« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
GEORGE ELLERY HALE
One of the most striking results of the war is the emphasis it has laid on the national importance of science and research. The sharp spur of necessity, felt by the Allies soon after the opening of hostilities, drove them to the instant utilization of scientific research to make good the losses caused by the restriction of imports. Optical glass for gun-sights, rangefinders and periscopes; chemicals needed for high explosives; and scores of other products developed in Germany after long years of investigation, were suddenly rendered inaccessible. Some of these could be manufactured without much delay; but in many cases the necessary process was unknown, and could only be discovered by research. Investigators from the universities, the industries and the technical schools were called upon for aid, and manufacture was soon rendered possible.
But the aid thus given was by no means restricted to the duplication of known devices. It shortly became clear that many of the problems of war lie in the domain of the physicist, the chemist, the meteorologist, no less than in that of the military expert. The physicist was quick to recognize that enemy guns, though completely hidden from view by intervening ground, might be accurately located by sound, and apparatus for this purpose was rapidly developed and employed with great success along the western front. The chemist, when retaliation was forced by the German introduction of poisonous gases, developed new and powerful vapors that led the originators of this system of warfare to regret the step they had taken. The meteorologist, from his observation posts along the battle line, supplied the data needed by the gunner, the sound-ranger, the leader of gas attacks, and the airman. The astronomer studied the trajectories of projectiles, improved the
methods of navigating airplanes, and learned how to increase the range of guns and the accuracy of bomb-dropping. The bacteriologist sought out the hidden mechanism of trench fever, and the means of lessening its ravages. And so we might go on, drawing hundreds of typical illustrations from every branch of science.
The bearing of such varied and productive activities goes far beyond the immediate issues of war, and reaches down to the very foundations of national welfare. The problems of peace are inextricably entangled with those of war, and if scientific' methods and the aid of scientific research were needed in overcoming the menace of the enemy they will be no less urgently needed during the turmoil of reconstruction and the future competitions of peace.
Remember the case of the aniline dyes, the first of which, mauve, was discovered by Sir William Perkin in 1856. Here, as in so many other instances, a great achievement of British initiative met with no recognition from the home government, and the fruits of Perkin's discovery were gathered abroad. Aniline, from which mauve is derived, is one of the products of coal-tar, formerly regarded as useless waste. Thousands of chemists, thoroughly infused with the spirit of research in the German universities, and supported by great corporations, enjoying the powerful encouragement of the Government, have built upon this foundation the great dye industry of Germany. The basic processes involved in the preparation of the dyes are precisely those required for the manufacture of tri-nitrotoluol and other high explosives. Thus the German government, bent on its preparations for war, quite naturally developed an industry that brought great commercial prosperity and at the same time provided the factories, equipment, and trained chemists necessary to produce thousands of tons of explosives.
Or recall the fixation of nitrogen. Long before the war Germany systematically exploited the cheap water-power of Nors way for the manufacture of nitrates, needed alike for powder and for fertilization of German soil, where the output of
wheat was thus raised from 15 bushels to the acre, the average in the United States, to 33 bushels to the acre. The Chilean nitrate beds were far away, and an interruption of overseas traffic would inevitably accompany the outbreak of hostilities. Thus German chemists applied, not merely the electric arc process of nitrogen fixation rendered commercially possible by the waterfalls of Norway, but other processes now effectively utilized on an immense scale within Germany itself. The results, rendered plainly visible during the war by the enormous quantities of ammunition expended along the western front, will be no less important in the economic restoration of the country through intensive agriculture.
Thus the very agencies of war will become powerful factors in the competitions of peace, and the research methods from which they sprang will play a far larger part in the world than ever before.
At the outbreak of the war the statesmen of the Allies were but little concerned with the interests of research. Necessity, as we have seen, soon opend their eyes, and the results so rapidly obtained convinced them that a radical change of policy was essential. Perceiving the enormous advantages derived by Germany from the utilization of science, and with wise anticipation of the needs of the future, they took steps to remedy the earlier neglect of science which the war had rendered so conspicuous. An Advisory Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was set up by the British Government in 1915, and one million pounds was appropriated for the promotion of research in science and the arts. In the face of rapidly rising wages and mounting costs of raw materials, it was seen that the most direct of all possible attacks upon the high cost of living might be made through the agency of research. The cost of electric illumination, for example, will be still higher than it is to-day unless existing methods of generating and using the current can be improved. Thus the recent production of an incandescent lamp, which yields equal light with a fraction of the current, is a most important step in
the right direction. In similar ways costs can be reduced and efficiency increased in all directions through the intelligent use of scientific research.
The recognition of this fact throughout the British Empire has resulted in a world-wide movement of great significance. Advisory Councils for Scientific and Industrial Research, having large government appropriations at their disposal, have been established by Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand, and provision is being made for large research laboratories to render possible investigations in all branches of science, and in engineering, medicine, and agriculture. It is universally recognized that the underlying problems of science, from the solution of which all great industrial advances spring, must be attacked no less vigorously than the more obvious practical questions. Therefore this movement, the most significant and far-reaching in the history of science, recognizes no distinction between the problems of science and those of the arts, but seeks to provide broadly and liberally for the advancement of knowledge and its effective application for the public welfare.
The fundamental importance of science has long been recognized by the ablest leaders of industry in the United States. The telephone was born in a research laboratory, and as soon as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company was formed, this laboratory was made into a department of its activities. Under the far-seeing guidance of Theodore N. Vail it has now become the Department of Development and Research under Vice-President John J. Carty, employing thirteen hundred scientists and engineers who devote their time exclusively to research and development in the telephone art. Two of the outstanding results of this laboratory are transcontinental telephony by wire and wireless telephony between airplane and earth and between earth stations as widely separated as Arlington and Hawaii. The General Electric Company, which also grew out of research, maintains a great research laboratory, costing nearly a million dollars per year,
under the energetic and effective leadership of W. R. Whitney. If the scores of devices and improvements that have flowed from this laboratory were restricted merely to the Mazda lamp, this country would have gained greatly by its establish
In another field George Eastman, recognizing that photographic materials and methods are susceptible to great improvement, founded in 1912 the Research Laboratory of the Eastman Kodak Company, where C. E. K. Mees and his associates are accomplishing many important advances. One might go on to mention many other successful laboratories of industrial research in this country, including those of Thomas A. Edison, the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the United States Steel Corporation, the General Chemical Company, the General Bakelite Company, and others of equal importance. A notable case is the research laboratory of the du Pont de Nemours Company, which began with six chemists in 1902, and employed three hundred chemists in 1918, when its annual expenditure had reached three million dollars.
While the prime objects of these laboratories is the direct solution of problems arising in the industries, much research for the advancement of science is done in them, and their directing heads are constantly emphasizing the importance of fundamental science and its development. Thus W. R. Whitney has said:
"Necessity is not the mother of invention; knowledge and experiment are its parents. This is clearly seen in the case of many industrial discoveries; high-speed cutting tools were not a necessity which preceded, but an application which followed the discovery of the properties of tungsten-chromium-iron alloys; so, too, the use of titanium in arc lamps and of vanadium in steel were sequels to the industrial preparation of these metals, and not discoveries made by sheer force of necessity.”
One of the best illustrations of the practical importance of researches made solely for the purpose of increasing knowledge