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

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE CARNEGIE FOUNDATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF TEACHING AND THE STATE UNIVERSITIES

Science and higher education in this country have been placed under further obligation to Mr. Andrew Carnegie for his generous intentions in adding $7,000,000 to the endowments of the two institutions that bear his name. The Carnegie Institution of Washington has been given $2,000,000 without special conditions, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has been given $5,000,000 in order that its system of retiring allowances may be extended to state universities.

If the cost of steel had not been excessive through the tariff and the cost of kerosene had not been excessive through monopoly, every state in the union could have afforded to endow institutions for scientific research equaling the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and universities equaling the University of Chicago. But they would not have done so; nor would the gains of the people have been saved and combined to carry forward the construction of railways and other enterprises which the capitalistic system has accomplished. It is one of the anomalies of our complicated civilization that the tariff and the trusts, apparently for the benefit of capitalism, are long steps in the direction of state socialism, whereas the universities supported by the states are the nurseries of democratic individualism.

These remarks are suggested by the paternalistic and centralistic character of the pension system now extended to the state universities. Whether this extension is a benefit or an injury to these institutions is a question not at all easy to answer. It was urged by a committee of the presidents forming the National Association of State Universities, whose chief argument was that it is unlikely that the states will provide pensions for professors, as this might raise the question of pensions for all public officers, and that the state universities would thus be at a great disadvantage as compared with private institutions. President Pritchett of the foundation, in his report on the subject printed last year, argued that the desirability of the pension system and its adoption by the private institution would force the states to provide it for their universities.

But the desirability of a uniform and universal pension scheme for professors is at least open to question. If one university pays a salary of $3,000, and another pays $2,500 and provides an annuity the annual cost of which is $500, the charge to the institution and to society is the same. In which is the position of the professor preferable? Those who insure themselves for the benefit of wife and children are better citizens than those who stint their families in order to buy annuities for their own old age; but it seems that college professors are to be compelled to join the latter class. They must sacrifice a certain amount of freedom in accepting annuities in place of salary and are put into a caste that they can not leave without serious money loss.

On the other hand, it may be argued that the scholar should be relieved from all financial responsibility, in order that he may be free to do his work. It is also claimed that it is an advantage for an institution to be able to replace its older professors with younger men. The introduction of the system is of financial advantage to men already in the service of institutions that did not have pensions, as they get an annuity for which they have not paid. And, of course, Mr. Carnegie's liberal gift provides additional income to institutions for higher education. Hence it is favored by university presidents and from this point of view is not unwelcome to professors. But the present writer regards the increase in the course of ten years of the annual appropriations for ten of the western universities from $1,689,000 to $4,577,000—equivalent to an increase in endowment of some $75,000,000—as immeasurably more significant than the extension of Mr. Carnegie's pension scheme to these universities.

 

THE VEGETATION OF THE SALTON SEA

We have published several articles on the scientific and engineering problems arising from the overflow of the

PSM V72 D480 Delta of the colorado river with salton and pattie basins.png

PSM V72 D481 Alkaline slope on the shore of salton sea.png

Alkaline Slope on the Shore of Salton Sea.

Colorado River into the Salton Basin. It will be remembered that in the autumn of 1904 an irrigation ditch was eroded into a stream that carried an enormous amount of water from the river into the sink—at its lowest level 280 feet below that of the sea—and formed a lake some five hundred square miles in extent, which threatened to extend and submerge a flourishing district. After repeated failures and the expenditure of several million dollars, the overflow was checked early in 1907. The submergence of this area and its drying up have caused and will cause changes in the vegetation which may throw light on the distribution of plants, and the Department of Botanical Research of the Carnegie Institution, under the direction of Dr. D. T. MacDougal, with its Desert Laboratory at Tucson, Arizona, was in a position to take up this problem. It has been extended to the Pattie Basin, into which flood water escapes nearly every year. The general plan of the work is described in the last Year Book of the institution, from which the accompanying

PSM V72 D481 Desert wash occupied by an arm of the salton sea.png

Desert Wash occupied by an Arm of the Salton Sea.

map and illustrations are taken.

Early last year an expedition was organized and embarked in a sailboat, designed for the circumnavigation of the Salton Sea and an examination of its contacts with the adjacent desert vegetation. Six stations were selected from which under varying conditions the succession of vegetation will be studied as the water recedes. The maximum depth of the water is 84 feet, and it is expected that most of it will evaporate in about ten years. Its width is from five to twenty-five miles, and each year new stretches of beach will become available for occupation by plants. The level of the lake fell about one foot by June 1, and two or three feet six months later. At that time the strip of saline shore left bare had not been occupied by plants.

The Desert Laboratory has under way various other studies in acclimatization and the influence of physical features on vegetation. Thus four stations have been chosen at elevations, respectively, of 2,200, 2,700, 6,100 and 8,000 feet, and transplantations cause marked structural changes in the plants. Attention is given to the determination of whether these changes are transmitted and persist in localities other than the one in which they originated.

