Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/429

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413
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

metaphysical. Technological applications appear only by way of illustration. The volume contains some fifty diagrams and a frontispiece plate.

 

For an elementary and thoroughly popular account of electrical phenomena the reader should go to the Library of Useful Stories. We feel safe in saying that every electrical contrivance known to the general public is described and explained in the little book by Mr. Munro.[1] The chapters on applications of electricity are preceded by accounts of the apparatus and processes employed in the several modes of generating the electric force. Throughout the volume is enough of history and anecdote to justify the title of "Story," and enough of fundamental principles to base an intelligent acquaintance with the phenomena of this branch of science upon. Where the history of discoveries and inventions is being told, the reader should remember that the author is English, and has a full share of the amusing insular notion that everything worth mentioning was done first by an Englishman. In the matter of terminology the book has been edited so as to make it conform to American usage; some changes have been made in the cuts also, and new matter has been added to the same end. There are a hundred illustrations and an adequate index.

 

It is a little startling to see a renowned chemist described in the title of a biography as "Poet and Philosopher."[2] Davy, however, was certainly occupied with "natural philosophy," and the designation of poet is far from misapplied. The pleasing character of the Century Science Series is admirably maintained by the attractive life-history of him that Dr. Thorpe has prepared. Of the talents that characterized Davy's adult life the first to be manifested in his boyhood was his poetic faculty. His best school exercises, we are told, were his translations into English verse, and he was often called upon by his schoolmates to write valentines and similar effusions for them. Later it was undoubtedly the vivid imagery and sympathetic mode of expression derived from this faculty which made his popular lectures the salvation of the Royal Institution before that establishment had his brilliant discoveries to lean upon. Our author evidently has assumed that his readers wish to know about Davy's scientific career, and this thread runs unbroken throughout the volume. At the same time the human side of the man is shown in references to his fondness for angling, his devotion to his mother, his friendship with Coleridge, Maria Edgeworth, and other persons of intellect, the incidents of his marriage, and the characteristics of his disposition. Davy's last important discovery, the principle of the miner's safety lamp, as well as his first, the anæsthetic property of laughing gas, have a practical value that easily commands popular appreciation, while his isolation of the metals of the alkalies, his demonstration of the elementary character of chlorine, and his researches on iodine give him a permanently high rank among chemists. Dr. Thorpe has relied largely upon the memoirs of Dr. Paris and of Dr. John Davy, brother of Sir Humphry, carefully weighing one against the other where they disagree, and he has had much other material in the form of letters, journals,


  1. The Story of Electricity. By John Munro. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 187, 16mo. Price, 40 cents.
  2. Humphry Davy, Poet and Philosopher. By T.E. Thorpe, LL.D., F.R.S. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 240, 12mo. Price, $1.25.