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Ira Remsen
(10 Feb 1846 - 4 Mar 1927)

American chemist who co-discovered saccharin. He spent most of his career teaching chemistry at Johns Hopkins University.


Address By Ira Remsen

The Retiring President Of
The American Association for the Advancement of Science
Delivered at the Fifty-Third Meeting, St. Louis, Mo. (28 Dec 1903)

Scientific Investigation And Progress

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At the weekly services of many of our churches it is customary to begin with the reading of a verse or two from the Scriptures for the purpose, I suppose, of putting the congregations in the proper state of mind for the exercises which are to follow. It seems to me that we may profit by this example, and accordingly I ask your attention to Article I of the Constitution of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which reads thus: “The objects of the Association are, by periodical and migratory meetings, to promote intercourse between those who are cultivating science in different parts of America, to give stronger and more general impulse and more systematic direction to scientific research, and to procure for the labors of scientific men increased facilities and a wider usefulness.”

The first object mentioned, you will observe, is “to promote intercourse between those who are cultivating science in different parts of America; the second to give a stronger and more general impulse and more systematic direction to scientific research; and the third  to procure for the labors of scientific men increased facilities and a wider usefulness.” Those who are familiar with the history of the Association are well aware that it has served its purposes admirably, and I am inclined to think that those who have been in the habit of attending the meetings will agree that the object which appeals to them most strongly is the promotion of intercourse between those who are cultivating science. Given this intercourse and the other objects will be reached as a necessary consequence, for the intercourse stimulates thought, and thought leads to work, and work leads to wider usefulness.

While in 1848, when the Association was organized and the Constitution was adopted, there was a fair number of good scientific investigators in this country, it is certain that in the half century that has passed since then the number of investigators has increased very largely, and naturally the amount of scientific work done at present is very much greater than it was at that time. So great has been the increase in scientific activity during recent years that we are apt to think that by comparison scientific research is a new acquisition. In fact there appears to be an impression abroad that in the world at large scientific research is a relatively new thing, for which we of this generation and our immediate predecessors are largely responsible. Only a superficial knowledge of the history of science is necessary, however, to show that the sciences have been developed slowly, and that their beginnings are to be looked for in the very earliest times. Everything seems to point to the conclusion that men have always been engaged in efforts to learn more and more in regard to the world in which they find themselves. Sometimes they have been guided by one motive and sometimes by another, but the one great underlying motive has been the desire to get a clearer and clearer understanding of the universe. But besides this, there has been the desire to find means of increasing the comfort and happiness of the human race.

A reference to the history of chemistry will serve to show how these motives have operated side by side. One of the first great incentives for working with chemical things was the thought that it was possible to convert base metals like lead and copper into the so-called noble metals, silver and gold. Probably no idea has ever operated as strongly as this upon the minds of men to lead them to undertake chemical experiments. It held control of intellectual men for centuries and it was not until about a hundred years ago that it lost its hold. It is very doubtful if the purely scientific question whether one form of matter can be transformed into another would have had the power to control the activities of investigators for so long a time; and it is idle to speculate upon this subject. It should, however, be borne in mind that many of those who were engaged in this work were actuated by a desire to put money in their purses—a desire that is by no means to be condemned without reserve, and I mention it not for the purpose of condemning it, but to show that a motive that we sometimes think of as peculiarly modern is among the oldest known to man.

While the alchemists were at work upon their problems, another class of chemists were engaged upon problems of an entirely different nature. The fact that substances obtained from various natural sources and others made in the laboratory produce effects of various kinds when taken into the system led to the thought that these substances might be useful in the treatment of disease. Then, further, it was thought that disease itself is a chemical phenomenon. These thoughts, as is evident, furnish strong motives for the investigation of chemical substances, and the science of chemistry owes much to the work of those who were guided by these motives.

