Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/December 1903/The Academy of Science of St Louis

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A Biography.



WHEN the Henry Shaw School of Botany was inaugurated as a department of Washington University in 1885 the venerable Dr. Eliot, then president of the board of directors and chancellor of the university, said that more than forty years earlier, five or six young men, of whom he was one, met together on Main Street, near Chestnut, in the office of Judge Mary P. Leduc, their object being to found an academy of science: "But," he said, "not one of our number knew enough of science to found a primary school, except Dr. George Engelmann, who was an enthusiastic student, especially in botanical research, and who inspired us all with something of his zeal. We organized a society and proceeded to purchase five or six acres of ground, far out of the city, I think near Eighth Street and Chouteau Avenue. There Dr. Engelmann began a botanical garden and arboretum on a small scale. It was kept up, after a fashion, for some years, but the society faded out and the land was sold, and apparently there was an end of the academy; but under the law of the survival of the fittest. Dr. Engelmann 'survived' and became an Academy of Science in himself."

Engelmann, however, was not the kind of man to work indefinitely without closer association with the few other St. Louis men interested in science than was afforded by chance, and on March 10, 1856, after several preliminary meetings, the existing Academy of Science of St. Louis was organized. It is recorded that the men in attendance at the meeting for organization were, in addition to Dr. Engelmann, who acted as chairman, Charles P. Chouteau, James B. Eads, Nathaniel Holmes, Moses L. Linton, William M. McPheeters, Moses M. Pallen, Simon Pollak, Charles A. Pope, Hiram A. Prout, Benjamin F. Shumard, Charles W. Stevens, William H. Tingley, John H. Watters and Adolphus Wislizenus.

A previously appointed committee, consisting of Tingley, Prout, Shumard and Holmes, reported a constitution and by-laws, which were adopted. The original constitution, which was amended somewhat in the course of the first year, consists of six articles, referring respectively to style, objects, members, officers, meetings and amendments. The second article is so important that it is here quoted in full:

Section 1. It shall have for its object the promotion of science: it shall embrace zoology, botany, geology, mineralogy, paleontology, ethnology (especially that of the aboriginal tribes of North America), chemistry, physics, mathematics, meteorology and comparative anatomy and physiology.

Section 2. It shall furthermore be the object of this academy to collect and treasure specimens illustrative of the various departments of science above enumerated; to procure a library of works relating to the same, with the instruments necessary to facilitate their study, and to procure original papers on them.

Section 3. It shall also be the object of this academy to establish correspondence with scientific men, both in America and other parts of the world.

Membership was divided into associate and corresponding classes, the former, constituting the main body of the academy and exclusively entrusted with the conduct of its affairs, to include 'men desirous of cultivating one or more branches of science above enumerated,' while corresponding membership, as is usual in such cases, was intended for eminent men of science and other persons not residing in or near the city, but disposed to further the objects of the academy by original researches, contributions of specimens or otherwise. The customary provisions were made for election, lapsing of membership and expulsion for cause, no person expelled being under any circumstances admissible to reelection. The provisions referring to officers, meetings and constitutional amendments are such as are usually adopted.

The original by-laws likewise contained six articles, referring respectively to committees, library, museum, communications, meetings, and authority. Apparently provision for amendments was not thought of, or was considered unnecessary.

The scope of live interest of the original members may be inferred from the section providing for standing committees, which were to represent ethnology, comparative anatomy, mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology and ichthyology, malacology and chemical geology, entomology, botany, paleontology and geology, mineralogy, chemistry, physics, embryology and monstrosities—in addition to library and publication committees. These standing appointive committees, in conjunction with a board of curators provided for in the constitution as elective officers, were charged with the care of their respective departments and expected to make exchanges of duplicates, to arrange, label, catalogue and keep in order all donations and deposits, and to report in writing at a specified meeting each year. The somewhat quaint by-laws referring to the library and museum contain such provisions as were thought desirable to ensure the greatest good to the greatest number in their use. The article on communications provides for the reference of those designed for publication to special committees, for the preservation in the archives of all, whether published or not, and for discussion of original papers on the subjects before enumerated. Fortnightly meetings were arranged for, with an adequate order of business, and current rules of order under the heading 'authority.'

Steps appear to have been taken promptly for securing a charter or act of incorporation from the legislature, and such an act was passed the next winter, approved on the 17th of January, 1857, and presented and adopted at the academy meeting of February 9 following.

