estimated that the land required for the development here sketched would be $1,800,000, according to the assessed valuation, whereas the removal of the institute would require the sacrifice of buildings worth perhaps $1,000,000.

The Institute of Technology has this year made on its educational side an important advance in establishing a John D. Runkle. graduate school of engineering research including two research laboratories, one for physical chemistry under the charge of Professor A. A. Noyes and one for sanitary engineering under the' charge of Professor Wm. T. Sedgwick. The former is to occupy one of the new buildings now being erected beyond the Pierce building, and will consist mainly of a series of small laboratories, with special rooms for weighing, photography, glass-blowing, pure water distillation, etc. There will be next year nine or ten research assistants and associates working under the direction of the professors of the institute, and every facility will be given to advanced students wishing to carry on research work. The Sanitary Research Laboratory and Sewage Experiment Station has leased a building on the line of the largest main sewer, in which have been fitted up laboratories for chemical and bacteriological work, including a tank and filter house.

The institute has recently lost by death two of the original members of its faculty, whose portraits are here given. Professor John B. Henck was professor of civil engineering from John B. Henck. 1860 to 1881. During this period he devoted himself largely to the work of teaching, but at this time and previously he also carried forward engineering works, the most important probably being the filling in and improvement of the Back Bay district of Boston. His 'Field Book for Railway Engineers,' published in 1854, and subsequently revised, passing through many editions, is a standard work. After retiring from his chair at the institute. Professor Henck settled in California and spent his life in retirement, dying early in the present year at the age of eighty-eight years. Professor John D. Runkle was professor of mathematics at the institute from 1865 until last year, when he was made professor emeritus. During this long period he was closely identified with the development of the institute, being always one of the leading members of the faculty and for a time president. Before he occupied this chair, he was engaged in the work of the Nautical Almanac, and founded The Mathematical Monthly in 1859. He took a prominent part in introducing manual training, not only in the institute, but also in the schools of the country.


Education in America owes much to Louis Agassiz, and one of its greatest debts is the summer school of natural history established by him on the

Buildings of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.

island of Penikese in 1873, the year before his death. The school did not long survive its founder, but it may be regarded as the beginning of the summer schools and laboratories which now play such an important part in the educational and scientific life of the country. Our college sessions have followed the precedent of Oxford and Cambridge in allowing long summer holidays. Formerly many of the students worked on the farm or otherwise during the summer months, and the heat of the season seemed to make natural a long vacation both in schools and colleges. But it seems to be no longer the case that college students commonly spend the long vacation in a profitable manner, and it has been discovered that teachers have in their holidays great opportunity for study and culture. The conditions have led to a complex and rather heterogeneous provision for education and research during the summer months. We have the Chautauqua movement, based mainly on religious interests, in which many denominations under one name or another have taken part. The school on Martha's Vineyard represented an extension of the teachers' institute, leading the way to the university summer schools. There have been schools for agriculture, for modern languages, for philosophy and of other kinds. But the two movements now the most wide-reaching and likely to be the most permanent are the laboratories of biology and the summer sessions of the universities.

There are obvious reasons for pursuing the study of botany and zoology during the summer season and by the seaside or some inland water. Thus can the needed material be obtained at the right time, and the collecting and exploring unite in the best possible manner study with healthful recreation. The general spirit of the laboratories is excellent; research is carried forward side by side with instruction, so that the dividing line is almost obliterated; there is a friendly spirit of cooperation and rivalry; things are known at first hand rather than darkly through books and lectures; the standard of living is simple; the follies and worse not uncommon in the colleges are lacking to a noticeable degree.

The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole may be regarded as the lineal descendant of Agassiz's school at Penikese, of which it has well maintained the traditions. The equipment has always been modest, as is shown by the accompanying photograph of the buildings, and perhaps this has not been a serious disadvantage. It is, however, hoped that sooner or later a fireproof building, which may be kept open in winter as in summer, will be erected. There are each year at Woods Hole between fifty and one hundred investigators carrying on original research, and about an equal number of students, many of whom become investigators. The Carnegie Institution has wisely decided not to acquire the laboratory, but is supporting it by contributing $10,000 for twenty tables, and the laboratory is thus on a secure financial basis without loss of the independence and spirit of cooperation which have accomplished so much in the past. While the Woods Hole laboratory remains our chief center of biological research, rivaled only by Naples, other laboratories have been established along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, at the Bahamas and on inland waters. Expeditions and camps of a temporary character should be mentioned in connection with the summer schools of natural history; practically all the geologists of the country are now in the field, and in many cases the parties consist of expert investigators accompanied by those who assist and learn.