And so in each period as a new thought has served as the guide we find that men have been actuated by different motives, and often one and the same worker has been under the influence of mixed motives. Only in a few cases does it appear that the highest motives alone operate. We must take men as we find them, and we may be thankful that on the whole there are so many who are impelled by one motive or another or by a mixture of motives to take up the work of investigating the world in which we live. Great progress is being made in consequence and almost daily we are called upon to wonder at some new and marvelous result of scientific investigation. It is quite impossible to make predictions of value in regard to what is likely to be revealed to us by continued work, but it is safe to believe that in our efforts to discover the secrets of the universe only a beginning has been made. No matter in what direction we may look we are aware of great unexplored territories, and even in those regions in which the greatest advances have been made it is evident that the knowledge gained is almost insignificant as compared with that which remains to be learned. But this line of thought may lead to a condition bordering on hopelessness and despondency, and surely, we should avoid this condition for there is much greater cause for rejoicing than for despair. Our successors will see more and see more clearly than we do, just as we see more and see more clearly than our predecessors. It is our duty to keep the work going without being too anxious to weigh the results on an absolute scale. It must be remembered that the absolute scale is not a very sensitive instrument, and that it requires the results of generations to affect it markedly.

On an occasion of this kind it seems fair to ask the question: What does the world gain by scientific investigation? This question has often been asked and often answered, but each answer differs in some respects from the others and each may be suggestive and worth giving. The question is a profound one, and no answer that can be given would be satisfactory. In general it may be said that the results of scientific investigation fall under three heads—the material, the intellectual, and the ethical.

The material results are the most obvious and they naturally receive the most attention. The material wants of man are the first to receive consideration. They cannot be neglected. He must have food and clothing, the means of combating disease, the means of transportation, the means of producing heat, and a great variety of things that contribute to his bodily comfort and gratify his esthetic desires. It is not my purpose to attempt to deal with all of these and to show how science is helping to work out the problems suggested. I shall have to content myself by pointing out a few of the more important problems the solution of which depends upon the prosecution of scientific research.

First, the food problem. Whatever views one may hold in regard to that which has come to be called “race suicide,” it is certain that the population of the world is increasing rapidly. The desirable places have been occupied. In some parts of the earth there is such a surplus of population that famines occur from time to time, and in other parts epidemics and floods relieve the embarrassment. We may fairly look forward to the time when the whole earth will be overpopulated unless the production of food becomes more scientific than it now is. Here is the field for the work of the agricultural chemist who is showing us how to increase the yield from a given area and, in case of poor and worn-out soils, how to preserve and increase their fertility. It appears that the methods of cultivating the soil are still comparatively crude, and more and more thorough investigation of the processes involved in the growth of plants is called for. Much has been learned since Liebig founded the science of Agricultural Chemistry. It was he who pointed out some of the ways by which it is possible to increase the fertility of a soil. Since the results of his investigations were given to the world the use of artificial fertilizers has become more and more general.

But it is one thing to know that artificial fertilizers are useful and it is quite another thing to get them. At first bone dust and guano were chiefly used. Then as these became dearer, phosphates and potassium salts from the mineral kingdom came into use.

At the Fifth International Congress for Applied Chemistry, held at Berlin, Germany, last June, Dr. Adolph Frank of Charlottenburg, gave an extremely interesting address on the subject of the use of the nitrogen of the atmosphere for agriculture and the industries, which bears upon the problem that we are dealing with. Plants must have nitrogen. At present this is obtained from the great beds of saltpetre found on the west coast of South America—the so-called Chili saltpetre— and also from the ammonia obtained as a by-product in the distillation of coal, especially in the manufacture of coke. The use of Chili saltpetre for agricultural purposes began about 1860. In 1900 the quantity exported was 1,453,000 tons, and its value was about $60,000,000. In the same year the world's production of ammonium sulphate was about 500,000 tons, of a value of somewhat more than $20,000,000. Of these enormous quantities about three-quarters finds application in agriculture. The use of these substances, especially of saltpetre, is increasing rapidly. At present it seems that the successful cultivation of the soil is dependent upon the use of nitrates, and the supply of nitrates is limited. Unless something is done we may look forward to the time when the earth, for lack of proper fertilizers, will not be able to produce as much as it now does, and meanwhile the demand for food is increasing. According to the most reliable estimations indeed the saltpetre beds will be exhausted in thirty or forty years. Is there a way out? Dr. Frank shows that there is. In the air there is nitrogen enough for all. The plants can make only a limited use of this directly. For the most part it must be in some form of chemical combination as, for example, a nitrate or ammonia. The conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into nitric acid would solve the problem, and this is now carried out. But Dr. Frank shows that there is another, perhaps more economical, way of getting the nitrogen into a form suitable for plant food. Calcium carbide can now be made without difficulty and is made in enormous quantities by the action of a powerful electric current upon a mixture of coal and lime. This substance has the power of absorbing nitrogen from the air, and the product thus formed appears to be capable of giving up its nitrogen to plants, or, in other words, to be a good fertilizer. It is true that this subject requires further investigation, but the results thus far obtained are full of promise. If the outcome should be what we have reason to hope, we may regard the approaching exhaustion of the saltpetre beds with equanimity. But, even without this to pin our faith to, we have the preparation of nitric acid from the nitrogen and oxygen of the air to fall back upon.

