Stagmatypy and Spitzertypy To the Editor of the Scientific American: In connection with the article on Stagmatypy, in the Scientific American for July 13th, the process of photogravure for which a German patent was issued to Dr. Spitzer in 11)05 should be of interest. In spitzertypy the coating of the plate consists of a mixture of 20 to 30 per cent albumin or gelatin in water with 3 to 6 per cent of dichromate. The coated plate has no grain. After printing, the plate is etched in a solution of ferric cbloride (sp. gr. 30 to 40 deg. Be.). As in stagmatypy, granulation develops during the etching. The results of Spitzer's process are remarkable for the faithfulness with which details are rendered. A number of cuts made by the process are shown in Photographische Xorresponiderez for 1905, page 473. Spitzer's German patent is No. 161,911, patented December 10th, 1901; issued July 7th, 1905. Washington, D. C. Benjamin B. Schneider. Danger of Bow-on Collision To the Editor of the Scientific American: Your recent editorial on the Titanic reminds me to repeat to you what I wrote to the chairman of the Titanic Investigating Committee, but have not seen noticed in any newspaper. When a large ship, like Titanic, moving swiftly, strikes a large iceberg, the principal danger and the principal damage would not be in the crumpling of the bow or the flooding of se veral compartments, but in the behavior of the boilers and secondary to that the behavior of the engines. When the forward motion of the ship is suddenly stopped nothing whatever could hold boilers and engines from breaking loose and going forward and smashing the bulkheads and probably the bottoms. But in addition to this the boilers must break the steam pipes and must immediately explode, and this would destroy the ship. This is submitted to your consideration, although it may be old. W. S. Prosser. San Jose, Cal. [In his testimony at the Board of Trade Inquiry, London, the designer of the Titanic stated that if the ship had struck bows on, she would have crumpled up about 100 feet of her bow and would have taken several seconds to come to a state of rest. He stated further that, the blow would have been so greatly cushioned that the machinery would not have been displaced.--Editor.] A Word to the Socially Unfit To the Editor of the Scientific A merican: Kindly allow me to say a few words suggested by your editorial entitled Lunacy and Morals, in your issue of July 13th. From the deterministic, the only thoroughly scientific standpoint, there is no line separating responsible wickedness from acts against the public peace which have their origin in perversities of the psychic apparatus. Both result from peculiarites of structure, physical or psychical, which are often as much beyond the reach of medicine or surgery as they are beyond the reach of the subject himself. Now that the old conception of punishment as social revenge has died out, in theory at least, the question is no longer whether one who is a public menace is insane or immoral. The point is that he is a diseased element in the social organism, and as such should be removed. Scientifically speaking, a man is no more to be blamed for crime than for insanity. With the odds overwhelmingly against the man who oversteps the bounds of social conduct, as they are, he who does- overstep those bounds reveals a weakness either of judgment or of self-control, both of which are allied to other forms of mental weakness. This, aside from the fact that the perversion of the moral sense is either congenital or the result of early influences. The fault of the newer humanitarianism is not that it now holds extreme views as to irresponsibility for criminal acts, but that it does not recognize that to declare a man to be insane does not make him less a social menace nor does it alter the fact that he has become what he is by the action of laws beyond his control. Neither does it alter the fact that the health of the social organism demands that he be removed therefrom, and removed effectually. On this point the altruism which has done so much for our western civilization has degenerated into a harmful sentimentalism which places an excessive value upon the mere form of human life, regardless of the worth of that life to itself or to society. We take better care of our ' idiots, lunatics, and criminals than we do of our children. The last are left to chance until they become idiots, lunatics, or criminals, when they begin to receive the attention which comes too late. A rational and truly humanitarian policy would be to eliminate these elements by a painless death, which would end many miseries, protect society, and purify the social atmosphere. Vast energies would thus be left free to attack the problem of social regeneration at its root, the children. The social organism can never know its own possibilities until it has given every child an opportunity to grow up under' the best possible conditions, physical, educational, and ethical, and it is time that public solicitude shifted more in this direction. Paul R. B irge. Washington, D. C. A Manufacturer's Views of Patents To the Editor of the Scientific American: Noticing in the papers that when Mr. Samuel O. Edmunds of New York city appeared before the Committee on Patents, he advocated making the date of filing the application on an invention the test of priority of the invention. This might further the interest of justice in some rare cases, but I believe on the whole it would be a grievous mistake. It would result in the taking out of patents on thousands of unperfected, and consequently useless inventions. The theory of our present law is that unless the invention on a machine is something that will actually do the work intended, the patent is invalid. The theory is that the specifications and drawings shall show enough, so that a man with ordinary mechanical skill in the line to which the patent pertains may be able to construct a useful and operative machine. If the original inventor did not apply for a patent on his first crude conceptions when he began experimenting, he would have to do everything under lock and key, and would always be in danger of having his conceptions patented by someone who found out what he was working on, so as to bar him from using it after he got it perfected. It always takes a year, and usually two years, for me to make a material change in one of my machines. The change I am now making I have worked on steadily for three years, assisted by a corps of expert mechanics, during which time I have built over twenty models in reducing it to a practical and useful state of perfection. Under the present law I can do the work in the open, and have no fear of anyone stealing my invention I have been through a number of interference proceedings, and while they are expensive and annoying, I do not see any better way for insuring justice to all. Sometimes I have grave doubts as to whether it is really very common to buy inventions for the purpose of suppressing them. It is true that concerns who have a large amount of money invested in special machinery and plant for the manufacture of a particular article, would be loath to make a change in that article which would involve a further large investment in tools and