Popular Science Monthly/Volume 72/April 1908/The Progress of Science

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search



The year book of the Carnegie Institution is always a scientific document of interest, as, in addition to the administrative reports, it contains a summary of the research work accomplished under the auspices of the institution. The report of the president of Harvard University includes brief statements from the heads of departments and laboratories, but as a rule such reports ignore in large measure the real work which a university accomplishes.

President Woodward's report reviews the administrative and scientific work of the year and discusses the question of publication. It appears that the printing of the scientific publications, apart from the expense of editing, administration and distribution, has cost $109,609, while the sales have amounted to $4,078. The "Index Medicus" has cost $51,461, with receipts of $13,837, and the year books have cost $8,416, with receipts of $220. The president expects that 500 to 700 copies of each publication will ultimately be sold, and recommends decreasing the free copies given to authors.

The new geophysical laboratory was completed during the year. It is situated on rising ground in the northeast section of Washington and has been carefully planned with reference to the researches to which it is devoted. The solar observatory on the Pacific coast has been active in construction as well as in astronomical observations. A tower telescopic apparatus has been erected with a vertical telescope of sixty feet focal length. By means of a cœlostat and a 12-inch objective, the solar image is formed and is carried beneath the ground by a spectrograph. The magnetic survey of the Pacific and of certain land areas has been actively continued. Apart from the work at

PSM V72 D384 Geophysical activity.png
Geophysical Laboratory.

PSM V72 D385 Tower telescope of the mt wilson observatory.png

Tower Telescope of the Mt Wilson Observatory

the Desert Laboratory, the Department of Botanical Research has studied the conditions of the Salton Sea, and Dr. MacDougal has continued his remarkable experiments, showing that reagents ingested into the ovaries of seed-plants produce new characters which are transmissible and stable. The important work in experimental evolution under Dr. Davenport and in marine biology under Dr. Meyer has produced interesting results. The special new undertaking of the year has been the erection of a laboratory adjacent to the Harvard Medical School for the study of nutrition.

Since its establishment in 1902 the Carnegie Institution has appropriated $1,356,185 for large projects and $784,678 for minor projects. In 1904 more than twice as much was spent on minor projects as on large projects, whereas in 1907 more than six times as much was spent on departments conducted by the institution as for minor grants. The institution is thus coming to be a congeries of scientific departments situated in different parts of the country with administrative headquarters at Washington. In the appropriations astronomy and geophysics have been shown special generosity, astronomy having received $524,925 and geophysics and terrestrial magnetism $428,500. On the other hand, only $6,500 has been appropriated for psychology and $5,900 for mathematics.

While it is gratifying that the Carnegie Institution is able to carry forward on a larger scale work that was being admirably done by Professor Hale at the Yerkes Observatory, Dr. Boss at the Dudley Observatory, Dr. Bauer under the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Dr. Day under the Geological Survey, Professor Benedict at Wesleyan, Professor Davenport at Chicago, Dr. MacDougal at the New York Botanical Garden, etc., it is certainly disappointing that it has so completely failed to become a central force for the organization and the advancement of science, literature and art in this country. If a million dollars had been given to each of our twelve leading universities for the endowment of research professorships and fellowships, more would have been accomplished for science and scholarship. It is, however, none the less true that the establishment of the Carnegie Institution has contributed in large measure to the advancement of science, and Mr. Carnegie's addition of two million dollars to the original endowment of ten million dollars is very welcome.

PSM V72 D386 The desert botanical laboratory.png

The Desert Botanical Laboratory.



Sir Richard Strachey, who died on February 12 at the age of ninety-one years, represented the best British traditions. It will be well for us if in the twentieth century we can produce in a democracy men of the type who came from the dominant families of England in the nineteenth century, men having the instinct to rule, adequate to each event as it occurred, uniting scientific research with administrative duties. Sir Richard's brother is also an eminent Anglo-Indian'. Lady Strachey, with five sons and five daughters, is an authoress of distinction.