The charter provides that under the name of The Academy of Science of St. Louis the incorporators and their associates and successors shall have perpetual succession, may sue and be sued, implead and be impleaded in the courts, may acquire and dispose of real, personal or mixed property for the advancement of science and the establishment in St. Louis of a museum and library for the study of its various branches; that they may have a common seal and break or alter the same at pleasure, and may make and alter such constitution, regulations and by-laws, not contrary to the laws of the land, as may be requisite for their government. Exemption from taxation is provided for all property owned or held by the academy so long as it is held and used in good faith for the designated objects, except that leasehold interests which may be granted to other persons are made taxable. It is distinctly stated that members acquire no individual ownership in the property and effects of the academy, their interest in the same being declared to be usufructuary merely, and not to be transferred, assigned, hypothecated or otherwise disposed of except by corporate act of the academy: and whenever the corporation shall have failed to answer the purposes for which it was created, or shall suffer its charter to be forfeited by the law of the land, its cabinet, collections and library are to revert to and become vested in the City of St. Louis, to be deposited with some public institution in the city, for general use and inspection, under such regulations as the city may prescribe.

One or two of the gentlemen present at the first meeting appear to have taken little active part in the affairs of the academy, but most of them were evidently much in earnest, and these, as well as some of those whom they proceeded to elect to associate membership, attended the fortnightly meetings with regularity. Arranged in the order of the frequency with which their names are recorded in the roster of members at the meetings of 1856, these more active charter members stand thus: Pope, Holmes, Fallen, Pollak, Stevens, McPheeters, Prout, Shumard, Engelmann, Wislizenus, Eads, Tingley and Chouteau. It is not difficult to analyze the constitutional provisions and the early activity of the academy in connection with the interests and attainments of these original members.

Charles A. Pope was one of the most brilliant surgeons of the West, and dean of the St. Louis Medical College. He is said to have possessed personally a very valuable museum collection, representative of morphology' and comparative anatomy. The records for 1856 show that at the meetings of that year he presented to the academy or deposited with it 'A specimen of eyeless fish (Amblyopsis astacus) from Mammoth Cave, Ky., petroleum from Arkansas, and an insect, also specimens of rock salt and other minerals from Hallam near Salzburg'; 'Specimens of Productus from the Carboniferous limestone of St, Louis Co.'; 'A weasel'; 'Specimen of a grizzly bear '; 'An interesting suite of Cretaceous and Tertiary fossils, specimens in zoology, and Indian curiosities'; 'Two specimens of horned frogs from South-West Missouri'; 'Indian curiosities . . . also a fine specimen of fossil turtle (Testudo Oweni) from Nebraska'; 'Specimen of Heliophyllum Halli, a Chaetetes, and a Spirifer'; 'A specimen of tarantula, found. . . seventy miles below St. Louis' and 'A tarantula and a centipede from Texas, also shells from North Alabama,' He was better able than any other member to afford material assistance to the academy in its early days, through his connection with the medical school, and promptly offered to the new body a meeting room in the building of the O'Fallon Dispensary, connected with the Medical School, and the use of the collections in his hands. He was made chairman of the committee on comparative anatomy.

Nathaniel Holmes[1] was a lawyer of wide interests and versatile talents who later removed to Cambridge as Royal Professor of Law in Harvard University, He was promptly elected corresponding secretary, and held that office for many years, making a practice of intelligently reading the more important of the academy's exchanges—for the reception of his analyses of which a special order of business was established. It was mainly through his efforts that the academy was placed on the mailing lists of foreign bodies at a time when it had nothing to offer in exchange, and in this way he contributed more, perhaps, than any other member to perpetuating it when its life flagged.

Moses M. Pallen[2] was one of the active physicians of the city, and a professor in the St. Louis Medical College. He was made chairman of the committee on herpetology and ichthyology.

Simon Pollak, who died in St. Louis a few weeks ago, at a very advanced age, was an active physician.

Charles W. Stevens was a physician, an excellent anatomist and a professor in the St. Louis Medical College. He was made chairman of the committee on mammalogy, and, before the end of the year, recording secretary.

William M. McPheeters, still living in St. Louis, and the sole survivor of the founders of the academy, was a physician of broad interests and a professor in the St. Louis Medical College. He was made chairman of the committee on entomology.

Hiram A. Prout[3] was a physician. He was made chairman of the curiously devised committee on chemical geology and malacology. He appears to have taken an active part in most of the meetings that he attended.

