Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/April 1906/The Progress of Science
In the death of Dr. S. P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, America loses one of its most eminent men of science. Langley was born in Roxbury, Mass., on August 22, 1834, descended from long lines of New England ancestry. As a boy he was interested in astronomy, radiant energy and mechanical flight, and with his brother, now Professor John W. Langley of the Case School of Applied Science, he constructed telescopes. He did not enjoy or suffer a college education, but practised civil engineering and architecture, until, at the age of thirty-one, he became assistant in the Harvard Observatory. In 1866 he went to the U. S. Naval Academy as assistant professor of mathematics, and the following year was made director of the Allegheny Observatory and professor of astronomy and physics in the Western University of Pennsylvania. In 1887 he was appointed assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and succeeded to the secretaryship on the death of Baird the same year. This was then, as it is perhaps still, the most responsible position and the highest honor that can be conferred in this country on a man of science.
Langley made his first published contribution to science at the age of thirty-five, it being a report on the total eclipse of August 7, 1869, observed in Kentucky. In the following year he again observed a solar eclipse, making observations on the coronal rays, and this was followed by his important researches on the solar photosphere. His work on the radiant energy of the sun resulted in and was promoted by the invention of the bolometer, an instrument which has been perfected to measure a millionth of a degree of temperature. This is accomplished by changes of electrical resistance due to heat and detected by a galvanometer, whose fluctuations may be photographed. Some of Langley's most important observations were obtained in 1881 on Mount Whitney at an elevation of 14,000 feet, and they have been continued to the present time in the Astrophysical Observatory, which was in 1891 established in connection with the Smithsonian Institution. Probably Langley's greatest work is connected with the heat of the sun and the infrared rays of the spectrum, but perhaps his researches on aerodynamics are equally well known. His theoretical and experimental contributions to this subject are of fundamental importance, in no wise lessened by the fact that he was unable to solve the practical problem of aerial flight.
Langley died from a stroke of paralysis on February 27. A sketch of his life by Dr. E. S. Holden with a portrait was published in Volume XXVII. of this journal. The frontispiece to the present issue shows Dr. Langley in the robes in which he received the D.C.L, degree from Oxford University. The regents of the Smithsonian Institution have passed the following memorial resolution:
That in the death of Mr. Langley this Institution has lost a distinguished, efficient and faithful executive officer, under whose administration the international influence of the parent institution has been greatly increased, and by whose personal efforts two important branches of work have been added to its care—the National Zoological Park and the Astrophysical Observatory.
That the scientific world is indebted to Mr. Langley for the invention of important apparatus and instruments of precis-ion, for numerous additions to knowledge, more especially for his epoch-making investigations in solar physics, and for his efforts in placing the important subject of aerial navigation upon a scientific basis.
That all who sought the truth and cultivated science, letters and the fine arts, have lost through his death a co-worker and a sympathizer.
That the executive committee be requested to arrange for a memorial meeting to be held in Washington.That Dr. Andrew D. White be invited to prepare a suitable memorial which shall form a part of the records of this board.
Early in its history the Carnegie Institution of Washington showed marked interest in the encouragement of astronomical research. In 1902 Secretary S. P. Langley, of the Smithsonian Institution, recommended the establishment of a lofty solar observatory, for the special purpose of measuring the amount of the solar radiation. In regard to the practical value of such studies Mr. Langley's own words may be quoted: "All the nebulæ in the sky might be blotted out without affecting the price of a laborer's dinner, or the material comfort of a human being. What shall we say of a similar contingency to the sun? While a slight variation in the radiation of the sun may conceivably cause the death of millions of men by famine, it certainly seems worth while to look at it from its utilitarian as well as from its purely scientific interest. It is the possible immense utility of the solar observatory that I dwell upon, and concerning which I may borrow the weighty words of Professor Newcomb in a similar connection, and state that astronomical research may bring to light not merely interesting cosmical processes but 'cosmical processes pregnant with the destiny of our race.'" And in another place he says: "Though we may never hope to affect the original source of solar radiation by any human effort, there is every hope that we may learn to forecast its effects upon the earth and provide for them."
