Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/January 1878/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table||Popular Science Monthly Volume 12 January 1878 (1878)
This work, which upon its first appearance made a strong impression upon philosophical minds, has passed to a second edition, with numerous alterations and additions; the main part of which, as the author says, are of an explanatory and supplementary nature. The improvements are here manifest, and we cordially testify that the second edition is much less intricate and obscure in statement than the first. It will be remembered, by those who happen to have read it, that the book is rather critical in character, and is devoted to an examination of the grounds and sufficiency of existing ethical methods, rather than to the propounding of any new system. From this circumstance, together with the infelicity of statement which so marked the first edition, there was often much perplexity to know what Sidgwick himself believed, and what he was driving at. In the preface to the second edition, the author refers to the character of his new matter, and indicates various points in which his views have been modified under the influence of the critical attention his volume has received. One thing is somewhat significant: Mr. