Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/September 1877/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 11 September 1877 (1877)
This book contains the testimony given by M. Cernuschi, the well-known French bi-metallist, before the United States Monetary Commission in February last, together with several of his essays reprinted from other sources. Although the work of an ardent advocate of a double standard, defending his views with ability, the book is not one which would afford much comfort to the silver party of this country. We commend it to them for perusal; they will find well stated the extent of the mischief which would come from the adoption of the double standard by the United States, unless a similar step be taken by all commercial nations. From it also the greenback-men might learn that a prime essential of good money is that its issue be an automatic issue which no one can control something independent of human agency and this, of course, is an attribute that paper-money can never possess. As to the merits of a bi-metallic system, if it could be made universal if the same ratio between gold and silver, and the same mint laws, could be established the world over it is a question upon which a great deal is to be said on both sides, and certainly M. Cernuschi puts his side of the case very strongly. But we cannot help thinking that, practically, it is of about as much importance to us as a question of lunar politics. The prospect of England, for example, abandoning the single gold standard is too remote for this phase of the question to be taken into present account. It is an interesting economic speculation, and nothing more.
It may be added that M. Cernuschi proposes to make silver just as good as gold for all purposes of money; worth just as much. He has, therefore, little in common with our silver-men: they would cease to care about the "dollar of our fathers" if it were made as good as gold; they want it only because it is worth less, and can be made the means of forcing a composition upon their creditors at something less than one hundred cents.
The author, in the introduction to this little work, tells us that it is preliminary to a work on the Philosophy of Delusions, which will aim to unfold in detail the phenomena of the Involuntary Life, including Trance, and to give practical suggestions for the reconstruction of the principles of evidence in their application to history and to logic—to science and to law." In the present volume he proposes a new theory of trance, and considers its bearings on human testimony. Trance—whether natural as somnambulism, or self-produced as by so-called "trance-speakers"—results from activity of a portion of the brain-substance while the remainder sleeps: this is the "Involuntary Life." In this state men see visions, receive revelations, and have ecstasies, after the manner of Mohammed, the mediæval saints, and Swedenborg.
The author of this work is an Oriental scholar of fine accomplishments, and a philosophical student of theology in a very broad and liberal sense. He is a transcendentalist, and like Emerson and Ripley he formerly preached, but like those worthies he outgrew the function of pulpit teacher, but only to devote himself more assiduously to the pen. Starting with the religious problem of humanity, and treating it with the freedom and boldness of the transcendentalist, Mr. Johnson was soon carried beyond the narrow boundaries of the faith he had inherited, and was powerfully drawn to the consideration of those ancient religions of the East which are celebrated alike for their antiquity, the vast multitudes of their believers, and the philosophical interest of their doctrines and dogmas. This line of inquiry had such fascination for Mr. Johnson, and seemed so full of promise as a source of enlargement and a more catholic spirit to Christian thinkers, that he resolved, twenty years ago, to devote himself to the exposition of the Oriental faiths in connection with the life of the Eastern peoples, for the advantage of English readers.
In 1872 he published the first volume of this research on the "Faiths, Religions, Philosophy, and Life of India," as a contribution to the natural history of religion. His point of view was rational and scientific, and he delineated the characteristics of the Hindoo mind, its traditions and social forms, its piety and morality, and the speculative principles, ethics, and humanities of Buddhism, with a deep sympathy for the human elements involved, but with the same disciplined coolness of temper with which Herschel explored the heavens, and Lyell investigated the crust of the earth. "I have written," he says, "not as the advocate of Christianity or any other distinctive religion, but as attracted on the one hand by the identity of the religious sentiment under all its great historic forms, and on the other by the movement indicated in their diversities and contrasts toward a higher plane of unity on which their exclusive claims shall disappear."