While speaking of the food problem, a few words in regard to the artificial preparation of foodstuffs. I am sorry to say that there is not much of promise to report upon in this connection. In spite of the brilliant achievements of chemists in the field of synthesis, it remains true that thus far they have not been able to make, except in very small quantities, substances that are useful as foods, and there is absolutely no prospect of this result being reached within a reasonable time. A few years ago Berthelot told us of a dream he had had. This has to do with the results that, according to Berthelot, are to be brought about by the advance of chemistry. The results of investigations already accomplished indicate that, in the future, methods will perhaps be devised for the artificial preparation of food from the water and carbonic acid so abundantly supplied by nature. Agriculture will then become unnecessary, and the landscape will not be disfigured by crops growing in geometrical figures. Water will be obtained from holes three or four miles deep in the earth, and this water will be above the boiling temperature, so that it can be used as a source of energy. It will be obtained in liquid form after it has undergone a process of natural distillation, which will free it from all impurities, including, of course, disease germs. The foods prepared by artificial methods will also be free from microbes, and there will consequently be less disease than at present. Further, the necessity of killing animals for food will no longer exist, and mankind will become gentler and more amenable to higher influences. There is, no doubt, much that is fascinating in this line of thought, but whether it is worth following, depends upon the fundamental assumption. Is it at all probable that chemists will ever be able to devise methods for the artificial preparation of foodstuffs ? I can only say that to me it does not appear probable in the light of the results thus far obtained. I do not mean to question the probability of the ultimate synthesis of some of those substances that are of value as foods. This has already been accomplished on the small scale, but for the most part the synthetical processes employed have involved the use of substances which themselves are the products of natural processes. Thus, the fats can be made, but the substances from which they are made are generally obtained from nature and are not themselves synthetical products. Emil Fischer has, to be sure, made very small quantities of sugars of different kinds, but the task 'of building up a sugar from the raw material furnished by nature—that is to say, from carbonic acid and water—presents such difficulties that it may be said to be practically impossible.

When it comes to starch, and the proteids which are the other chief constituents of foodstuffs, the difficulties are still greater. There is not a suggestion of the possibility of making starch artificially, and the same is true of the proteids. In this connection it is, however, interesting to note that Emil Fischer, after his remarkable successes in the sugar group and the uric acid group, is now advancing upon the proteids. I have heard it said that at the beginning of his career he made out a programme for his life work. This included the solution of three great problems—the determination of the constitution of uric acid, of the sugars, and of the proteids. Two of these problems have been solved. May he be equally successful with the third! Even if he should be able to make a proteid, and show what it is, the problem of the artificial preparation of foodstuffs will not be solved. Indeed, it will hardly be affected.

Although science is not likely, within periods that we may venture to think of, to do away with the necessity of cultivating the soil, it is likely to teach us how to get more out of the soil than we now do, and thus put us in a position to provide for the generations that are to follow us. And this carries with it the thought that, unless scientific investigation is kept up, these coming generations will be unprovided for.

Another way by which the food supply of the world can be increased, is by relieving tracts of land that are now used for other purposes than the cultivation of foodstuffs. The most interesting example of this kind, is that presented by the cultivation of indigo. There is a large demand for this substance, which is plainly founded upon esthetic desires of a somewhat rudimentary kind. Whatever the cause may be, the demand exists, and immense tracts of land have been, and are still, devoted to the cultivation of the indigo plant. Within the past few years scientific investigation has shown that indigo can be made in the factory from substances, the production of which does not for the most part .involve the cultivation of the soil. In 1900, according to the report of Dr. Brunck, Managing Director of the Badische Anilin- and Soda-Fabrik, the quantity of indigo produced annually in the factory “would require the cultivation of an area of more than a quarter of a million acres of land (390 square miles) in the home of the Indigo plant.” Dr. Brunck adds: “The first impression which this fact may be likely to produce, is that the manufacture of indigo will cause a terrible calamity to arise in that country; but, perhaps not. If one recalls to mind that India is periodically afflicted with famine, one ought not, without further consideration, to cast aside the hope that it might be good fortune for that country if the immense areas now devoted to a crop which is subject to many vicissitudes and to violent market changes were at last to be given over to the raising of breadstuffs and other food products. “For myself,” says Dr. Brunck, “I do not assume to be an impartial adviser in this matter, but, nevertheless, I venture to express my conviction that the government of India will be rendering a very great service if it should support and aid the progress, which will in any case be irresistible, of this impending change in the cultivation of that country, and would support and direct its methodical and rational execution.”

