Popular Science Monthly/Volume 79/August 1911/The Progress of Science

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Design for the Eastern Facade of the American Museum of Natural History.


New York City has provided with wise foresight for the museum that it will need in the future by setting aside for the purpose the whole of Manhattan Square, extending from Central Park to Ninth Avenue and from Seventy-seventh Street to Eighty-first Street. The south side of the building now erected provides galleries of proportions not equalled by any municipal museum, and the completed structure will surpass any national museum. New York is growing more rapidly than London and will soon be the largest city in the world, even without counting the population of the New Jersey cities which form part of its social and intellectual life. The Public Library, which has just been formally opened, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the buildings of Columbia University, New York University and the City College are planned in a manner fit for the greatest city in the history of the world. Its vast wealth can be put to no more worthy use than to give material expression to the dominant place that science, art and education should hold in the community.

The accompanying illustration, given here by the courtesy of the president of the museum, shows the design for the eastern facade of the great building, as sketched by the architects, Messrs. Trowbridge and Livingston. It has not been adopted by the trustees, but indicates the development that is proposed. The general style of the Romanesque architecture of the southern facade is somewhat modified in the direction of greater simplicity. The monumental building faces Central Park, and will become part of the park, being led up to by a driveway which might ultimately cross to the Metropolitan Museum.

A building of this magnitude will give ample space for the ideal development of a museum of natural history. As President Osborn has pointed out, there are three ways in which the collections should be exhibited—systematic, geographic and evolutionary. In one part of the museum, in accordance with the plan that is followed in most institutions, animals would be arranged for comparative study in accordance with their scientific relationships from whatever part of the world they may have been collected. A geographic sequence, as used by Alexander Agassiz in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, is equally instructive. The animal life of each region is shown together. The plan is especially well adapted to anthropological exhibits. Not less important than the distribution in space is the evolution in time, and an impressive series of connecting halls is planned for the fourth floor of the east side of the building, where the visitor can pass from the dawn of life through the ages of molluscs, of fishes, of amphibians, of reptiles and of mammals, until the age of man is reached.

A great museum has two objects, neither of which can be subordinated to the other. It aims, on the one hand, to arrange exhibits which are instructive and interesting to the public and, on the other, to advance science by its expeditions and the study of its collections. Under the long and devoted presidency of Mr. Morris K. Jesup, with Dr. Hermon C. Bumpus as director during the later years, the American Museum accomplished much in both directions, but the main emphasis was placed on the educational side. It has led in artistic methods of mounting animals and exhibiting groups and has perhaps more than any other museum developed public lectures and relations with the schools of the city. Under President Henry F. Osborn, elected to the office in 1908, and under Dr. F. A. Lucas, elected director in May of this year, we may be sure that the popularization of the exhibits will be carried forward, while at the same time every effort will be made to draw to the museum officers of the highest scientific standing and to give them full opportunity to use its resources and collections for the advancement of science.


The fur seal treaty signed at Washington this month by representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Russia and Japan is the solution of a problem of much scientific and practical interest and at the same time an important extension of international arbitration. By the treaty the United States and Russia agree to give Canada and Japan thirty per cent, of the skins of the seals killed on the rookeries on condition that they will refrain from pelagic sealing. The powers agree to admit no skins the origin of which is unknown, and steps are to be taken to persuade other countries to prevent the use of their flags on the high seas by poachers. Provision is made for the patrol of the waters by representatives of the nations concerned. The agreement is to last for fifteen years and thereafter until it is denounced by one of the powers.

There is thus settled a problem that for many years has offended humanitarian sentiment and has even been in danger of causing international complications. In the year 1882 there were more than two million seals which went annually in the spring to the Pribilof and Commander Islands, where their young were born and reared. At about that time pelagic sealing, or the killing of seals on the high seas, came into vogue, the number of skins taken increasing from 10,000 in 1881 to 62,000 in 1894. It is said that for each skin taken, probably four seals are killed and lost. Eighty per cent, of the seals killed in this way are pregnant females, which at the same time are nursing their pups on shore, and the death of each sacrifices three lives. It is no wonder, consequently, that the whole number of seals has now been reduced to 150,000 and that they, like the sperm whale, are in danger of extinction. The seals on their breeding grounds can be treated like other domestic animals. The seal is polygamous and each male tries to obtain a harem of from ten to one hundred females. As there are an equal number of males, most of them can not succeed; they are isolated by the other males, and can be driven off like a flock of sheep and killed without injury to the herd, indeed, with benefit to it, as the fighting between the males and the incidental killing of females and young is thus prevented.

Since 1870 the United States government has received about ten million dollars by leasing the right to kill superfluous males on the Pribilof Islands—a larger sum than was paid for Alaska. In 1893 an agreement was made by which Canadians undertook not to engage in pelagic sealing within sixty miles of the Pribilof Islands, Russia and the United States having already forbidden this practise to their citizens. It was, however, found possible to engage in pelagic sealing at greater distances from the islands, and the greatest difficulty was caused by the Japanese, who were not a party to the agreement, engaging in pelagic sealing within three miles of the islands. In 1909 the Japanese pelagic fleet consisted of 23 vessels compared with five from Canada. Hence the need of the new treaty, which has been
Dr. G. Johnston' Stoney, F.R.S.,
the eminent astrophysicist, born in Ireland in 1826, died in London on July 5, 1911.

so happily executed. A little while since, it is not likely that the United States would have paid Japan to refrain from killing animals which we regard as ours. The execution of such a treaty promises well for the possibility of similar efforts to preserve the sperm whales and for engaging in other enterprises of international conservation.


We record with regret the death of Dr. Carl Beck, of St. Mark's Hospital, New York City; of Dr. I. W. Blackburn, pathologist at Washington, and of Sir Rupert Boyce, professor of pathology in the University of Liverpool.

Dr. Robert A. Harper, professor of botany in the University of Wisconsin, has been elected Torrey professor of botany at Columbia University.—Mr. Leonhard Stejneger has been appointed head curator of the department of biology in the U. S. National Museum to succeed Dr. F. W. True.

Dr. Abraham Jacobi, emeritus professor in Columbia University, was elected president of the American Medical Association, at the Los Angeles meeting.—Professor William G. Raymond, dean of the College of Applied Science at the State University of Iowa, has been elected president of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education.

The University of Göttingen has conferred the honorary degree of doctor of philosophy upon Professor Albert A. Michelson, head of the department of physics at the University of Chicago, and retiring president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.—The George Washington University has conferred the honorary degree of doctor of medicine on Dr. L. O. Howard, chief of the Bureau of Entomology and permanent secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for "distinguished services to science in relation to preventive medicine."

The building named for Dr. Edward Williams Morley at the Western Reserve University and devoted to the departments of chemistry and geology, occupied this year for the first time, was opened for formal public inspection during commencement week. The building contains a tablet, bearing testimony to Dr. Morley 's work in science, and to his thirty-seven years of active service in Western Reserve University.