The second volume in the same line of study how appears, and is devoted to China. This is especially opportune, now that we have the Chinese problem upon us in so imminent a form on the Pacific coast. The Californians will deal with it in the light of race-prejudice, and in its passionate and sordid aspects; but the intelligent mind of the country will desire to inform itself regarding the real character of this extraordinary people. To all who are thus inclined Mr. Johnson's volume will be full of grave instruction. It is not a mere superficial delineation of Chinese life, such as a traveler would give us who had been Impressed by its sensuous aspects, but it is an analysis of the Chinese mind, an ethnic study, and the survey of a civilization. Education, government, language, literature, history, and poetry, are taken up systematically in the division of "structures," and an immense amount of most important information is here compactly presented. It is of but little use to talk to Americans about education anywhere else in the world; yet, as we are rapidly sliding into the Chinese system of education by state control, our people might profitably look into the working of that system where it has had prolonged trial and worked out its legitimate consequences.
Mr. Johnson has not failed to point an incidental moral in this direction. He says: "Chu-tsze defines learning as imitation—conformity to a prescribed standard; and in these schools even organization holds an inferior place to the mere act of 'repeating after the teacher, each by himself, in a shrill voice, rocking to and fro.' This perfect image of automatism is not without resemblance to the arrangements into graded classes, so much admired in our Western school systems, and to those arts of 'reading in concert' which are believed to have such virtue in our democratic culture.
"It would in fact be difficult to imagine a better outward symbol of the mental status produced by these processes of an excessive organization, so widely admired in the public schools of America. They tend to destroy all possibility of original force. Beading, for instance, is becoming reduced to as purely mechanical a conformity to prescribed tone, time, and emphasis, as the Chinese custom of repeating words after the teacher has produced without any organization whatever. Chinese boys, rocking out their parrot tones, eagerly copying the master, or 'backing the books,' do but openly confess, in their noisy routine of imitation, the mental slavery which our prevailing system disguises under the varnish of a 'drill.' 'Reading in concert' has played its part in the Chinese system also, with effects upon voice and manner which we need not cross the hemisphere to find in full operation.
"Concerning 'imitation' as a principle of culture, let us add that, false as it is, its moral quality at least is higher when it follows, as in China, a type that does not change with human caprice, than when it is subject to arbitrary crudities and idiosyncrasies imposed on the pupils by individual teachers. In both cases, however, the real ultimate reference is to an all-powerful authority in that public sentiment and common belief of which these educational systems are meant to be the expression. And when this public control has become all pervading, as it steadily tends to be, whether as Chinese tradition of ages, or American fashion of the hour, its effect through imitation, in leveling and trimming young minds into a dull, self-satisfied uniformity, is indisputable. In the course of ages it has cast all Chinamen in one mould, and made their intellectual productions as monotonous as their physical type. The warning is for us, even at the opposite pole of social and political character."
Of moral education the author says: "More prominent than rote-work in the programme of the school system is respect for moral laws as eternal and divine. Modesty and humility; reverence for the old; the evil of war and the wickedness of cruelty and conquest; the love of truth, purity, and self-restraint; delicacy of feeling, devotion to duties, fidelity to functions—are the burden of this popular teaching, the very substance of text and precept. I believe, not only that the whole series of reading-books used in the schools of China does not contain a single impure precept, but that there is scarcely one noble conception of duty and humanity that cannot be found represented in the daily recitations of these children of a grand ethical literature, who are taught to prize it, not with slavish superstition, but for the naturalness of its ideal. Nor does this textual teaching fail of a practical basis in the home. It would be difficult to find any treatise on home education more admirable than the 'Instructions of the Sacred Edict,' whose utilitarian wisdom is here overflowed by tenderest sentiment."