Benjamin F. Shumard[4] was a physician and also a professional geologist well known as an authority on paleontology. He was at this time occupied with the geological survey of the State, and soon after the organization of the academy was made state geologist of Texas. He was naturally chosen as chairman of the committee on paleontology and geology.

George Engelmann[5] was likewise a practising physician, who found much time for scientific research. He was a recognized authority on botany, and, among other interests, cultivated meteorology, and he was justly regarded as the leading scientist of the west. He was the first president of the academy, was frequently reelected to that office, and stimulated many of its activities.

Adolphus Wislizenus[6] was a physician, intensely interested in meteorology, electrical phenomena, etc. He was made chairman of the committee on ethnology.

James B. Eads[7] was a civil engineer, broadly trained and interested in the scientific aspects of his profession. His name will long be remembered in connection with the first St. Louis bridge and the jetties at the mouth of the Mississippi River—his creations. He was made chairman of the committee on physics.

William H. Tingley was a physician, and actively served the academy as secretary until his removal from the city, which occurred before the end of the first year.

Charles P. Chouteau[8] was the St. Louis representative of Mr. Astor's great fur house, an extensive traveler in the Northwest, and in close touch with the work being done by Hayden in the then new and still wonderful 'Bad-Lands.' At the meeting of April 21, 1856, he offered to deposit with the academy (and to present his personal interest of about one fourth in them) the collections already made by Hayden, as soon as a place was fitted to receive them. This gift was but one of many, and he soon put the academy in the way of utilizing the great resources at his command in the many trading posts of the upper Missouri and its tributaries.

It is not by chance or without significance that 'M.D.' is affixed to the names of all the founders of the academy except Chouteau, Eads and Holmes, or that before the end of the year 1856, when the original associate membership of 15 had been increased to 104, no less than 35 of the first additions to the roll were also physicians, for it was in the courses preparatory to and immediately concerned with medicine that the chief opportunity for scientific study lay half a century ago.

At the first meeting of the academy Dr. Engelmann called attention clearly to the fact that its firm establishment demanded the provision of an endowment fund; and it was also noted that the valuable collections of fossil remains and other natural objects then in the city ought to be secured for permanent preservation. Little success appears to have rewarded the efforts to raise money; but by making almost every one of the original members the head of a committee charged with some branch of museum activity, the acquisition of specimens was greatly stimulated. The record of Dr. Pope's gifts during the first year might be paralleled, if not equaled, by entries concerning the gifts of other members.

After one or two abortive efforts to affiliate with the new academy a private museum which then existed in St. Louis, Dr. Pope's offer of a home with the medical school was accepted, and the property of the earlier Western Academy of Science, referred to above, was given to swell the rapidly growing collections. The museum was evidently the first love and mainspring of the new academy. Though money was not available for extensive purchases, and the records show that even a taxidermist was kept for a time to care for the material which was presented only through the advance of his salary by members month by month, one of the first principles in museum administration was practically recognized before the end of April in the authorization of a collecting trip in search of some important fossils that were then being talked of; and Mr. Chouteau several times allowed a representative of the academy to accompany his parties into the northwest.

In gathering the nucleus of a library, which went hand in hand with the formation of a museum, letters were sent to learned bodies which published scientific matter. In the course of this correspondence it was learned that the valuable Smithsonian 'Contributions to Knowledge' could be sent only to societies able to offer an equivalent in published matter, which clearly brought before the new academy the exchange value of such publications; and even before this point was so emphasized, a committee had been appointed to consider the question of undertaking some publication on the part of the new academy. At the meeting of August 25, 1856, preliminary steps were taken toward launching this venture, though the members present seem to have been in doubt not only regarding its financial possibility, but as to the productive activity of the small working membership. At the next meeting, however, the practicability of undertaking the publication of papers was shown, and doubt as to the immediate power of the academy to furnish creditable matter for publication was removed by Dr. Shumard's offer of a paper by himself and Dr. John Evans, on new species of fossil shells from the Cretaceous formation of Nebraska. Other papers were soon handed in, and the initial number of the new 'Transactions' was issued early in 1857. It contained, in addition to the charter, constitution and by-laws, journal of proceedings, etc., this paper by Evans and Shumard, a description of a new Productus by Prout, an account of glycerine by Schiel, a paper on phyllotaxis by Hilgard, an account of certain Mastodon remains by Koch, a study of the inscriptions on a brick from Nineveh by Seyffarth, an account of Indian stone graves in Illinois by Wislizenus, descriptions of new crinoids by Shumard, an account of the geological formations underlying St. Louis, as shown by the Belcher artesian well borings, by Litton[9] and the first of a long and important series of local meteorological records by Engelmann and Wislizenus.

