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thinks the work of future scientists will deal largely
with the application of the great principles and gen-



156 Seen in Germany

eralizations already well known. By this he does not
mean that wonderful new scientific discoveries will
not be made, but that they will not have the pro-
found importance of these fundamental laws.

" I look for the greatest future development in the
science of chemistry," he said. He spoke of the
attempts now being made to show that the seventy
or more so-called elementary substances may in
reality be only the forms of a few still more ele-
mentary substances, mentioning the speculation that
science would one day find that there was really only
one substance at the basis of all things — one ele-
ment of which the so-called seventy odd elements are
merely forms of different composition of atoms.

The conversation as to the outlook in chemistry
drifted naturally to that subject which has so often
presented itself to the imaginative scientist — that of
the ability of men to produce a living substance by
artificial processes, in other words, to make life.
Haeckel believes firmly that some day this will be
done, that it is not at all beyond the range of science,
strange and improbable as it may seem. We had
been sitting at the open windows of Haeckel's study.
The professor pointed outside to the beautiful green
foliage of the garden.

" It is only what those plants are doing all the
time," he said, " taking so many parts of carbon,
hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on, and combining



A German Professor 157

them into the albuminous substance which we call
protoplasm, the living substance. Science can com-
bine these elements just as nature does — the propor-
tions being exactly known — but not yet to produce
life. The albumen molecule is very complicated.
Science does not know yet just how the various
atoms of carbon, oxygen, and so on which compose
it are united, and all attempts to solve the problem
of the albumen molecule, what it reallv is and how
the elements are joined within it, have been so far
without avail. But I believe firmly that this great
question will some day be solved. If it is, then the
artificial production of life will be a possibility."



VI

A TYPICAL SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTION



VI

A TYPICAL SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTION

The Physical and Technical Institute at
Charlottenburg

SUCH a government as that of Germany im-
poses restrictions and assumes paternal re-
sponsibilities quite out of keeping with the
American idea of the functions of the state, but
it also goes as far in the other direction, and showers
benefits upon its favored institutions with paternal
prodigality. The republic says to its citizen, " You
may do what you please, but don't bother me."
The monarchy's familiar word is verboten (forbid-
den), but the monarchy also says, " If you have talent
and ambition with poverty, I will support you so
that your work may help me." And that is one
of the prime reasons why Germany to-day holds
such a commanding position in science and art, and
it accounts in large measure for the recent astonish-
ing development in German commerce.

The casual American visitor may not at first
appreciate this liberal side of the German system,
and such an institution as the Reichsanstalt, the



62 Seen in Germa



ny



Imperial Physical and Technical Institute of Ger-
many, strikes him with astonishment. Here is a
splendid establishment of buildings, set in spa-
cious grounds, an equipment of its kind, perhaps
without parallel anywhere in the world, having a
faculty of ninety-five professors, scientific assistants,
expert mechanicians, and other helpers, a staff larger
than that of many an American university, and yet
without a single student or any provision for stu-
dents, and admitting visitors only rarely. And this
institution has for its purpose, primarily, the investi-
gation of abstruse scientific problems, those problems
of heat, light, electricity, and magnetism, which lie
just beyond the borders of the known. Much of this
work offers little promise of what we in America are
fond of calling immediate practical results, and yet
the inquiries are in reality profoundly practical, inas-
much as they are laying a deep and solid foundation
for future scientific discovery. This is the phvsical
side of the Reichsanstalt. A coordinate department,
that of technics, seeks to adapt the results of these
special researches and to accomplish for advanced
mechanics vvhat the physical department is doing for
advanced science.

