Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 165
7 The Aca(lemy Marks Its Semicentennial ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (1901 - 1907) The election of a President was the principal business of the Academy meeting in April egos. Nominated were Alexander Agassiz, Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard; Henry P. Bow- ditch, Harvard physiologist; and Simon Newcomb. Agassiz asked that his name be withdrawn. In his sixty-fifth year, he still programmed his time, month by month, as he had all his life; and his schedule, as he told the assembly, made it impossible for him to attend the autumn sessions. Nevertheless he received a majority of the votes, first on an informal ballot by the thirty-seven members present, then by formal vote, and he was declared elected. Recently discovered correspondence of Charles D. Walcott offers a glimpse of that election. In November Moo, Walcott sounded out Asaph Hall, who protested his age, seventy-one, and suggested Agas- ~ "Minutes of the Academy," April ~ go I, pp. 626-627; NAS, Biographical Memoirs 7 :295; Alfred G. Mayor, "Alexander Agassiz," Poplar Science Monthly 77:424 (November Igloo. 165
OCR for page 166
166 / ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (1901 - 1907) Alexander Agassiz, President of the Academy, ~go~-~go7 (From the archives of the Academy). siz. Three months later, in February egos, with a candidate not yet selected, Walcott wrote Remsen that he thought "it would be a good plan prior to the election of the new President to have a general discussion of the future policy of the National Academy, and then endeavor to elect someone who will carry out the general policy outlined." Remsen doubted that could be done, since policy depended very largely or who was elected. He wanted only some prior agreement on a candidate, for "unless there is some understanding between a fairly large number of members beforehand, the election for president may no astray. I do not like the idea of leaving the matter to chance nominations." Walcott replied that he would suggest Newcomb, "an active man," except that it was Academy policy not to consider a President from Washington. Bowditch was mentioned, as was Agassiz, who had "been talked of by the eastern men, and there is no question that if he gave his attention to the duties of the office he would do welled 2 Charles D. Walcott to Asaph Hall, November 24, Moo; Walcott to Ira Remsen, February ~9, egos (NAS Archives: NAS: Treasurers: Register Book of Letters, pp.
OCR for page 167
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennaal / 167 Alexander Agassiz, only son of Louis Agassiz and his wife Cecile Braun, of Baden, Germany, had been brought to the United States in ~849, when he was fourteen. Greatly gifted, and highly trained in engineering, chemistry, geology, and zoology, he was able to pursue two careers simultaneously and with equal success. In ~86' he became superintendent of a copper mine at Calumet, Michigan, and sub- sequently President of the Calumet Mining Company, from which he amassed his fortune. Beginning in ~875, he started a series of zoologi- cal exploration trips that took him, over the next thirty years, to most of the oceans of the world. He was elected to the Academy in ~866 and served as Foreign Secretary from ~880 to ~886 and from ~8gs to 1901.3 As had Wolcott Gibbs before him, Agassiz disapproved of"the Washington influence" in the Academy that was more concerned with promoting science in the government than the relations of the Academy to the government.4 On the other hand, Agassiz was con- cerned that the Academy was so seldom consulted by the government. But he was not certain he liked Walcott's recent proposal for a committee of five to recommend and incorporate in the annual report to Congress investigations of subjects suggested to the committee by any three or four members of the Academy.5 At a Council meeting on the afternoon of his election, Agassiz recommended instead an execu- tive committee with himself and Home Secretary Arnold Hague as en officio members, "and three members resident in Washington, D.C., to 73-74); Remsen to Walcott, February ~8, egos (NAS Archives: NAS: General); Asaph Hall to Walcott, November 29, Woo (NAS Archives: NAS: Members: A. Hall). Agassiz's death in Go cut short a third term as Foreign Secretary, to which he had been elected the previous year. ~ Agassiz had long deplored "the friends of a paternal government" in the Academy and in federal bureaus who had visions of making "Washington a great scientific center" [see The Nation 41:526 (December ~885)]. The nonpolitical in the Academy, like Gibbs, successfully opposed three times election to the Academy of the crusading conservationist Gifford Pinchot and, several years later, that of Harvey W. Wiley, the head of chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, despite "the weight of the Washington influence" supporting them. Charles S. Sargent, writing Gibbs in Woo about that "influence," thought ". . . there should be some sort of organization or understanding among the members who do not live in Washington and who are not in Government employ. Unless this is done there is great danger that the Academy will be turned into a political machine used chiefly in obtaining appropriations for the Geological Survey, the National Museum and other Washington affairs. This certainly should be resisted" [quoted in Richard H. Hein- del, "From the Correspondence of Oliver Wolcott Gibbs," Science 84:268 (September ~8, 1 936)] 5 "Minutes of the Academy," November 1goo, p. 604.