A special committee was appointed to investigate the plan, and, as a result of extended investigations, Mount Wilson, in California, was chosen for a
provisional site, and $10,000 was appropriated for a thorough trial of the mountain. Later the institution decided to undertake the construction and equipment of a solar observatory at this point and up to the present time has devoted more than $300,000 for the purpose. Professor George E. Hale, former director of the Yerkes Observatory, has been made permanent director, and under his care the installation of the observatory has gone forward with characteristic energy. At the present time the Snow horizontal telescope and various buildings necessary for the proper execution of the work of such an observatory are Hearing completion. The program of work which Professor Hale has laid out, in a very condensed form, is as follows:
|The ends sought are two:|
|(1) The Study of the Sun as a Typical Star.|
|(2) The Study of the Sun as the Center of the Solar System.|
|The investigations include:|
|I. Direct photography.|
|(a) Daily photographs of the Sun on a Scale of 6.7 inches.|
|(b) Large scale photographs of spots and other regions.|
|II. Photographic Studies of the Solar Atmosphere with the Spectroheliograph.|
|(a) Daily photographs of the Sun taken with H1, H2, and Hδ, and other dark lines for calcium flocculi and prominences.|
|(b) Measurement and discussion of the photographs.|
|III. Spectroscopic Investigations.|
|(a) Daily photographs of spectra of spots.|
|(b) A study of velocity of motion of flocculi and prominences.|
|(c) Bolometric measurements of relative radiation of sun-spots, faculæ, and photosphere.|
|(d) Spectroscopic measurement of solar rotation.|
|IV. Studies of total solar radiation.|
|V. Comparative laboratory investigations.|
The Snow horizontal telescope is provided with two concave mirrors, one of 60 feet focus, and the other of 145 feet focus, either of which can be used as desired. The beam of sunlight falls first upon a plane mirror of 30 inches diameter, whence it is reflected to a second plane mirror of 24 inches diameter, which sends it to the concave mirror of the telescope. With the image thus obtained any of the pieces of work outlined above may be carried out.
The spectroheliograph is the creation, in large part, of Professor Hale himself, in whose hands it has led to remarkable results. The principles involved seem to have been suggested first by Janssen, but the first practical results were obtained by Hale. The principle of the instrument is simple, but the construction and manipulation of a spectroheliograph which will give the best results calls for the highest skill, while the interpretation of the results obtained taxes the keenest minds. With an ordinary slit spectroscope one may obtain the familiar solar spectrum. Crossing this luminous band are the relatively dark absorption lines characteristic of the various elements found in the solar atmosphere. Each line corresponds to light of a certain wave-length. If now this spectrum is all covered, with the exception of a single line, e. g., the Hβ line of hydrogen, and a photographic plate is placed behind this screen and the spectroscope is moved at right angles to the optical axis, an image of the sun and prominences in monochromatic light is obtained on the plate from successive images of the slit.
With such an apparatus Professor Hale is planning to photograph the sun and prominences each day in various kinds of monochromatic light, one photograph showing a Hydrogen sun, another a calcium sun, etc. Recently he has found it possible by setting the slit with special care to obtain photographs of calcium vapor of different densities, and hence at different levels.
Such studies must add greatly to our knowledge of the sun, especially since Mr. Abbot. Dr. Langley's able associate in bolometric determinations of the solar constant, has made a series of observations at Mount Wilson. The original plan for a solar observatory included an elaborate study of the solar constant and any changes in its value, extending over at least one sunspot period. It was also proposed to have one station at as great an elevation as possible in connection with a lower station, in order to measure the absorption by the earth's atmosphere, and so eliminate it from the determination of the solar constant. To this end an auxiliary station will probably be temporarily occupied on a mountain not far from Mount Wilson at an elevation of some 12,000 feet. Mount Wilson itself has an altitude of 5,886 feet, and overlooks the city of Pasadena, southern California. With the completion of the solar observatory not only will the summit of the mountain make a picturesque sight, with its various instruments and buildings, but from this lofty spot may come much of interest, and perhaps of utility, for the human race.
THE WARREN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The contents of the Warren Museum of Natural History have been acquired by the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. The collection was made by Dr. John C. Warren, who is little more than a name to the present generation, the son of John Warren, first professor of anatomy and surgery at the Harvard Medical School. He became adjunct professor to his father in 1809 and succeeded him in 1815, occupying the chair till 1847, when he retired at the age of sixtynine. Besides being an eminent surgeon be was an enthusiastic anatomist, comparative as well as human. It is through him that Massachusetts has the honor of having passed the first anatomy law in America in 1831, one year before Great Britain. As a token of consistency he left orders that his body should be dissected and the skeleton kept in the Warren Museum of the Harvard Medical School (not to be confounded with the above-mentioned one). It hangs there to-day. In his later years he found more time to devote to science. In 1848 he was chosen president of the Boston Society of Natural History. In 1852 he published a very handsome monograph on the Mastodon giganteus, the finest specimen of which is the centerpiece of this collection.
