Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/September 1905/The Progress of Science

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

The proposed alliance between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University is a matter of more than local interest. Among the questions involved are the relations of technological to liberal and other forms of professional education; the advantages of great size to a university; and the share in the control of educational institutions which should be assumed, respectively, by the trustees, faculty and alumni.

President Eliot has on previous occasions urged the union of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Harvard University, but it appears that the present plan was proposed by President Pritchett and the corporation of the institute, led thereto by the large bequest of Gordon McKay to Harvard University for work in applied science. The history of the movement is, in brief, as follows: On May 4, 1904, the corporation of the institute passed a motion requesting its executive committee to ascertain whether any arrangement could be made with Harvard University for a combination of effort in technical education which should substantially preserve the organization of the institute. On September 14, the corporation voted to secure the opinion of the faculty and alumni. On March 24 of the present year, an agreement was presented to the corporation, drawn up by President Henry S. Pritchett and Professor A. Lawrence Lowell, of Harvard University, on behalf of the institute, and by Dr. H. P. Walcott and Mr. Charles Francis Adams, on behalf of the university. This agreement provided for the removal of the institute to the site shown on the accompanying sketch, where it would erect the buildings; the joint work in industrial science would be under the control of an executive committee appointed by the corporation of the institute and containing three members of the Harvard corporation; there would be at the disposal of this committee the income of the funds of the Lawrence Scientific School and three fifths of the income from the McKay

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Proposed Site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Approach to the Buildings of Harvard University.

bequest; the faculty would consist of the present faculty of the institute and of those professors of the university who now give instruction in industrial science; each of the institutions would retain control of its own funds, and the agreement could be terminated at any time by either party.

This agreement was submitted to the faculty of the institute, which, on May 5, by a vote of fifty-six to seven, adopted a report to the effect that in their opinion it was educationally unsound and prejudicial to the institute's development. The alumni who voted stood 458 in favor of the proposed agreement and 1,351 against it. In spite of this, and the further fact that the faculty of the Lawrence Scientific School was known to be opposed to the agreement, it was adopted by the corporation of the institute on June 9 by a vote of twenty-three to fifteen in a total membership of forty-seven. The agreement must now be submitted to the corporation and overseers of Harvard University, and if adopted by them will be put in force, unless the courts should decide adversely. The present site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can not be sold for business purposes without the approval of the courts, and the courts must also decide on the legality of using the income of the McKay bequest in the manner proposed. A committee of the alumni of the institute has been formed to test in the courts the validity of the agreement on behalf of those who have given or bequeathed funds to it.

Various arguments have been urged in favor of the merger and against it. It is said that the same community can not support two schools of applied science, to which it is replied that there is room in New England for two schools of different types, and that the competition would be beneficial rather than injurious. It is said that it is an advantage for a school of technology to be associated with the work of a university in view of the broader culture given to the students, but it is replied that the earnest work of the school of applied science would be weakened by the dilettantism of the college. It is said that economy would result from the merger, but this is denied. It is said that larger gifts would be made to the combined school, but it is replied that the interest of the alumni and other friends of the institute would be alienated.

All these arguments have a certain plausibility. The case in favor of an alliance would certainly be strong if a new school, such as Mr. McKay at one time contemplated, were to be founded. But it is easy to understand the position of the faculty and alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the strongest foundation of the kind in the country. They foresee that it would be placed at the mercy of Harvard University, and that the ultimate outcome would be a big school of applied science of Harvard University, rather than a continuation of the individuality and traditions of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It certainly appears that when the great majority of the faculty and alumni of the institute are of this opinion, and when the alliance is not wanted by the Lawrence Scientific School, the plan would be inexpedient, and for the corporations of the two institutions to force it would be unwarrantable. Most university professors will concur with the editorial article published in the last number of The Technology Review, the concluding sentences of which are "A partnership between Harvard and the institute to which substantially all the parties in interest consented might be practicable; but one like this, which is repugnant to most of those whose good will and enthusiastic efforts are essential, must inevitably result, if attempt is made to force it through, not only in the wrecking of the institute, but also in the controlling of education by purely business standards. To use the methods of industrial trusts in conducting colleges and universities is to threaten the present efficiency and ultimately the life of all higher education." Thus, for perhaps the first time in the history of our educational system, the autocratic powers of presidents and trustees are directly challenged by the faculty. The outcome will exert a decided influence on the future character and control of our universities.