OCR for page 168
168 / ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (19011907) represent the Academy in its relations to the Government with full power to act." Neither this nor subsequent efforts were availing.6 In an age when the federal government was so responsive to the new colossus of American industry there were few calls on the Academy for the advice of science. State of Science at the Turn of the Century If the inclination of some members was the promotion rather than the counseling of government science, Agassiz, as had his father, felt the Academy should be more concerned with the character of American science. As he well knew, the splendid advances of science in the past century had been made abroad. Indeed, both here and in Europe some had come to believe that science was approaching a stage of perfection, that further progress lay simply in obtaining an infinity of new data to complete the scheme of the naturalists and in making physical measurements with greater precision and expressing results in more decimals.7 In the ~880s physicists were saying that "the great discoveries have all been made." When, in ~89~, the Academy awarded the Watson Medal to the German astronomer Arthur van Auwers for his reduc- tion of James Bradley's observations, the citation described his work as evidence of the general tendency of the age towards the development and utilizations of' knowledge rather than the search after brilliant discoveries. Every science, as 6"Minutes of the Council," April egos, p. 296; "Minutes of the Academy," April egos, pp. 628, 629. A year later, the Council proposed that the Academy should have full and reliable information on the scientific work and needs of the Geological Survey. National Museum, Fish Commission, Bureau of Ethnology, Bureau of Forestry, Naval Observa- tory, Coast and Geodetic Survey, National Bureau of Standards, and other such bureaus. The Academy agreed to set up a special committee to report to the govern- ment on their work. But the committee did not advance beyond the discussion stage ("Minutes of the Council," April egos, pp. 3 lo- ~ I; "Minutes of the Academy," April , pp ~ 6, 25) 7 The Autobiography of Robert ~4. Millikan (New York: Prentice-Hall, ~ 950), p. 269. For Maxwell's similar observation as early as ~ 87 I, see Edward S. Dana et al., A Century of Science in Maraca with Special Reference to the American Journal of Science, 1818-1918 (New Haven: Yale University Press, ~9~8), p. 38~. Such a sentiment was voiced again a century after Maxwell: "There are still innumerable details to fill in, but the endless horizons no longer exist" r Bentley Glass, "Science: Endless Horizon or Golden Age?", Science 171 :24 (January 8, ~ 97 ~ )].
OCR for page 169
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennial / ~ 69 it grows in refinement, becomes more and more in need of investigation and measures of precision.8 Talk of a stasis in science quickly ended, however, when word came in ~895 of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen's discovery of X rays, Antoine Henri Becquerel's discovery a year later of the radioactive rays of uranium, and Joseph I. Thomson's demonstration in ~89' of the existence of"atomic corpuscles" (electrons) as the smallest particles of matter. The first papers on the X ray were read at an Academy meeting in ~896. Four years later the X ray had become "one of the most interesting and important subjects of research in physical sci- ence." Amid conjectures on the need for a new atomic theory, the Academy awarded Roentgen its Barnard Medal for his "epoch- making discovery." In egos the medal was conferred upon Becquerel as "the original discoverer of the so-called dark rays from uranium . . . the basis of subsequent research into and of our present knowledge of the laws of radioactivity." Less than a decade later the revolution in physics portended by these events began to emerged At the turn of the century, the world of science thought well of Itself, as evidenced in the outpouring of surveys of nineteenth- century science, the Smithsonian alone publishing more than a score of the reviews. For the most part their authors were European, as was the science they lauded. Spokesmen for American science were few and modest. "The glory of the nineteenth century has been its science," wrote Charles S. Peirce, but could name in his galaxy of the illustrious only Henry, Agassiz, and the astronomers S. C. Chandler, Samuel P. Langley, Simon Newcomb, and Edward C. Pickering as American representatives among "The Century's Great Men of Sci- ence."~° ~ NAS, Annual Report for 1891, p. 8. 9NAS, AnnualReportfor1896, pp.9-10; 1900, p. ~;1905, p. ~3. For an early note on the revolution, see Arthur L. Foley, "Recent Developments in Physical Science," Popular Science Monthly 77:447~56 (November into). ~° Smithsonian Institution, Annual Reports, ~887, ~898-~902; Charles S. Peirce in Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1900, p. 694. William I. McGee, enumerating the century's discoveries in "Fifty Years of American Science," Atlantic Monthly 82 :320 ( ~ 898), acknowledged that most had been made abroad but they had been "hastened in America." For contrasting views of nineteenth-century American science, see Edward Lurie, "An Interpretation of Science in the Nineteenth Century," f ournal of World History 8:681-706 (~965); Richard H. Shryock, "American Indifference to Basic Science during the Nineteenth Century," Medicine in America: Historical Essays (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, ~ 966), pp. 7 ~-89.
OCR for page 170
170 / ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (1901 - 1907) Simon Newcomb demurred at the charge of America's "slight share in the marvelous scientific advance" and this country's "inferior place in the scientific world." Although this had been true in the past, American science was beginning to make a name for itself and to produce its own geniuses; and, unlike science abroad, had done so without any recognition or help from the state. No nation in the world was so prodigal as the United States with funds for the applications of science; but fundamental science lagged for want of encouragement and support. Newcomb might also have observed that the National Academy of Sciences, out of the income from its $8',ooo in trust funds, was the single most important agency in the country providing grants for fundamental scientific research. Allegations of the inferior position of America in the scientific world moved some of the titans of industry to new philanthropies. Some of them had earlier founded new universities. In egos John D. Rockefeller had established the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research as an advanced research center for the treatment and prevention of disease. A year later, with the counsel of diplomat- historian Andrew Dixon White, Daniel Coit Gilman of Johns Hopkins, and Academy members John S. Billings and Charles D. Walcott, Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institution of Washington, with Walcott as Secretary ~ ~ 902- ~ gob), solely to undertake researches beyond the capacity of established organizations. These were the first of a number of private foundations to make inroads on what Carnegie called "our National Poverty in Science." It was not science, but the marvel of American industrial invention, technology, and production, that was celebrated in Scientific American and the books surveying a century of progress. In less than thirty years, an agricultural economy had changed to an industrial economy, and American exports, augmented by manufactured goods, exceeded imports for the first time.~4 The phenomenal growth 11 Carl Snyder, "America's Inferior Position in the Scientific World,,7 North American Review 174:5~72 (January 1902); Simon Newcomb, "Conditions Which Discourage Scientific Work in America,9' ibid.9 pp. 145-158 (February 1902), an extension of his earlier paper, "Science and Government," ibid., 170:666-678 (May 1900). ~2 See trust funds in NAS, Annual Reponfor 1895, p. 15. ~5 David D. Van Tassel and Michael G. Hall (eds.), Science and Society in the United States (Homewood, Illinois: Dorsey Press, 1966), pp. 2~3-219. 4 Harry T. Peck, Twenty Years of the Republic, 1885-1905 (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 6), p. 629. The "outburst of energy and genius devoted to material success which marked the years from 1864 to 1890," Peck wrote, was followed by a "concentration of wealth in the
