Popular Science Monthly/Volume 82/April 1913/The Progress of Science

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Henri Poincaré, the great French mathematician, physicist and philosopher. An appreciation of M. Poincaré was given in the last issue of The Popular Science Monthly. Many of his articles on the foundations of science have been published in recent volumes of this journal.

 
THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS

Research institutions are themselves scientific experiments on a large scale, for it is an open question whether research work can be supported to greatest advantage under our universities, by separately endowed institutions or directly by the government. While the answer to this question is important, we can safely assume that scientific and scholarly investigations should be carried forward by all possible agencies, for the returns on the average and in most cases are many fold the cost, both in economic applications and in their contribution to ideal ends. It seems undesirable to urge, as Dean Burgess of Columbia University has done recently, that the establishment of research institutions is unwise and unfair to the universities, or, as is frequently asserted, that the scientific work under the government and in the experiment stations should be confined to the applications of science.

President Woodward, of the Carnegie Institution, is certainly correct when he writes in his last annual report: "The common notion that research demands only a portion of one's leisure from more absorbing duties tends to turn the course of evolution backwards and to land us in the amateurism and the dilettanteism wherein science finds its beginnings." We can not depend, as in the past England has in large measure, on amateurs of independent means to carry on scientific research. Work such as Charles Darwin did at Down and Lord Rayleigh still does at Sterling Place is not attempted in this country. Among our thousand leading scientific men only eleven may be classed as amateurs, and they are not those of the highest distinction. Practically all our scientific men are employed by the universities, in the government service, or by the newly established research institutions.

In the universities the professors are too much occupied with elementary teaching and enmeshed in the machinery of administration. In the government service the experts are too much limited to the application of science and subject to official routine and red tape. In both cases the salaries paid are smaller than in business concerns, and probably less initiative and freedom are allowed. The scientific man has a more desirable intellectual life; it is truly unfortunate that this should be counterbalanced by irksome restriction.

The research institutions have a great opportunity, and the two to which Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Carnegie have given their money and their names represent a new era in the development of science. Both the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research have begun well. They can draw their members from university chairs and government bureaus, whereas the reverse movement has not appeared. But it is easier to begin well than to continue in good works. The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago began with new ideals of research and of the professorship, but they have relapsed to nearly the common level. The United States Geological Survey began with a fine spirit, but it can not be said that the value of its work has increased with the multiplication of its appropriation.

If the research institutions are to do for this country in the twentieth century what the universities accomplished for Germany in the nineteenth century, they must not become bureaucratic machines but must be controlled by their scientific men. They must also be fertile in teaching, no less than in research, as they

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Botanical Party Resting in Ascent from Baharia Basin, Libyan Desert.

may well be through the proper use of the 'prentice system. Thirdly, they must keep in touch with the people, so that the work they do will be of benefit to the nation and will be understood to be so.

At the beginning the Rockefeller Institute appears to be fulfilling these conditions better than the Carnegie Institution, perhaps because its problems are somewhat simpler, being confined to a single group of sciences in a definite place, and cultivating a field which is generally recognized as important before all others. It is, however, the case that the Rockefeller Institute has the better organization, being under the control of a board of scientific men and

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Magnetic Party en route in the Andes, Peru.

giving its members adequate salaries and great freedom and opportunity to prosecute their work.

The Carnegie Institution undertakes to conduct work not only all over this country, but, as is indicated by the illustration, here reproduced from the annual volume, all over the world. With good men at the start, this works well, but one may have misgivings as to the ultimate outcome of widely scattered research work and scientific men directed by a president from an administration building in Washington. The Carnegie Institution would probably have done better either to have established a research university at Washington or else to have used its revenue to endow independent research institutions for special lines of work in different places.

The most desirable institutions for scientific work would probably be comparatively small laboratories conducted by the scientific men who work in them, subject only to some democratic control in case of need. Such laboratories, with small groups of investigators, having similar interests and attracting to them assistants and advanced students, would develop the spirit of cooperation and devotion which is likely to wither under the touch of superior officials and administrative machinery. It would be well if such institutions were endowed by the rich, still better if they were supported by a state or a community.

 
THE KALLIKAK FAMILY.

In the training-school for feeble-minded children at Vineland, N. J., is a girl whose ancestry has been traced by Dr. H. H. Goddard and is now published in a small book under the title "The Kallikak Family." The results are of general interest, both as a contribution to our knowledge of the workings of heredity and as a proof of the need of practical measures for eliminating feeble-mindedness and lessening vice and criminality in the community. The feeble-minded girl, Deborah, is a typical moron who may be self-supporting

 

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Chart I. The Two Lines of Descent Founded by Martin Kallikak.

 

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Chart II. The Family of Deborah's Maternal Grandparents.

and tolerably useful under restraint, but who would otherwise doubtless continue the family traits of her ancestry. These are shown on the charts here reproduced. The symbols may seem at first sight to be somewhat complicated, but it is worth while to become acquainted with this kind of terminology. Males are indicated by squares; females by circles. Black squares and circles with a white "F" mean feeble-minded persons; N means normal. When there is no letter the condition is not known. We see on chart II. that Deborah is the illegitimate daughter of a feeble-minded mother, whose father and mother were both feeble-minded and whose sister and two brothers surviving infancy were also feeble-minded. This is in accordance with Mendelian expectation. Deborah had an even chance of being normal; her mother had probably none. In this whole family 41 matings have occurred in which both parents were feeble-minded; they had 222 feeble-minded children with only two who were considered normal. Justin, the feeble-minded and criminal grandfather of Deborah, was one of fifteen children of feeble-minded parents, all but one of whom are said to have been feeble-minded. The father, Millard, was the oldest son shown on chart I., the family consisting of five children known to be feeble-minded and two normal children. The parents of this family consisted of a feeble-minded father and a normal mother. The father was the illegitimate son of a feeble-minded mother and of a man of good New Jersey family to whom the name Martin Kallikak is assigned.

This Martin Kallikak afterwards married and had the additional children shown on chart I. They have had some 500 descendants, all normal, all but three good representative citizens, many of them leaders in the professions and in their communities. The almost equal number of descendants through the illegitimate and feeble-minded son supplied 143 persons known to be feeble-minded and only 46 found to be normal. Among them were 36 illegitimate children, 33 sexually immoral and 24 confirmed drunkards.

A comparison of the two lines of descent from Martin Kallikak certainly exhibits a dramatic contrast, but it is scarcely the natural experiment in true heredity which Dr. Goddard claims it to be. If, on the one hand, Martin Kallikak had left neglected illegitimate children, without taint of feeble-mindedness, it is not likely that they would have established prosperous lines of descent. On the contrary, they would probably have intermarried with the degenerate and feeble-minded. If, on the other hand, the feeble-minded son had been legitimate, he would have been properly cared for, and in all probability would have left no such descendants as came from the illegitimate and neglected child.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the death of Dr. John Shaw Billings, director of the New York Public Library, previously surgeon and lieutenant colonel in the army; of Dr. Philip Hanson Hiss, professor of bacteriology in Columbia University; of Mr. John Fritz, the iron-master of Bethlehem, Pa.; of Dr. Samuel Allen Lattimore, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester; of Sir William White, F.R.S., the distinguished British naval architect, and of Dr. G. de Laval, the well-known Swedish engineer and inventor.