Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/136

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126
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is the Quarterly Review, and this is what we find in the very last number of that periodical on the subject of Sedgwick's non-acceptance of the modern standpoint in geology: "In coordinating the vast array of (geological) facts so as to form out of them a basis for the great cosmical theories which are the inheritance of his successors, he lagged behind his more philosophical contemporaries. He never broke loose from the entanglement of attempted reconciliations with the biblical cosmogony, never ceased to invoke 'successive creations of the organic kingdoms' to account for the order of life revealed in the rocks and clays. Lyell's great generalization of uniformity was always a stumbling-block to him, and evolution in every shape was to the end hated by him with a perfect hatred. It was years before he could discard the puerile idea that the 'vast masses of diluvial gravel scattered almost over the surface of the earth' were all due to the single catastrophe of the Noachian Deluge; and not till after half a century of geological study could he bring himself to ascribe any validity to the evidences for the vast antiquity of the human race, as contrasted with the historical period." The Quarterly Review, in spite of its general conservatism, is evidently in line with modern thought on these subjects. All the more amazing is it that some men should be found to talk as if the old conceptions were still valid, and the work of the evolutionist school had been in vain.




LITERARY NOTICES.

A Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy. By George F. Chambers, F. R. A. S. Fourth edition. New York: Macmillan & Co. (Three volumes.) Pp. 676, 558, 384. Price, $14.

For a quarter of a century Chambers's Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy has been in the hands of all English-speaking astronomers, and has maintained its ground as a valuable book of reference and an interesting summary of astronomical knowledge. In the fourth edition, now issued, the author has divided the work into three separate volumes, treating respectively of The Sun, Planets, and Comets; Instruments and Practical Astronomy; and The Starry Heavens. Each volume has its own independent index and paging. The author's reason for splitting up this well-known book is that so much expansion was required in order to bring it up to date that a single volume of convenient size could no longer contain the matter.

Three or four features of the work may be at once pointed out as especially useful and interesting to amateur astronomers. These are the catalogues of comets and the historical account of eclipses of the sun in the first volume; the elaborate description of telescopes and other instruments used by the astronomer, and the account of chronological astronomy in the second volume; and the photometric catalogue of naked-eye stars in the concluding volume. The compact chronological sketch of astronomy in tabular form, given in the second volume, may also be mentioned as very convenient for reference. This could have been made far more satisfactory, however, if the author had taken the trouble to insert, in all cases, the Christian as well as the surnames of the many astronomers included in his lists.

The whole work is, of course, a compilation, drawn from every available source, and, on account of the somewhat heterogeneous nature of much of the material of which it is composed, lacking in that perfect unity of composition which, when present, gives an irresistible charm to a book. But the author probably had no thought of writing a work that should attain great popularity among mere readers. His intention was to furnish, as his title implies, a handbook or guide-book of astronomy, rich in information and as complete as possible in the matter of reference. The bottoms of his pages are, indeed, filled with a great variety of references to authorities, which can not fail to prove very useful to the student. He has also drawn his illustrations from many sources — German, French, Italian, and American, as well as English — and has only left it to be wished that he had included some of the photographs that have within the past few years thrown such a flood of light upon