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

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE ANNIVERSARY MEETING OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The National Academy of Sciences celebrated the semi-centennial anniversary of its foundation on April 22, 23 and 24, exactly fifty years after its; first meeting. It was a most successful meeting with the largest attendance of members in the history of the academy. There was no program of technical, papers, but in its place a series of addresses. Dr. Ira Remsen, the president of the academy, at the first session read an address on the history of the academy, and then introduced President Arthur T. Hadley, of Yale University, who spoke on "The Relation of Science to Higher Education in America." In his usual happy style he traced the increased part played by science in modern education and pointed out that his father, James Hadley, taught Greek at Yale more in accord with the methods of modern science, than was the case with physics, chemistry and biology in those days. James Hadley was elected to membership in the academy the year after its foundation, followed two years later by the election of another distinguished Yale philologist, William Dwight Whitney. There were also eminent economists in the academy, and the question may fairly be raised, though President Hadley did not do so, whether it would not be better for the academy to include in its scope the philosophical, historical and political sciences, instead of confining the membership to the natural and exact sciences.

The second formal address was read by Dr. Arthur Schuster, secretary of the Royal Society of London, who discussed "International Cooperation in Research." He stated that the strength of modern science lies not so much in the production of commanding genius as in an army of competent investigators. Problems in which useful results have already been obtained by international cooperation were reviewed, but scarcely in the "great variety" promised at the beginning of the address, for only those were mentioned in which the speaker was personally interested; all those concerned with the biological sciences, and most of those concerned with the exact sciences and their applications being ignored. The three categories of scientific cooperation mentioned—namely, the agreements on units of measurement, the distribution of work between different nations for ecenomy and the making of similar observations with similar instruments—cover but a small part of the field. Still the subjects reviewed—the Star Catalogue; the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature; Geophysics, and the Solar Union—illustrate sufficiently the advantages, and, it may be added, the difficulties, of international cooperation. Dr. Schuster perhaps went out of his way to ridicule the Belgian scheme for international associations and is too hopeful as to what the International Association of Academies may accomplish. Academies, national and international, must be placed on a representative democratic basis before they can represent the scientific men and the scientific work of the nation or of the world.

The two other addresses were on special scientific problems to which their authors have made distinguished contributions. Dr. George E. Hale, director of the Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory, had as his subject "The Earth and Sun as Magnets"; Dr. J. C. Kapteyn, director of the astronomical laboratory of the University of Groningen, "The Structure of the Universe." Both of these addresses

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treated with admirable clearness wide reaching theories to which the writers had in large measure contributed both the facts and the deductions. Dr. Hale's address will be printed in The Popular Science Monthly. The other addresses have been or will be printed in Science.

Dr. Theodor II. Boveri, of the University of Würzburg, was to have spoken on "The Material Basis of Heredity," but was unable (o be present owing to ill health. Otherwise the program would have represented education and the sciences of conduct, the organization of science, and the exact and biological sciences, with two addresses from home and three addresses from abroad. The fact that three out of the four addresses were given by men working in astronomy and geophysics represents a real popular interest, though perhaps a survival from a more superstitious period, when the motions of the stars were supposed to exert more control over human welfare than, for example, the prevention of disease by scientific research.

The program left ample time for social events, which were admirably arranged. Luncheons were provided each day and there were evening receptions at the National Museum and the Carnegie Institution. The afternoon of April 24 was devoted to an excursion to Mt. Vernon on the U. S. S. Mayflower. On the afternoon of April 23, there was a reception at the White House, when the President of the United States conferred medals, and afterwards, with Mrs. Wilson, received and entertained the members of the academy and their guests. The Watson medal for astronomical research was presented to Dr. J. C. Kapteyn, the Draper medal for astrophysical research to the French Ambassador for M. Henri Deslandres, the Agassiz medal for oceanographical research to the Norwegian minister for Dr. Johan Hjört, and the Comstock prize of the value of $1,500 for research in radiant energy, to Professor R. A. Millikan, of the University of Chicago. At the dinner on the evening of April 24 speeches were made by the vice-president of the

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United States, the British Ambassador, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, Dr. W. W. Keen, president of the American Philosophical Society, and Senator Burton.

 

THE HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY

The National Academy of Sciences was founded under the shadow of the civil war in order that the government might have the benefit of expert scientific advice and—as has usually been the reward of scientific research—obtain it free of cost. In February, 1863, the secretary of the navy appointed a "permanent commission," consisting of Joseph Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Alexander Dallas Bache, superintendent of the Coast Survey, and Charles H. Davis, chief of the Bureau of Navigation, to report on "matters of science and art." This commission led to the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences through a bill introduced in the senate by Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, on February 20, 1863, and signed by President Lincoln on March 3.