 

THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.

The American Medical Association met at Portland, Ore., during the week beginning on July 10, under the presidency of Dr. Lewis S. McMurtry, of Louisville, Ky. There was a registration of 1,714 members, which is more than the average. The scientific sessions were good, and the business transacted was of more than usual importance. It appears that in this case a meeting held during an exposition has proved to be pleasant and successful.

The presidential address reviewed the history of the association which was organized in 1846. For many years it was chiefly a body for the presentation of papers, but it has recently assumed additional functions. Perhaps the most important step was the establishment of a journal some twenty years ago. The Journal of the American Medical Association has now become one of the strongest medical publications in the world. The publication expenses last year amounted to not less than $181,000, but in turn the receipts of the association, largely through subscriptions and advertisements for the journal, amounted to $244,709. At the Portland meeting, the association decided to compile a directory of the physicians of the United States, who are said to number about 120,000.

Four years ago the association adopted a plan of organization which appears to be destined to unite the physicians of the country in a powerful body. The county medical societies are made the unit of organization, these are affiliated with the state organizations, which are in turn united in the national association. The legislative body of the national association is a house of delegates to which members are sent from the different states in proportion to the membership in the state societies. This body consists of 150 members, and has proved competent to transact the business of such a society. This form of organization appears to be both more efficient and more democratic than that of the National Educational Association, on which some comments were made here last month. It is, however, significant that both the physicians and the teachers of the country are developing compact organizations which have many of the characteristics of trades unions. They will exert an influence for the material welfare of the members of these professions, and may eventually become strong social and political agencies, which it may be hoped will ordinarily act for the welfare of the whole country.

The American Medical Association applied last year for a charter from congress, but this has not yet been granted. The question will come up again this winter. Here again the American Medical Association appears to be acting more wisely than the National Educational Association, the, whole bill being

Be it enacted by the Senate and House or Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That [Here follow the names of the incorporators] and their successors, and those who may be associated with tnem, are hereby made and constituted a body politic and corporate by the name American Medical Association with perpetual succession and power to take, for the purposes of its incorporation, by devise, bequest, grant, gift, purchase, or otherwise, and hold or convey, both real and personal property and transact business anywhere within the United States. Sec. 2. That the object and purpose of such corporation shall be to promote the science and art of medicine and the public health throughout the United States.

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Dr. Wm. J. Mayo, President of the American Medical Association.

Sec. 3. That such corporation shall have power to make by-laws, rules, and regulations, and choose officers for its government and the attainment of its purposes.

The council on medical education presented an important report. It was stated that the ideal standard to be held up should consist of

a. Preliminary education sufficient to enable the candidate to enter our recognized universities, the passing upon such qualifications by the state authorities

b. A five year medical course, the first year of which should be devoted to physics, chemistry and biology, and such arrangements should be made that this year could be taken either in a school of liberal arts or in the medical school. Of the four years in pure medical work, the first two should be spent in laboratories of anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, etc, and the last two in close contact with patients in dispensaries and hospitals in the study of medicine, surgery, obstetrics and the specialties.

c. A sixth year as an interne in a hospital or dispensary should then complete the medical course.

The council holds, however, that a four-year approved course with the preparation above mentioned is all that can be expected at present. It believes that a preliminary college education is only desirable for a limited number of men.

The meeting of the association next year will be held at Boston under the presidency of Dr. Wm. J. Mayo, of Rochester, Minn., who was unanimously elected. Dr. Mayo is one of the leading American surgeons and has the distinction of having declined all calls to large cities and institutions, preferring to remain in the small town where St. Mary's Hospital, of which he is one of the surgeons, was built for his father by the Franciscan sisters.

