Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/January 1877/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table||Popular Science Monthly Volume 10 January 1877 (1877)
This comprehensive and valuable work belongs in the rank of the cyclopædias, although its author has seen fit to choose for it the less ambitious title of a dictionary. It is qualified as mechanical, and answers to this description, but mechanics goes deep and sweeps wide in the field of Nature and art. Indeed, philosophers are split into factions over the question how far mechanics actually extends in the economy of the world, some maintaining that even cerebral action in processes of thought is resolvable into mechanical elements and conditions. But, without going so far as this, it is indisputable that mechanical changes are extensively and profoundly involved in the on-goings of the material universe. It is a vulgar notion that the term mechanics is restricted to cog-work and belting, wheels, levers, and pulleys, and a glance at Mr. Knight's voluminous exposition of the present state of knowledge on mechanical subjects will quickly dispel the narrow notions that may have hitherto prevailed regarding it. As stated in his prospectus, "the work deals with the mechanical side of every subject that can be known or mentioned, and, as almost everything in the universe has a mechanical side, the work becomes encyclopedical."
Mr. Knight seems to be a man cut out for such an enterprise. He began it twenty-five years ago, and as the volumes, in their vast and accurate detail, abundantly show, he must have had an enthusiasm for the work that kept him at it with untiring patience and perseverance; but as mere industry, although a prime factor in the result, must have been insufficient unless acting in the most favorable circumstances, he went to the headquarters of opportunity in this country, the Patent-Office at Washington. He was here "engaged in the editing the Patent-Office Report" and classifying patents; and subsequently editing the Official Gazette and systematizing for examination the twenty thousand applications for patents which are yearly presented at the office. Sitting at the very centre and focus of the mechanical thought of the country, he had both the stimulus and the facilities for carrying out his long-cherished purpose, and the "Dictionary" no doubt owes its exhaustive completeness to the free command of facilities afforded by his position.
We know of nothing that more impressively illustrates both the great advance of knowledge in this sphere of science and art, and the great activity with which it is at present cultivated in all civilized countries, than a critical glance at the pages of this elaborate work. And its statements are so presented as to bring out this view most impressively. Mr. Knight has introduced a subsidiary feature of "special indexes," which is not only very useful to those who consult his work, but shows in a striking way the extent to which inventive construction has been carried in special lines of inquiry. For example, under the term "metre," we have a list of 218 instruments or machines for measurement, the description of each being found under its proper alphabetical heading. "These specific indexes afford the reader an excellent opportunity for investigating thoroughly all that pertains directly or indirectly to any special subject, by using the index under the title of that subject as a sort of head-centre, and following out its various branches through all their ramifications."
The work includes about 20,000 titles, and gives an exhaustive vocabulary of the technical terms that are employed in various trades and manufactures, and many of which are not to be found in the current large dictionaries. The work is, in fact, little less than a mechanical library, summarizing an endless multitude of books, and bringing up its accurate information to the present time. Of people who read and think at all, it is hard to think of any class that will not find it serviceable.
As the sciences come to be more and more studied, directly and practically, there arises the necessity for books of special guidance in laboratory-work. In chemistry, treatises upon manipulation are as old as the science, and in recent years various works have been published, instructing the student in physical manipulations. The same necessity is now beginning to be felt in physiological study, and Prof. Foster's little hand-book now appears to supply this want for English-speaking students. The book has grown out of Dr. Foster's practice as a teacher. When in University College, London, he was in the habit of distributing among his students a syllabus to guide them in their work. This became extended, by the introduction of details, into a practical course, which is now published for general use wherever physiology is pursued, experimentally, or by the observation and verification of its facts.
Dr. Foster recognizes that the introduction of the microscope has given a direction to manipulative activity that is not altogether favorable to broad physiological study. The importance of histology is not questioned, but the tendency has been to pursue it separately, and to a certain extent to accept it as a substitute for physiological work on a large scale. Dr. Foster thinks that microscopical investigation can only be best pursued in combination with a full scheme of physiological work. He says: "Histological work, unless it be salted with the salt, either of physiological or of morphological ideas, is apt to degenerate into a learned trifling of the very worst description; and students are generally only too ready to spend far too much of their time in the fascinating drudgery of cutting sections and mounting stained specimens." And again: "The student who has mounted an exquisitely and beautifully stained section is only just so much the worse for his pains (as far as physiology is concerned) if he docs not understand what the section means. Hence, when the features of some of the fundamental tissues and the general working of the more important mechanisms have been really learned, and the student has got, by doing things for himself, to know the value of a physiological experiment, and the pitfalls that are hidden under carmine and Canada balsam, he may be safely trusted to fill in the details of his study by means of reference to mounted specimens and to mere demonstrations, or even to descriptions of experiments."
Though the work is elementary, and is designed to be introductory to the author's "Hand-book for the Physiological Laboratory," it is, nevertheless, comprehensive, and covers the ground that should be passed over practically by every well-educated medical man. When our medical institutions provide better for this form of study, we can trust ourselves more safely in the hands of their graduates.
The multiplication of works on the religious bearings of Evolution, against it and for it, attests the strong interest that is taken in this aspect of the doctrine, and, as interest is ever the first condition of active inquiry, this deep concern about the religious import of the theory is of great advantage, no matter what the basis may be. Probably nine-tenths of the opposition to the doctrine is theological in its inspiration and its form, there being no end to the books which have been issued during the last dozen years to prove that it is anti-religious and atheistic. But the discussion has already led to a reaction, or to a modification of extreme views; that is, it is admitted, even by those who rank themselves as opponents of the doctrine, that it is not necessarily either atheistic or irreligious. But these assaults upon Evolution have, moreover, called out defenses of it on the part of the religious, which have not only been useful in concentrating attention upon the subject, but have been very valuable in their liberalizing influence, and the light they have thrown upon the problem of religion itself.
To those who care for the religious aspects of the question, whether as involving the religious sentiments to which the doctrine is claimed to be favorable, or the influence it is exerting upon theological belief, the present work may be decisively commended. Its author is a liberal Unitarian clergyman, who took up the subject in a aeries of Sunday discourses, which were subsequently revised for publication in their present form. His treatment of the subject, which is entirely in its theological relations, is able and independent, and is presented in a clear, spirited, and eminently readable style. He aims to show that Evolution is not destructive of the religious sentiment; that it favors the most exalted conception of God; that it brings Nature into harmony with elevated religious feeling, and must be of great service to humanity in sweeping away many superstitions that have grown up in times of ignorance and become associated and deeply involved with religious emotions. Mr. Savage is at no pains to conceal the fact that he is not orthodox, and avails himself of many opportunities to hit his theological opponents, but he can hardly be expected to start new fashions in the pulpit, and the opportunity of position in the argument is too tempting to be resisted. There are numerous passages in this volume that we should be glad to quote, as where he treats of the practical character of the discussion, the immense influence on the thought of Christendom of the Mosaic cosmogony, and his chapter on the "Evolution of Conscience," but our space will not allow of quotations. We must refer the reader to the volume, which he will find fresh, piquant, and instructive.
This huge volume, which is the exponent of the public reading in this country, is an extensive cyclopædia on the subject of libraries. The statistics which have been published annually by the United States Commissioner of Education have been too limited to satisfy an inquisitive public, which wanted to know everything relating to books, from the arrangements necessary for organization to the best manner of preventing the volumes from being soiled.
This centennial offering will give much gratifying information to the true American, showing him that a great advancement has been made in the intellectual as well as in the material resources of the country. Thus, in 1776, there were twenty-nine public libraries in the colonies, containing 45,623 volumes. Now there are reported to be 3,682 libraries, numbering from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 volumes, including pamphlets. Started in connection with the district-schools in New York and Massachusetts, free public libraries in some form have been established in the majority of the States of the Union; and it is believed that in no other country do so many libraries publish catalogues and reports.
The report is occupied with giving, first, the history of public libraries in the United States; second, their present condition and extent; third, a discussion of the various questions pertaining to library economy and management; fourth, extended statistical information of all classes of public libraries Subjects comparatively new are introduced such, for example, as the advisability of establishing professorships of books and reading in connection with college libraries; or the beneficial results that would be produced by the employment of art-museums in free public libraries. The report has been well managed and is well arranged. The literature is especially good, as the greater part of the writing has been done by the various librarians throughout the country.
The advantages of this work over others of a similar nature are derived from the fact that recognition is made of the recent progress in physiological optics. In the first part of the volume the theory of color is placed upon its proper basis in relation to science, showing the aid which the latter gives in the perception of colors, their system, and the law of mixtures. One of the leading features claimed for the book is its purpose to serve as a guide to the pictorial and decorative artist, giving him hints in regard to the color of leaves, of the sky, and of water; the use of Claude glasses; the effectiveness of small differences; the laws regulating the combination of colors, etc.
