Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/January 1906/The Progress of Science

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

THE CONVOCATION WEEK MEETINGS OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

The American Association for the Advancement of Science meets at New Orleans from December 29 to January 4. The place of meeting is somewhat remote from the main centers of scientific activity, and the attendance will scarcely be as large as when the association meets in one of the sea-board cities. But those who are able to attend will find the meeting of more than usual interest. A particularly good and unexpectedly large meeting of the American Economic and Historical Associations was recently held at New Orleans, and one of the pleasantest meetings of the American Association was held several years since at Denver. When the surroundings are new to many of the members—and New Orleans has many of the attractions of a foreign city—the meeting is likely to assume a more individual character and to profit both from the unusual conditions and from the greater intimacy into which the members are brought with one another.

There is of course no danger from yellow fever at New Orleans; indeed the complete suppression of the recent epidemic by scientific means will add to the interest of the meeting. This has been made the occasion for a special discussion on yellow fever and other insect-borne diseases, which will be taken part in by a number of those who have contributed in important measure to our knowledge of the causes and remedies of these diseases. The southeastern and central passenger associations have offered a rate of one fare and twenty-five cents to New Orleans, which is more favorable than

PSM V68 D092 Campus of tulane university.png
Campus of the
 

the association has hitherto been able to obtain and should lead many members to take advantage of it. New Orleans can be reached from New York City by a journey of two nights and one day.

The first general session of the association convenes on the morning of Friday, December 29, when the members will be welcomed by the governor of the state, the mayor of the city and the president of Tulane University, to whom the president-elect, Professor C. M. Woodward, of Washington University, will reply. The retiring president, Professor G. W. Fallow, of Harvard University, will give an address in the evening on 'The popular conception of the scientific man at the present day.' Each of the ten sections of the association will offer an attractive scientific program, and arrangements have been made for numerous excursions, receptions and the like. Most of the meetings will be held at the Tulane University, an institution which in recent years has made great progress, which on the material side is shown by the illustrations here given.

The American Chemical Society, the Botanical Society of America and several other scientific societies meet in affiliation with the association, but there is this year a wide scattering of the societies which last year met together in Philadelphia in convocation week. The American Society of Naturalists, with the special societies devoted to zoology, botany, physiology, bacteriology and anatomy, meet together at the University of Michigan; the societies devoted to mathematics, astronomy, physics and paleontology meet in New York City; the students of philosophy and psychology go to Harvard University, where a new building to be devoted to these subjects is to be formally opened; the anthropologists meet in Ithaca, and the geologists at Ottawa.

There are certain attractions in a meeting of scientific men having common interests at a small university town that a large assemblage in a city

PSM V68 D093 Tulane university 1905.png
Tulane University.
 
PSM V68 D094 Medical department of tulane university.png
Medical Department of the Tulane University.

does not possess. There are, however,also certain disadvantages. For example, many scientific men this year are in doubt as to which of the meetings they should attend, and there is no opportunity for the assembling of a general council of scientific men and for the numerous committee meetings

PSM V68 D094 Tulane university h sophie newcomb college for women.png
The H. Sophie Newcomb College for Women of the Tulane University.
 

which can to advantage take place during convocation week. Neither can the societies singly exert the influence on the public and on public affairs which they can hope to gain by united effort. The best solution of the problem would probably be for the American Association and all our scientific societies to meet together in one of our larger cities in the winter and to arrange for a smaller and less technical meeting at one of the university towns in the summer; and, so far as possible, for the societies that wish to hold separate meetings to call them at times that will not interfere with the great convocation week meetings.

 

AWARD OF THE NOBEL PRIZES

On December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the great prizes established by his will were awarded for the fifth time. The award for the promotion of peace to the Austrian Baroness von Suttner for her novel, entitled 'Die Waffen nieder,' and that to the great Polish novelist, Henryk Sienckiewicz, for literary work in an idealistic direction, do not fall within the immediate scope of this journal. The prize in physiology and medicine goes to Professor Robert Koch, that in physics to Professor Philipp Lenard, and that in chemistry to Professor Adolf von Baeyer.

