Popular Science Monthly/Volume 77/September 1910/The Progress of Science

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PSM V77 D314 The palmer house physical laboratory.png
The Palmer Physical Laboratory.
 


THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE SCIENTIFIC LABORATORIES OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

The colleges first established in this country prior to the revolution, apart from the two in Virginia, have all become great universities within the past forty years. Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Pennsylvania have preceded Princeton in this development, and for a period it was doubtful whether Princeton should be ranked among the universities or among the colleges. When, on the occasion of its sesquicentennial celebration in 1896, the official name of the College of New Jersey was changed to Princeton University, it was not so much a measure of what had been accomplished as a promise of things hoped for but unseen. The prophecy is now, however, in course of fulfilment. Princeton, it is true, has no professional schools, except its departments of civil and electrical engineering. A law school was once established, but it lasted only two years. No school of medicine is in contemplation, though the first two years of a medical course could be given to advantage. The theological seminary in the village has supplied a large proportion of the students registered in the graduate department, but it has no official connection with the university and is too narrowly denominational to be regarded as a graduate school of theology.

In most of our universities, however, the professional schools scarcely form an integral part of the institution and the graduate school is the place in which university and research work is accomplished. Such work has been

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Holler Hall, a dormitory erected by Mrs. Sage.

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Guyot Hall.

gradually developed at Princeton in the course of the past few years, and there is likely to be now a mutation which will place the university among those where productive scholarship and creative research are most cultivated. The difficulties in regard to the graduate school which have been so widely exploited are in fact rather trivial and are now fairly solved, as the university has not only money for a residence hall but also for the men who are the real university. The Swan bequest of $300,000, the gift of $500,000 from Mr. Proctor, once withdrawn but now renewed, and the Wyman bequest, amounting probably to over $2,000,000, are all for the graduate school and give it a free endowment scarcely equaled at any other university.

Like all our institutions Princeton has spent relatively too much money on buildings and too little on men. But the money has come freely and the architectural setting at Princeton will appeal to the alumni and to the general public as the worthy exterior manifestation of a great university. It is also true that Princeton has done much for its men. In the preceptorial system it has undertaken to extend the personal contact between teacher and student which is one of the most marked advantages in the teaching of the sciences, to the departments not having laboratories, and has brought to Princeton some fifty selected men of the younger generation with the rank of assistant professors. The method adopted may be open to certain criticisms, but this group of men has added greatly to the strength of the university. In the meanwhile the laboratory departments have been developed both by buildings and by men. The department of physics has been made one of the strongest in the country and one of our leading zoologists has been called as head of the department of biology.

The buildings recently erected for physics and for natural science are shown in the accompanying illustrations. In both of them the academic Gothic style has been well adapted to laboratory construction. The Palmer Physical Laboratory, erected and equipped by Mr. S. S. Palmer, and endowed with $200,000 by Mr. D. B. Jones and Mr. T. D. Jones, is admirably adapted for work in physics and electrical engineering. The three floors have an area of approximately two acres for the work of instruction and research, and every need in the way of appliances and apparatus is provided.

Guyot Hall, completed last year at a cost of $425,000, is divided about equally between biology and geology, giving the latter science probably the best provision in the country. The building contains over a hundred rooms, including a large museum. Biology has in addition a separate building as a vivarium for the study of living plants and animals. The aquaria have both sea and fresh water, and there is provision for insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Near by is a pond and stream where animals may be kept under natural conditions.

Princeton offers opportunities for study and research in the natural and exact sciences which are in some ways unique. The situation in the country, but within easy reach of New York and Philadelphia, offers many advantages. With its peculiar attractions, Princeton takes its place with the great universities so closely lining the eastern seaboard—Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Pennsylvania and the Johns Hopkins.

 

COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY IN AMERICA

The last number of the Zeitschrift für Psychologie devotes twenty-two pages to a review of the recent literature of comparative psychology. This review covers more or less adequately the material for the years 1907, 1908 and 1909. Twenty-eight articles are noted of which nineteen are by American authors, one by an Englishman and the remaining eight by Germans.