Here in the Reichsanstalt are set up the most per-
fect instruments in the world for measuring heat and
cold, for finding the pressure of the atmosphere, for
determining the strength of electric currents, for



A Typical Scientific Institution 163

measuring light, and for a score of other purposes in
which the utmost exactness is required. Here are kept
the purest gold, silver, platinum, iridium, rhodium,
and other metals in the world — the standards of
purity. Here is the purest water in the world, and
the finest glass, and the most perfect weighing ma-
chines. Here can be produced and measured every
temperature from that of liquid air to that of the
electric arc light. And here is apparatus for generat-
ing electric currents of any potential from one volt
up to twelve thousand volts, and, what is more, of
measuring them with almost absolute exactness. Does
the famous German thermometer-maker wish to know
if his thermometers or his barometers are absolutely
correct? He sends them to the Reichsanstalt for test-
ing. When Krupp, the gun-builder of Essen, devises
a new kind of nickel-steel he sends it to the Reich-
sanstalt to ascertain exactly its coefficient of expansion
in varying degrees of heat and cold, its electrical con-
ductivity, and its tensile strength. When our own
government wishes to be certain that the incandes-
cent electric lights which it is purchasing are marked
with the proper candle-power, it must needs send them
to this distant German institution for testing; there
is, perhaps, no other place in the world where it
can be done with such certainty. Such a consi^n-
ment of American lamps had just passed through
the Reichsanstalt at the time of my visit. The pitch



1 64 Seen in Germany

of the music which you hear at the opera has un-
doubtedly been regulated by tuning forks bearing
the peculiar blue marking of the Reichsanstalt ; the
thermometer with which your physician takes your
temperature when you are ill, if it be of the best
make, owes its accuracy to the same source.

The Reichsanstalt has now been in existence for
twelve years, and yet it is rarely heard of even in
Germany outside of a limited circle of scientific in-
vestigators and technicians, but among these it stands
supreme : it is the final authority. It is probable
that all the people of the United States, outside of a
few colleges and manufacturing establishments, who
ever heard of the institution could be numbered
within a few hundreds.

All of this work is expensive, its returns in money
being a very small fraction, less than ten per cent,
of its income, and yet the Imperial Reichstag of Ger-
many makes the necessary appropriations year after
year for its extension and maintenance, nor is there
any objection because much of the work has no
immediate practical value, nor because it benefits
not only Germany but the whole world. For the
results of the investigations and determinations at
the Reichsanstalt are freely published, and whoever
wishes, be he American, English, or French, political
friend or foe, may use them all. In this large and
liberal attitude toward science and the recognition



A Typical Scientific Institution 165

of its value to the state, Germany must certainly be
accorded the chief place among the nations. And
this is what impresses the American, whose expe-
rience with government has too often been associated
with the intensely practical, no money spent unless
the legislator can see practical results before the next
campaign.

The Reichsanstalt owes its existence to the far-
sightedness of those two great Germans, von Siemens
and von Helmholtz. Both men were, first of all, scien-
tists, but Siemens, one of the greatest of inventors and
manufacturers of electrical apparatus, was also a tech-
nician. He recognized the necessity of greater exact-
ness in all departments of mechanics, in standards of
measurement in temperature, electricity, and light.
He also saw in a broad way that the future of Germany
lay in her progress as a manufacturing nation, and
he knew that greater exactness in technical processes
would not only mean greater speed and accuracy of
production with the consequent increase in profits,
but he foresaw the advantages which would accrue
to the nation which stood for perfection in manufac-
tured articles. " Made in Germany " has now
become a commercial by-word. In order to further
this idea, Siemens presented the imperial govern-
ment with a plot of land valued at 1125,000 in the
town of Charlottenburg which adjoins Berlin on
the west. It is only a half hour's drive from the



