Popular Science Monthly/Volume 81/September 1912/The Progress of Science

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY

The charter of the Royal Society of London was signed on July 15, 1662, and exactly two hundred and fifty years thereafter the event has been adequately celebrated. The organization of society in Great Britain makes social functions more successful than they are with us, and the events of the celebration were social rather than scientific. They consisted of a service in Westminster Abbey; a formal reception of the delegates at the rooms of the society in Burlington House; a banquet at the Guild Hall, when toasts were proposed by the prime minister, Lord Morley and the Archbishop of Canterbury; a conversazione at Burlington House; receptions by the king and queen and other entertainments, and the conferring of degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. There were present 132 foreign delegates from universities and learned societies, among whom the United States were represented by 23.

The Royal Society was established at nearly the same time as the Paris

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Burlington House, from a drawing by Lady Hugging.

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The Principal Library of the Royal Society.

Academy, and the two societies were unrivaled centers of scientific productivity, until the development of the German universities in the nineteenth century. It is remarkable how large a proportion of the men, from Newton to Darwin, who have originated new movements and new epochs in science have been members of the Royal Society. It is difficult to say to what extent the society has been responsible for their performance. Shortly after his election, Newton wrote to the secretary: "I desire that you will procure that I may be put out from being any longer Fellow of the Royal Society." Later he was for many years president, but at that time he was master of the mint and engaged in writing on subjects such as "The Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John." Darwin presented his paper "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection" to the Linnean Society, and but rarely attended the meetings of the Royal Society.

At the commemoration dinner, Mr. Asquith, the prime minister, said: "The society has not, I think, at any time had any direct financial assistance from the government. For this the government may be criticized; but I venture to think the society is to be congratulated. It is not well that science should be a mendicant for state endowment. I do not forget the annual grants for scientific research which are administered by the society: but

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Old Gresham College, in which the meetings of the Royal Society were first held.

their administration is not a benefit conferred on the society by the state, but a service conferred on the state by the society." It is not clear why these sentiments should have been applauded by those present. In the first place they are not strictly correct. The society received £1,300 from King Charles and tried hard to get more. Indeed, the king granted them a share in the confiscated Irish estates, but the money failed to reach them. Apart from the annual grant of £4,000 to be awarded for scientific research, the government provides £1,000 for publications and the rooms in Burlington House. But why should the society be congratulated because it has received no government support? It was scarcely an advantage that Newton presented his resignation because he was unprepared to pay a shilling a week as dues, or that the society could not have made possible Darwin's work if he had needed assistance. The presidents of j the society preceding Sir Archibald Geikie, Sir William Huggins and Lord Rayleigh, have been able to make their great contributions to science owing to their inherited wealth. The prime minister has been instrumental in paying members of parliament, because the old aristocratic methods no longer suffice. The fellows of the Royal Society contribute equally to the welfare of the state, and deserve equally to be paid for their services.

 

THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL EUGENICS CONGRESS

The First International Eugenics Congress has just been held in London. Its sittings ran from July 24 to July 30, and were better attended and more animated at the end than at the beginning. That is, their interest, both to delegates and general public, grew rather than diminished, which is an excellent augury for the next meeting.

This first congress can be truthfully called a success. Its organization and conduct, thanks to the London committees and its helpers, the sympathetic but firm presiding of Major Leonard Darwin, and the extraordinarily effective secretarial work of Mrs. S. Gotto, were wholly good. Delegates and readers came from eight nations, audiences of fair size attended all the sessions, and the London press reports were unexpectedly full and sympathetic. The hospitality shown the attendant delegates and readers of papers was of the best English type, than which there is admittedly no better. It is of interest to note, however, that of the largest and most elaborate three receptions tendered the delegates two were given by American hostesses, namely, by the Duchess of Marlborough at Sunderland House and by Mrs. Whitelaw Reid at Dorchester House.

Thirty-one papers were presented before the congress, in English, French and Italian. The papers from German, Danish and Norwegian sources, as well most of those from Italian, were given in English. Of these thirty-one papers eight came from the United States, their authors being (in order of presentation of paper) Dr. Raymond Pearl, Dr. David F. Weeks, Dr. C. B. Davenport, Mr. Bleecker van Wagenen, Professor S. G. Smith, Professor V. L. Kellogg, Dr. Frederick Adams Woods and Professor H. E. Jordan. Dr. Weeks, Dr. Davenport and Professor Jordan were unable to be present, and their papers were read by their colleagues.

The decision as to the time and place of the next congress was deferred and will be made in August, 1913, by the permanent international committee, which has been provisionally organized subject to re-arrangement by the various national consultative committees. San Francisco presented an invitation to the committee to hold the next congress there in 1915 at the time of the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and the committee members are inclined to consider the invitation seriously. Dr. Ploetz, of Munich, president of the International Society for Race Hygiene, presented informally to the delegates a plan for the establishment of an international union of scientific race hygiene and eugenics societies which

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Shrine Erected at Tokyo in Memory of Robert Koch.

would be distinct from the international affiliation for the sake of holding popular congresses. The delegates seemed not wholly of one mind in regard to this. The American members of the international committee as at present provisionally organized are Messrs. van Wagenen, Woods, Pearl and Kellogg.

It will not be possible to present here ever so slight a report of the papers read at the congress, and of the no less important and animated discussions which most of these papers aroused. It must suffice to say that these papers ranged over a wide field of biologic, medical and sociologic study, with the subject of heredity ever being the special one chiefly in evidence. The papers and discussions ran also a long gamut between the extremely speculative and the extremely practical. But there was in most of them a gratifying tendency to hug closely the shore of real scientific ground. To different nations the term eugenics seems to have different nuances of meaning, but there is in them all a sufficient commonness to make desirable international consideration of eugenics problems.

The inauguration of this new series of international congresses is another witness of the growth of that best type of internationalism that leads scientific men to step unhesitatingly across political imaginary lines whenever they feel that they can work more effectively together than apart.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We regret to record the death of M. Jules Henri Poincaré, the great mathematician and man of science; of M. Floris Osmond, eminent for his contributions to the metallurgy of steel, and of Mr. Andrew Lang, Known for his contributions to anthropology as well as for his literary and critical work.

The presidents of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Surgeons have formed a large and representative committee for the purpose of establishing a memorial to the late Lord Lister.—A committee representing the engineering societies of the British Empire and the United States has been formed to carry into effect a proposal for the erection in Westminister Abbey of a memorial window to the late Lord Kelvin.

Professor Jeremiah W. Jenks, of Cornell University, has been appointed financial adviser to the Chinese republic—Professor Charles Lincoln Edwards has been appointed naturalist of the Park Department of the City of Los Angeles, with the commission to plan a Zoological Park and Aquarium.

The following lectures will be delivered at the International Congress of Applied Chemistry to be held in New York in September: "The Rôle of the Infinitely Small in Biological Chemistry," by M. G. Bertrand, of Paris; "Oxidation of Atmospheric Nitrogen in Norway," by Dr. S. Eyde, of Christiania; "The Most Recent Problems of Chemical Industry," by Dr. C. Duisberg, of Elberfeld; "Permanent Fireproofing of Cotton Goods," by Professor W. H. Perkin, F.R.S., of Manchester; "Synthetic Ammonia," by Dr. H. A. Bernthsen, of Ludwigshafen; "The Photochemistry of the Future," by Mr. G. Ciamician, of Bologna, and "Priestley in America," by President Ira Remsen, of the Johns Hopkins University.