OCR for page 171
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennial / ~ 7 ~ of industry had been accompanied by the rise of industrial research laboratories, beginning with the one set up by Thomas Edison in ~870; and, before the end of the century, the railroad, rubber, and steel industries also had laboratories in operation to devise new products and processes and better methods for their control. Academy Efforts on Behalf of the Metric System Although the Academy's Committee on Weights and Measures had long served the needs of the revenue-conscious Treasury Depart- ment, industry depended for its basic measurements on the minus- cule Office of Weights and Measures in the Coast Survey, not much larger than it was when organized in ~ 836. The imprecision in measurement acceptable in many manufacturing processes was not, however, satisfactory in the electrical industry; and in ~884 it called for the establishment of a federal bureau to verify electrical and other physical measurements. The units it sought came from abroad a decade later and were formally adopted by the United States, the National Academy prescribing in ~894 the specifications of the new international units for their practical application.~5 But a permanent and readily accessible authority became impera- tive; and in ~897, with the encouragement of the Academy, Henry S. Pritchett, the recently appointed Superintendent of the Coast Survey, began marshalling the forces of industry, the universities, and science that led to the organization of the National Bureau of Standards in the Treasury Department in 1901.16 In the new Bureau the Academy found an ally in its long-time efforts to obtain adoption by this country of the more logical and exact metric system in use abroad. Bache, a member of Henry's Committee on Weights and Measures, had considered it "not a little strange" that the United States accepted decimal coinage without question but rejected the decimal system for weights and measures.~7 United States between ~885 and egos . . . [that] seemed to promise the commercial and financial conquest of the world" (pp. 3~2, 727). |5 See Chapter 6, pp. ~53-~54, for the Academy Committee on Standards for Electrical Measures. ~5 For the support of Pritchett through the Academy Committee to Consider Establish- ing a National Standardizing Bureau, see "Minutes of the Academy," April Woo, pp. 593, 595-598. t7 NAS, Anneal Reportfor 1863, p. 4.
OCR for page 172
172 / ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (lgOl1907) In January ~866 Henry had reported the committee "in favor of adopting ultimately a decimal system . . . the metrical system of weights and measures," and recommended legislation to legalize its introduction and use, furnish metric standards to the states, and authorize its use at once in the post offices. In 1875, upon the Academy's recommendation, the United States accepted membership in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures; but when in 1879 the Academy wrote to the governors of the states and territories seeking their support for the adoption and use of the metric system in the schools, it received just four replies.~9 The inch and ounce had become established in the public mind; and industry, growing at a phenomenal rate since the Civil War, resisted change. The establishment of the National Bureau of Standards, a staunch advocate of the metric system, revived efforts for its official adoption. At the request of the Bureau, Representative James H. Southard, Chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Mea- sures, who had led congressional action in founding the Bureau, introduced legislation in agog providing for the sole use of metric weights and measures in federal departments after January I, agog, and full adoption as the only legal standards of the United States after January I, ~907. Meeting with strong opposition, Southard requested the Academy to consider whether the metric system was desirable for general use throughout the country and whether the bill allowed sufficient time for complete conversion to that system. At the annual meeting in April agog, the Academy Committee on Weights and Measures failed to reach unanimous agreement, and the question of compulsory introduction of the metric system was laid before the full membership. After prolonged discussion, the Academy agreed on a resolution offered by Charles Walcott: It approved "the use of the metric system for scientific work; but the question of the practical application of the metric system to the industries of the country . . . does not appear to be within the scope of the Academy as the scientific advisor of the Government."20 Metric legislation was subsequently introduced in Congress more than thirty times in that and the next two decades, but none was enacted. ~8 NAS, Proceedings, August ~866, p. 5~; NAS, Annual Report for 1866, p. 3. ~9 NAS, Proceedings, April ~ 879, pp. ~ 56- ~ 57; April ~ 88~,, p. ~ 7~. 20"Minutes of the Academy," April '9<~2, pp. ~3-~4, ~2~, 23; NAS, Annual Report for 1902, pp ~ 3-~4
OCR for page 173
The Academy Marks Its Semicentenntal I ~ 73 Efforts for the Extension of Forest Conservation Agassiz's presidency saw few other requests for Academy services. In egos the Senate Committee on Forest Reservations sought advice on a bill extending to the southern Appalachian region, where disastrous floods along the mountain-born rivers followed the destruction of the high forests, the same forest protection accorded the West. Without authorization to visit the area, the committee under Charles S. Sar- gent could only assess and approve the bill proposing federal owner- ship and control of the forests, but under pressure from private interests the legislation failed. Six years later members of the Academy, aware of the continuing uncontrolled cutting in the forests across the nation, prevailed on the Council to present a resolution to both houses of Congress declaring that, at the rate the forests were being leveled, "the timber supply of the entire United States will be exhausted within twenty years, while in the Eastern states . . . the end of the supply is even nearer." The Council urgently recommended extension of the national forest sys- tem to the Appalachians for their protection and permanent utiliza- tion and acquisition of the flood-controlling forests of both the southern Appalachians and the White Mountains.22 Although Presi- dent Theodore Roosevelt's conservation movement was then at its height, politics prevailed. The first national forest in the Appalach- ians was not established until ~ 9 ~ 6. Academy Report on the Philippines Of great promise in that period had been a request from President Roosevelt in December egos for the advice and cooperation of the Academy in instituting scientific exploration of the natural resources and natural history of the Philippine Islands, recently acquired from Spain. The Academy committee, under Yale geologist William H. Brewer, reported in February agog that the adjacency of the Islands to Malaysia, "one of the most interesting areas in the world," made their exploration of the greatest scientific and economic importance, 2 ~ NAS, Annual Report for 1902, p. ~ 6; cf. Gifford Pinchot and C. H. Merriam, "Forest Destruction," Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1901, pp. 4o~-4o5. For the earlier NAS Committee on Forestry, see Chapter 6, pp. ~60-~6~. 22 "Minutes of the Council," January ~908, pp. 84-85; NAS, Annual Report for 1908, p. 2~.
