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

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Monument erected at Washington by the American Medical Association in Honor of Benjamin Rush.
 

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

BENJAMIN RUSH.

There was Unveiled at Washington on June 11 a monument erected by the American Medical Association to the memory of Benjamin Rush. The principal address was made by Dr. J. C. Wilson, and President Roosevelt received the monument on behalf of the government. It stands on the grounds of the Naval Museum of Hygiene, and, as the accompanying illustration shows, is of imposing dimensions. The bronze

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statue was designed by Mr. Perry and the pedestal by Mr. Metcalf. The American Medical Association has thus completed an undertaking begun more than twenty years ago, and has erected a worthy memorial to perhaps the most distinguished American physician.

It is probably known to most readers of this magazine that Rush was an eminent Philadelphia physician and a signer of the declaration of independence, but a few words may be said in regard to his career. Rush was born in 1745 and educated at Princeton and Philadelphia, and later studied at Edinburgh, London and Paris. On returning to Philadelphia, then the chief intellectual center of America, he identified himself at an early age with its medical and political activities. It may be largely due to Rush that Philadelphia retained until quite recently the leadership in medical education and practise. He was appointed professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia, and when the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania was established in 1781 was elected to the chair of medicine. He was one of the founders of the College of Physicians and was an officer of the American Philosophical Society from 1770 to 1801. In the meanwhile he had taken an active part in the political movements leading up to the revolution. He was a member of a committee of two who reported to the Provisional Conference at Philadelphia on the

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A Gutta-percha Tree, District of Zamboanga, Mindanao.

expediency of the declaration of independence, and is supposed to have written the report, much of which was incorporated in the declaration. He was a surgeon-general in the war of independence, but resigned after two years, owing, it is said, to differences with Washington in regard to hospital stores. Thereafter ho devoted himself to medical work and writing, lint retained wide interests, advocating, among other things, the abolition of slavery, temperance, the higher education of women, international arbitration and religious liberty.

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A Rubber Vine, Western Mindoro.

His services at the time of the epidemic of yellow fever in 1793 and his account of it gave him a wide reputation, though he was on the wrong side of the question in a dispute with his fellow physicians as to the cure of the disease by blood-letting. Probably, however, his work on behalf of the insane was his most important service to medical science, lie suggested detached cottages for the care 01 the insane, objecting to the confinement of lunatics in cells as early as 1789. Hush died in 1813. Dr. Wilson in his address at the unveiling of the monument said: "Nearly a century has passed since Benjamin Rush was gathered to his fathers. To his contemporaries he was a man not unlike other men, having his virtues and his faults, a good citizen, a skillful physician, kindly, courteous, benevolent, and having on occasion much fight in him. He was even known to have some fame in distant lands, chiefly because of a wonderful, clear narrative of the bilious yellow fever of 1793 which he had written. To us, who see him through the vista of one hundred years, he stands, not, indeed, the most conspicuous figure of a time brilliant with heroic men and deeds, but great among the greatest, and certainly the most striking and impressive figure of the medical life of America at that period or any period since."

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Chinese Trading Boat, collecting Gutta-percha at Parang Parang.

 

GUTTA PERCHA AND RUBBER IN THE PILIPPINES.

In the recent report of the superintended of the Government Laboratories in the Philippine Islands, to which we have already called attention, a good deal of space is given to the question of the production of gutta-percha and rubber in the islands. Owing to the recent development of applied science, these substances have become very widely used, and there is danger lest the supply become exhausted. It is indeed certain that this will happen unless the production is artificially guarded and increased. Thus in the Philippines gutta-percha is collected by the savage tribes, who cut down the trees and collect perhaps one fortieth of the gutta-percha they contain. The native collectors sell it for about $5 per picul of 16812 pounds; the middlemen sell it to the Chinese in the export towns for $20 to $40, and it is then sold al Singapore for from $50 to $75. It is said that the production of gutta-percha could be greatly increased by economical methods of extraction, and that the native forests are likely to become exterminated unless protected. It appears that the example of the Dutch government, which has planted a million trees in Java, could be with advantage followed in some parts of the Philippine Islands. No rubber-producing trees have been found in the islands, but there are two species of vines widely distributed, both of which produce a good grade of rubber. This is collected by the Moros, but naturally in a very wasteful manner. A good deal could be accomplished in conserving this natural supply, but the future of the industry in the Philippine Islands doubtless depends on following the example of India, Burmah, the Malay States and Java, where scientific work on the cultivation of the trees was first taken up by the governments, and private cultivation was then widely and profitably introduced.

 

SCIENCE, WAR AND POLITICS.

