Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/789

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OBITUARY.

thrown to a flock of the birds near by. One of them swallowed the whole of it at a gulp, and our student in comparative anatomy thought his game secure. But, though closely watched for three hours, not the slightest sign of uneasiness was manifested, and at the end of this time the creature flew away with its fellows, apparently as well as the best of them. The accustomed haunts of the flock were afterward carefully searched, but no trace could be found of the dead body wanted; and it was concluded that, unlike other gormands, this one was not to be easily got at through his stomach.

 

Purpose of the Rattlesnake's Rattle.—In the American Naturalist, for February, Prof. Samuel Aughey gives the results of his observations upon the use made of their rattles by the rattlesnake. It is the vulgar opinion that the reptile sounds his rattle for the purpose of enticing birds, and some naturalists even are disposed to find here a mimicry of the sound made by the so-called locust, or cicada. Prof. Aughey does not undertake to explain all the purposes served by the rattle, but he fully agrees with Mr. F. W. Putnam in rejecting this mimetic theory. Does the rattle, then, serve any useful purpose? In reply to this question, the author tells us what he has himself observed. In July, 1869, he was in Wayne County, Nebraska, and, as he was one day investigating the natural history of that district, he heard the familiar rattle of the snake. The sound was repeated at intervals, and proceeded from a rattlesnake that was calling its mate, which soon came in answer to the summons. Prof. Aughey had a similar experience the following year, and from these facts he is disposed to think that the purpose served by the rattle is to call the sexes together.

Another purpose may be to paralyze its victims with fright, and to inspire its natural enemies with terror. As an illustration of the use of the rattle for the former purpose, the author says that, as he followed through the woods of Dakota County, Nebraska, a Baltimore oriole, he heard a rattle, and at once saw the bird as it were paralyzed with fear, and ready to fall a prey to the serpent. The writer shot the rattlesnake. He adds that he once witnessed an attack of seven hogs on a rattlesnake. Soon after the battle opened, the snake rattled, and three others came to his aid. But the hogs were victorious in a few minutes.

 

 

OBITUARY.

Professor Matthew Fontaine Maury, whose scientific labors in the Hydrographical Office, Washington, earned for him eminent rank among savants, and were of inestimable benefit to the commerce of the world, died at Lexington, Va., February 1st, aged 67 years. At the time of his death he was Professor of Physics in the Virginia Military Institute. He was author of a "Treatise on Navigation," of a "Physical Geography of the Seas," of "Letters on the Amazon and Atlantic Slopes of South America," and other works.

The eminent French naturalist Felix Archimede Pouchet died December 6, 1872, at Rouen, in the 73d year of his age. He is best known to fame by his researches into the question of spontaneous generation, on which he held the affirmative side. He was a very voluminous writer, his principal works being on "Spontaneous Ovulation," and "The Organs of Digestion, Circulation, and Respiration." He was educated for a physician, and was for a long time professor in the Rouen School of Medicine.

The Rev. Adam Sedgwick, LL.D., F.R.S., F.G.S., Professor of Geology in the University of Cambridge, England, died January 27th, aged about 90 years. He long stood in the foremost rank of men of science in England, and was, both alone and with the assistance of Sir R. Murchison, the author of several works on geology. His first acknowledged publication appeared in 1822, and treated of the physical structure of the Devonshire and Cornish formations. In 1851 he was awarded the Wollaston Palladium Medal for researches into the geological structure of the British Isles, the Alps, and the Rhenish provinces. Two years before his death he resigned his professorship at Cambridge, but to the last took a warm interest in the progress of science.