In regard to Chinese education in manners, Mr. Johnson remarks: "As the moral relations are expressed in a concrete ideal, in which no change is supposed possible, so they are embodied in rites and ceremonies which share their sacredness. As the child learns ideas in the form of actual written characters, so he conceives duties in the form of strictly-regulated actions. Hence the prime importance of the 'proprieties' in education. They are not affectations, but recognized as the natural order of conduct, the virtue of behavior. . . . The authority of fixed rules of behavior, while scarcely more absolute than that of fashion in Western society, is not, like fashion, detached from the highest law of ethics and faith, but is strictly identical with it. To the Chinese, their ceremonial is simply man in his manifold relations. Its minute rules, which appear to exhaust the possibilities of prescription, are believed to express man's normal relations to the universe. They seem, in fact, to have historically grown out of the national consciousness of these relations, instead of being imposed by arbitrary authority or transient will. What they correspond with in Western life is not our etiquette, red tape, or religious formalism, but such conformities as are admitted by all of us to be natural, proper to all right performance of functions, and therefore of highest import. These conformities would of course differ from those of-the Chinese, being based on more complex relations and wider knowledge of Nature, and hence more open to changes of detail; but their ethical ground is really the same. Thus the minute ritual of Chinese filial piety consists in routines of conduct which are recognized as beyond all question the best, and indeed the only, ways in which an ideal love and reverence can be fulfilled. It is sufficiently clear, from the spirit of these prescriptions, that this minuteness itself is simply an endeavor to inspire the whole of domestic life with real reverence and love."
After a broad sketch of the Chinese character and quality, Mr. Johnson passes to a study of the Chinese sages, their doctrines and influence, and the national beliefs on religious subjects, the development of Chinese Buddhism, missionary experiences, and closes his work by a presentation of the philosophy, metaphysics, arid anthropology, that prevail in China. We cannot here even attempt to give the author's conclusions upon many important topics which he considers, and will only say that while he evidently has great respect for much that is to be found in the institutions and ideas of this great division of the Oriental world, he is by no means an undiscriminating admirer of everything Chinese. Of course they are benighted heathen, and we send missionaries to instruct them in better religious ways. This attitude, however, is not altogether favorable to a just judgment of the Chinese character, and Mr. Johnson has done an excellent service in correcting our prejudices and giving us truer views of the faith and life of so large a portion of the human family.
This is in all respects a most excellent book on astronomy, clear, full, splendidly illustrated, carefully accurate, and in a high degree popular. The first edition was issued ten years ago, and a third being now called for, the author has thoroughly revised it and added two hundred pages of new matter, bringing it sharply up to the time. His reason for making the book is thus stated: "There is a lack of works in the English language which are at one and the same time attractive to the general reader, serviceable to the student, and handy, for purposes of reference, to the professional astronomer; in fact, of works which are popular without being vapid, and scientific without being unduly technical." In regard to the present edition Mr. Chambers says: "There is scarcely a single page which has not been to a greater or less extent dressed up, or in some way amended, with the object of making its statements more accurate in substance or intelligible in diction. The most important changes will be found in the chapters dealing with the sun, sidereal astronomy, and astronomical instruments. The descriptions of clusters and nebulæ have been made more numerous, and the lists of objects critically revised one by one actually at the telescope, so as to make that portion of the work more completely than formerly a vade mecum for the mere star-gazer, who is an astronomer simply in the respect that he is the owner of a telescope. Indeed, it has been chiefly with this idea in view that so much additional matter has been introduced into the chapters relating to astronomical instruments. The 'Practical Hints' and suggestions have been gathered from so many sources, and embody the collective wisdom and experience of so many men, that they cannot fail to deserve attention. I believe also that this volume now stands alone in its full description, so far as regards the wants of amateur observers, of the mounting and use of reflecting telescopes."
This fourth edition of the work named above embodies the results of its author's continued labors down to 1877. It contains profiles of nearly all the railroads in the region west of the Mississippi; elevations of many thousands of points; mean heights of the States and Territories; slopes of the principal streams in the West, etc. A map of the United States, in approximate contours of 1,000 feet of vertical intervals, and embodying all the results of the author's researches on elevations, accompanies the work. We are informed that, "to express still more clearly the facts brought out by the map, it is the intention of the Survey (Hayden's) to make shortly a relief model of the United States on the basis of this map."