It is somewhat curious to compare the concentration of popular interest on war and politics with the common ignoring of science, when we remember that the progress of science has exerted more influence on the course of history than all the armies and political parties of the nations of the world. The entire democratic movement of modern times is directly due to the applications of science, which have made it possible for all to enjoy the advantages that were formerly confined to a few. Any given war or political movement is due to conditions that science has created. Even the popular interest in such matters is only possible through the steam-engine, the telegraph and the printing press. The intellectual and moral attitude of the people is as directly dependent on science as are their material surroundings. The ideas of the origin of species are more potent than the consequences of the wars of the nineteenth century in which some twelve million men were killed.

It is not exactly easy to say why there is more interest in a political convention than in a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, why the newspapers are read by millions while a scientific journal is read by thousands. The community of interest, even the party spirit, which the newspaper makes possible, has a function for society similar to that of the church. But the direction of this interest appears to be more or less artificial. If the newspapers would for a time devote most of their space to scientific, artistic and literary matters and if people would talk and think these things perhaps they would prove to be as good bonds of union as a murder or even a war. It may be said that the results of science can not be understood by the ordinary man, and this is of course true; but neither can he understand the plans of a military campaign nor the motives of a party leader. The stability of science might lead to an ultimate understanding of its great principles by large groups, and there are numerous matters easily explained which would maintain an interest if once excited. For example, why is not information in regard to the advance of our knowledge of the warfare between disease germs and man as full of personal and dramatic interest as a foreign war.

To a certain extent the supremacy of science and art does assert itself. The names of Sig. Marconi and Mme. Curie and what they stand for are better known in this country than the names and policies of the leaders of the governments of Italy and France. Yet the work of the two people mentioned is by no means so important and perhaps not even so interesting as that of others. An even juster view than that of distance is given by time. No scientific man and his discovery have been applauded as were Admiral Dewey and his victory, yet a century hence scientific men of the present period will be mentioned more often than our military and political leaders. Darwin's work is more effective and permanent than that of any contemporary soldier or statesman; it is probably much better known throughout the world and will be so increasingly.

If it were but possible to direct the mind of the crowd to science, an interest would be created which would be self-perpetuating. The minor events of war and politics would be subsumed under broader principles. A nation whose chief interests were in science would need no army and but little government. It would be prosperous beyond measure in peace and would be invincible in war.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We note with regret the death of Dr. Isaac Roberts, eminent for his work in astronomy, especially for his study of star-clusters and nebulæ, and of Sir John Simon, K.C.B., former vice-president of the Royal Society and president of the Royal College of Surgeons, well known for his important services on behalf of the public health.

A medallion in memory of the late Sir George Gabriel Stokes, which has been erected in the north aisle of the choir of Westminster Abbey, was unveiled on July 7 by the Duke of Devonshire, chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and formally transferred to the authorities of the Abbey. Addresses were made by Sir William Huggins, Lord Rayleigh and Lord Kelvin.—A public meeting has been held at Bury, England, to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of John Kay, of Bury, inventor of the fly-shuttle, to promote a public fund for the erection of a statue in memory of the inventor and to institute scholarships.

The Paris Academy of Sciences has decided to award its LeCompte prize of the value of $10,000 to M. Blondlot for his researches on the so-called n-rays.—Dr. Robert Koch has been made honorary professor of the University of Berlin as well as a member of the Academy of Sciences in succession to Virchow. There are only two other similar positions at Berlin, the one held by Professor Auwers, the astronomer, the other by Professor Van't Hoff, the chemist.—Dr. C. H. Tittman, chief of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, has left Washington for Alaska, where he will meet Dr. W. P. King, chief astronomer of Canada, in order to mark the boundary line between Alaska and Canada in accordance with the decisions of the commission that met last year in London.—Mr. Bailey Willis, of the U. S. Geological Survey, has returned from China, where he has been making geological explorations under the auspices of the Carnegie Institution.

It is announced that Dr. Harry Tevis will establish in San Francisco an aquarium in honor of his father, the late Lloyd Tevis, which will be the finest institution of the kind in the world, the cost being $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. The aquarium will, it is said, be built in Golden Gate Park. Mr. John Galen Howard, supervising architect of the University of California, is preparing the plans.—The Schunck Laboratory, bequeathed to Owens College by the late Dr. Schunck, who had in his lifetime endowed the college with £20,000 on behalf of chemical research, has been removed from his residence at Kersal and rebuilt in the college precincts as nearly as possible in its original form. It comprises two floors and a basement, with the most modern appliances, also a valuable library and a collection of coloring matter, natural and artificial.