elephant 'Pizarro' seems insignificant as it stands beside the mastodon in the brick and iron building in which Dr. Warren placed his treasures of natural history. The collection is particularly rich in mastodon remains. There is the 'Shawangunk' head, which is even larger than that of the Warren mastodon. There are many disarticulated bones of the 'Baltimore' mastodon, as well as many mastodon and mammoth teeth. The vertebræ with fragments of the head of a great zeuglodon, a fossil whale are arranged round the room. A noteworthy feature is the collection of large and small slabs of remarkably fine fossil foot-prints from the Connecticut River valley. Space allows no mention of many casts of fossil remains, still less of mere curios.
The most significant movement of higher education in England is the development of the newer universities. While Oxford and Cambridge have voted to admit no students without an examination in Greek, the University of London and the provincial universities are paying increased attention to scientific education and research. All these institutions are of late foundation, and they have only recently assumed the name and functions of universities. University College, Liverpool, opened in 1882,' has only within the past two or three years assumed the name of the University of Liverpool. A few words in regard to the new zoological laboratories, opened on November 18, will call attention to the progress of the university.The accompanying illustration shows the new building for zoology, with the adjoining Hartley Botanical Laboratory and the building for electrical engineering. A cross-section of the building for the zoological laboratories is also given. It has a frontage of 123 feet, is 41 feet in depth and 84 feet in
height from the street level, and is built of red pressed brick relieved with white sandstone. The building consists of a central tower containing the entrance hall and staircase and some of the smaller rooms on each floor, and of two blocks, the north and the south, which have been treated rather differently as regards internal structure.
The south block has only three main floors while the north has five in the same height. The central tower extends a story higher. In the south block the three floors accommodate (1) the museum with its large gallery, (2) the lecture theater and (3) the large junior laboratory at the top of the building. In the north block, on the
two lower floors there are extensions of the museum to receive special collections, and the rest of the space is devoted to the senior class-room, senior and honors students' laboratories, the departmental library, and rather large laboratory and storeroom accommodation for the sea-fisheries department, the work of the economic entomologist, of the marine biological committee and other practical applications of zoology.
The department of zoology is under the direction of Dr. W. A. Herdman, who was appointed to the Derby chair of natural history at the opening of the college. He is well known for his zoological researches, especially in marine biology. Readers of this journal will remember with interest two articles contributed by him—one on the Naples Zoological Station, the other on the pearl fisheries of Ceylon. Dr. Herdman has not only made the University of Liverpool a center for zoological research, but has developed in connection with it a marine biological laboratory on the Isle of Man.
Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, superintendent of the U. S. Naval Observatory, was placed on the retired list on February 28. He will be retained in temporary active duty in the Bureau of Navigation. Rear Admiral Chester will be succeeded in charge of the Naval Observatory by Rear Admiral Asa Walker.
Professor A. A. Michelson, of the University of Chicago, and Professor F. Kohlrausch, of Berlin, have been elected honorary fellows of the Physical Societv of London.—Sir William Crookes has been elected a corresponding member of the physical section of the Paris Academy of Sciences in succession to the late M. Bichat.—Professor J. J. Thomson, of Cambridge; Mr. Oliver Heaviside. of London; M. Henri Becquerel, of Paris, and Professor P. Zeeman, of Amsterdam, were made honorary doctors of the University of Göttingen, on the occasion of the dedication of the new physical laboratory.
The fiftieth anniversary of the connection of Professor Frederic Ward Putnam with Harvard University has been celebrated by the presentation of a volume, containing autograph greetings from forty of his former students. Dr. H. C. Bumpus, director of the American Museum of Natural History, has been authorized by President Jesup to offer Professor Putnam ethnological material sufficient to illustrate fully the life of the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands, leaving him to make such disposition of the collection as he may think best.—At a meeting held at the Mansion House, London, on February 27, to celebrate the fiftieth year of the foundation of the coal-tar color industry, and to take steps to do honor to Dr. W. H. Perkin, the founder, it was decided that an appeal be made for subscriptions for the purpose of carrying out the following objects: (1) The presentation to Dr. Perkin for his life time of an oil portrait of himself, the portrait to become the property of the nation at his death. (2) The execution of a marble bust of Dr. Perkin to be placed in the rooms of the Chemical Society. (3) The establishment of a 'Perkin Research Fund' for the promotion of chemical research to be administered through the Chemical Society.
- During the years 1889 and 1890 a temporary astronomical station was maintained at the summit by the Harvard College Observatory.