Mr. Allen, in enforcing his thesis that the "conditions of environment" are the principal factors in modifying species, adduces some very instructive examples of the progressive enlargement of certain peripheral parts of animals as we go from the north to the south. Thus the ears of wolves, foxes, some deer, and hares, are larger in southern than in northern individuals of the same species. In birds, the enlargement of the bill, claws, and tail, is specially noticeable—the bill being peculiarly susceptible of variation. This, the author remarks, accords with the general fact that "all the ornithic types in which the bill is remarkably enlarged occur in the intertropical regions." A similar progressive change southward is remarked in the color of animals, especially birds.
The region described in this report by Prof Powell comprises three great geological provinces, designated respectively the Park Province, the Plateau Province, and the Basin Province, succeeding one another in this order from east to west, and all lying east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the great Plains. The whole region is one of considerable geological interest, as presenting on a large scale three great categories of facts, namely, those relating to displacement, degradation, and sedimentation. The formations here studied have an aggregate thickness of 50,000 feet, and embrace strata of the Palæozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic ages. The volume is fully illustrated with plates and woodcuts, and accompanied by an atlas of colored maps.
During the year ending June, 1876, Lieutenant Wheeler's Survey was organized in two divisions, designed to operate, the one in California, and the other in Colorado and New Mexico. The volume before us, besides the general report of Lieutenant Wheeler, and the executive and descriptive reports of the officers in charge of the California and Colorado divisions, contains several special reports by scientific men attached to the survey, among which we may mention, as possessing a direct popular interest, reports by Dr. Loew on alkaline lakes and mineral springs in Southern California, and on the physical and agricultural features of the same region; a report by Dr. Yarrow on ethnological researches made near Santa Barbara; an analysis by A. S. Gatschet of eleven Indian dialects; last, but by no means least, Lieutenant Bergland's report on the operations of a party commissioned to determine the feasibility of diverting the Colorado River for purposes of irrigation.
The insectivorous mammals here described belong to two families, namely: Talpidæ, or moles, and Soricidæ, or shrews. Of moles the author recognizes four good genera as existing in America, namely: Scalops, Scapanus, Condylura, and Urotrichus. Urotrichus is the only one of the four known to be common to both hemispheres. Of European genera of Soricidæ only one, Sorex, is known to occur in America; Blarina is the most characteristic American genus. The third and last of the American genera is Neosorex.
We have specially to commend this volume for the many neat graphic charts which it contains. Statistical tables are always dry and confusing, but when they are cast into the shape of graphic charts even the most careless cannot fail to note the fluctuations of the quantities which they represent. Among the matters treated of in the body of the report, we would name especially the Municipal Hospital, water-supply, nuisances, as fat-boiling, intramural interments, etc. The deaths in Philadelphia for the year covered by the report numbered 17,805, an increase of 2,567 over the preceding year. The exhibit of the statistics of mortality among children under ten was less favorable than usual; the year 1872, when small-pox committed such ravages, was not as fatal to children as 1875. Diphtheria prevailed to an extent unprecedented in the records of the preceding sixteen years.
The object of this essay is best stated in the words of the author himself, who says: "It is the object of this paper to point out a simple method by which the high degree of precision which accompanies the Coast Survey work may be made available in the ordinary operations of land-surveyors and civil engineers, in those districts over which the Coast Survey triangulations have been carried, and at the same time to call attention to the importance of an extension of these triangulations over the entire country."
Problem of Problems.
