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50 & 100 years ago

50 YEARS AGO

“Influence of space flight on engineering and science” — Within the past few years many scientists have predicted seriously and confidently that human beings from the Earth would, in the foreseeable future, travel to the Moon and the nearer planets. The ranks of those who would dispute this project are diminishing rapidly. Although much of the progress is still guarded by military necessity, space flight is emerging as an activity in its own right — one that can command the efforts of many scientists and engineers... A recent survey shows that the study of physics in American public high schools has been declining for more than half a century... why [does our youth] turn away from a career in science? We can only grope for the answer. Perhaps they sense, better than their elders, that too much of our scientific talent is engaged in the unproductive task of developing weapons for war. Is there much inspiration to devote one's life to this end, when we are rapidly approaching the borderline of total destruction? I believe that space flight might serve in no small measure to turn men's minds toward a more appealing scientific goal. As the exploits of Cabot, Drake and Davis inspired many generations of Englishmen to turn to the sea, so may the first astronauts reawaken our youth to the romance of scientific exploration.

Milton W. Rosen, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.

From Nature 24 December 1955.

100 YEARS AGO

Heredity. By C. W. Saleeby, M. D. The appearance of a little shilling book on heredity is almost startling, when we consider the difficulty of the subject and the relative youth of its exact study. That a book like this should be possible indicates that considerable progress has been made in recent years. Was it not Leibnitz who said, “The more a science advances, the more it becomes concentrated in little books”?

From Nature 21 December 1905.

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50 & 100 years ago. Nature 438, 1092 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/4381092a

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