Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/626

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

fearlessly, and reverently devote themselves to the search for truth as truth, in the faith that there is a Power in the universe strong enough to make truth-seeking safe and good enough to make truth-telling wise.


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UNDERGROUND WATERS AS SOCIAL FACTORS.

By Professor G. A. DAUBRÉE,

MEMBER OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.

FROM the most remote times, the beneficent springs that jet from the interior of the earth have excited the gratitude and admiration of men. Like the sea and rivers, they have been deified by the peoples of the Indo-European family; and the worship that has been given to them, and the fables with which superstition has invested them, express the degree to which popular imagination has been struck by their mysterious origin, their inexhaustible flow, and their secret properties. The Greeks attributed to the fountain of Dodona, in Epirus, the faculty of discovering hidden truths and uttering oracles. The fountain of Egeria was supposed to possess the same power, and was intrusted to the guardianship of the Vestal Virgins. The fountains of Castalia, on the flank of Parnassus, and of Hippocrene, near Helicon, were believed to communicate the poetic spirit.

The Gauls had special veneration for the springs to which they went m search of health. The old romances of chivalry in their fancies of a fountain of youth, where spent forces and lost charms could be recovered, were only reproducing a myth of old Greece.

The perennial nature of springs, which was for a long time regarded as a sacred mystery, was also their most striking characteristic to those who sought to explain it without reference to religion and poetry. According to Aristotle's idea, which was adopted by Seneca and prevailed till the sixteenth century, " the interior of the earth contains deep cavities and much air, which must necessarily be cooled there. Motionless and stagnant, it is not long in being converted into water, by a metamorphosis like that which, in the atmosphere, produces rain-drops. That thick shadow, that eternal cold, that condensation which is disturbed by no movement, are the always subsisting and incessantly acting causes of the transmutation of air."

Simple and manifest as it appears to us now, the origin of springs was late in being recognized. Vitruvius suspected it, in his work on architecture; but it was Bernard Palissy who, after long studies on the constitution of the country in which he lived, overthrew the ancient fancies. According to his "Admirable Discourse on the Nature of Waters and Fountains, both Natural and Artificial," springs are generated by the infiltration of rain-waters or melted snow toward the interior of the earth, through cracks, till they reach "some place having a