We noticed, not long ago, a book entitled the "Problem of Problems," a discussion of atheism, Darwinism, and theism, which has been much praised by theological authorities as an annihilating criticism of Evolution and the Darwinian school. The book received some damaging criticism, and the rumor got started that it would be revised. But it seems this is an error. Whatever else may change in this world of mutations, the "Problem of Problems" and its solution in President Braden's book will remain unchanged. The author announces in the Cincinnati Christian Standard that "it will never be revised." He says, "The commendations of the book have been such, and by such persons, that it would be a reflection on them to revise it." It is a great satisfaction to have something at last that will be stuck to and can be depended upon. And, now that we have something that is to stand like a lighthouse amid the storms of controversy, it is well to be fully aware of its value, and we notice that the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, in its April issue, testifies of the author that "for tilting against the Darwinians, Spencerians, Comtians, Correlationists, Evolutionists, et id genus omne, he is well enough accoutred, and is mighty in his cause." We shall do well not to forget how this puissant finality in modern polemics originated. The Journal says of the author, "At the age of fourteen he became a skeptic, and lectured in public on the skeptical side of the question." The precocious rogue pursued this scandalous course for ten years, when he was abruptly pulled up, and took the back track. The Journal says, "At the age of twenty-four he met a preacher, who converted him, and he began his career as a lecturer against skepticism, the fruits of which are contained in the volume before us." Now, if anybody wants to stop a great scientific movement, he will know how to prepare for it.
Three lectures by Mr. Lockyer are contained in this volume; they were originally delivered at Manchester, before a popular audience. In the first of these the author gives a singularly clear account of the principles and main results of spectrum analysis of nebulæ and comets. The second lecture treats of meteorites, and the chemical constitution of the stars and the sun. The third lecture treats of the planets of our system and their atmospheres, and concludes with an exposition of the theory of evolution.
This monograph, prepared as a thesis to be presented to the Faculty of Michigan University for the degree of Ph. D., very succinctly describes the distinguishing characters of the several orders of animals belonging to the class Amphibia. Wherever the author had it in his power to study the characters of the animals he describes, either in living specimens or in natural history collections, he has done so; in other cases he has had recourse to the writings of the best authors. The work is one of solid merit, both for its original research and for its concise presentation of the results of prior investigation.
A special interest attaches to the genus Coryphodon, inasmuch as it occurs in the tertiary strata of both hemispheres. In the second paper named above, Prof. Marsh gives certain characters common to the odontornithes with the ostrich. The third paper contains measurements of portions of a dinosaur which surpassed in magnitude any land-animal hitherto discovered, its length having been probably from fifty to sixty feet!
Topographical Atlas Sheets.
These "Atlas Sheets" are a portion of a series of maps designed to embrace the territory of the United States west of the one-hundredth meridian. The present set, seven in number, are devoted to the topography of portions of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. They are based on the results obtained by Wheeler's Survey.
The problems discussed in this little volume, namely, the strength and calculation of dimensions of iron and steel constructions, have for some time engaged the attention of engineers on both sides of the Atlantic. The author presents a general view of the results so far obtained, and offers formulas of his own based on Wohler's law. The calculations have special reference to bridge and building constructions.
Considerable useful information, and a number of tables convenient for reference, have been gotten together in this book. The money units of the world, paper, coin, suspension of specie payments, etc., are the subjects of a series of chapters which show that the author has bestowed a good deal of labor on them. He says, however, that "the first object was the compilation in compact form, convenient for reference, of trustworthy statements and figures regarding the great factors in the financial problems of the day." There is certainly a need for such a book, but this volume hardly supplies it. The discussion of subjects too large for his space, and of others that are purely speculative, has taken up time and room that should have been used in collecting and arranging the material proper for a hand-book. Thirty-one pages, for example, are given to estimates of the amounts of gold and silver in the world—a sort of speculation that is wholly worthless. There is a lack of system in the arrangement of the tables; there are unnecessary repetitions and unaccountable omissions; and, finally, there is no index, a negligence not to be forgiven in a work of this kind. Still, it will be found convenient for the business-man and the student until a better one is prepared, which, as this is not a very remunerative field of work, may be a long time.
Lieutenant McCauley, while on sick leave in Southern New Mexico, attached himself as a volunteer to an exploring expedition conducted by Lieutenant Ruffner, of the Engineers. His duties mainly related to the survey proper, and he was able to devote to the collection of ornithological specimens only the leisure time left after the day's work or the day's march was over. Nevertheless, he has made a substantial contribution to the avi-fauna of the region explored. The report is edited and annotated by Dr. Elliott Coues, United States Army.
