100 and 50 years ago

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    100 YEARS AGO

    You occasionally do us, who are humble teachers of Elementary Science in schools, the very great kindness of giving us, through your columns, the chance of reaching the ears of those eminent men who are your frequent contributors, and who examine our pupils. . . I have spent a very large amount of time, money and labour in introducing the teaching of practical physics into my school, and trying to see that it shall be of the best kind possible, and I am prepared to do more. But really there must be some agreement between us and the said eminent men as to what practical science is when the examination paper is composed. . . The Cambridge Local Syndicate have introduced Elementary Experimental Science, three papers, into their junior syllabus. The other day I set two of these three papers for 1899 to a number of boys who had had a most careful experimental training in the matter of the syllabus. . . On marking the papers I found that the best boys. . . barely reached 40 per cent. of the marks. The same papers were set to a sharp boy of the same age who had done no experiments, but had been through the same subjects, mechanics, hydrostatics, and heat, in the old way, viz., text-book and problems. He scored nearly full marks on all the physics questions. . . Now these are exactly the old Cambridge — “Describe the common pump, &c., questions?” and the way to answer them is to waste no time on experiments, but read your text-book, get up your formulae and work examples.

    From Nature 1 November 1900.

    50 YEARS AGO

    The aim of the Gordon Research Conferences is not so much to produce complete scientific papers, but rather to bridge the gap between advanced stages of the work and its appearance in print. How necessary this is in a rapidly developing field could be seen from the fact that, in the conference on ion exchange. . . certain fundamental investigations on ion-exchangers were reported by no less than five different research groups. These dealt with the swelling and exchange properties of resins of different degree of chain cross-linking ; they showed uniformly that the uptake of swelling water and the speed of exchange decreases with increased cross-linking, while at the same time the specificity of the resin for different ions increases.

    From Nature 4 November 1950.

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