There does not appear to have been much change in the academy during the first few years of its life. Before the end of the first year, Engelmann, to whom the elaboration of the Cactaceae collected on the United States and Mexican boundary survey had been entrusted, so arranged his medical practise as to permit his absence for about two years, spent with Gray and in Europe—and a new president was of necessity elected; but the office was well filled by Shumard, who during this period was the leading investigator among the members. Meetings were held regularly. The museum continued to grow, and accessions to it to be reported. Occasional and for the most part good papers were contributed to the transactions, thus furnishing means for the increase of the library through exchanges, and Holmes presented abstracts of the most important or interesting of the accessions. But the raising of money for other than current purposes seems to have been given up, and with the hard and trying times of the civil war the border city of St. Louis could have been expected to concern itself but little with science. And yet in the gloomy year of 1863 twenty-two meetings were held, with an average attendance—ignoring two meetings for which the number is not recorded—of eight members. At these meetings letters were read from corresponding members, of whom a goodly number of the distinguished men of the day had by this time been elected, and from institutions with which relations had been established; and exchange publications were laid on the table and discussed. For some meetings nothing more is recorded, but a knowledge of the men who were constant in their attendance makes it certain that much unrecorded comment on the scientific work and spirit of the times should be read between the lines of the journal. On other occasions scientific communications or informal accounts of work in hand were presented. In his report on that year's activity of the academy, Engelmann justly takes pride in the collections and library already acquired, the inauguration of the second volume of transactions, and the fact that two hundred exchanging institutions of science, in all civilized countries, were bidding God-speed to the struggling St. Louis body. Only sixty active members, however, were reported at this time, and the publication of transactions had placed a per capita debt of about ten dollars on each of these. The testimony of surviving members of this period is not needed to show that the life of the academy then hung in the balance; but the men who were interested in its existence were not the sort of men who let their efforts come to naught, and it would have been more surprising if it had died than that it lived. The war came to an end, the country, freed from the great strain it had been subjected to, prospered, new members came to replace those who had died or removed, and the academy continued to exist.

In retrospect, we are often tempted to wonder what would have come about if some particular thing had or had not happened; and the temptation is present here. The thing that did happen at this point in the history of the academy was a disastrous fire which destroyed that part of the medical building in which the academy met, early in 1869, and wiped out the collections of Dr. Pope, and with them nearly all of the academy's museum. The library, then numbering not far from 3,000 volumes, fortunately was saved, through the activity of a few members, and most of the reserve copies of the academy's transactions, which had been covered by a falling floor, were included in this salvage.

Even before the fire, the academy had outgrown the accommodations that had been given it by Dr. Pope, as is shown by the appointment, some time before, of a committee to try to secure new and more ample quarters. Without the check of this fire, cramped surroundings might perhaps have caused stagnation in the material growth of the academy: but the loss of the museum effected lasting and at the time all but complete paralysis of this side of its activity. Still, out of the fire came sympathy, encouragement and some help. New quarters were offered in the public school board's building, and the public school library shelved its books; but the academy was a tenant-at-will, restricted in its powers, without funds for amplifying its collections or properly caring for them, and the need of putting it on a safer basis was so unmistakable that in 1872 a serious effort was again made to secure endowment funds. As a result of this effort, which was shared by the Missouri Historical Society, the academy was made the recipient, through the generosity of Mr. James H. Lucas, of a building site on which a home for the two societies was to be erected. Only $50,000 was considered necessary for the construction and maintenance of an adequate building; but even this sum was not forthcoming, so that ultimately the academy sold its share in the building site and put the money out at interest, and still has it, with some additions, safely invested.

For another dozen years the academy continued to meet in the quarters to which it moved after the fire. Another effort to secure a home was made and failed. Then for a like period it enjoyed the hospitality of Washington University. When the rooms that it occupied there were needed for university purposes, more than a decade since, it became a tenant of the Missouri Historical Society, which, unlike the academy, had at last secured a home of its own. There was thus secured a meeting room and limited shelving for the library, but such museum material as the academy possessed has been stored, for the most part, in basements and out-of-the-way places, where it has been of little use to members or to the public.