OCR for page 174
174 / ALEXANDER AGASSIZ (19011907) and proposed that a "board of Philippine surveys" be set up in Washington to administer the planned Academy program. The board of surveys was to comprise the Directors of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Geological Survey, and Biological Survey; the Chief Botanist in the Department of Agriculture; and the Chiefs of the Bureau of Forestry, Fish Commission, and the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology. Its chairman, to be chosen by the board, would report directly to the President. Each board member would appoint a chief field officer and they, with an officer of the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a naval officer, would comprise the scientific council in the Islands, directing the parties to be engaged for the surveys. The Academy estimated the scientific exploration it proposed could be completed in ten years.23 With the Academy report before it, the Board of Scientific Surveys that Roosevelt appointed in March ~903 under Charles Walcott met in planning sessions on five occasions that spring and drafted a bill for consideration by Congress. No action was taken, and even Roosevelt's special request to Congress two years later to act on that "national work" failed to move the lawmakers.24 The Philippine Commission, set up by McKinley in Moo under Cir- cuit Court Judge William Howard Taft to develop a system of self- government for the Islands, had followed the pattern of scientific bureaus in Washington, establishing that year the Bureau of Forestry and Bureau of Mines, and in ~ go ~ the Bureau of Government Laboratories, Health Bureau, Agricultural Bureau, Ethnological Survey, Weather Bureau, and Bureau of Coast and Geodetic Surveys. Paul C. Freer, the University of Michigan Professor of General Chemistry who had gone out to the Islands as Superintendent of the Government Laboratories and overseer of the other bureaus, was on leave in this country when the Academy report came up in Congress. Freer may have persuaded Congress that the surveys would interfere with the work of the Philippine bureaus. In any event, Congress, ever wary of anything resembling a department of science, did not act.25 2` NAS, Annual Report for 1904, pp. ~-23, 3~-33; National Academy of Sciences, Scientific Exploration of the Philippine Islands, Seth Cong., ad sees., Senate Doc. ~45, February 7, ~9o5; NAS Archives: Com on Scientific Surveys of Philippine Islands: agog. 24 President's message to Congress, February 7, egos, in Frederick True, A History of the First Half-Century of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-1913 (Washington: ~9~3), pp. 327-328, and Senate Doc. ~45. See also reference in The Nation 97:367 (October ~6, ~9~3) 2S "Minutes of the Academy," April ~ gob, p. 87, reported the discharge of the Academy committee. (Continued )
OCR for page 175
The Academy Marks Its Semicentenn?al I ~75 New Fields in Academy Membership The years of Agassiz's presidency were otherwise notable, particularly for the new spirit infused by some of the recently elected members of the Academy. With internationalism in the air, Wolcott Gibbs had recommended in ~895 electing members from outside the traditional disciplines, as European academies did. In egos the Academy ac- cepted its first experimental psychologist, Columbia University's James McKeen Cattell, and its first recognized pure mathematician, El~akim H. Moore, head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Chicago. That same year saw the election of Edward L. Nichols, Professor of Physics at Cornell and founder of the Physical Review (~893~. In ~902 the academy elected astronomers George Ellery Hale and W. W. Campbell and the Director of the U.S. Biological Survey, C. Hart Merriam. In ~903, William fames, Harvard Professor of Philosophy and famed founder of pragmatism, was elected. His seven years' association with the Academy appears not to have been a very lively one, however, for on March at, agog, he wrote Home Secretary Arnold Hague as follows: . . . it looks more and more as if my only active relations to the Academy would probably be the voting (or neglecting to vote) for the addition of new members, or the writing of someone's necrological notice, or inflicting upon someone the burden of writing mine. I feel more and more, as I grow older, like lightening life's baggage, and this occurs to me as one of the places where I may harmlessly take in sail.26 Elected in the same year as lames was A. G. Webster, Professor of Physics at Clark University. William Morris Davis was elected the following year; in ~ gob Michael I. Pupin, Professor of Electro- A year later Freer realized the "department of science" when the Philippine Commis- sion merged the Bureau of Government Laboratories and Bureau of Mines in a centralized Bureau of Science, reporting the work of its divisions of biology (including medicine, biology, botany, and entomology), chemistry, mining, ethnology, ornithol- ogy, and fisheries in its new Philippine journal of Science. See particularly the ~ournal's "Memorial Number," 7:v-xli July ~9~2). With Freer's death in two, the bureau and the journal declined, the latter expiring after ~9~6. Cf. A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940 (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ~957), p. e93. For a report on the dispirited attitude of scientists in the Philippines after World War I, see NAS Archives: BOA: Conference on Scientific Research in the Philippines and Other Tropical Countries: Proceedings: Nov two. 26 NAS Archives: Members: W. lames.
