Prof. Samuel Pierpont Langley


AT the zenith of his reputation, and possessed of his full capacity for work, America and science have to regret the death of Prof. Langley, who for nearly twenty years directed and controlled the energies of the Smithsonian Institution. The objects promoted by such an establishment are so varied, the interests that it has to maintain are so numerous, that its direction can only be confidently entrusted to one who combines the skill of the administrator with the training of the man of science. The energy displayed by Prof. Langley in the conduct of the Smithsonian Institution, and its steadily increasing influence under his direction, show that he loyally appreciated the intentions of the founder, and that he proved himself a worthy successor to Joseph Henry and Spencer Baird, names still warmly treasured in the memory of the American nation. We may recall, though we cannot do justice to, some of the more important features that have marked his connection with the institution. His supervision of the museum, and his earnest endeavour to make it more valuable for instructed and uninstructed alike, led to rearrangement, and especially to the foundation of the children's room, a feature which may serve as a model for similar institutions. The Bureau of American Ethnology is a national undertaking that has long been conducted on spacious lines, but under the late director this department has assumed magnificent proportions, the care of which was an enormous responsibility that even the assistance of able colleagues could not wholly remove. The publications of this bureau show only the thoroughly digested scientific conclusions, and represent but a fragment of the immense amount of work actually accomplished. But, perhaps, in the establishment and management of the zoological park we see the personal influence of the director most conspicuously exhibited. It was his dream to establish a park in which the wild animals of his native land might live as nearly as possible under conditions natural to them, o that they might breed and thrive in captivity as in their native haunts. The difficulties in the way might well have daunted one less enthusiastic. More than once the question of abolishing the park has been considered, and over and over again he had to fight the battle in the teeth of hostile or indifferent politicians, who could not be made to appreciate the value of the scheme, or to recognise that the preservation of the native animals, threatened with extinction, was a trust committed to their charge. He lived to see this scheme placed on a permanent footing, and if on a more modest scale than he could have wished, he could feel that his insistence had not only preserved the nation's heritage of wild animals, but had opened up important regions of biological research and of zoological art.

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