The interest felt by the early members in scientific effort at the great centers of such activity, as has been said, led to early association with prominent workers abroad, from whom publications and communications were received. The prompt establishment of such relations, fortified by the commencement of the academy's own activity as a publishing body, quickly resulted in the formation of a valuable scientific library, especially rich, naturally, in the publications of organizations having objects similar to its own. Most of these exchanges have been received without interruption, and prove invaluable to investigators who desire to go into the earlier literature of their subjects. At the end of 1903, 569 exchanging institutions were reported by the librarian, and the library contained 14,491 books and 11,017 pamphlets. Unfortunately, lack of room has caused these to be rather difficult of access for some years past, and the index, started many years ago by Dr. Baumgarten, has fallen into arrears. The latter fault, however, is in process of correction, and it is believed that the library will be more usable and more used in the future than has been the case heretofore.

In the homeless state in which the academy has passed the last third of a century, little inducement has been found for the accumulation of museum material that could not be displayed and could scarcely be housed. Some things, however, there are, which will form a nucleus for the museum of the future, for while the activity of the academy has been concentrated of late on holding meetings and publishing its transactions, the original inclusion of a museum among its prominent objects has been neither forgotten nor discarded. Among the present collections are a dozen or so of good fossiliferous slabs from various formations, some of them of unique value; a few remnants of the Hayden collection saved from the fire, containing among other things the type of Tetanotherium Prouti; a good specimen of Bos cavifrons; some ten thousand paleontological specimens brought together by Yandell, containing his own types and those of many of the species described by Shumard, whose own poorly preserved collection, of about the same size, is owned by Washington University; several hundred specimens of pottery from the mounds of southern Missouri, on which is based a quarto publication by Evers, issued by the academy some years since; two or three dozen human crania from the same district, the measurements of which have proved so divergent from those of skulls of comparable periods that those to whom their study was entrusted have never ventured on a description of them; several dozen meteorite specimens, of which the most important is one originally weighing about 35 pounds, which is described and figured in the first volume of the academy's transactions; and a collection of over 600 butterflies, beautifully mounted on Denton tablets, was presented to the academy a few years ago by subscription, through the efforts of Mrs. W. L. Bouton.

It may seem to have been by chance, but I think it appears from what has already been said that it was not, that the early existence of the academy was closely associated with the St. Louis Medical College, and that leading members of the faculty of that institution have always been among its active members. Too much credit can not be given to these men when the history of St. Louis comes to be written. Busy physicians, they gave their services free of cost to the school they established, letting its earnings go to form a permanent medical fund, the ultimate wise use of which they did not question, though they provided against its alienation. Step by step they raised the grade of their school until it compared favorably with the best of the Eastern medical schools, though in doing so they sacrificed financial success; and at length, that it might enjoy the broadest affiliation, they merged it with Washington University, in which St. Louis always has had confidence and in the development of which it feels justifiable pride to-day. And yet, though professional men, they did not go into the academy for 'shop talk.' The meetings have never been closed to discussions of interest to the medical profession, but of their own volition these men presented only subjects of scientific interest. Even while they were the principal active members, geology, meteorology, botany and ethnology were the chief subjects of discussion, and the papers presented for publication show a keen discrimination between the art of medicine and the sciences, on some of which it rests.

Up to the time of its removal from Washington University, the academy met in a rather informal manner. My own connection with it dates from the autumn of 1885, when I came to the city to live. The notices that I received were more commonly to the effect that the next meeting would be held at a certain time and place than with any indication of what would be done at the meeting. On a long table were to be found the recent additions to the library. At the head of the table sat the president and recording secretary. Around it were half a dozen or a dozen members who looked over the papers between attending to the items provided for on the order of business. When 'written communications' were called for, a paper for publication might be handed in, sometimes accompanied by an oral abstract, sometimes not. The order 'oral communications' was pretty sure to lead some member to produce a specimen, piece of apparatus, or recent publication, on which he spoke, usually in a way to interest everybody present. Not infrequently nearly the entire body, like a German scientific gathering, gravitated after adjournment to a summer garden or winter 'Lokal,' where the discussion was apt to be continued over a glass of beer until the younger men felt that it was time for them to set their faces homeward.