 

THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

It is much to be regretted that there has been room for criticism of certain officers in the Department of Agriculture. It is also unfortunate that the work of the department may be injured by the lack of perspective and search for sensationalism with which the matter has been treated by the daily press. So far as is known only one officer of the department, and he not a scientific man, has been guilty of acts that warranted dismissal, but which scarcely justify prosecution in the courts. Two other officers of the department—scientific men of standing—have been charged with having connection with commercial concerns while retaining their positions under the government, but in both cases the connection was terminated some time ago. Whether the relation of these officers with the government was used to forward these business enterprises has not yet been made clear. In one case a patent for a discovery was taken out, and the patent given freely to the people of the United States. A company was, however, organized to supply the product. So far as the public knows, the man of science who made the discovery may have acted in an honorable manner. He might have resigned his position, taken out patents' and become a millionaire. On the contrary, he gave his patent to the people, and may have taken part in the organization of the company for the public benefit. It appears that at one time he considered resigning from the government service and entering the service of the company, which he certainly had a right to do, but that when he decided to remain in the Department of Agriculture, he gave up his connection with the company. Information has not been made public sufficient for any one to form a judgment as to the conduct of the two men of science referred to. It may have been entirely creditable to them, or it may indicate lack of a nice sense of honor. An instructor in one of our leading universities made a discovery in the course of a scientific investigation, which he patented and sold for several hundred thousand dollars to a corporation. So far from objecting to this arrangement the trustees gave the scientific man in question leave of absence in order that he might arrange for the sale of his patent in Germany, and shortly afterwards promoted him to a full professorship. If such an instance were now made public in a government department, it would probably be distorted and criticized on all sides, but both the scientific man and the university acted correctly. It is somewhat dangerous for the man of science to keep his eyes on the patent office or to meddle with commercial undertakings, for he may thus be distracted from more important work, but it is still more dangerous to subject the scientific man to orders and discipline from an official superior.

For example, a newspaper as respectable as the N. Y. Evening Post seems to regard it as a scandal that a scientific man received payment for an article contributed to a magazine. It would be entirely disastrous to the scientific work done under the government if it were ruled that scientific men could publish only in the government reports. The only reason why these positions are attractive to men of ability is that they have adequate material for scientific work, and that, in addition to the utilitarian work that they do for the government, they are able to contribute to the advancement of science. The salaries paid to chiefs of divisions are about $3,000 a year, with almost no opportunity for advancement. The government finds it difficult to retain its ablest men of science, they being willing in most cases to accept university appointments. This added to civil service methods, desirable as they are in some regards, is in danger of giving rise to the survival of the unfit in the government service. There is some room for the complaint that men of science in the government service do not do work of as great distinction and originality as should be the case. Presumably this is due to too much supervision and red tape, rather than to too great freedom. The general spirit in the Department of Agriculture is very good, due largely to the wise administration of Secretary Wilson, and it is to be hoped that it may not be injured by an attempt to apply stricter discipline.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

Professor Alexander Melville Bell, known for his contributions to phonetics, died on August 7, at the age of eighty-six years.

Dr. E. Ray Lankester, director of the British Museum of Natural History, has been elected president of the British Association for the meeting to be held next year at York.—Dr. William H. Nichols, of New York, gave the presidential address before the Society of Chemical Industry at its general meeting in London on July 10. Dr. Edward Divers, F.R.S., was elected president of the society for the ensuing year.—Dr. Samuel G. Dixon, president of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia, has been appointed commissioner of health for the state of Pennsylvania.—Professor W. W. Mills has been appointed state geologist of Michigan.

A statute of Benjamin Franklin is to be erected at Paris at the end of the street that bears his name. Plans have been made for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of Franklin's birth, in Boston and New York as well as in Philadelphia.—A tablet was unveiled on July 14, by Signor G. Marconi, on the house in which Sir Humphry Davy once lived at Clifton, Bristol.—The American Medical Association has taken steps tor the erection of a suitable memorial to Dr. N. S. Davis, who is regarded as the founder of the association.

The official party of the British Association, including Professor G. H. Darwin, the president and the other officers, left Southampton by the mail steamer Saxon on July 29 for Cape Town, where they arrived on the sixteenth inst. The party included Professor Ernest W. Brown, of Haverford College; Professor Henry S. Carhart, of the University of Michigan; Professor W. M. Davis, of Harvard University, and Professor William B. Scott, of Princeton University.