Supplemental Remarks on the Physiological Effects of Severe and Protracted Muscular Exercise, with Especial Reference to its Influence upon the Excretion of Nitrogen. By Prof. Austin Flint, Jr., M. D. From the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology. Pp. 9.
Some Remarkable Gravel-Ridges in the Merrimack Valley. By Geo. F. Wright. From Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History. Pp. 17. Maps 3.
Report on Dermatology. By L. P. Yandell, Jr., M.D. From the American Practitioner for June, 1877. Louisville, Ky. Pp. 8.
A New Test-Reaction for Zinc, and other Laboratory Notes. Pp. 6. And Notes upon the Lithology of the Adirondacks. Pp. 35. By Albert R. Leeds. From the American Chemist for March, 1877.
On the Production and Use of Compressed Air in Mining Operations. By M. F. L. Cornet. Translated from the French by Robert Zahner. Prom the Journal of the Franklin Institute, for June and July, 1877. Pp. 21.
On the Brains of some Fish-like Vertebrates; on the Serrated Appendages of the Throat of Amia; on the Tail of Amia. By Burt G. Wilder, M.D. From Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1876. Pp. 11, and Plate.
The Scientist's Theology. By E. A. Beaman. New York: E. H. Swinney, 1877. Pp. 24. Price, 10 cents.
On the Use of Large Probes in the Treatment of Strictures of the Nasal Duct. By Samuel Theobald, M.D. From the Transactions of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland. Baltimore, 1877. Pp. 22.
Report of the Director of the Central Park Menagerie, for 1876. New York, 1877. Pp. 34.
Facts and Figures for Mathematicians; or, The Geometrical Problem which Benson's Geometry alone can solve. By Lawrence S. Benson. New York: 149 Grand St. Pp. 22. Price, 30 cents.
On the Possibility of Transit Observations, without Personal Error. By S. P. Langley. From American Journal of Science and Arts, July, 1877, Pp. 6.
Report on the Discovery of Supposed Paleolithic Implements, from the Glacial Drift in the Valley of the Delaware River, near Trenton, N. J. By Charles C. Abbott, M.D. Cambridge, 1877. From Tenth Annual Report of the Peabody Museum. Pp. 14, Illustrated.
Address delivered by Hon. A. J. Peeler, before the State Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, June 26, 1877. Austin. Pp. 34.
The Pneumatic Electric System for lighting and extinguishing the Gas used for Street-Lights, and the Use of the Apparatus for General Telegraphic Purposes. By John H. Blake. Boston, 1877. Pp. 33. Illustrated.
The National Guardsman. A Journal devoted to the Interests of the National Guard of the United States. Vol. i.. No. 1. August, 1877. Monthly. Pp. 16. Price, $1 a year.
Thirty-third Annual Catalogue of the Officers, Faculty, and Students, of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, for the Academic Year 1876-'77. Pp. 62.
Remarks of Robert E. C. Steams on the Death of Colonel Ezekiel Jewett; and also on the Late Dr. Philip P. Carpenter. Before the California Academy of Sciences. Pp. 5, each.
The Magnetism of Iron Vessels, with a Short Treatise on Terrestrial Magnetism . By Fairman Rogers. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1877. Pp. 125. Price, 50 cents.
Art-Education applied to Industry. By George Ward Nichols. With Illustrations. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1877. Pp. 211. Price. $4.
The American Palæozoic Fossils. A Catalogue of the Genera and Species, etc. By S. A. Miller. Cincinnati, 1877. Pp. 253. Price. $3.
Mesmerism, Spiritualism, etc. By William B. Carpenter, LL.D., F.R.S. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1877. Pp. 158. Price, $1.25.
The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation. By Mary Putnam-Jacobi, M.D. The Boylston Prize Essay of Harvard University for 1876. Illustrated. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1877. Pp. 233. Price, $3.50.