special machinery and the scrapping of a large portion of their original investment in this line. Perhaps a more serious determent is the fact that a change always involves the necessity of re-educating the staff and working forces to the produc tion of something entirely new, during which period an inferior product is turned out and perhaps the reputation of the firm seriously injured. Also oftentimes things which, after long and careful testing, and which, viewed from every standpoint, appear to be practical, when put on the market, for some reason prove to be inferior to the original device. This is something that can scarcely ever be determined with a certainty until after some months or years in the field. The fact that nearly all manufacturers of specialties, particularly those protected by patents, maintain expensive experimental departments, would tend to negative the theory that as a rule they desire to suppress new inventions. All such manufacturers receive weekly offers to sell patents on articles in their line or proposed improvements on their devices. Few, if any, offers are based on anything of any value whatever, and most of them have for their basis some impractical idea which has been offered by hundreds of others. There is one alleged improvement in the comptometer which has been offered to us on an average of once a week. This idea was tried out and discarded over twenty years ago and has since appeared in hundreds of adding and calculating machine patents. I have tried it out exhaustively on three separate occasions. Another was patented over twenty years ago. I manufactured it for a time, and found it to be of more damage than benefit. Yet continually I receive letters from men who think they have invented one or the other of these things, and that I am depriving the world of a great boon in refusing to turn over to them a factory and organization that has taken twenty-five years to build up, for the purpose of perfecting and putting their inventions on the market. It would be utterly futile to try to explain to them why their ideas are impractical, and if one attempted to do so he would have time for nothing else, besides he would not succeed in con vincing them. There was never yet suggested to me anything that I had not already considered and usually tried out exhaustively. I never bought any patent. Many a man has left my office with the statement that he was going after my scalp or that I would some day overlook a great opportunity by pursuing the course I do, only to some years after ask me to buy the machinery which he had purchased for the purpose of perfecting the manufacture of his supposed invention. If I had originally purchased his patent, he would always have believed that the purchase was only to suppress it. That class of inventor usually has little to do, so has time to make a good deal of noise, and a great many receive their statements at face value, hence the popular idea about buying up a patent to suppress it. Some manufacturers make a practice of buying up patents, but I do not believe that often they ever buy up anything of real merit for the purpose of suppressing it. The cost of selling ,a patented article usually exceeds by far the cost of manufacturing. The public in its turn is very conservative, and as a rule all very meritorious inventions have to be forced onto the public--their introduction involves a tremendous amount of education. I believe that it is in this respect that patents have been beneficial to the public--much more so than from the tendency of our patent laws to encourage invention. If Congress should pass a law giving some firm the exclusive right to publish books treating of the method and use of the metric system and the exclusive right to make instruments for measuring and weighing by the metric system, in twenty years we would all be enjoying its benefits. As it is, no one can afford to introduce it, and Congress does not see fit to make its use compulsory. It has been said that the greatest boon conferred on Christendom was conferred by Gerbert when, after disguising himself as a Mohammedan, he succeeded in obtaining admission to the Moorish universities, and after passing through two of them, returned into, Christian Europe, bringing with him Arabic numerals. No one had a patent on their use, and for several hundred years they were not universally adopted,' and school children could not be taught multiplication and, division except in the small factors, which could be computed ' by mental perception with the use of pencil: and paper. During that time, for business and engineering computations, everything was computed by the use of the abacus, such as is used by the Chinese and-Russians to-day. No one can question the value to mankind of tho potato. Numerous explorers brought back to France, England, and Spain samples of the potato shortly after. the discovery of America, but it was .several hundred years before it became a common. article of food.,. in, spite of numerous recommendations by various. great, authorities that it be generally cultivated. ;.; I do not believe a patent should be issued:for any. long period of time. I believe, that seventeen. years is about right. For some things the period is too .short to enable those exploiting it to overcome the inertia, of the public and reap any material benefits.from.the-' long years of labor, but no law can be so formed as to .. fit every possible case. What appear to be the most. revolutionary inventions should be partly accredited to the inventor who first makes them practical and partly to the general advance in the mechanical arts. Seldom if ever has a revolutionary invention been brought out that has not been conceived and an ' attempt made to put it in material form hundreds of times before, only to fail either because the inventor bas not the ability to perfect it or else mechanical-. arts are not advanced to a point where it could be successfully and economically manufactured. Were it not for wars requiring the simultaneous manufacturing of large quantities of weapons, the sewing machine and the typewriter could never; haye been manufactured at a cost which would have- made their purchase and use advisable. The machinery which has been evolved after many years for the manufacture of weapons had to be developed to a high point of efficiency before sewing machines and typewriters could be manufactured in large quantities ' and at a low cost. I can cite numerous other illustrations of this fact. It is a serious question whether or not the one who pioneers a new art or invention does the public such a great injustice, even when he buys other inventions in the same line. The expense of pioneering is so great, that unless he has reasonable assurance of a monopoly which will warrant him in incurring the enormous expense of pioneering, he cannot afford to take the risk. I believe that a careful analysis will demonstrate that in those lines where a patent monopoly is the most complete, the public has received the most benefits and enjoys the most advantages in the way of improvement in quality of manufactured product. Chicago, Ill. D. E. Felt.
This article was originally published with the title "Correspondence" in SA Supplements 74, 1911supp, 135 (August 1912)