The connection between scientific investigation and health is so frequently the subject of discussion that I need not dwell upon it here. The discovery that many diseases are due primarily to the action of microscopic organisms that find their way into the body and produce the changes that reveal themselves in definite symptoms is a direct consequence of the study of the phenomenon of alcoholic fermentation by Pasteur. Everything that throws light upon the nature of the action of these microscopic organisms is of value in dealing with the great problem of combating disease. It has been established in a number of cases that they cause the formation of products that act as poisons and that the diseases are due to the action of these poisons. So also, as is well known, investigation has shown that antidotes to some of these poisons can be produced, and that by means of these antidotes the diseases can be controlled. But more important than this is the discovery of the way in which diseases are transmitted. With this knowledge it is possible to prevent the diseases. The great fact that the death rate is decreasing stands out prominently and proclaims to humanity the importance of scientific investigation. It is, however, to be noted in this connection that the decrease in the death rate compensates to some extent for the decrease in the birth rate, and that, if an increase in population is a thing to be desired, the investigations in the field of sanitary science are contributing to this result.

The development of the human race is dependent not alone upon a supply of food but upon a supply of energy in available forms. Heat and mechanical energy are absolutely essential to man. The chief source of the energy that comes into play is fuel. We are primarily dependent upon the coal supply for the continuation of the activities of man. Without this, unless something is to take its place, man is doomed. Statistics in regard to the coal supply and the rate at which it is being used up have so frequently been presented by those who have special knowledge of this subject that I need not trouble you with them now. The only object in referring to it is to show that, unless by means of scientific investigation man is taught new methods of rendering the world's store of energy available for the production of heat and of motion, the age of the human race is measured by the extent of the supply of coal and other forms of fuel. By other forms of fuel I mean, of course, wood and oil. Plainly, as the demand for land for the production of foodstuffs increases, the amount available for the production of wood must decrease, so that wood need not be taken into account for the future. In regard to oil, our knowledge is not sufficient to enable us to make predictions of any value. If one of the theories now held in regard to the source of petroleum should prove to be correct, the world would find much consolation in it. According to this theory petroleum is not likely to be exhausted, for it is constantly being formed by the action of water upon carbides that in all probability exist in practically unlimited quantity in the interior of the earth. If this be true, then the problem of supplying energy may be reduced to one of transportation of oil. But given a supply of oil and, of course, the problem of transportation is solved.

What are the other practical sources of energy ? The most important is the fall of water. This is being utilized more and more year by year since the methods of producing electric currents by means of the dynamo have been worked out. There is plainly much to be learned before the energy made available in the immediate neighborhood of the waterfall can be transported long distances economically, but advances are being made in this line, and already factories that have hitherto been dependent upon coal are making use of the energy derived from waterfalls. The more rapidly these advances take place the less will be the demand for coal, and if there were only enough waterfalls conveniently situated, there would be no difficulty in furnishing all the energy needed by man for heat or for motion.