The idea of a national academy was not new; it had, for example, been advocated by Bache in his presidential address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1851. Such academies existed in each of the great foreign nations and had been important factors in the advancement of science, through their relation to the government and in other directions. The Royal Society of London celebrated last year its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary; the Academy of Sciences of Paris was established at about the same time; even earlier there were academies in Italy. The members of the continental academies receive salaries; the British government at least provides the Royal Society with a house. In this country the American Philosophical Society, modeled by Franklin on the Royal Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, modeled by Adams on the Paris Academy, have long histories. If Philadelphia had remained the seat of government, the American Philosophical Society would doubtless have performed the functions of a national academy.

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There were fifty original members of the National Academy and until 1870 the membership was limited to that number. The first meeting was held at the University of the City of New York, now New York University, on April 22, 1863. The officers were: president, Alexander Dallas Bache; vice-president, James Dwight Dana; foreign secretary, Louis Agassiz; home secretary, Wolcott Gibbs; treasurer, Fairman Rogers. The academy was divided into two classes, one for mathematics and physics, of which Benjamin Peirce was chairman and Benjamin A. Gould secretary, and one for natural history, of which the elder Benjamin Silliman was chairman and J. S. Newberry secretary. It is doubtful whether the academy could now elect officers who fifty years hence would be equally distinguished.

Immediately after its organization the academy was called upon to appoint committees to advise the government, five such committees being named within a month. The first of these was on uniformity of weights, measures and coins considered in relation to international commerce. This committee ultimately reported in favor of making it lawful to use the metric system and to authorize its use in the postoffice and this recommendation was enacted into law by the congress. Other committees, as on protecting the bottoms of iron vessels and on magnetic deviation of iron ships, were directly concerned with the conduct of the civil war. As the scientific bureaus of the government developed there became loss need of committees of the academy for investigation, and, as the president pointed out in his introductory address at the recent celebration, the government has in recent years but rarely called on the academy for its advice. The last time the academy acted was in pursuance of a request by the congress in 1908 to report on the methods and expenses of conducting the scientific work under the government, but the recommendations of this committee appear to have been ignored. There is reason to believe that while committees for conducting scientific experiments are no longer needful, the disinterested advice of a body such as the National Academy in the selection of the heads of the scientific bureaus under the government and the conduct of their work may be recognized. The officers elected

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at the recent anniversary meeting—Dr. William H. Welch, professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University, president; Dr. Charles D. Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, vice-president; and Dr. A. L. Day, director of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution, home secretary—promise an administration under which the advice of the academy may be of service to the government.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary there has been published a history of the first half century of the academy, prepared and edited by Dr. Frederick W. True, assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution under the charge of a committee of which Dr. Arnold Hague, the home secretary, was chairman. From this volume we take the portraits of the seven distinguished men of science who have successively been presidents of the academy.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS

We record with regret the death of Dr. Lester F. Ward, professor of sociology at Brown University, formerly paleontologist of the U. S. Geological Survey, and of Professor William Morris Fontaine, for thirty-one years professor of natural history and geology in the University of Virginia.

Under the present admistration Dr. B. T. Galloway, chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry, has been appointed assistant secretary of agriculture and Professor Adolph C. Miller, who holds the chair of economics and commerce in the University of California, first assistant secretary of the interior. Dr. Hugh M. Smith has been promoted to be commissioner of fisheries. Dr. John Bassett Moore, professor of international law and diplomacy in Columbia University, has been appointed counsellor to the department of state.

The National Academy of Sciences has elected the following new members: Henry Andrews Bumstead, professor of physics, Yale University; L. E. Dickson, professor of mathematics, University of Chicago; Ross G. Harrison, professor of comparative anatomy, Yale University; Gilbert Newton Lewis, professor of physical chemistry, University of California; A. O. Leuschner, professor of astronomy, University of California; Lafayette B. Mendel, professor of physiological chemistry, Yale University; George H. Parker, professor of zoology, Harvard University; L. V. Pirsson, professor of geology, Yale University; Edward B. Rosa, chief physicist, Bureau of Standards; Erwin F. Smith, pathologist in charge, Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The American Philosophical Society at its stated meeting on April 19 elected the following members: Dr. George F. Atkinson, professor of botany, Cornell University; Dr. Charles Edwin Bennett, professor of the Latin language and literature, Cornell University; Dr. John Henry Comstock, professor of entomology and invertebrate zoology, Cornell University; Luther P. Eisenhart, professor of mathematics, Princeton University; George Washington Goethals, U.S.A., chief of engineers of the Panama Canal; William Crawford Gorgas, assistant surgeon general, U.S.A.; Dr. Ross Granville Harrison, professor of comparative anatomy, Yale University; George Augustus Hulett, professor of physical chemistry, Princeton University; Dr. Clarence Erwin McClung, professor of zoology, University of Pennsylvania; John Dyneley Prince, professor of Semitic languages, Columbia University; Dr. Samuel Rea, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company; Dr. Henry Norris Russell, professor of astronomy, Princeton University; Witmer Stone, curator of ornithology of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Three foreign members were elected as follows: Sir Arthur John Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Sir Joseph Larmor, Lucasian professor of mathematics, Cambridge; and Dr. Arthur Schuster, secretary of the Royal Society, London.