Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/711

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SKETCH OF A. F. J. PLATEAU.

of a larger number of stars than are really seen there. We instinctively halt before the seemingly impossible task of finding distinctive epithets for so many stars and asterisms; for, after a few such qualifications as blazing, sparkling, pale, trembling, etc. — perhaps there are twenty of them in all — we find that words fail.

We suggest this explanation tentatively, without attaching particular importance to it. But we invite the serious attention of archaeologists, and psychologists as well, to the singular phenomenon in mental evolution which the case of the pictured spheres discloses. It derives interest from its unique character as a nomenclature, and from its being reproduced, without exception, in all the centers of evolution. There is evidently something in the constant return of this process that comes from the very laws of our nature. — Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from Ciel et Terre.


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SKETCH OF A. F. J. PLATEAU.

By SOPHIE BLEDSOE HERRICK.

ANTOINE FERDINAND JOSEPH PLATEAU was born in Brussels, October 14, 1801. He was brought up in the midst of artistic influences, his father having been a flower-painter of great talent. From his earliest childhood the boy exhibited not only remarkable ability, but clearly manifested the bent of his mind. When scarcely more than a baby he showed the greatest delight in some physical experiments which were made in his presence.

In the days when Plateau was a child, very little attention was paid to natural bent by parents in the selection of a life-work for their children. The idea of the hereditary transmission of occupation dominated all others. The boy, with no taste for art, was devoted at an early age by his father to the study of painting.

At fourteen years of age he became an orphan, and with his two sisters was left to the care of his uncle — M. Thirion, an advocate. Soon after this his health, which was never strong, showed signs of failure; and his uncle sent the children to a little village near Waterloo. It was upon the eve of the battle, and the villagers took refuge in the depths of the forest of Soignes, where for two days and nights they remained in the open air, sleeping at night before a great fire, and living upon potatoes which were baked in the cinders.

The boy seemed scarcely conscious of the violent detonations which shook the ground beneath them, he was so absorbed in his favorite pastime of catching butterflies. The panic over, the vil-