 

JOHN SAMUEL BUDGETT

It is becoming that honor should be paid to those who sacrifice their lives for science. One of the strongest props of militarism is the instinctive respect commanded by the soldier who is ready to die for his country. It should be widely known that in laboratories and in the field men of science are quietly at work with dangerous organisms, with poisons and explosives, exposed to disease, accepting risks for the advancement of science and the welfare of man greater than those to which the soldier is liable.

A fitting tribute to one of this company of scientific martyrs has been paid in the publication of a volume in memory of John Samuel Budgett, who died from fever contracted in several visits to the jungles of South America and Africa. He had gone in search of zoological material and especially to study the development of Polypterus, which is one of the two surviving forms of the great group of fishes that flourished in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods.

The memorial volume, which is beautifully printed by the Cambridge University Press, contains a biographical sketch of Budgett by Professor A. E. Shipley, a collection of his zoological papers and several papers by Mr. Richard Assheton and others, consisting of the completion of the work begun by Budgett on the material that he had collected.

Budgett was born at Bristol in 1872. Like nearly all those who have done good work in natural history, he showed early his interests and aptitudes. As is so often the case, his father was keenly interested and naturalists visited his house; he was irregular in his school attendance and did not do very well at examinations. Before he completed his course at Cambridge, he went with Mr. Graham Kerr to the Gran Chaco of Paraguay in search of Lepidosiren. The expedition was brilliantly successful and brought back a large supply of specimens of tnis practically unknown lungfish, including eggs and larvæ in all stages of development. Budgett's first paper was an account of the batrachians of the Paraguayan Chaco, published in 1898.

After obtaining his degree, he took up with dauntless courage the search in Africa for Polypterus, about whose habits and development nothing was known, but whose primitive condition might be expected to throw light on the origin and relationship of fishes. In search of these fishes Budgett visited the Gambia, the Victoria Nile and the Niger, undismayed by innumerable difficulties including malaria

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John Samuel Budgett.

and blackwater fever. He obtained a vast amount of important scientific information in regard to Polypterus and in other directions, and in his last expedition accomplished the artificial fertilizing of the eggs and the study of their development. But he sacrificed his life to attain this end, and died before completing his work at the age of thirty-one.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We regret to record the deaths of Dr. William Ashbrook Kellerman, professor of botany at the Ohio State University, from tropical fever while engaged in the study of the flora of Guatemala; of Dr. Edouard Zeller, the eminent historian of philosophy, at the age of ninety-four years; of Dr. William Edward Wilson, F.R.S., who had carried on important research in his astronomical observatory and astrophysical laboratory on his estate in Westmeath, Ireland; of Dr. H. C. Sorby, F.R.S., known for his researches on the microscopical structure of rocks and metals; of Sir John Eliot, F.R.S., eminent for his services to meteorology; of Dr. A. Howitt, author of important anthropological works on the natives of Australia; of Sir Denzil Ibbetson, known for his contributions to the ethnology of India; of Sir Alfred Cooper, a distinguished London surgeon, and of Professor Laurent, professor of mathematical analysis at Paris.

Major General A. W. Greely, eminent for his arctic explorations and his services to meteorology, having reached the age of sixty-four years on March 27, was transferred to the retired list in accordance with law.—The Turin Academy of Science has conferred the Bressa prize of about $2,000 on Dr. Ernest Rutherford, professor of physics at Victoria University, Manchester.—Dr. W. M. Davis, Sturgis-Hooper professor of geology, has been selected by the German government as Harvard visiting professor at the University of Berlin for the academic year 1908-9.—President Eliot, of Harvard University, delivered in April six lectures at Northwestern University on the Norman W. Harris Foundation. His general subject was "University Administration."

Provision will be made by the Canadian government in the estimates for the coming financial year for a grant of $25,000 by the Dominion parliament towards the expenses of the visit of the British Association to Winnipeg. The city of Winnipeg proposes to make a grant of $5,000. The week of the meeting will probably be from August 25 to September 1, 1909. Dr. J. J. Thomson, Cavendish professor of experimental physics at Cambridge, will preside.

In the bill making appropriations for the Department of Agriculture for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1909, and just introduced into the House, the total sum appropriated is $11,431,346. Of this amount the following sums are appropriated to what may be termed the scientific bureaus and offices of the department: Forest Service, $3,796,200; Weather Bureau, $1,662,260; Bureau of Plant Industry, $1,331,076; Bureau of Animal Industry, $1,330,860; Bureau of Chemistry, $791,720; Bureau of Entomology, $434,960; Office of Experiment Stations, $230,620; Bureau of Statistics, $221,440; Bureau of Soils, $204,700; Office of Public Roads, $87,390; Bureau of Biological Survey, $62,000, making a total of $10,254,226.

The Kentucky legislature, recently adjourned, changed the name of the College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts to the State University and appropriated to it $200,000 in addition to what it has already been receiving; $30,000 of this amount is to be annual. At the same time it appropriated $150,000 each to the two new State Normal Schools.—Plans for two new buildings have been accepted by the board of trustees of the University of Illinois. One is a physics laboratory, to cost $250,000, the other an extension of the natural history building, to cost $150,000.