Ladies were occasionally interested in the rumor or announcement that some particular paper was to be presented, but they appeared awed by the informality of the seating about the board, and could rarely be made to feel welcome after a tortuous wandering through the long halls and museum at the top of the University had led them to it. In the meantime the membership had greatly changed. Shumard, Prout, Pope, Swallow, Eads, Holmes, Wislizenus and Engelmann had dropped from the active workers. Even the places of their successors had been taken by a younger generation, and the number of nonprofessional members had been very greatly increased.

These are some of the causes which led to a serious consideration, in 1893, of means for further widening the academy's influence and usefulness, a first step toward which was the appointment of a committee to report on the desirability of a revision of the constitution. On the report of this committee, the constitution was considerably changed, not in essentials, but radically by the adoption of a letter ballot for elections, amendments and the like, in place of the vote formerly taken at a regular meeting after due notice of the business to be done; and by provision for the election of a non-office-holding committee each winter to nominate officers for the ensuing year, with the privilege of additional nominations from the floor when the committee reported.

Direct effects of these provisions were to check a perfunctory renomination of officers to which informal nomination on the spur of the moment may lead along the line of least resistance and to place the franchise in the hands of the entire membership instead of leaving it through non-attendance to the few members who might be at the meeting when a vote was taken. Current matters of administrative business were also taken out of the hands of the membership and directly vested in a council, consisting of the principal officers. No doubt the general result of the innovations was good.

Some notable changes in the life of the academy showed themselves very soon after the revision of the constitution and the removal of the meeting-place from Washington University to the building of the Missouri Historical Society. For instance, the provision of a nominating committee having time for reflection and compelled to hold a meeting for the preparation of a list of nominees has led to a more frequent nomination of men of affairs for the offices of president and vice-presidents, as a means of identifying the non-professional majority of the members with the life of the academy, in place of the customary election to those offices of the most distinguished scientific men on the roll, or of those whose attendance was most constant; and the removal of business details from the meetings has cut out many spicy discussions on the financial standing and intentions of members in arrears and other non-technical matters, leaving the sessions free for the strictly scientific purposes of the academy.

Perhaps the most noticeable change of this period has been in the character of the program. In its new quarters, the academy met in a formal lecture room, with a platform for the presiding officers and regularly placed seats for the audience, the exchanges being displayed in a separate room, for inspection before the meeting. Attendance was made easier and the presence of ladies was more frequently noted; but almost in the turn of a hand, the charming impromptu character of the meetings gave place to formality. Current publications were not brought in by those who, if they had had them in hand, would have commented on them. Specimens not announced were not brought to be shown if opportunity offered. Apparatus, chiefly from the laboratories of the university staff, which had been easily exhibited when the meetings were held under the university roof, was rarely taken down, transported and rearranged where facilities were few, with the certainty that the reverse process must be gone through in the busy hours of the following day. So it quickly came about that if nothing was announced for a given meeting little or nothing was offered, and the council was thus compelled to provide a stated program for each meeting, which contributed to cut out the last remnant of spontaneity in offering the many small things which go to make up the daily life of the teacher, investigator or reader, and which, fresh from his own life, are of greatest interest to his associates. To counteract this regrettable loss, the council, for the greater part of the past decade, has striven to make the program of evident interest to the non-professional members by providing, at least for alternate meetings, lectures divested of technicalities on matters of current scientific progress. Do what they may, however, though they have succeeded in winning the approbation of the non-scientific contingent, they have not much more than doubled the average attendance, while the membership has correspondingly grown; and they have not secured the attendance of any considerable number of members or other persons not themselves closely identified with pure or applied science.

It has been evident for several years past that the accommodations at the historical society's building were inadequate to the needs of the academy, and access to the building had become less convenient because of great changes in the location of the residence section of the city. This led to another effort being made, a year or two ago, to secure the much needed building; and again little reason was found for hope. But during the present year, as a gift from Mrs. William McMillan and her son Mr. William Northrop McMillan, the academy has been put in possession of a building, conveniently located with reference to intersecting car lines traversing the now widely separated residence districts. It was originally built for a private school, and has therefore been found directly adapted to many uses of the academy; such changes as were needed and practicable have been made, and the building has been renovated and equipped with modern heating and lighting appliances.

