Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/127

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117
LITERARY NOTICES.

is more surprising than that transformation of opinion in the scientific world that has made such an award as this possible; and, if Aunt Hannah had been as prophetic as she was devout, and scented afar the use that would be made of her money, it is questionable if the Royal Institution would ever have got a shilling of it. As for the book itself, it is but a sorry performance. It has been sagely remarked, concerning prize sheep and prize essays, that the former are useful only for making candles, and the latter for lighting them; and the observation is as true of Mr. Lowne's book as of the class to which it belongs, for it is certainly the poorest piece of work upon the subject that we have yet seen. Most contributions to this question are inspired by such an interest in it as to enforce study and secure some merit; but this contribution has obviously been made for a hundred guineas. Literary labor need not be necessarily bad because it is paid for, but prize essays are an open appeal to mercenary motives, and are apt to attract those who are mainly influenced by them. Mr. Lowne undoubtedly knows something of his subject, but he neither contributes any thing to its original thought, nor, what was equally needed, has he given us a clear and full popular representation of it. The book which shall perform that office remains yet to be written.

Elements of Physical Manipulation. By Edward C. Pickering, Thayer Professor of Physics in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 8vo. 225 pages, price, $3.00. New York: Hurd & Houghton.

there are hopeful signs that the despotic rule of the verbal system in education has had its day, and must lose its supremacy in future exactly in the ratio of the advance of thorough scientific education. Nothing can be more futile than the mere verbal teaching of physical laws, when it is possible, by the performance of simple experiments, to bring their operation directly before the student's mind. It is quite as preposterous as the prevailing habit of learning the descriptive and observational sciences by memorizing the statements of books rather than by the direct study of the objects themselves. That nine-tenths of the school-study of science is at present an unmitigated educational sham but few will deny, and what is now wanted is less an increase in the amount of scientific study than a radical amendment of its method. This want is widely felt, and is beginning to be efficiently supplied. Botanical and zoological text-books are becoming more and more guides to Nature, and there is springing up a separate literature of working processes in the experimental sciences. Treatises on manipulation have long been standard necessities in chemical laboratories, and they are now recognized as of equal importance in laboratories devoted to other departments of experimental science. The admirable volume of Drs. Burden-Sanderson and Michael Foster, on "The Processes and Manipulations of the Physiological Laboratory," is a recent English contribution in this direction; and the "Introduction to Physical Measurements," by Dr. F. Kohlrausch, of Darmstadt, the translation of which has just been issued by Churchill, of London, is a valuable volume of the same kind. Prof. Pickering's new book, however, is now by far the best guide that we have for the practical teaching of natural philosophy. Assuming that the instruments are in the hands of the student, it shows him precisely how to use them, what precautions to take, and what errors to avoid. "It is intended as a hand-book for teachers, for the large class of amateurs who devote their leisure to some branch of physical inquiry, and more particularly as a text-book for the physical laboratories now introduced so generally in all our larger colleges and scientific schools.

"It is hoped that it may also aid the introduction of the laboratory system into the high-schools and academies, as many of the experiments are simple enough to be performed there, and, at the same time, the kind of apparatus described is such that it can be made at very small expense."

The preliminary chapter is devoted to general methods of investigation and the more common applications of the mathematics to the discussion of results, and a short description is also given of the various methods of measuring distances, time, and weights, which, in fact, form the basis of all physical investigation. The remain-