Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/764

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the llamas and alpacas of Peru, the aborigines of America in the fifteenth century had no cattle whatever, and the domestic sheep and the wheat have been introduced by the Europeans in America.

"Was the skeleton in the Utah mound of the Indian red race? Then it must be more recent than the European invasion which brought wheat and cattle to America. Or is it possible that the Colorado ruins and the Utah mounds relate to an Asiatic invasion which brought iron, wheat, horses, and sheep, into America before the European invasion, but was exterminated, with its wheat and cattle, by the Indians long before Columbus. Elephants' heads, represented on the walls of Palenque and other Mexican ruins, would support a similar view, if they do not belong to extinct species, which would prove an enormous age for these ruins. However this may be, it cannot be doubted that in 1492 the natives of America knew neither elephants, nor horses, nor sheep, nor wheat."

 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

AMERICAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO ELECTRICAL SCIENCE.

THE story of electricity forms the most romantic chapter in the history of science. The curious thing about it is, that it has been a progress from utter and absolute ignorance to the most familiar and extensive practical results. In all the other sciences—mechanics, optics, physiology, astronomy—there was a basis of common knowledge, consisting of many familiar facts to start with, and there is ever a rudiment of science in the loose observations of uninstructed people concerning things that fall within the range of ordinary experience. But electrical science had no such starting-point—nothing was known by common people of any such agent. Lightning was hardly regarded as a terrestrial thing. It was the bolt of Jove, a minister of God's wrath, or a malign agency of the prince of the powers of the air, a kind of preternatural phenomenon; and, when amber was rubbed and found to attract light bodies in a mysterious way, it was assumed to have a soul and to be a sacred thing. This little seed of the science did not germinate for thousands of years. It was an instructive test of the culture of the human mind, and shows what an enormous amount of preliminary mental activity had to be expended before men were prepared to engage in the study of Nature. The natural world was filled with this force which we now call electrical; all things were pervaded by it, but it was beneath the surface; it did not strike the senses, and compel attention; it could be discovered only by thought, and the investigation could not commence until the human intellect had been turned in a systematic way upon natural things. But when experimental inquiries in electricity were once begun, their results were so curious and peculiar that they exerted a powerful fascination over the wonder-loving, and by this stimulus the science grew rapidly. It has given rise to a brilliant series of electrical and magnetic discoveries, inventions, and useful applications, of the widest range and the highest utility to civilization, such as no other science has afforded. The intellectual movement has here been from the zero of total ignorance, through long observation and experiment, up to the richest harvest of wonderful works.

It is interesting to note how fully this science belongs in its development to civilization, and how widely its discoveries are to be apportioned among different nations, and it is not to be overlooked that the New World shares, these honors conspicuously with the Old. The Englishmen Gilbert and Gray were prominent in laying its foundations; the German Guericke contributed essentially to the work, and Du Fay, the Frenchman, gave ear-