This review emphasizes the fact that comparative psychology is largely an American branch of science. It began, in so far as the study of higher animal forms in this country is concerned, in 1898, with the classical work of Thorndike on "Animal Intelligence," which was followed three years later by his study of the "Mental Life of the Monkeys." Shortly afterwards small comparative laboratories were added to the already existing experimental laboratories of Clark, Harvard and Chicago, and in these the great bulk of the animal work has since been done. Recently a fairly adequate animal-behavior laboratory has been added to the psychological department of the Johns Hopkins University. It has been an interesting fact in the development of this field that the work has not been confined wholly to specially developed technical laboratories. Several important pieces of work have appeared under psychological auspices from the universities of Cornell, Illinois and Stanford and from the zoological laboratories of the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Johns Hopkins, and of the Carnegie Institution.

The work in this country has been characterized by systematic and long-continued studies of certain groups of problems; while that in foreign countries has been more sporadic. The work of Pfangst on "Der kluge Hans," which has been translated by Mr. Carl Rahn and that of Katz and Révész on the light sense of the chick are the two conspicuous examples of systematic and careful work in Germany. In the United States work has been centered around three problems: (1) the general method of learning (problem boxes, mazes, etc.) which gives acquaintance with the animal's instinctive capacities and prepares the way for a study of (2) imitation (and the effect of tuition) and (3) the determination of the delicacy and completeness of its sense-organ equipment.

The first problem received the greatest amount of attention during the first few years. We now know something at least of the learning process, to mention mammals alone, of several of the monkeys (Thorndike, Kinneman, Watson. Haggerty); dogs and cats (Thorndike, Hamilton); raccoons (Davis and Cole); the rat (Small, Watson, Berry, Richardson); the dancing mouse (Yerkes); the guinea-pig (Allen) and the grey squirrel (Yoakum). Other forms have not been neglected, and we have to-day as a result of the ten years' work a fairly respectable body of knowledge on the learning methods and capacities of animal forms ranging from the amoeba to man. This work has shown that even the lowest organisms possess plasticity. Jennings has been chiefly responsible for challenging the continental idea (Loeb, Bethe, Beer, Bohn and others) that the behavior of the invertebrates is of the fixed and nonplastic type.

The second problem, that of imitation, has been largely studied. Unfortunately the work in this direction has been characterized by a marked difference in experimental results. Thorndike (dogs, cats, monkeys) and Watson (monkeys) have been convinced by their results that learning by imitation is not an important function in animal adjustment. Haggerty (monkeys). Porter (birds) and Berry (rat, and manx cat) reach opposite conclusions. Haggerty's recent work on the chimpanzee and ourang shows clearly that imitation of a complex character is present in the anthropoid apes. There is still room for doubt in the case of other animal forms.

Careful work on the sensory equipment of animals is only just beginning. The American Psychological Association has appointed a committee for the determination of standard methods of testing vision in animals. The appearance of this report will probably lead to renewed interest in this problem. It ought to have the effect of making the work of the different investigators directly comparable and to lead to safe conclusions concerning the phylogenetic development of sense organ processes.

In conclusion, the renewed interest in field observation may be mentioned. The establishment of laboratories for the study of animal behavior at first drew interest away from field work. Recently animal psychologists have been forced to admit partially the truth of the claims of Wesley Mills, John Burroughs, Hobhouse and Morgan, viz., that animal experimentation ought not to be carried out under too rigorous and unnatural conditions. Studies in the field in the last ten years have been made by the Peckhams (insects), Newman (amphibia) and Watson (birds). Interesting possibilities in field observation are offered in studies of the beaver, the prairie dog and lizards.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We regret to record the deaths of Dr. Johann Gottfried Galle, the eminent German astronomer, at the age of ninety-eight years, and of the Rev. Robert Harley, F.R.S., an English congregational clergyman, known for his contributions to mathematics and symbolic logic, at the age of eighty-three years.

At a meeting of the Berlin Academy of Sciences on June 30, commemorative addresses were made on Friedrich Kohlrausch, by Professor Rubens; on Hans Landolt, by Professor van't Hoff, and on Robert Koch, by Professor Rubner.—On October 2 the unveiling of the statue of Johann Gregor Mendel will take place at Gregor-Mendel-Platze in Altbrünn.—A tablet in memory of Richard Hakluyt, the navigator, was unveiled in Bristol Cathedral on July 7, the address being made by Sir Clements Markham.