Each of the recipients has a worldwide reputation for scientific research and discovery. Dr. Koch has the great distinction of having discovered the bacilli of tuberculosis and of cholera. His tuberculin has failed as a remedy, but has proved of great value in diagnosis. His researches on malaria, rinderpest and various tropical diseases have been contributions of vast importance for the study and cure of disease. Dr. Koch does not hold a university position, and like Dr. Behring, to whom a Nobel prize was awarded in 1901, he earns money by his discoveries. They have been criticized for this, but it may be that the greatest advances in science will come when investigators are paid directly for their work instead of indirectly as at present. Dr. Koch was born in Clausthal in 1843; he studied at Göttingen and carried on his researches for some years as a practising physician in small towns. In 1880 he became an officer of the Imperial Bureau of Health at Berlin, and in 1885 was appointed director of the Berlin Laboratory of Hygiene and professor in the university. He has, however, been chiefly engaged in expeditions to tropical countries under the auspices of the German and other governments, and is just now returning to Berlin from South Africa.

Professor Lenard, of Kiel, is distinguished for the discovery of the rays that bear his name, which was an important step forward in the direction of research which has become dominant in recent physics, the phenomena of radiation and the theories of the constitution of matter, with which the names of Röntgen, Becquerel and the Curies, who have already received Nobel prizes, are associated, and to which Thomson, Rutherford and Crookes have contributed in equal measure. Lenard was born 1802, studied at Heidelberg and at Berlin, and has filled teaching positions in Bonn, Breslau Heidelberg and Kiel. He has accomplished much valuable work in addition to his release of the cathode rays from the Crookes tubes, but he is scarcely the peer of Lord Kelvin or Professor J. J. Thomson, neither of whom has received a Nobel prize.

Baron von Baeyer, of Munich, has made contributions of great importance to organic and industrial chemistry. His work on the carbon compounds is of much theoretical interest, but he is most widely celebrated for the discovery of aniline dyes and the artificial production of indigo. Professor von Baeyer celebrated his seventieth birthday on October 31. Born in Berlin, he studied there, and at Heidelberg and Geneva. He qualified as Dozent at Berlin in 1860 and became full professor of chemistry at the newly-organized University of Strasburg in 1872, succeeding Liebig at Munich in 1575.
PSM V68 D096 Alfred Nobel.png
Alfred Nobel.

He was made a noble with hereditary transmission of the title in 1885. His great work in synthetic chemistry entitles him to belong to the group of those who have already received Nobel prizes in chemistry—van't Hoff, Fischer, Arrhenius and Ramsay.

These Nobel prizes, each of the value of about $40,000, were established by the will of Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896. Nobel was born in Stockholm; he studied in St. Petersberg, and began to assist in his father's works, but soon took up the study of high explosives. In 1864 he took out a patent for dynamite, obtained by incorporating nitro-glycerine with some porous substance. Later he invented ballistite, a nitroglycerine smokeless powder, but his claim that the patent covered cordite was disallowed by the courts after a lawsuit against the British government. From the manufacture of dynamite and other explosives at his works in Ayrshire and from developing the Baku oilfields, he
PSM V68 D097 Robert Koch.png
R. Koch

amassed the great fortune with which he founded the prizes that bear his name.

 

THE DETERMINATION OF SEX

At the New Haven meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, held in November, Professor Edmund B. Wilson presented the results of observations that constitute an important step towards the solution of the long standing problem of the determination of sex. These observations demonstrate that in several genera of insects, belonging to the Hemiptera, sex is predetermined at least as early as the fertilized egg, and may be traced to antecedent conditions that preexist in the germ-cells before their union. In most of the species the spermatozoa are predetermined as male-producing and female-producing forms, equal in number, that differ visibly in the constitution of the nuclei. The differences between the two classes do not appear in the mature spermatozoa but are plainly apparent in the process of their formation. In some cases the female-producing spermatozoa contain one more chromosome than the male-producing ones, in others both classes have the same number of chromosomes but one of them is much smaller in the male-producing class. These initial differences in the spermatozoa lead to corresponding differences in the nuclei of the two sexes, the cells of females either containing one more chromosome than those of males or showing a greater quantity of chromatin in the greater size of one of the chromosomes. The sex of the individual may, therefore, be recognized in these cases by simple inspection of the dividing cells.