With the opening of the fall, therefore, the academy, for the first time in its existence, meets in its own home, and this, fortunately, not only without any encumbrance of debt, but with a small invested fund which its friends now hope to see rapidly swelled to an adequate endowment. It may safely be said, therefore, that the hitherto always present question whether or not the academy might some day find itself without a meeting-place or the means of securing one is finally answered m a very satisfactory manner; and official and personal expressions without number testify to the warm gratitude with which those who have so long struggled with little more than hope to support them have witnessed the laying of this solid foundation of security for the future. That their struggles are at an end, however, they can not flatter themselves. Ample as the new building is for the present life of the academy, it is but temporarily suited to the housing of valuable collections, since it is not fire-proof; and one of the first things for future activity to accomplish is the provision of a suitable fire-proofed library and museum at the rear of the present building—for which ample space exists. Very unfortunately, too, while the academy is nominally able for the first time in many years to arrange its library and more important collections for convenient public use, it is actually confronted by the necessity, which has heretofore been felt by its late host, the historical society, of utilizing no inconsiderable part of its new home for purposes of revenue, by housing other homeless bodies, so that, as heretofore, its publication resources may be maintained. It is probable that many a vision of a reading room in constant use by investigators and science teachers, and of synoptical rooms thronged with nature and science classes from all grades of the schools of the city, will still be dreamed for some years by the council before giving place to the realities. That the academy will ultimately be enabled to perform this part of its functions, however, should now be certain; and the arousing of public interest in such matters which the world's fair and its congresses and the national scientific meetings of this winter are sure to lead to, makes it reasonable to hope that the time when this may be accomplished lies not very far in the future.

In its inner life, as well as in its outer semblance, the academy is not unlikely soon to experience marked changes. Its activity as a center of publication will doubtless remain unchanged. With the growth of the city, of the medical schools and of Washington University, with which many of its most active members have always been connected, scientific results of merit are certain to be offered for publication in increasing number; and there is little reason to question that in the future, as in the past, no paper of real value will lie long in manuscript awaiting the funds essential to its publication. As is necessarily true of most learned bodies, the world over, the academy's transactions are of an undesirable heterogeneity in their subject-matter, but their publication in brochures, each devoted to a single paper, ensures the availability of each paper when the entire volume is not desired; and if a national agreement were ever to be reached by which the functions of publication were delegated by the principal scientific bodies to a central bureau, in such manner as to secure a subject division of volumes, it is not probable that the Academy of Science of St. Louis would be found to oppose such a step, though its isolation may prevent it from taking the initiative.

Perhaps the most probable immediate change in the inner working of the academy lies in the direction of its meetings. It is hardly to be expected or even hoped that these as a whole will ever revert to the character of those held when Holmes presented critical and spicy analyses of the contents of such publications as came to hand, or Engelmann or Riley chatted from the master's seat on investigations being carried on. Publications to-day are too complex for most amateurs of science to care to follow them in detail, and the minutiae of current research promise but small audiences for their advance presentation.

In these changed conditions lies the mainspring of probable changes in the organization and meetings of the academy. No doubt, as heretofore, the results of research offered for publication will be presented at the general meetings, the manuscript, with data for discussion by experts, if these are present, lying on the table, and the processes and conclusions being briefly and clearly presented in abstract from the floor. No doubt, too, at such intervals as may prove best, specialists will continue to present in untechnical language, comprehensible to laymen and teachers, analyses of progress achieved in the scientific world. But it is more than probable that these general meetings will be supplemented by others held by small sections of restricted aims, within each of which will be found the enthusiasm for current literature and the warm interest in special detail that characterized the earlier meetings of the academy as a whole.

Under the constitution, such sectional organization is provided for. If I do not mistake the drift of the times, the growing number of engineers and chemists, whose professions rest upon and demand a continued touch with the current progress of science; of physicians and pharmacists, whose professional life is full of opportunities for the observation and record of scientific detail and generalization and of teachers with university training, but so fully occupied with the daily routine that they can not for the moment do research work although they can not afford, if they would, to lose touch with what others are doing in biology, chemistry and physics—are going to find in the organization of sections in the academy the most logical and economical way of meeting their own needs, while through community of interest they will reach a unity of purpose which will inevitably react on the entire community, to the common good.

  1. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 11: xxvii.
  2. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 3: ccxxii.
  3. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 2: 178.
  4. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 3: xvii.
  5. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 4: xc, and Supplement.
  6. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 5: xxxvii, 464.
  7. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 5: xiii.
  8. Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 11: xxi.
  9. Dr. Abram Litton (Trans. Acad. Sci. of St. Louis. 12: xxiv) was elected at one of the first meetings after the organization of the academy and was the first thoroughly trained chemist west of the Mississippi. He was made chairman of the committee on chemistry.