While the scientific work of Sir Richard Strachey does not give him place among the great leaders, it is of wide range and of real importance. His contributions are summarized in the award to him of a Royal medal by the Royal Society in 1897 as follows: "Two of the most recent of these, are recorded in his report, published in 1888, on the barometrical disturbances and sounds produced by the eruption of Krakatoa and in his paper in the Philosophical Transactions of 1893, entitled 'Harmonic Analysis of Hourly Observations of the Temperature and Pressure at British Observatories.' These, while important in themselves, are but the last of a long series of valuable memoirs. He was the first to treat scientifically of the physical and botanical geography, geology, and meteorology of the western Himalaya and Tibet. He also first observed the occurrence of a regular series of fossiliferous rocks, from the Silurian upwards to the north of the great snowy axis of the Himalaya. His numerous papers on these subjects, dating from the year 1847, are published in the journals of the Royal Asiatic, Geological, and Royal Geographical Societies' Proceedings, and in the reports of the British Association."



Discovery, a monthly magazine devoted to the popularization of science, initiated a year ago by Mr. John W. Harding, has been merged with The Popular Science Monthly. It is to be regretted that the financial conditions last year proved to be unfavorable to the support of a new journal of this character, planned to be both accurate and interesting. No one would suppose it possible to maintain a museum by the admission fees, but it is regarded as a matter of course

PSM V72 D387 Richard Strachey.png

Photograph by Elliot and Fry

Sir Richard Strachey.

that a scientific journal should be supported by the subscribers. Yet there is reason to believe that a good popular scientific journal would accomplish as much for the instruction and entertainment of the public as one of our leading museums, whereas the cost of conducting a museum for a single year would give the journal an ample permanent endowment. But it is by no means certain that it would be an advantage for our scientific journals to be supported by endowments or subsidies. A public spirited and enlightened individualism, which would lead people in large numbers to subscribe to journals of educational value, to pay the entrance fees to museums and for tickets to scientific lectures, would in some ways be more satisfactory than the amplest endowments. Valparaiso University and Harvard University, Mr. Edison's laboratory and the Carnegie Institution, stand for diverse methods of solving problems of momentous importance. It may be that Valparaiso University and Mr. Edison's laboratory are the more nearly in touch with a true and vigorous democracy.

Perhaps some subscribers to Discovery who receive The Popular Science Monthly in its place will think that the Monthly is not entitled to use the adjective "popular." The publishers receive frequent postcards asking for a sample "coppy." This may be the better way to spell the word, but those unsophisticated by conventional orthography would probably not find the Monthly suited to their purposes. It is popular in the sense that it is not special or technical, not in the sense that it makes an appeal to all the people. We need a journal such as The Popular Science Monthly intended for those having a cultivated and intelligent interest in the advancement of science, but we also need a magazine for the larger class who visit museums and read the daily papers. Provision is now made for invention and technological science, but we should welcome the establishment and support of a magazine devoted to natural history and the simpler aspects of physical science.



At the commenoration day exercises of Johns Hopkins University, on February 22, a portrait of Henry Newell Martin, formerly professor of biology, was presented to the university by his old students. The presentation speech was made by Dr. William H. Howell, dean of the medical school.

The Silliman lectures at Yale University will next year be given by Dr. Albrecht Penck, professor of geography at the University of Berlin.

The Bruce gold medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific has been awarded to Professor Edward C. Pickering, director of Harvard College Observatory.—The gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society has been awarded to Sir David Gill. M. Henri Poincaré, the eminent mathematician, has been elected a member of the French Academy, in the place of the late M. Berthelot.

By the will of the late Mrs. Frederick Sheldon, Harvard University receives $300,000 for the enlargement of the library building or such other purpose as may be preferred, and the residue of the estate for establishing traveling scholarships. The total bequest will probably amount to more than $800,000.