OCR for page 189
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennaal / ~89 north side of the Mall, the south front of the building 'to be on line with the south front of the new National Museum Building.' "6} But the bill stipulated that the structure cost not less than ~ million dollars, with a permanent endowment of half a million dollars to be adminis- tered by the Regents of the Smithsonian. The sums involved, and the further stipulation that construction must begin within two years, could not be met.62 A home for the Academy was still a decade away. Plans for a Commemorative History At the meeting in November ~899, with Wolcott Gibbs presiding, the Academy had adopted a resolution to include in the annual Reportfor 1901 "a history of the Academy and its work during the Nineteenth Century," to be prepared under the direction of the Council.63 John Billings, the originator of the proposal, recommended a general sketch of the Academy's history, brief biographies of all past mem- bers, and a classified bibliography of the publications of both past and present members, which would reflect the development of the sci- ences in this country during the second half of the century. In November ~ god, Agassiz, as chairman of a committee to prepare the volume, reported to the Council the committee's opinion that it was too late for a volume commemorative of the nineteenth century and proposed instead that plans be made for a memorial volume to be issued in conjuctnion with the Academy's semicentennial in 1913.64 Six years later, soon after Remsen's election in ~go', the matter was brought up again. At a meeting of the Council that autumn, Home Secretary Arnold Hague, aware that the fiftieth anniversary coincided with the end of the new President's term and that of the incorporators of the Academy only Wolcott Gibbs might still be consulted, recom- mended that Remsen appoint a committee to consider the scope and cost of a commemorative history.65 6l"George Washington Memorial Building," in H. P. Caemmerer, Washington, The National Capital (Washington: Government Printing Of fire, ~ 932), p. 505. 62 Smithsonian Institution, Annual Reportfor 1913, pp. 24-26; 1914, pp. 25-27. 65"Minutes of the Council," November ~899, pp. 282-283; "Minutes of the Academy," p. 582. 64"Minutes of the Council," April egos, p. 298; Walcott to Agassiz, May 6, egos (NAS Archives; PUBS: History of First Half-Century of NAS: ~863-~9~3: Proposed); "Minutes of the Council," November ~902, pp. 3~5-3~6. 65 "Minutes of the Council," November ~ 907, p. 80; "Minutes of the Academy," November ~907, pp. ~58-~59; "Minutes of the Council," April ~908, p. 93.
OCR for page 190
190 / IRA REMSEN (19071913) The committee report, distributed to the members the next April, disclosed with some dismay that "the records of the academy in the early days of its existence are very imperfect," that "but limited means [exist] of gathering first hand authentic records of its early history," and that "no concise record of the work accomplished [for the government]" existed, nor was a complete bibliography of members' publications possible. Nevertheless the report proposed that a perma- nent committee be set up at once to collect the available material, learn what it could from those active members elected in the first five years of the Academy, prepare brief biographical sketches of the founders, and for the greater part of the history designate members to write chapters on the advance of science in the past fifty years, emphasizing American contributors. The volume, not to exceed boo pages, was to be ready for distribution upon the occasion of the semicentennial celebration in ~ 9 ~ 3.66 After talking with members about the difficulties raised in the committee report, Remsen announced the solution agreed upon at ~ , the autumn meeting of ~908. "We all feel that it is desirable to prepare and publish this volume.... The plan suggested would be to employ someone who is an expert in such matters and then help him to the extent of our powers." The Academy, he said, did not have the $4,ooo estimated as the cost of the editing and printing, but with the hope that the members would contribute that sum, the committee would continue its work.67 In April ~ 9 ~ I, with the semicentennial just two years away, Remsen appointed additional members to the Home Secretary's committee on the history and designated Edwin G. Conklin Chairman of the com- mittee on celebration of the anniversary. In June Hague turned over the materials that had been collected to Frederick W. True, a zoologist and Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian, to prepare as "editor," with the assistance of Academy members, "a . . . volume of a few hundred pages" for publication by March ~ 9 ~ 3.68 66 NAS, Annual Reportfor 1908, pp. 25-26. That year members were asked for the first time to prepare autobiographies for the future preparation of biographical memoirs, and two years later were asked for photographs and autographs "for the academy archives" ("Minutes of the Council," April ~ 908, pp. 8g-go; NAS, Annual Report for 1910, p. ~ a; see also Annual Report for 1917, p. ~6). 67"Minutes of the Academy," November ~908, p. 202. 68 NAS, Annual Reportfor 1911, p. Ha; Preface to True, A History of the First Half-Century of the National Academy of Sciences; correspondence in NAS Archives: PUBS: History of First Half-Century of NAS: Proposed.
OCR for page 191
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennzal I i9~ The work of almost four hundred printed pages, A History of the First Half-Centu~y of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-1913, was completed and advance copies delivered to the Academy just before the anniversary meeting.69 The history opened with a well-researched narrative of the founding of the Academy, followed by seventy-f~ve pages of documented annals. Biographical sketches of the incor- porators, much expanded over the original plan of brief notices, occupied almost one hundred pages, and an account of the fifty-three committees appointed for the government between ~863 and ~908 ran to more than one hundred and thirty pages.70 The volume concluded with fifty pages of appendixes. A massive compilation from available records and publications, it was, as Hague said when he read the manuscript, "a volume . . . more for the future than the present," and indeed it proved to be the sole guide to the annals of the Academy for the next half century.7~ The single extended review of True's history, in The Nation, admired the "careful work" evident in the handsome volume, won- dered at the apparent paucity of official records, and found much to commend in the activities of the Academy. The anonymous reviewer was knowledgeable and for the most part sympathetic, but was not intimate with Academy affairs. He thought well of the careful scrutiny of merit as the criterion for election to the Academy and its "honest secrecy," unlike that of some abroad, even as he quoted a supposedly prevalent opinion of membership: "It's nothing to belong, but it's hell not to." He deplored the limited arid irregular nature of Academy publications and the printing of only sixty-eight of more than two thousand papers presented at meetings. Unaccountably, he believed 69 The complete press run of 700 copies arrived at the Academy a year later ('`Minutes of the Academy," April ~ 908, p. ~ 92; April ~ 9 ~ 3, p. ~ 9; "Minutes of the Council," April ~ 9 ~ 3, p. go; NAS, Annual Report for 1913, p. ~ 6). 70 True listed fifty-three committees, with accounts of thirty-six. Some of the commit- tees had been reappointed several times over the years, and some had made no reports. NAS, Annual Report for 1913, p. ~ I, mentions fifty-four committees. Although the organic act, strictly speaking, limited the Academy to investigations of "any subject of science or art" on behalf of the government, "some of the most important questions which the academy has been asked to consider. . . [have been] matters of public policy," notably on metric standards for the states (~866), a plan for surveying and mapping the territories ( ~ 878), the National Board of Health ( ~ 879), the Allison Commission (~884), inaugurating a forest policy (~896, agog), scientific explo- ration in the Philippines (agog), and the conduct of scientific work under the govern- ment (~908). See NAS, Annual Report for 1913, p. ~ I. 7~ Hague to Walcott, December 5, ~9~2 (NAS Archives: PUBS: History of First Half- Century of NAS: ~863-~9~ 3: Proposed).
