Popular Science Monthly/Volume 84/January 1914/The Progress of Science

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PSM V84 D104 Sir William Crookes.jpg
Sir William Crookes,

elected to the presidency of the Royal Society.


At the anniversary meeting of the Royal Society held on December 1, Sir William Crookes was elected to the presidency in succession to Sir Archibald Geikie. As a change in this office is made only once in five years, election to it is the highest honor for a British man of science, the immediate predecessors of Sir Archibald Geikie having been Sir William Huggins, Lord Lister, Lord Rayleigh and Lord Kelvin, a roll of scientific distinction which it would be difficult to parallel. Sir William Crookes was born in 1832, and thus belongs to the group of great men of the Victorian era. As long ago as 1862 he discovered thallium, and the weighing of this element in a vacuum led to the construction of the radiometer and to researches on the phenomena produced by the discharge of electricity through the exhausted tubes to which his name has been given. In his theory of radiant matter, he anticipated the electron theory. He has continued his researches with unabated vigor. In his presidential address before the British Association in 1898 he announced the discovery of monium and in connection with his work on the rare earths developed a theory of the evolution of the elements. Even since the discovery of radium he has made important researches, inventing the spinthariscope, which exhibits the results of radium emanation on a screen.

The report of the council and the address of the president review the work of the society. The government gives the society rooms at Burlington House and two grants, one of £4,000 for scientific researches and one of £1,000 for publication. The society is, however, only a trustee to award the grant for scientific research, and, as Sir Archibald Geikie pointed out, the funds of the society are not commensurate with the work it accomplishes. The Catalogue of Scientific Papers, supported mainly by gifts from the late Ludwig Mond, and the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature are expensive enterprises. The tenth annual issue of the International Catalogue has been published, with the exception of the volumes on physiology and bacteriology. A meeting of the International Council will be held in 1914, at which it will be necessary to consider seriously the question of continuing the catalogue. The society received last year the bequest made by Lord Lister of about $45,000 and a gift of $25,000 from Sir James Caird to be used in five yearly disbursements for the furtherance of physical research.

At the anniversary dinner the principal toast, that of "The Royal Society" was proposed by Mr. Page, the American ambassador. He suggested that the explanation of the bankruptcy of great literature might be the rise of science, which had changed all our outlook on the world, and had for the first time made us feel at home in this life and unafraid, had for the moment thrown men of great artistic power somewhat out of the use of their powers. It was a pleasing thought, he said, to suppose that some member of that society, or some similar body, might make a new era by the production of great literature, because the great literature of the future must take account of and must be shaped by the view of life under the dispensation of men of science. Sir Ray Lankester and Sir Harold Dixon responded for the medallists; the former having received the Copley medal and the latter one of the royal
PSM V84 D106 Side view of the atwood celestial sphere from west.jpg
Side View of the Atwood Celestial Sphere from West, showing entrance.

medals. The Huygens medal was conferred on Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, of whom the president said: "His preponderating share in the invention of the telephone, now so long ago as 1876, and his practical investigations in phonetics, have laid modern civilization under deep obligation to him, while his numerous other inventions and experiments show the fertility of his genius."


The Chicago Academy of Sciences has appreciated the interest in astronomy and the difficulty met in trying to become familiar with even the brighter stars and more commonly known constellations. Various plans for promoting this study were considered by the academy. The flat star charts are confusing to the untrained observer, and the globes on the outside of which stars are sometimes represented are unsatisfactory. To avoid these difficulties the sphere now in the academy building and here shown in illustrations was invented by Dr. Wallace W. Atwood, secretary of the society and director of the museum. It was constructed, installed and presented to the academy by Mr. La Verne W. Noyes, president of the board of trustees, in order to broaden and to promote the educational and scientific work of the academy.