Although these visible differences are of wide occurrence in these insects they are not always present, for in one of the genera male-producing and female-producing spermatozoa can not be distinguished by the eye and the nuclei of the two sexes have the same appearance. This case is, however, connected by almost insensible gradations with those in which the differences are plainly apparent, and it is hardly possible to doubt that sex-production conforms to the same type throughout the series. It is, therefore, not improbable that two classes of spermatozoa, predetermined as male-producing and female-producing forms, may exist in animals generally, even though they are not, as a rule, visibly distinguishable.

It is not yet known whether this also applies to the eggs before fertilization. In these insects there is no visible indication of such a predetermination, but several eases are known in which the eggs are of two sizes before fertilization, the larger ones producing females and the smaller ones males. It is, therefore, possible that in animals generally, both eggs and spermatozoa may be predetermined as male-producing and female-producing before their union. In any case these observations bring a strong support to the view, which has rapidly gained ground in recent years, that sex is predetermined at least as early as the fertilized egg, though they do not exclude the possibility that in some cases sex may be affected by conditions acting upon the embryo subsequent to fertilization. It does not yet clearly appear how these new results can be applied to an explanation of sex-production in parthenogenesis, in hermaphrodites and in such cases as that of the bee where all the fertilized eggs are of the same sex. A new basis has, however, been gained for the investigation of these questions, and also for an interpretation of sex-production in accordance with the Mendelian principles of heredity, the probability of which has been urged by Castle, Bateson and other writers.

 

TWO GERMAN DIRECTORIES

There appeared in November the fifteenth annual edition of 'Minerva' and a little earlier a German 'Wer Ist's.' The former of these works is well known to scholars throughout the world. It is an invaluable address book containing the names and chairs of the professors in the universities and other institutions of higher education of all countries, the officers of libraries, museums, academies, etc., and much information in regard to the organization of these institutions. The editing is a model of careful exactness; it requires some search to find a mis-spelled name among the 40,000 in the book. The work is brought out with unusual promptness. It appeared early in November and contains changes up to October. Each year a portrait of an eminent scholar is given as a frontispiece. This year Dr. Sophus Müller, director of the National Museum at Copenhagen was selected, and the portrait is here reproduced.

There is of course room for criticism even of this excellent book. If an editor could be found in each country who would revise the data with a view to uniformity, some substantial gain would result. The data obtained from the separate institutions are not always comparable. Thus for some American institutions both professors and instructors are included, for others the professors only. In the German universities the names are arranged under faculties by seniority, but it is impossible to discover what plan has been followed in some American

PSM V68 D099 Sophus Muller.png
Dr. Sophus Müller.

institutions. Professor Wolcott Gibbs, the dean of Harvard professors and of American men of science, and Professor Charles Eliot Norton are omitted from the Harvard list, though emeritus professors are included in other institutions. Sometimes the names are given in full and sometimes they are abbreviated without any apparent system, the names not being printed as they should be written—Th. may be used for T, Will, for William or W. etc. The inclusion of institutions is not consistent. Thus the Philadelphia High School is admitted, but not the College of the City of New York. The Armour and Rensselaer Technological Institutes are admitted, but not the Stevens and Worcester Institutes. The Philadelphia Zoological Garden and the St. Louis Botanical Garden are admitted, but not the similar institutions of New York, etc. The statistics are not uniform. Thus Columbia is given as the largest American university, followed by Chicago and California. Cairo, Budapest, Moscow, Madrid and Naples are in the list of the nine largest universities of the world.

