Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/296

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286
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to the meteorology of Siberia, has taken regular observations at meteorological stations, and has collected materials for ascertaining the dates of the freezing and breaking up of the ice in the rivers of the country.

 


NOTES.

Concerning the statement that Mr. Herbert Spencer is going around the world by way of Australia and San Francisco, he thus writes to an American friend: "The rumor you indicate respecting my voyage to Australia and New Zealand is all nonsense, as you suspected. Last summer I had a letter from Sir George Gray (late Governor of New Zealand), pressing me to go and stay with him, and promising great benefit to my health. My reply was that the probable result of yielding to his pressure would be that I should be left in mid-Atlantic with a cannon-shot at my feet."

Mr. Charles Dimitry, of New Orleans, some two years ago proposed an hypothesis that the mounds and earthworks in the Western river-bottoms were intended for places of refuge for the people and their stock in time of high water and floods. His theory received some striking illustrations during the recent expedition of the relief-steamer Tensas to the flooded districts of Red River. The water was found rushing through the crevasses with a loud noise. Trinity was completely submerged, and at Troy the situation was but little better. With the exception of a few buildings erected upon mounds (among the largest mounds in the United States), all had succumbed to the water. The grave-yard on one of the mounds had become a rendezvous for stock, pigs, sheep, and human beings. At Lamarque, in Concordia Parish, where the water stood six feet deep, the stock were cared for on mounds or in houses.

The American Ornithologists' Union has undertaken to ascertain the true character of the European house-sparrow, which has now become so abundant in this country, and of the effect of its presence upon agricultural and economical interests. It has prepared a circular of inquiries to be sent out to intelligent persons who will under-take the observations, the tenor of the answers to which, it is hoped, will determine whether the bird is eligible or ineligible as a naturalized citizen of our land. The more important of the questions bear chiefly upon the nature of the sparrow's food, the effect of its presence upon useful birds and beneficial as well as deleterious insects, and its effects on shade, fruit, and ornamental trees, and garden fruits and vegetables.

Persons interested in the subject may communicate with the chairman of the association's committee. Dr. J. B. Holder, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, New York city.

Professor John Hutton Balfour, Emeritus Professor of Botany in the University of Edinburgh, died February 11th, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. He was chosen to fill the place of Sir William Hooker, at Glasgow, when Hooker was called from that place to Kew, and was elected to the Regius Professorship of Botany at Edinburgh in 1845. He retired from this position, on account of infirmity, in 1877. He published much, but was better known as a teacher than as an original investigator.

Mr. F. Cope Whitehouse presented to the Academy of Sciences (March 24th) the results of his geological researches and survey of the cañon of the Nile, with especial reference to the Pyramids of Gizeh. He denies that the material was brought from any considerable distance. Geology and tradition show that the two large piles are reconstructed hills. The whole hill has probably been rebuilt, except the lower 180 feet. It seems to have been done by the excavation of a chamber in the center of the mass of soft, horizontal limestone, and the transfer of blocks from the ceiling to the floor until the top of the hill had been reached. Thus a precarious and dangerous mound of poor, clayey limestone was converted into a permanent protection and stable structure without great expense and without disturbing the beautiful edifices of granite and alabaster tanks and tombs whose remains are still found on the terrace and near the Sphinx at its foot.

The death, at the age of forty-eight years, is announced of Richard Cortembert, a French geographer, who until 1878 held a position in the geographical department of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Among his works were "Grands Voyages Conteraporains" (1864), ("Great Contemporary Voyages"), and "Geographic Commerciale" ("Commercial Geography") for schools (1868.) At the time of his death he was engaged upon a "New History of Voyages."

The Rev. Dr. J. G. Macvicar, of Moffat, Scotland, who died February 12th, aged eighty-four years, was a diligent student of natural science in early life, and was from 1827 the first lecturer in natural history in the University of St. Andrews. He was editor of the "Quarterly Journal of Agriculture," and was the author of "The Elements of the Economy of Nature" and other scientific books and papers, and of a treatise on "The Philosophy of the Beautiful." His best-known work was "An