Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/80

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70
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

some of them become mathematicians like Gauss and Ampère, while others continue all their lives what they were in the beginning, simply specialists in figures. We do not know whether this distinction arises in the nature of things, or simply results from the chances of life. Very good minds think there is a relation between the calculating faculty and mathematical talent, and believe that, if these prodigies were intelligently given a special education, they might most of them become remarkable mathematicians. Experiment has not given a definite result on this point. M. Inaudi has determined not to go to the mathematical school, but will preserve and develop his natural gifts. Another question arises as to the influence of heredity in these cases. For a long time physicians have been accustomed, when an abnormal combination of talents appears in a particular person, to find a number of special characteristics in his family. Sometimes these have appeared through several generations, as in certain noted families of musicians and naturalists. Sometimes the peculiarity appears in the shape of eccentricity. No such peculiar family traits have been found associated with M. Inaudi, nor any special antecedents in himself. He has never been ill, and his development has been normal.

The study of M. Inaudi has been fruitful for psychology. On one side it has brought a remarkable confirmation to the theory of partial memories; and on another side it has made us familiar with a new form of mental calculation, the auditive form. It may also have taught us something else. We have found that it is possible for some faculties, like memory, to acquire an extent double and triple that of the normal. The fact permits us to descry in how large a measure the human mind is still capable of improvement.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.

 


 
The polished stone hatchet, according to Mr. Thomas Wilson's report on anthropology at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, is recognized almost all over Europe as an amulet protective against lightning. It is called in many languages "the stone of lightning" or "thunder-stone." The hatchets are drilled for suspension, or are put over the fireplace or in the stones of it, or are inserted in a crack. The general belief is that they come from the heavens in a flash of lightning; and one peasant declared that he had seen such a stone fall, and, going for it, had found it and extracted it from the hole still hot. Flint arrow-heads are also regarded in the same way. A common amulet, of great power, in Brittany is what is called there the pierre du croix, a mineral, staurolite, which crystallizes in the form of a cross. It is regarded as a token from God in favor of the religion of the country, and is given to these his chosen people in recognition of their piety and religious fervor. In Italy the coral is an amulet supposed to guard its owner against the evil eye. These are the principal objects of regard; but there are many others of less importance, which are, however, much relied upon.