OCR for page 192
192 / IRA REMSEN (1907 - 1913) the sequence ot Annual Reports to be complete from the beginning. He attributed the "relatively small importance" of Academy meetings and their thin attendance, "commonly from twenty to forty" out of a hundred members, to the distances in the United States and the hard oppression "with home work" of too marry of the most valued ~nem- bers. Many of the Academy reports to the government were of high scientific value, said the reviewer, but their small number, thirty-two tsic] in half a century, was disappointing. He attributed the dearth to the almost autocratic control by the chiefs of scientific bureaus, singling out True's account of the Philippine scientific surveys as illustrative. He concluded with a note on the fact that the act specified that the Academy was not to be compensated for its services to the government. "This provision seems, under existing conditions, likely to become more literally true than might have been expected when it was worded."72 Unfortunately, Alexander Agassiz, under whose presidency the idea of the history had originated, did not live to see its completion. At the age of seventy-four, he had died at sea, on March 27, ~ 9 lo, on the Adriatic, as he was traveling home to the United States. His bequests included more than $ ~ million to Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, founded by his father, and $50,000 "for the general uses of the Academy."73 The Semicentennia1! Anniversary The front pages of the Washington papers the week of the semicen- tennial created uneasiness but no real alarm with now familiar head- lines: The German government had denounced the Krupps for war talk; in the Balkans, Greece and Bulgaria were nearing a clash over Salonika; Greece and Serbia had reached a ten-day truce with Tur- key; Japan talked of war over California's recent anti-Asiatic legisla- tion; France again protested German planes landing inside her bor- ders; Europe feared a grave crisis over Montenegro's refusal to return 72 The Nation 97: 33~367 (October ~ 6, ~ 9 ~ 3). 75 The bequest may well have been a deferred response to the first fund-raising brochure prepared by the Academy in Moo. In the interim prior to Agassiz's election, a committee under John S. Billings, on which "A. Graham Bell" also served, appealed for "an invested fund of about $~s,ooo to enable [the Academy] to carry on its work." There is no further record except the brochure in NAS Archives: PUB Rel: NAS Fund-Raising Brochure: ~ goo.
OCR for page 193
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennial I ~ 93 captured Scutari to Austria. On inside pages in one instance, on page tw~were daily reports of the anniversary meeting of the Academy, several of them almost a column long. The sessions in the amphitheater of the National Museum at the Smithsonian on April 22-24, ~9~3, were "very largely attended, more so in fact than any previous occasion, upwards of seventy members being registered."74 With guests from the universities, scientific in- stitutions, and academies abroad, and from federal agencies and the embassies in Washington, the signatures on the register numbered 86. The welcoming address by President Remsen on the first morning, dwelling on the founding of the Academy, its membership, its services to the government, and in some detail an account of its trust funds, was both enlightening and unexpectedly candid. When the Academy was founded, said Remsen, the government had many engineers, astronomers, and mathematicians in its depart- ments to call on for scientific advice, but few or none in the other branches of science. "But with the multiplication of scientific bureaus supported by the Government, the need of help from the Academy has become less."75 Still, "even as matters now stand, there is ample room for the kind of activity which was in the minds of the founders," that is, the "large questions of a scientific character that present themselves from time to time." However, even that advice was "not always heeded," and he described the.unfortunate experience five years before of the Academy's Committee on the Conduct of the Scientific Work under the Government.76 Later he spoke of the hope for greater recognition of the connec- tion between the government and the Academy, and of the hope that Congress would provide "a proper home . . . Eto] serve as a center of general scientific activity." But he was not sanguine, and in reflecting on his own years in the Academy and his presidency, he was moved to say: Whatever may be said of the duties of the Academy as the scientific adviser of the Government, and as a custodian of trust funds, it must be acknowledged that it is through the agency of its regular meetings that its influence is mainly 74 Scan Journal of Science 185:641 June ~9~3). Popular Science Monthly 82 :613 June ~9~3) called it "the largest attendance of members in the history of the academy." 75 Earlier in his address Remsen had observed: "It is no longer held that heads of scientific bureaus or departments of government should necessarily be made members of the Academy" (The Semi-Centennial Anniversary, p. 3). 76 Ibid., pp. 5-6; cf. NAS, Annual Report for 1913, p. 66, and Popular Science Monthly 82:619 (June ~9~3).