While the signature of the author is a good recommendation for the book, the names of Prof. Pickering and Mr. Koehler will greatly assist in the extension of its influence.
The author has prepared this work "in the hope that it will prove useful to all who, from business occupation or from any other circumstance, may not have sufficient time at their disposal to consult the more voluminous works" which have been written. With the exception of brief introductory remarks to the different subjects, the book is composed of tables. The work is valuable merely from the convenience of referring to it, but could not be recommended to those who are beginning the study of chemistry, as there are many simpler and more comprehensive treatises on the subject.
This second part is in no respect inferior to the first, and the interesting manner in which difficult subjects are discussed tends to fulfill the prediction that the different parts, when united, would make up a "body of principles on the subject of great value to practical men." Some of the subjects which appeared in the first part are here treated more minutely, and others of a more involved nature are introduced. Among the latter are "Centres," "Stairs," "Riveting," "Fireproof-Floors," "Painting," "Paper-hanging," and "Glazing." A third part is to follow soon, completing the work.
From this report it appears that the number of pupils in the day-schools during 1874-'75 was 35,941; in the evening-schools, 5,751—showing a large increase in the latter. Of the day-school teachers, the males form but ten per cent. No discrimination is made in the salaries in favor of male teachers, and a competent woman, in the position of "supervising principal" obtains a salary of $2,200 per annum. The salaries distributed in the year reported amounted to, $531,850. All departments of the public-school system are said to be in the most flourishing condition. In connection with the schools there is a public library which gives gratifying results of its usefulness.
This is valuable as a memorandum of the prehistoric remains found on the site of the city of Cincinnati, which have already been obliterated, or are fast becoming so, by the extension of the city. It shows careful research. The main object of the pamphlet, however, is the vindication of the claims to importance of the "Cincinnati tablet" (engravings of which are given) found in a mound on Fifth Street, in 1841, by Mr. E. Gest. One face is sculptured, in low-relief, with hieroglyphics, which, from their singular resemblance to Egyptian carvings, excited much attention. It was accepted as genuine for thirty years, when doubt was thrown upon it by several writers, and since then it has been by many considered as a fraud. Mr. Clarke now brings forward a mass of direct evidence to show its genuine character as a true relic of the mound-builders, which it would seem hard to contradict; and adds that many who for a time believed the tablet an imposture are now convinced of its genuineness. No explanation of its significance or use, however, is attempted, except incidentally. Archæologists will be glad to read this paper.
This is reprinted with a colored plate from the American Journal of Science and Arts. The greenstones referred to cover the upper end of the Connecticut Valley, and belong to the Huronian age, but the author considers them to have been formed from fine sedimentary deposits accumulated in still waters; that the metamorphic action under which they were consolidated was quiet or gentle in degree, far different from that which in the adjoining regions formed mountain-masses of granite and gneiss, and hence that their special location, in connection with the nature of the sediments, has determined the characters of the greenstone series. In certain of these rocks silicated remains of rhizopods and foraminifers are found, and Mr. Hawes figures some as seen under the microscope, with their natural colors. The pamphlet is an instructive one to geologists and mineralogists.
This book is well recommended by the Board of Health of Massachusetts, as it believes that, "if the practical suggestions made in it were acted on by all citizens, hundreds of lives now annually doomed to destruction would be saved, and the health and comfort of the people greatly increased." The work was originally published in England as a preface to a volume of excellent reports made by Government inspectors. The author first traces the characteristic diseases due to filth, such as diarrhœa, typhoid fever, cholera, etc.; next, the various forms under which filth operates; and, finally, the means to be taken to do away with its effects. He also discusses at some length the different closet-systems.
The Earl of Albemarle was born in the last year of the last century, and his recollections cover much interesting historical ground. The position of his family brought him in contact with royalty from his early youth, and many illustrious persons, civil and military, figure in these pages. The narrative is written in a gossipy and contented manner, characteristic of a man who has lived a long and enjoyable life.
This report is the careful compilation of an able committee, and the popularity which it has obtained is justly deserved. The authors emphasize the fact that "it is expedient to keep practical questions of sanitary law and work constantly before the people;" and they have accordingly presented the matter very forcibly. Such subjects as "Rivers Pollution" and "The Disposal of Sewage" are treated in their relations to disease. Aside from its local worth, the report is valuable on account of the general principles discussed.