It is a fortunate thing that, as the population of the earth increases, man's tastes become more complex. If only the simplest tastes prevailed, only the simplest occupations would be called for. But let us not lose time in idle speculations as to the way this primitive condition of things would affect man's progress. As a matter of fact his tastes are becoming more complex. Things that are not dreamed of in one generation become the necessities of the next generation. Many of these things are the direct results of scientific investigation. No end of examples will suggest themselves. Let me content myself by reference to one that has of late been the subject of much discussion. The development of the artificial dye-stuff industries is extremely instructive in many ways. The development has been the direct result of the scientific investigation of things that seemed to have little, if anything, to do with this world. Many thousands of workmen are now employed, and many millions of dollars are invested, in the manufacture of dye-stuffs that were unknown a few years ago. Here plainly the fundamental fact is the esthetic desire of man for colors. A colorless world would be unbearable to him. Nature accustoms him to color in a great variety of combinations, and it becomes a necessity to him. And his desires increase as they are gratified. There seems to be no end to development in this line. At all events, the data at our disposal justify the conclusion that there will be a demand for every dye that combines the qualities of beauty and durability. Thousands of scientifically trained men are engaged in work in the effort to discover new 0dyes to meet the increasing demands. New industries are springing up and many find employment in them. As a rule the increased demand for labor caused by the establishment of these industries is not offset by the closing up of other industries. Certainly it is true that scientific investigation has created large demands for labor that could hardly find employment without these demands.

The welfare of a nation depends to a large extent upon the success of its industries. In his address as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science given last summer Sir Norman Lockyer quotes Mr. Chamberlain thus: “I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything as to the urgency and necessity of scientific training. . . . It is not too much to say that the existence of this country, as the great commercial nation, depends upon it. It depends very much upon what we are doing now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, whether at its end we shall continue to maintain our supremacy or even equality with our great commercial and manufacturing rivals.” In another part of his address Sir Norman Lockyer says: “Further, I am told that the sum of £24,000,000 is less than half the amount by which Germany is yearly enriched by having improved upon our chemical industries, owing to our lack of scientific training. Many other industries have been attacked in the same way since, but taking this one instance alone, if we had spent this money fifty years ago, when the Prince Consort first called attention to our backwardness, the nation would now be much richer than it is, and would have much less to fear from competition.”

But enough on the purely material side. Let us turn to the intellectual results of scientific investigation. This part of our subject might be summed up in a few words. It is so obvious that the intellectual condition of mankind is a direct result of scientific investigation that one hesitates to make the statement. The mind of man cannot carry him much in advance of his knowledge of the facts. Intellectual gains can be made only by discoveries, and discoveries can be made only by investigation. One generation differs from another in the way it looks at the world. A generation that thinks the earth is the center of the universe differs intellectually from one that has learned the true position of the earth in the solar system, and the general relations of the solar system to other similar systems that make up the universe. A generation that sees in every species of animal and plant evidence of a special creative act differs from one that has recognized the general truth of the conception of evolution. And so in every department of knowledge the great generalizations that have been reached through the persistent efforts of scientific investigators are the intellectual gains that have resulted. These great generalizations measure the intellectual wealth of mankind. They are the foundations of all profitable thought. While the generalizations of science belong to the world, not all the world takes advantage of its opportunities. Nation differs from nation intellectually as individual differs from individual. It is not, however, the possession of knowledge that makes the efficient individual and the efficient nation. It is well known that an individual may be very learned and at the same time very inefficient. The question is, what use does he make of his knowledge? When we speak of intellectual results of scientific investigation, we mean not only accumulated knowledge, but the way in which this knowledge is invested. A man who simply accumulates money and does not see to it that this money is carefully invested, is a miser, and no large results can come from his efforts. While, then, the intellectual state of a nation is measured partly by the extent to which it has taken possession of the generalizations that belong to the world, it is also measured by the extent to which the methods by which knowledge is accumulated have been brought into requisition and have become a part of the equipment of the people of that nation. The intellectual progress of a nation depends upon the adoption of scientific methods in dealing with intellectual problems. The scientific method is applicable to all kinds of intellectual problems. We need it in every department of activity. I have sometimes wondered what the result would be if the scientific method could be employed in all the manifold problems connected with the management of a government. Questions of tariff, of finance, of international relations would be dealt with much more satisfactorily than at present if the spirit of the scientific method were breathed into those who are called upon to deal with these questions. It is plain, I think, that the higher the intellectual state of a nation the better will it deal with all the problems that present themselves. As the intellectual state is a direct result of scientific investigation, it is clear that the nation that adopts the scientific method, will in the end outrank both intellectually and industrially the nation that does not.