OCR for page 194
194 / IRA REMSEN (19071913) exerted. In this, as in other matters, it is the subtle, the intangible, the spiritual that tells. As for the future, "the work of the Academy will continue; new and younger members will take up the work."77 The anniversary celebration followed the usual order of the annual meeting, except that formal addresses, including one on astronomy by George Ellery Hale and another on international cooperation in research by Arthur Schuster, Secretary of the Royal Society, replaced the reading of scientific papers.78 The special events, a customary feature of the annual meetings, were a reception at the White House on Wednesday afternoon by the new President, Woodrow Wilson; a reception at the Carnegie Institu- tion that evening; a visit for the guests to the scientific bureaus and laboratories of Washington on Thursday morning; and an excursion to Mt. Vernon on the Presidential yacht Mayflower in the afternoon. A banquet at the New Willard Hotel that evening, concluded the meet- ing with brief speeches by the British Ambassador James Bryce and Joseph Henry's physician, S. Weir Mitchell, at eighty-four the oldest living member of the Academy. Another brief address, by the Vice- -President of the United States Thomas R. Marshall, contained an unfortunate reference to "expert testimony" that was headlined in the papers the next morning. The Vice-President was quoted as having said "that any scientific expert could be retained on either side of any case for from $50 to $500.-79 Hale's Vision for the Future The note of disappointment that Remsen had revealed in his opening address had been sounded by retiring presidents before. This time, 77 The Serni-Centennzal Anniversary, pp. 7, ~ I- ~ 2. 78 For the original plan for the celebration, with its symposium on a half-century of science, see "Minutes of the Council," April ~9~2, pp. 72-74. Its final plan was the work of the committees reported in "Minutes of the Council," February ~ 9 ~ 3, pp. 84-85, and NAS Archives: NAS Semicentennial: Arrangements: ~9~ ~-~9~3. 79 On Marshall's speech, with its reference to expert testimony, see A. G. Webster, "Semi-Centennial of the National Academy of Sciences," The Nation 96:449 (May I, ~9~3); The Semi-Centennial Anniversary, p. 77; "Minutes of the Council," April ~9~4, pp. 33-34, 45; "Minutes of the Academy," April ~9~4, p. 45; NAS, Annual Reportfor 1914, p. 25. The "charlatan of science" whose expert testimony could be bought had led Joseph Henry in ~ 850 to draft a code of scientific ethics for the AAAS (Chapter a, p. 4o, and note 62), had been a motivation for the organization of the Lazzaroni in ~853 [Edward Lurie,
OCR for page 195
The Academy Marks Its Semicentenn~al 1 195 however, a challenging response was already under way. In a long letter written to Charles Walcott the year before the approaching anniversary, George Ellery Hale had declared: "The chief advantage of this celebration will not be accomplished unless it marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the Academy." His study of the European academies and of the work they were doing had convinced him that "the Academy does not accomplish more than a very small fraction of what it ought to do for science in the United States." Fully aware that many of the members "are entirely content with the Academy as it exists to-day, and . . . hold that its chief function is to confer honor upon those it elects to membership," Hale believed that only the Academy provided the vehicle for promoting science in this country. Although its membership was widely scattered, with only a few living in or near Washington, and weekly or even monthly meetings therefore impossible, the Academy nevertheless occupied a unique position in American science. It alone possessed a national charter; it was, as the sole American member of the International Association of Academies, the link with international science; and it alone was in a position to provide the necessary mechanism "by which the Academy could be brought into touch with the work in science going on all over the country . . . and which would bring the members of local societies into a real relationship with the Academy." For the Academy to achieve the commanding position in national science within its power, it must obtain a building of its own in Washington and an endowment. "The coming of the fiftieth anniver- sary, and the election of new officers, gives a favorable opportunity to start a strong movement for the improvement of the Academy."~° Hale's letter, written in May ~ 9 ~ a, anticipated the three articles that he wrote for Science in the summer and autumn of ~9~3 under the general title "National Academies and the Progress of Research." In the first of these, "The Work of European Academies," Hale saw resolution for "the problems of our own National Academy." It resided in the European academies' possession of academy buildings with libraries and large laboratories where investigations were con- stantly in progress, in their prestigious proceedings and other publi- cations, in their management of trust funds for research and award- Lauis Agassiz: A Life in Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ~960), pp. ~80, ~83], and had become a matter for Council debate following Wolcott Gibbs's address in ~895. See Chapter 6, note 64. 8° Hale to Walcott, May ~7, ~9~2 (NAS Archives: NAS: Future of NAS: ~906~9~3).
OCR for page 196
196 / IRA REMSEN (19071913) ing of prizes, and in the advice they provided "governments and individuals as to the best means of initiating and conducting scientific enterprises." All this arose from the primary objectives of the academies, "to uphold the dignity and importance of scientific re- search, and to diffuse throughout the nation a true appreciation of [its] intellectual and practical benefits." This had been accomplished abroad because the academies had "the active cooperation of the leaders of the state." The implication was that science must be similarly upheld by the Academy in this country, even without ~ov- ernment cooperation. Turning to the National Academy in his second paper, Hale took True's history as his point of reference. He felt that the Academy, in its relatively brief existence, despite the "disadvantage of a widely scattered membership, whose discoveries and contributions to science have always reached the world through other channels, and with no home of its own to focus attention on its activities," had served its founders well. He was fully aware that "requests for the Academy's assistance have become less numerous as the national laboratories and scientific bureaus have multiplied and improved," leaving to the Academy only those "questions of broad scope, requiring the cooper- ation of authorities in several fields of knowledge for their solution, Ethat] must arise from time to time.... ET]he time is now favorable for an extension of its work into new fields," said Hale.82 His third paper, on the future of the Academy, was presented before the members at the meeting in Baltimore in November ~9~3. In that "call" to the Academy, he described the "extension of the work and usefulness of the Academy" that would merit its ranking with those abroad.83 He proposed an Academy that was "first of all . . . a leading source and supporter of original research and . . . the na- tional representative of the great body of American investigators in science," an Academy responsive to the whole range of science, open to and actively supporting the "inter-relationship" of the sciences and newly recognized disciplines, the industrial sciences, and the humanities, particularly philosophy, archaeology, political science, 8~ George Ellery Hale, "National Academies and the Progress of Research. I. The Work of European Academies," Science 38:695~97 (November ~4, ,9~3). 82 George Ellery Hale, "National Academies and the Progress of Research. II. The First Half-Century of the National Academy of Sciences," Science 39: 195, 197, 200 (February 6, ~9~4). 83 See "Minutes of the Council," November ~9~3, pp. ~oz-~o3; "Minutes of the Academy," November ~ 9 ~ 3, p. ~ 84.