The Davenport (Iowa) Academy of Sciences has sent us its first volume of "Proceedings," forming a neatly-printed book of 285 pages and 36 plates. Besides the records of meetings, catalogues of cabinet, etc., a large number of papers are included, which, although local in their nature, are yet of much general interest. Davenport is so situated as to afford many advantages to the student of Nature. The underlying limestone abounds in fossils of the Hamilton and Upper Helderberg groups; the rivers and ponds produce a remarkably fine development of molluscan life; while the close proximity of the prairies to the wooded bottom-lands affords a rich field for the botanist and the entomologist. This region was once the residence of a prehistoric people, who have left many obscure traces behind them, furnishing an abundance of material for the archæologist to ponder over. Among the essays are several reports of explorations of mounds at Albany, Illinois, and in the vicinity of Davenport, by Dr. R. J. Farquharson, and other archæological papers by C. Lindley, A. S. Tiffany, and J. D. Putnam; geological papers by W. H. Piatt; botanical matter by Dr. C. C. Parry, J. G. Haupt, and J. J. Nagel; lists of insects of Iowa and Utah, by J. D. Putnam; and studies upon land and fresh-water shells, by W. H. Pratt. This first volume is very creditable to the young Academy, and it is to be hoped a second similar publication may soon follow. We observe, by the-way, that it is published for the Academy by the Women's Centennial Association, and suggest that this would be an excellent way for our many societies of zealous women to spend their money in oilier cities than Davenport.
These two volumes form a mean between the commonly-received elementary treatises on the subject and the more advanced works. While they are simple enough for easy comprehension, they contain many of the data necessary for an advanced student.
Henry Holt & Co. are just putting to press, in hope of having it ready by the end of the year, a "Classical Literature" by C. A. White, whose "Mythology" has been received with much favor. The book will contain biographical and critical notices of the leading writers in Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, with specimens of their works, and some account of the relations of the languages.
The Germ-Theory of Disease. By J. Maclagan, M. D. Pp. 266. London: Macmillan.
The Functions of the Brain. By D. Ferrier, M. D. Pp. 338. New York: Putnams. Price, $3.50.
The Carlyle Anthology. Selected by E. Barrett. Pp. 396. New York: Holt & Co. Price, $2.
David and Anna Matson. By Abigail Scott Duniway. Pp. 194. With Illustrations. New York: S. R. Wells & Co. Price, $2.
Octavius B. Frothingham and the New Faith. By E. C. Stedman. Pp. 50. New York: Putnams. Price, 75 cents.
An Alphabet in Finance. By Graham McAdam. Pp. 230. Same publishers. Price, $1.25.
Modern Physical Fatalism. By T. R. Birks. Pp. 311. London: Macmillan. Price, $2.25.
Geographical Surveys west of the One Hundredth Meridian (Wheeler). III. Pp. 681. With Plates. Washington: Government Printing-Office.
Chemistry Theoretical and Practical. Parts X. to XIV. Philadelphia: Lippincott & Co. Price, 50 cents each.
Proceedings of the Poughkeepsie Society of Natural Sciences. Vol. I., Part I., Pp. 150,
Prometheus. Weekly Magazine. Vol. I., No. 1. Pp. 28. New York: Charles P. Somerby. Price, $3 per year.
Proceeding's of the American Chemical Society. Vol. I., No. 1. Pp. 80. New York: Trow & Co., printers.
Valedictory Address at the Indianapolis College of Medicine. By E. D. Foree, M. D. Pp. 19. Indianapolis: Journal print.
Report of the New York Meteorological Observatory. By D. Draper. Pp. 48. New York: Evening Post print.
Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture. Pp. 19. Washington: Government Printing-Office.
Field and Forest. Monthly. Vol. II., No. 5. Pp. 8. With Plate. Washington: The Columbia Press.
Mayer's Ontogeny and Phylogeny of Insects. Also, A Century's Progress in American Zoölogy. By A. S. Packard, Jr. Pp. 4 and 8.
Immediate Preparation and Early Resumption. By R. T. Paine, Jr. Pp. 31. Boston: A. Williams & Co.
A System of Marine Signals. By S. P. Griffin. Pp. 13. New York: Van Nostrand.
Appalachia. Organ of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Pp. 62. With Maps. Boston: A. Williams & Co.
Education and Progress: an Address by General T. M. Logan, of Virginia. Pp. 16.
Relations of Physical Health to Morality and Religion. By Rev. G. W. Cooke. From the Herald of Health. Pp. 8.
Death-Rate of each Sex in Michigan. By H. B. Baker, M. D. Pp. 16. Cambridge, Mass.: Riverside Press.