What are the ethical results of scientific investigation? No one can tell. There is one thought that in this connection I should like to impress upon you. The fundamental characteristic of the scientific method is honesty. In dealing with any question science asks no favors. The sole object is to learn the truth, and to be guided by the truth. Absolute accuracy, absolute fidelity, absolute honesty are the prime conditions of scientific progress. I believe that the constant use of the scientific method, must in the end leave its impress upon him who uses it. The results will not be satisfactory in all cases, but the tendency will be in the right direction. A life spent in accordance with scientific teachings would be of a high order. It would practically conform to the teachings of the highest types of religion. The motives would be different, but so far as conduct is concerned the results would be practically identical. I need not enlarge upon this subject. Unfortunately, abstract truth and knowledge of facts and of the conclusions to be drawn from them do not at present furnish a sufficient basis for right living in the case of the great majority of mankind, and science cannot now, and I do not believe it ever can, take the place of religion in some form. When the feeling that the two are antagonistic wears away, as it is wearing away, it will no doubt be seen that one supplements the other, in so far as they have to do with the conduct of man.

What are we doing in this country to encourage scientific investigation? Not until about a quarter of a century ago can it be said that it met with any encouragement. Since then there has been a great change. Up to that time research was sporadic. Soon after it became almost epidemic. The direct cause of the change was the establishing of courses in our universities for the training of investigators somewhat upon the lines followed in the German universities. In these courses the carrying out of an investigation plays an important part. This is, in fact, the culmination of the course. At first there were not many following these courses, but it was not long before there was a demand for the products. Those who could present evidence that they had followed such courses were generally given the preference. This was especially true in the case of appointments in the colleges, some colleges even going so far as to decline to appoint any one who had not taken the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, which is the badge of the course that involves investigation. As the demand for those who had received this training increased, the number of those seeking it increased at least in the same proportion. New universities were established and old ones caught the spirit of the new movement until from one end of the country to the other centres of scientific activity are now found, and the amount of research work that is done is enormous compared with what was done twenty-five or thirty years ago. Many of those who get a taste of the work of investigation become fascinated by it and are anxious to devote their lives to it. At present, with the facilities for such work available, it seems probable that most of those who have a strong desire and the necessary industry and ability to follow it find their opportunity somewhere. There is little danger of our losing a genius or even one with fair talent. The world is on the lookout for them. The demand for those who can do good research work is greater than the supply. To be sure the rewards are not as a rule as great as those that are likely to be won by the ablest members of some other professions and occupations, and as long as this condition of affairs continues to exist there will not be as many men of the highest intellectual order engaged in this work as we should like to see. On the other hand, when we consider the great progress that has been made during the last twenty-five years or so, we have every reason to take a cheerful view of the future. If as much progress should be made in the next quarter century, we shall, to say the least, be able to compete with the foremost nations of the world in scientific investigation. In my opinion this progress is largely dependent upon the development of our universities. Without the opportunities for training in the methods of scientific investigation there will be but few investigators. It is necessary to have a large number in order that the principle of selection may operate. In this line of work as in others, “many are called, but few are chosen.”

Another fact that is working advantageously to increase the amount of scientific research done in this country is the support given by the Government in its different scientific bureaus. The Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the National Bureau of Standards, and other departments are carrying on a large amount of excellent scientific work, and thus helping most efficiently to spread the scientific spirit throughout the land.

Finally, two exceedingly interesting experiments in the way of encouraging scientific investigation are now attracting the attention of the world. I mean, of course, the Carnegie Institution, with its endowment of $10,000,000, and the Rockefeller Institute, devoted to investigations in the field of medicine, which will no doubt be adequately endowed. It is too early to express an opinion in regard to the influence of these great foundations upon the progress of scientific investigation. As both will make possible the carrying out of many investigations that would otherwise probably not be carried out, the chances of achieving valuable results will be increased. The danger is that those who are responsible for the management of the funds will be disappointed that the results are not at once of a striking character, and that they will be tempted to change the method of applying the money before those who are using it have had a fair chance. But we who are on the outside know little of the plans of those who are inside. All signs indicate that they are making an earnest effort to solve an exceedingly difficult problem, and all who have the opportunity should do everything in their power to aid them.

In the changes which have been brought about in the condition of science in this country since 1848, it is safe to say that this Association has either directly or indirectly played a leading part. It is certain that for the labors of scientific men increased facilities and a wider usefulness have been procured.

Image of Ira Remsen, not part of the original text, is from the source shown above/ Text from Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1904), Vol 53, 329-45. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


by Ian Ellis
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