100 and 50 years ago

    100 YEARS AGO

    Want of accommodation in more than one department of the University museum renders it impossible to carry on satisfactory work. The extracts printed below, from the report of the delegates of the museum, tell of a condition of “hope deferred, which maketh the heart sick.” ⃛ After twelve years of fruitless effort to obtain extended accommodation for Honour students, and the means of providing for the increasing number of those working for the preliminary examination ⃛ it is probably quite useless to trouble the delegates with any further application for assistance in this direction. It will be difficult for men of science on the Continent and in the United States to believe that so little encouragement is given to scientific work in the University of Oxford.

    From Nature 16 June 1898.

    50 YEARS AGO

    This is one of the most strange, even inexplicable, tragedies in the world of Nature. Of the millions of Pacific salmon which enter the rivers to spawn, not one returns to the sea. It is strange ⃛ that they should all die, not one escape, and strangest of all that the change should be from fullest life to death, with no intermission of growing weakness between. The act of spawning, both in the female and in the male, soon brings death, grim and inevitable. ⃛ I once watched two spawned-out, huge fish, in the shallow water of a long, broken rapid. They showed at first just over the lip of the pool above, dorsal and caudal fins breaking as the current forced them down. They drifted a little way, weakly and awkwardly and then, as though suddenly afraid of death, one threshed its way with furious strength for ten or a dozen yards upstream. The other followed instantly, and for a while they held, side by side again, weaving back and forth until the current caught their sides and swept them down. ⃛ It is strange that they should all die, that life should go out with the spawn; for it does go out with the spawn.

    From Nature 19 June 1948.

    Many more abstracts like these can be found in ABedside Nature: Genius and Eccentricity in Science, 1869-1953, a 266-page book edited by Walter Gratzer. Contact David Plant. e-mail: subscriptions@nature.com

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    100 and 50 years ago. Nature 393, 627 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/31351

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