A German 'Who's Who' will be of much service both there and here. A French 'Dictionnaire des Contemporains,' which is unfortunately now twelve years out of date has been issued, but no similar book had been compiled for Germany. We regret, however, to say that 'Wer Ist's' (H. A. L. Degener, Leipzig), is an example of bad editing. The introduction is amusingly pretentious. We are told that the work will contribute to 'einer grossen deutschen Friedensweltmacht' and much more to the same effect. Such a book should not attempt to be international in character. It is impossible to guess how the American names were selected. 'Rooseveld' indeed will be found, who organized 'Rauhen Reiter' and wrote about 'das rastlose Leben,' but not Mr. Cleveland. 'Murray N. Butler, L.L.D.,' of Columbia University, is there, but not President Eliot, of Harvard University. Numerous Americans are included for no evident reason, but not men such as Mr. Carl Schurz, Mr. Andrew D. White or Mr. Charlemagne Tower, whose relations with Germany are intimate. In one short sketch there are fourteen typographical errors. When the editor says that the subjects of the foreign sketches are contemporaries 'über die wir so gut wie Nichts wissen,' it may be assumed that the editorial 'we' was not intended, but it would have a certain appropriateness. The German biographies are of course much better, though by no means free from errors, and there are many omissions. Thus Professor Lenard who has just now received a Nobel prize is not included. The book will doubtless be improved in subsequent editions; but even now it is decidedly useful to those who have relations with the public men and scholars of Germany.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We regret to record the deaths of Professor Albert von Köllicker, the eminent anatomist and zoologist; of Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson, formerly Wayneflete professor of physiology and regius professor of medicine at Oxford; of Dr. Gustave Dewalque, formerly professor of geology at Liege, and of Dr. E. Oustalet, professor of zoology in the Natural History Museum of Paris.

Dr. Henry S. Pritchett has resigned the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become president of the Carnegie Foundation for pensioning college professors.—Dr. Friedjof Nansen will shortly go to London as minister from Norway.—Dr. George H. Darwin, F.R.S., Plumian professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy at Cambridge, has been knighted by King Edward.—Lord Rayleigh has been elected president of the Royal Society in succsssion to Sir William Huggins.

The statue of Benjamin Silliman has been removed from its site on the old campus of Yale University, near the library, to a place between the Sloan and Kent laboratories.—A bust of the late Professor M. Nencki has been unveiled in the chemical department of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, St. Petersburg.—A memorial to Theodore Schwamm, regarded as the originator of the cell theory, is to be erected in his native birthplace, Reuss.

The Hayden memorial gold medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, has been voted to Dr. Charles D. Walcott, director of the United States Geological Survey.—Medals were awarded by the recent Congress of Tuberculosis to Drs. Koch, of Berlin; Brouardel, of Paris; Bang, of Copenhagen; Biggs, of New York; Broadbent, of London; and von Schroetter, of Vienna.—The French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences has decided to award the Francois-Joseph Audiffred prize, of the value of $3,000, which is given in recompense of the most beautiful and greatest acts of self-devotion of whatever kind they may be, to Professor Calmette, director of the Pasteur Institute at Lille.

The following is a list of those to whom the Royal Society has this year awarded medals: The Copley medal to Professor Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeléef, of St. Petersburg, for his contributions to chemical and physical science; A Royal medal to Professor John Henry Poynting, F.R.S., for his researches in physical science, especially in connection with the constant of gravitation and the theories of electrodynamics and radiation; A Royal medal to Professor Charles Scott Sherrington, F.R.S., for his researches on the central nervous system, especially in relation to reflex action; the Davy medal to Professor Albert Ladenburg, of Breslau, for his researches in organic chemistry, especially in connection with the synthesis of natural alkaloids; the Hughes medal to Professor Augusto Righi, of Bologna, on the ground of his experimental researches in electrical science.
 
PSM V68 D102 William Henry Welch.png

william henry welch