1 66 Seen in Germa



ny



emperor's palace, and within sight of that other
unequalled German institution, the Roval Technical
High School. To this plot the government added
extensively by purchase and within three years' time
nine buildings had risen out of the sand. The
original cost of the establishment, exclusive of land,
was over $ 1 ,000,000, all paid by the imperial govern-
ment. Von Helmholtz, then the most distinguished
among German scientists, was called to the presidency
ot the institution ; and it was he with his immediate
successor, Professor Kohlrausch, now president of
the institution, who organized the work and first in-
dicated the lines of research which it was to follow.
Every attention was given to the details of construc-
tion, so that the various buildings and the apparatus
should be perfectly fitted to the purposes of accurate
investigation. Money was not stinted, and it is
probable that no other institution in the world is
so thoroughly equipped. For delicate experiments
in physics, great solidity of construction is required.
Therefore the two main buildings were sunk deep
in the earth and set on a firm foundation of stone
and asphalt, so that an earthquake would hardly jar
them. An even temperature is another requirement
for delicate experiments, especially in the domain of
temperature. Therefore the walls were built thick
and solid. I was shown the method of construction
in the basement of the physical building, first an outer




S=o






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1 68 Seen in Germany

wall eighteen inches thick, pierced with tight-fitting
double windows, then an air space reaching from
floor to ceihng and wide enough for a man to walk
in, then an inner wall of solid masonry two and one-
half feet thick, also fitted with tight double windows
and doors. Still inside of this there are rooms en-
closed in masonry walls and having thick glass floors
and ceilings, glass being the best heat insulator. These
rooms are not artificially heated, and yet they can be
kept at a temperature that will not vary winter or
summer throughout the year more than two degrees.
Each room has its own ventilator to carry off^ stenches
and acid fumes, so that in no case can one experiment
interfere with another. All the larger rooms are so
fitted with extra doors, windows, heating radiators, and
lighting apparatus that they can be divided into two
or more smaller rooms should extra places be needed
for peculiarly delicate experiments. An architect,
two masons, and two carpenters are kept especially
employed by the year for making these changes and
for building the foundation pillars and other conven-
iences for the experiments. Instead of shingle or
tile roofs which might absorb heat, the buildings
of the Reichsanstalt are covered with a thick layer
of soil, now thoroughly grown up to turf. When I
first saw the institution, the grass on the roofs was
just turning green and a few dandelions shone out
in yellow patches. One small building near the



A Typical Scientific Institution 169

middle of the grounds seemed at first sight out of
harmony with the remainder of the institution. It
is set diagonally to the front of the grounds, so that
it may rest in the magnetic meridian, and it is built
wholly without iron or steel in any form, — no iron
nails, hinges, locks, pipes, or anything else of the
kind. Here the professors may come when they
are working with delicate experiments in magnetism,
and all the conditions are propitious. All the build-
ings give the impression of spaciousness and perma-
nency, and standing, as they do, in the midst of a
garden and trees, and shut off from the life of the
surrounding streets, they furnish an ideal condition
of seclusion and quiet.

Nor has the effort of the government to furnish
its chosen scientists with every working convenience
been bounded by the limits of the Reichsanstalt
grounds. Recently the street railways of Berlin
have been fitting their lines with electricity. The
directors of the Reichsanstalt feared that the prox-
imity of trolley wires with the magnetic field which
would be set up at the passage of every car might
interfere with their experiments, and they made rep-
resentations to that effect to the government. In
Germany science is esteemed only second to royalty,
and the government being all-powerful, the street
railroads were ordered not to place any trolley wires
within a kilometer (five-eighths of a mile) of the



170 Seen in Germany

Reichsanstalt. As a result and odd enough it is to
an American, the trolley lines of Charlottenburg when
they approach the imperial mausoleum, the emper-
or's memorial church, and the Reichsanstalt — royalty
and science — are run underground, and the cars are
compelled to cover the intervals by means of power
drawn from storage batteries. Asphalt pavements
also have replaced the old cobblestones in the streets
around the Reichsanstalt, to prevent the jar of trucks
from influencing the delicate instruments in the build-
ings. To such an extent as this does Germany work
out her schemes for scientific advancement.