OCR for page 197
The Academy Marks Its Semicentenn~al 1 197 and history, with the admission to membership of their best men limited only by the requirement of original investigation. The fullest accomplishment of these aims necessitated above all an imposing building as symbol and center, "the visible evidence of the Academy's existence," with space for two laboratories, fully staffed, "to make the Academy a source of original research," and facilities for public lectures and exhibition halls.84 Equally important for a revitalized Academy was Hale's plan for a new Academy Proceedings, as a vehicle "for the first announcement of discoveries and of the more important contributions to research." To that end, it should appear fortnightly or at least monthly, and there- fore must seek endowment.85 Moreover, with its considerable trust funds, the Academy ought not wait for applications to carry out research with those funds but, as an encouragement to the younger men in science, take the initiative in organizing and conducting research. And it should elect to membership a larger proportion of the younger men making original contributions in science.86 Prior to its publication, copies of Hale's paper were distributed to the membership for their comments and suggestions. Predictably, Academy members in federal bureaus expressed concern that Hale saw little future in Academy relations with the government. But except for wide agreement on the need for a building, a journal, and a larger membership, Hale's other suggestions stirred less response.87 84 On the "tangibility" of an Academy building, see editorial, "The National Academy of Sciences and the National Government," Scientific American 113:176 (August 28, ~9~5). 85 See NAS, Annual Reps for 1913, p. ~8. 86 George Ellery Hale, "National Academies and the Progress of Research. III. The Future of the National Academy of Sciences," Science 40:907-919 (December 25, ~9~4); 41:12-23 (January I, ~9~5). Hale's complete study was published as National Academies and the Progress of Research (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: New Era Printing Co., n.d.). 87 See E. B. Rosa of the National Bureau of Standards to Home Secretary Arthur L. Day, March I, 1914 (NAS Archives: NAS: Future of NAS: ~906~9~3). Of the seventy-f~ve members responding to Hale's subsequent survey of opinion, seventy-one had no specific opinion on whether government relations should be emphasized, sixty-five had no opinion on whether a building for the Academy should have a library, f~fty-five no opinion on laboratories for it, and thirty-nine no opinion on its use for public lectures. On the question of inclusion of the "humanities" in the Academy, sixty-four had no opinion (Carnegie Institution of Washington and California Institute of Technology, George Ellery Hale Papers: Microf lm Edison, ~968, "Summary on the Future of the . . . Academy . . . , ~9~3-~9~5," Roll 46, Frames 4~4~, 2 ~3-2 ~4; copy in NAS Archives). The proposed creation of sections of medicine and engineering was protested by one member because those professions were "mainly followed for pecuniary gain" (Ibid., memorandum, December ~ 8, ~ 9 ~ 3, Roll 46, Frame too). (Corned overleap
OCR for page 198
198 / IRA REMSEN (19071913) Edwin Bidwell Wilson, Manag- ing Editor of the Academy's Proceedings for fifty years (From the archives of the Academy). The lecture series had already been provided for. Established by Hale and his brother and sister in memory of their father, William Ellery Hale, it was inaugurated at the April ~9~4 meeting with a course of two lectures given by Ernest Rutherford on the constitution of matter and the evolution of the elements. The journal, made possible by raising a subscription fund and making a small levy on the For Hale's defense of his plans for the Academy following the membership response, see "Minutes of the Academy," April ~9~4, twenty-six-page insert between pp. ~5-~6. 88 NAS, Annual Report for 1913, p. ~9; NAS Archives: NAS: Trust Funds: William Ellery Hale Lectures: ~ gob- ~ 9 ~ 3.
OCR for page 199
The Academy Marks Its Semicentennial 1 199 membership, soon followed. In January ~9~5 the first issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the editorship of Edwin B. Wilson, appeared.89 Less than a year later all further planning was put aside, as the Academy turned to the organization of its wartime agency, the National Research Council. 89 Even before the reading of Hale's paper, the Council had appointed a special committee on publishing a journal to carry, among other matter, brief accounts of original research by Academy members; and the Council had been requested to report on a permanent building ("Minutes of the Council," November ~9~3, pp. foe, log; NAS, Annual Report for 1913, pp. ~8, 25 - 27; 1914, pp. 20 - 2 I; NAS Archives: PUB Rel: Brochures: NAS: Description of Activities, Membership & Financial Needs of NAS: |9~5)- For the accomplishment of the journal, see NAS, Annual Report for 1915, p. 20; Hale, "The Proceedings of the National Academy as a Medium of Publication," Science 41:815 817 Uune 4, ~9~5); E. B. Wilson, '`The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Numbers ~-4)," Science 41:868~72; E. B. Wilson, History of the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1914-1963 (Washington: National Academy of Sci- ences, ~966), pp. 3-40.
Representative terms from entire chapter: