Popular Science Monthly/Volume 65/August 1904/The Progress of Science

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Joseph Le Conte



Joseph Le Conte died in the Yosemite Valley in 1901, and a memorial lodge has now been erected there in his honor by the Sierra Club. As the illustrations show the lodge is built in a manner appropriate to its beautiful surroundings. The stonework is of granite obtained in the vicinity with the weathered surface exposed, and the interior roof beams are uncovered. The main reading room is 36 x 25 feet in size. The lodge is overshadowed by the great cliffs of Glacier Point; there is a fine grove of trees in the rear, and the entrance commands a magnificent view. The structure was designed by Mr. John White and erected at a cost of about $5,000, subscribed by Le Conte s students, colleagues and friends, and members of the Sierra Club.

The Le Conte Memorial Lodge. Photographed by Hallett-Taylor Co.

It is most appropriate that there should be erected to Le Conte a memorial of this character, in this region that he loved so well and where he died, not a mere monument, but a building useful in promoting the out-of-door interests and scientific pursuits, which in his life time he greatly forwarded.

There has recently been published by the Appletons an autobiography of Le Conte which, though written only as a manuscript for his family, presents a pleasing account of an interesting and lovable man, who held an important place in the scientific life of the country for more than fifty years. Joseph Le Conte was born on a Georgia plantation in 1823. His father was a scientific
Interior of the Le Conte Memorial Lodge. Photographed by Hallett-Taylor Co.

man though he did not publish his work. His uncle, John Le Conte, was a naturalist, whose son, John Lawrence, was an eminent entomologist. His brother was a prominent physicist. A nephew is one of our leading physicists, and his son is a scientific man. Joseph, John and John Lawrence Le Conte were all members of the National Academy of Sciences, whose membership has included approximately only the two hundred leading American men of science of the past half century. We have here a very clear case of scientific heredity or family tradition.

Le Conte belonged to the type of scientific man that can scarcely survive under the conditions of modern specialization. He taught practically all the sciences, including mathematics, with French added. He made contributions to geology, zoology and psychology, and wrote much on the theory of evolution and the relations of science to religion. We can not here undertake to give an account of his life, not in itself eventful but covering a wide field and a long time, touching the south, the north and the west. We must refer readers to the autobiography for an account of the life and life-work of a single-minded and truly great man.


Flower was one of the notable group of naturalists who gave distinction to Great Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. He can not be ranked with Darwin, scarcely with Huxley, but his contributions to comparative anatomy and to museum administration were of the highest importance. Five years after his death a memoir has been prepared by Mr. C. J. Cornish with the cooperation of his son and of Lady Flower. The title page states that the work is 'a personal memoir.' In view of this explicit statement it would perhaps be unfair to criticize the book for paying more attention to Flower's high character, his beautiful family life, his christian faith and his relations with the nobility than to his contributions to science and to the scientific development of Great Britain during the Victorian era. A life of Flower or of one of t lie other scientific leaders of I he period written On the lines of Mr. Morley's great 'Life of Gladstone' would certainly be more valuable to the world than a personal memoir. While we have no right to demand such a biography from Mr. Cornish, we may regret that the memoir is from the scientific side superficial and even inaccurate. For example it is recorded in the title page that Flower was 'Late Director of the Natural History Museum, and President of the Royal Zoological Society.' Flower was in fact director of the Natural History Department of the British Museum and president of the Zoological Society of London.

Flower was born in 1831, his father being a brewer of Stratford-on-Avon, who spent his youth in America. As has been the case with many scientific men, Flower's early education was irregular; he was as a boy devoted to natural history, learning to stuff birds at the age of ten and establishing a 'museum.' He secured a medical education at University College, London, and served as a surgeon in the Crimean war. He married in 1858 the daughter of Admiral W. H. Smyth, an astronomer, one of whose sons became eminent as an astronomer and one as a geologist, while a daughter married the Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford. Flower's family life with his seven children was particularly happy. At the age of thirty he gave up the practise of surgery to become conservator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Here he remained for twenty-two years until in 1884 he succeeded Owen as director of the Natural History Branch of the British Museum whose new building in South Kensington had been opened two years before. This position Flower held until his health failed in 1898.

During these years Flower published volumes on the osteology of the mammalia and on other subjects and a great number of special papers on comparative anatomy and zoology, on anthropology and on museum administration. Only three years after the publication of the 'Origin of Species' he arranged the collections of the Hunterian Museum to illustrate and as it were make tangible the doctrines of evolution. One of the steps in this direction consisted in obliterating the demarkation between recent and extinct forms. In many ways Flower made improvements in museum methods which have been followed everywhere. He had wide interests and filled many positions of trust and honor. Thus he was president of the Zoological Society of London from 1879 until his death in 1899.

The Whin Sill, Teesdale.


Mr. Osmund W. Jeffs, in 1889, advocated the formation of a collection of geological photographs, and the committee of the British Association with this object in view was formed the following year. Mr. Jeffs acted as secretary of the committee until 1896, when he was succeeded by Professor W. W. Watts, and work has been carried forward actively, the number of photographs numbering 3,754 in 190:3. in 1899 plans were made for the publication of a series of platinotype prints and lantern slides to be distributed to subscribers, and three issues containing seventy-two photographs have been issued. These photographs are accompanied by descriptions by well known geologists and are of much scientific and educational value. We reproduce here two of the photographs.

Mr. E. J. Garwood thus describes the Whin Sill, Hugh Force, Teesdale: This is a classical waterfall, described by Sedgwick in 1823, Wm. Button in 1831 and Phillips in 1836. The fall is 70 feet high, over the Whin Sill, which is here intrusive in the Lower Yoredale Beds. The photograph shows the chief fall near the right bank of the Tees. It is working along a joint in the hard Whin which forms the protective cap to the fall; when in flood surplus water also pours through a second joint near the left bank. The undercutting of the limestone is shown by the caves and the hanging icicles; the gorge below bears testimony to the recession of the falls. The section is as follows: Whin sill, 30 feet; shale, thinning out, 2 feet; whin, 9 feet; shale, altered, with superinduced prismatic jointing, 15 feet; hard limestone, with pyrites, 8 feet; hard, fossiliferous, crinoidal limestone, 20 feet; coralline limestone, 6 feet. The limestone is altered and saccharoidal to a distance of 35 feet below the base of the whin; the latter is of the normal type described by Teall.

Natural Arch at Torquay.

Mr. W. A. E. Ussher gives an account of the natural arch at Torquay: The natural arch depicted in the photograph forms a conspicuous object on the south coast of the Torquay Promontory between the Bath Saloons and Daddy Hole. It has been tunneled by the sea through a small headland near the axis of an inverted synclinal curve in Middle Devonian Limestones. The prolongation of this axis eastward is well shown on the coast a quarter of a mile away. In the middle and lower part of the limestone masses of Torquay, a partial cleavage is often displayed by the beds, consequent on the pressure which has produced the folding in them; this structure, as shown in the photograph, becomes in certain cases most pronounced at and near the axis of the folds, causing a shattering of the rock at the point where the direction of strain cleavage approximates to, or coincides with, the inverted bedding I planes. The dark marking extending horizontally on either side of the arch in the photograph denotes high water mark. The railings give a scale.


We record with regret the death of Dr. John Bell Hatcher, curator of vertebrate zoology at the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburg; of Dr. N. S. Davis, of Chicago, a voluminous writer on medical subjects and chairman in 1845 of a committee whose report led to the establishment of the American Medical Association; of M. Anatole de Barthélemy, the eminent French archeologist; of M. Léauté Sarrau, professor of mechanics in the Polytechnic School of the University of Paris, and of Dr. Fedor Bredichin, professor of astronomy at St. Petersburg.

Dr. W. H. Maxwell, superintendent of schools in New York City, has been elected president of the National Educational Association.—Dr. Louis S. McMurtry, of Louisville, Ky., has been elected president of the American Medical Association for the meeting to be held next year at Portland, Ore.—Professor George Darwin, of Cambridge, will succeed Mr. Balfour, the British premier, as president of the British Association, and will preside over the meeting to be held in South Africa next year.

Professor Simon Newcomb, U.S.N. (retired), has been elected corresponding member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.—The honor of knighthood has been conferred on Professor James Dewar, the chemist, by King Edward.—The new chemical laboratory of the University of Utrecht, named in honor of Professor J. H. van't Hoff, has been formally opened. On the occasion Professor van't Hoff was given the honorary doctorate by the university.

President E. A. Alderman, of Tulane Univeristy, has been elected president of the University of Virginia. The University of Virginia, in accordance with the democratic ideas of Jefferson, has hitherto been governed by a board of visitors and the faculty without a president.—Dr. Charles Schuchert, of the U. S. National Museum, has been appointed professor of historical geology in the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University and curator of the geological collections in succession to the late Professor Beecher.—Dr. Roux has been elected director of the Pasteur Institute in the room of the late M. Duclaux. Drs. Chamberland and Metchnikoff have been elected sub-directors of the institute.

At the alumni dinner of the State University of Iowa, the former students of Professor Samuel Calvin, to the number of over two thousand, united in the commemoration of the completion of his thirtieth year in a professorship at that institution. The recognition took the form of a costly silver loving-cup, designed especially for the purpose of symbolizing the scientific achievements of the recipient. The cup is a classic Greek vase, sixteen inches in height, and stands on a base of serpentine five inches high. It is adorned with casts taken directly from fossils, with a drainage-map of Iowa, with crossed geological hammers, a microscope, and the more conventional spray of laurel, owl of wisdom and torch of learning,—all in relief. One side bears an appropriate inscription in raised letters. Professor Calvin was elected to the chair of natural history in Iowa's university thirty years ago. The chair has since been subdivided into four distinct departments. Professor Calvin retaining the department of geology. He has been state geologist of Iowa (luring the last twelve years.