In these favorable surroundings the imperial gov-
ernment has placed a corps of scientists of the highest
attainments. In this, as in everything else, no pains
have been spared to make every condition favorable to
great accomplishment. The process of selection of
men is, like everything in Germany, methodical and
permanent. A student in the university has obtained
his degree of doctor with credit, and he wishes to
spend his life in science. The government, upon
consideration, places him in the Reichsanstalt as a
wissenschaftlichen — scientific assistant. He takes an
oath of office and becomes at once a cog in the vast
machine of the German imperial government. In
about three years' time he is promoted to assistant
with a small increase in salary. Then he serves eight
or ten years, more or less, before he receives the



A Typical Scientitic Institution 171

highly honorable title of professor — a distinction
conferred by the government just as a colonel would
be commissioned in the army. He is now a life
member of the government service, and nothing but
absolute disgrace ever displaces him. He is free
to pursue the work he loves without the care and
precariousness of a teaching position. His salary is
very small, it is true, very small indeed, but from
time to time he receives an increase of a few dollars a
year, and, more astonishing to an American, the gov-
ernment regularly pays him his salary three months in
advance. At sixty-five years of age he may retire,
and his pension will keep him comfortably to the end
of his days. But if his salary is small his position
in the government carries with it compensation in
the form of social distinction which would be much
beyond his reach if he were in a position in private
life yielding him a much greater income. So the
service is eminently safe and conducive to the care-
ful, painstaking, intricate investigations for which Ger-
man science has long been famous, — the slow piling
of minute facts one upon another until they shape a
great conclusion. Surely a better machine than the
Reichsanstalt for forcing nature's secret storehouses,
" putting questions to nature in the form of experi-
ments," as Professor Lummer expresses it, was never
devised.

At the head of the Reichsanstalt is Professor



172 Seen in Germany

Kohlrausch, who succeeded to the position at the
death of von Hehnholtz. Professor Kohlrausch
is also the director of the first department, that of
physical inquiry, and Professor Hagen is director
of the second department, that of technics. The
cost of the two departments to the government is
between |8o,ooo and :^ 100,000 a year. The second
department, which has charge of the testing of in-
struments of precision and measurement, charges
small fees for its work, which amount in the aggregate
to about ten per cent of the total outgo. The first
department, dealing as it does with abstruse inquiries,
has no income whatever. Thus physics, for the man
engaged in it, is no longer what von Siemens once
called "a breadless art — a plaything for academic
teachers in their hours of leisure."

In its essence the work of the Reichsanstalt consists
in establishing new and more accurate standards of
measurement. That is the final purpose of all the
experiments : it is, indeed, the chief aim of the science
of physics. All modern mechanical operations de-
pend on the employment of heat. Heat generates
steam, is changed into electricity, drives steamships,
reduces ores, warms buildings. It is, therefore, of
the utmost importance to be able to measure heat
accurately, for unless it can be measured it cannot be
perfectly controlled. It is also essential to measure
the effect of heat on gases, liquids, and solids, to find




Prof. Dr. Kohlrausch, President of the Rekhsanstalt



174 Seen in Germany

out how much it expands them, how and at what
degree it consumes or melts or gasifies them. Such
knowledge as this is essential to all manner of manu-
facturing, smelting, power-producing operations, and
as the manufacturing processes become more complex
and more costly, the greater is the need of scientific
accuracy at every step. The pottery maker, for in-
stance, who is able to mix the clay for his fine wares
by a certain formula based on a scientific knowledge
of the glazing or melting points of each ingredient,
and then to fire them in exactly the right temperature,
will produce a more uniform product than his unskilled
competitor, and his waste will be less. This growing
need ot scientific accuracy in technics and mechanics
has found response in Germany in the Reichsanstalt.
And the chief work of the Reichsanstalt in both of
its departments deals with heat measurements. It is
patiently adding figures beyond the decimal point;
in its last report there is an account of a series of ex-
periments which had for its sole object the carrying
of certain established temperature calculations from
the fifth to the seventh figure beyond the decimal,
thereby adding just so much to the minute accuracy
of determinations in which this calculation plays a
part.