The material used in constructing the sphere is light galvanized sheetiron, which has been pressed to the proper curvature and soldered to the equatorial ring and to a smaller ring about the entrance to the sphere. The platform and horizon table are of wood and rest upon a steel frame. The diameter of the sphere is fifteen feet. The weight, exclusive of the platform, is a little more than 500 pounds. This weight is caried by a 21/2″ tube attached to the outside of the sphere along the line of the equator and resting upon three wheels as shown in the cross section view. The two lower wheels carry the greater portion of the weight, but the third and upper wheel, above the door, resists a certain thrust due to the inclined position of the sphere. The stationary platform within the sphere is supported in part by steel trusses resting upon the framework of the museum balcony, and in part by two upright pillars which rest upon the great I beam of the main floor of the museum. This platform carries a circular horizon table, below which the sphere is obscured from view, and above which there is a complete hemisphere on which the stars are represented.

The observer in this sphere is located on the surface of the earth at north latitude 41° 50'. Celestial spheres constructed for localities having other latitudes north or south would be placed at other angles and certain other constellations would be shown. The stars are represented by tiny perforations in the sphere, different sizes being used for stars of different magnitudes. The size

PSM V84 D107 North-south cross section of atwood celestial sphere.jpg

North-south Cross Section of Sphere. 1-2. South Polar Ring at entrance. 3. Upper Wheel supporting sphere. 4. One of two lower wheels which support the sphere and are propelled by motor. 5. Electric Motor. 6. North Pole of the heavens. 7-8. Horizon Table. 9. Observers' Platform. 10. Switch Board. 11. Electric Wire. 12-13. Ecliptic or apparent path of the sun.

and location of each star in the sphere has been determined with great care, so that the sphere is an accurate miniature representation of the heavens. The stars of the first, second, third, fourth and a selected number of those of the fifth magnitude visible from the latitude of Chicago are represented in the sphere, and the total number is 692. The shifting positions of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus among the constellations have been provided for by a number of openings made to represent the different positions of each of these planets at different times of the year. The openings not in use are very readily covered. The sun is represented by a small electric light which may be moved from place to place along the ecliptic and thus be kept in its appropriate place among the stars. The moon will be represented by a series of small discs cut to represent its various phases and coated with a luminous salt. These discs may be moved from point to point along the orbit of the moon and thus represent that body in its appropriate position in the heavens.

Each star in the sphere has been numbered and star tables have been prepared so that it is simple for one to identify a particular star observed in the sphere or to locate a given star or constellation. Many of the mathematical conceptions necessary for the study of descriptive astronomy which often discourage the beginner are made with this sphere perfectly simple. Any one, including the younger school children, can with its aid become familiar with the chief constellations, their apparent movement, the brighter stars and the real and apparent movements of the sun, moon and planets.


We regret to record the death of Sir Robert Stawell Ball, Lowndean professor of astronomy at Cambridge University; of Sir John Batty Tuke, M.D., lecturer on insanity at Edinburgh; of Dr. Henry Potonié, geologist of the Prussian Geological Survey, and of Dr. Edwin Klebs, the well-known German pathologist.

Dr. Aubrey Strahan has been appointed director of the British Geological Survey and Museum in succession to Dr. J. J. H. Teall, who will retire on January 5.—Provost Edgar F. Smith, of the University of Pennsylvania, has been elected a member of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to succeed Dr. Ira Remsen, recently president of the Johns Hopkins University.

At the meeting of the National Association of State Universities, which was held recently in Washington, D. C, a committee was appointed to draw up plans and policies to be submitted to congress for its approval. A bill will be presented asking for $500,000 as the first step in the organization.

Shortly after the issue of this number of the Monthly the scientific societies will hold their annual convocation week meetings. The American Association for the Advancement of Science meets in Atlanta, beginning on Monday, December 29. With it meet the national scientific societies devoted to astronomy, physics, entomology and botany. The societies concerned with zoology, physiology and anatomy meet in Philadelphia, the geologists in Princeton, the anthropologists in New York, the psychologists and philosophers in New Haven, the economists and sociologists in Minneapolis.