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

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Professor Whitman and a Group of Research Workers in the Marine Biological Laboratory in 1893.


At the annual meeting of the corporation of the Marine Biological Laboratory held at Woods Hole in August, resolutions were adopted recording the obligation of the laboratory to the great man who more than any other was responsible for making it what it is, and after the adjournment of the meeting the trustees and members of the corporation visited the quiet graveyard by the sea where lies the body of Charles Otis Whitman.

In intellect, with force and skill
To strive, to fashion, to fulfil,

Whitman was born to be a leader. In his zoological researches he exhibited a patience, a balance, a singleness of purpose, a certain classical quality, which placed him among the few worthy to be named with Charles Darwin. His two principal researches, the one on the embryology and phylogeny of the leaches, the other on the phylogeny, heredity and behavior of pigeons, gave rise to a number of papers, which in content and form may be ranked among the masterpieces produced in this country. But in both cases a great part of his work remains unpublished. He was impatient of quick results and sought for fundamental solutions of great problems which perhaps his material was incapable of yielding. There remains, however, a great mass of manuscripts, observations and drawings, together with the unique collection of living pigeons, which will yield a valuable series of publications.

In spite of the fact, or perhaps on account of the fact, that Whitman devoted himself to his research work with complete devotion, he exercised an exceptional influence on zoological l education and organization. He was I professor in the University of Tokyo at the time when that university was being adapted to modern conditions. When Clark University was organized, he was given charge of the work in zoology, and again on the establishment of the University of Chicago. The department of zoology there, of which he was head until his death, took high rank among the scientific departments, which in a few years have given Chicago distinction in science, equaled only by Harvard and Columbia. Whitman's varied activities are noted in a resolution passed at the Christmas meeting of the Eastern Branch of the American Society of Zoologists, which reads:

The Eastern Branch of the American Society of Zoologists records with profound regret the death of Professor Charles Otis Whitman on December 6, 1910. Professor Whitman was one of the founders of this society; he was chairman of the committee that issued the first call for organization of the American Morphological Society, the forerunner of the American Society of Zoologists, and he was president of the society for the first four years, 189194. He was organiser of the Journal of Morphology and its editor for many years, and in this capacity also exerted a strong influence on the development of zoological research in America. As director of the Marine Biological Laboratory for twenty-one years, he exerted an even more powerful and entirely unique influence in the development of biological science. As an investigator he was painstaking, enthusiastic and thorough, as a thinker on biological problems profound and far-sighted. Devoted to principle, his uncompromising personality sometimes made enemies, but the charm of his character made him devoted friends. His influence will long remain as one of the most important forces in the history of zoology in America.

The Woods Hole Laboratory was the institution for which Whitman cared the most and it remains his greatest monument. It is fortunate in its physical environment; still more so in the spirit of the place. More biological research is accomplished there during its season than in any other institution in the world. Both in its formal organization and in its real life it is more democratic than any other American institution devoted to education and research. The result has been, on the one hand, a share of dissensions and poverty; on the other hand, a rare exhibition of cooperation and loyalty. It is false to assume that a democracy should not have leaders. In an autocracy masters hold the reins of authority; in a democracy a leader is followed because he is recognized as such. For many years Whitman was the creative spirit which gave life to the Marine Biological Laboratory. In a note, printed here by permission of Mrs. Whitman, he wrote:

I have often been pleasantly commended for the development of ideal conditions at Woods Hole for cooperative teaching and research, and I think that most of the best friends and patrons of the Marine Biological Laboratory still credit me with qualities that tend to peace and good fellowship in scientific work.

I have, I am happy to say, endeavored to live by the same principles in Chicago. That is, I have done what I could to encourage the spirit of research and good fellowship in both teaching and research.

I have opposed all attempts to create interdepartmental kingdoms; I have left each member free to develop his work according to his own taste; have never monopolized any line of work, but have always welcomed synthetic cooperation. The seminar and the researches abundantly verify this.

One thing, from first to last, I have most cordially despised—that is the tendency to that disease, which we may distinguish as administro-citis. That disease is the peril of science, and the source of unwholesome strife. Our organization is of course largely at fault, for it certainly misleads many to imagine that the one sure road to precedence is to scheme for it through administrative dexterity.
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The American Geographical Socieity, which was founded in New York City in 1852 and has now about 1,300 members, moved ten years ago to a building opposite the American Museum of Natural History. But it soon outgrew
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its quarters and has now again moved to a new site on Broadway and 156th Street, adjacent to the fine buildings of the Hispanic Society of America and the American Numismatic and Archeological Society. It has now a beautiful site by the Hudson River in one of the scientific centers of the city. It is unfortunate that all the institutions devoted to higher education, science and letters could not have been placed in one center, but they are at all events in large measure connected by the subway on the west side of the city.

By the courtesy of Mr. F. S. Dellenbaugh, the secretary of the society, we are able to print here some illustrations showing the exterior and interior of the admirable new building, which has been occupied by the society since May. It is built of Indiana limestone in the style of the Italian Renaissance, conforming to the other buildings on the ground. There are four stories and a basement; the stack rooms form the western part of the building, being placed on six floors. The whole building is admirably designed for the purposes of a geographical society, being completely fire-proof, with ample light on all sides. It will provide a permanent home for the library and collections of the society and for its educational and scientific work.


We regret to record the deaths of Professor Benjamin Franklin Thomas, professor of physics in the Ohio State

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University, and of Dr. Johann Paul Schweitzer, emeritus professor of chemistry in the University of Missouri.

The Paris Academy of Sciences has awarded its Lalande Prize to Dr. Lewis Boss, director of the Dudley Observatory, Albany, N. Y. Its general prizes, each of the value of $2,000, have been awarded to M. Jules Tannery, of Paris, for his mathematical publications, and to M. Deperet, of Lyons, for his geological publications.

Professor L. H. Bailey has tendered to the trustees of Cornell University his resignation as director of the New York State College of Agriculture.—Dr. E. C. Franklin, professor of organic chemistry at Stanford University, has become professor of chemistry in the hygienic laboratory of the Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service.—Professor Clyde Furst, secretary of Teachers College, Columbia University, since 1902, has become secretary of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, succeeding Mr. John G. Bowman, who has become president of the University of Iowa.—The director of the Museo Nacional, Mexico, Sr. Garcia has resigned and Sr. Robelo has been appointed in his place. Sr. Batres, inspector of antiquities, is succeeded by Sr. Rodriguez.