One who watches the experiments with heat deter-
mination at the Reichsanstalt cannot fail to be im-
pressed anew with the stupendous difficulties with



A Typical Scientific Institution 175



which physics has to deal. Science, which sometimes
seems the final standard of accuracy and completeness,
in the light of these experiments appears unstable,
without a sure foundation and without the possibility
of a sure foundation, at the best only a series of
approximations which may or may not be close to
the truth. For all measurement is merely a series
of comparisons. We say this room is fourteen feet
in width. We mean that it has been compared with
a little stick which we call a foot. The ordinary
Frenchman would not have the faintest idea of the
size of the room from such a measurement because
he compares his rooms with a little stick called a
meter. Plunge this Centigrade thermometer into
this pail of hot water. The top of the thread of
mercury touches a nick in the glass marked ninety
degrees — a point located at that relative place be-
cause an old scientist thought it convenient. The
temperature of the water has been compared with the
temperature of the mercury, it has caused the mercury
to expand a certain amount, and this amount has been
measured in small divisions called degrees. This
comparative method of measurement would be abso-
lutely accurate and practical for all human needs if it
were not for the fact that the measuring instrument
keeps changing. Supposing in measuring the width
of a room the foot rule should shorten when a cold
draft came under the door and should expand or



176 Seen in Germany

lengthen as it neared the radiator — as it really does
do in a minute degree. Palpably your result would
be inaccurate.

Now, just these changes take place in heat-measuring
apparatus. Here is your thermometer with the scale
carefully cut; it is a good thermometer and it would
furnish absolutely accurate measurements of ordinary
temperatures if there were some ideal glass that would
not also expand and contract with the heat or cold,
and that would not change shape, and if the whole
length of the thread of mercury could always be
immersed in the liquid to be measured so that it
would expand as much in proportion as the mercury
in the bulb.

Such an ideal glass thermometer, if it could be pro-
duced, would work with what may be called absolute
accuracy within certain limits. But even this ther-
mometer, if the temperature went too high, would
fail, because glass melts and mercury vaporizes, or if
the temperature went too low, the mercury would
freeze. Thus everything about us is constantly
changing relations, so that there is no standard of
anything — no real measure of length, breadth, thick-
ness, weight, heat, light, or electricity. It is, there-
fore, the tremendous task of the scientist to learn the
laws of all these changes and to place them in the
forms of curves and diagrams so that they can be
worked out mathematically. In this way he can



A Typical Scientific Institution 177

make his measurements with a changing instrument,
and then, knowing accurately fi-om previous experi-
ments how much the instrument has changed while
the measurement is taking place, he can make the
necessary corrections, thereby catching the elusive
truth by surrounding it on every side and binding it
down with many cords. And this is the work of the
Reichsanstalt : in its first department it works out
the deep laws governing substances under the influence
of heat, light, and electricity ; in its second department
the facts thus discovered are utilized in the production
of marvellously fine instruments and in making
practical tests of other instruments with them.

Early experiments in the Reichsanstalt showed
that the glass of most thermometers was defective,
that it shrank or expanded or otherwise lost its
shape, however minutely, so that the zero point soon
changed, rendering all accurate measurements defec-
tive. Therefore glass-making became the subject of
thorough investigation in connection with the famous
glass works at Jena, with the result that a certain
superior kind of glass was invented, which, being
chemically defined, could be reproduced always in
uniform purity. By a system of baking and cooling,
this glass was contracted to the last degree, and the
resulting thermometer tubes were the most perfect
ever made. Attention was then given to securing
pure mercury and to marking the scale of degrees



178 Seen in Germany

accurately on the tubes. Then the thermometer
was tested for variations when it was standing per-
pendicularly, and when it was horizontal ; it was sub-
jected to various air pressures within and without,
and the corrections in everv case were noted, so that
no possible source of error was left unsounded. The
result was the production of the world's standard of
thermometers, — thermometers that will measure to
the thousandth of a degree. One of them that I
touched — carefully enough, for they are delicate
and costly creations — indicated in the upward leap
of the mercury the heat of an instant's contact with
the finger-tips. Having thus established a standard
mercury thermometer for the measurement of tem-


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