The summer schools of the universities have not yet found their permanent basis, but there is no question as to the direction of their development and of the importance of the movement. A summer school once established is seldom abandoned and nearly always shows an increase in size and an improvement in quality from year to year. There are this summer over a thousand students at Harvard and at Columbia, and nearly twice as many at Tennessee. The students are largely teachers, but there are others of mature age, who wish to improve themselves. Then there are some regular students of the institutions—on the one hand, those so much interested in their work that they do not wish to lose the summer and, on the other hand, a few who need to 'make up conditions.' The instructing staff is also heterogeneous, there being usually some eminent lecturers and a good many young assistants. Chicago set the example of continuing its terms through the year, though in attempting to adjust its summer quarter to the needs of teachers, it has abandoned its original plan. We expect to see the university year ultimately divided into four quarters, with perhaps two weeks' vacation between each. The work of the summer term will be as 'regular' as any other, but as there will be fewer students an opportunity will be afforded to provide a special summer school for teachers. There are over 300,000 teachers in the country. It would be well if all schools would pay them a certain salary and in addition provide for their attendance at a summer school.


We regret to record the death of Professor W. C. Knight, professor of geology and mining engineering in the University of Wyoming, and of Mr. William Earl Dodge, a merchant, known for his interest in educational and scientific institutions.

The University of London has conferred honorary degrees for the first time, the degrees of Doctor of Laws being given to the Prince of Wales, of Doctor of Music to the Princess of Wales and of Doctor of Science to Lord Kelvin and Lord Lister. It is said that the degree was offered to Mr. Herbert Spencer, but declined by him.—The Honorable Arthur Balfour, the British premier, has accepted the presidency of the British Association for the meeting to be held in Cambridge in 1904.—Sir W. Ramsay has been elected president of the Society of Chemical Industry. The society has decided to meet next year in New York City.

Dr. W J McGee has recently resigned his position in the Bureau of American Ethnology to take charge of the Department of Anthropology and Ethnology of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.—Mr. Bailey Willis has accepted the position of leader of the Carnegie Geological Expedition to China, which has as its object the investigation of the Cambrian of that country.

The Desert Laboratory, being erected by an appropriation from the Carnegie Institution at Tucson, Arizona, is expected to be ready for occupancy on September 1, when Dr. W. A. Cannon, now assistant in the laboratory of the New York Botanical Garden, will become resident investigator.

The sixth International Congress of Psychology, which was to have met in Rome in the autumn of 1904, will be postponed to the spring of 1905 to avoid conflict with the sixth International Congress of Physiology which meets at Brussels in the autumn of 1904.

Mr. Carnegie's gift of $1,000,000 to the four national engineering societies and the Engineers' Club for a building has been accepted at a meeting of the representatives of the five organizations, and plans have been made for a joint committee consisting of three members from each organization. This committee will prepare plans for a building to be erected on Thirty-ninth Street. Efforts are being made to secure funds for the purchase of the land, and a number of subscriptions have been received by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, including $5,000 from Dr. Elihu Thomson and the Westinghouse Electrical Company, $2,000 from Mr. Frank S. Sprague and $1,000 with a contingent $1,500 from Mr. J. G. White.

Chapters of the university scientific society of the Sigma Xi have recently been established at the Chicago and Michigan Universities. Chapters of this society are now maintained at the following universities: Cornell, V. A. Moore, president; Union, O. H. Landreth, president; Kansas, F. H. Snow, president; Rensselaer, W. P. Mason, president; Yale, J. P. Tracy, president; Brown, W. W. Bailey, president; Nebraska, L. Bruner, president; Minnesota, J. J. Flather, president; Iowa, T. H. McBride, president; Ohio, W, R. Lazenby, president; Pennsylvania, E. F. Smith, president; Stanford, V. L. Kellogg, president; California, C. L. Cory, president; Columbia, J. F. Kemp, president; Chicago, H. H. Donaldson, president; Michigan, J. P. McMurrich, president.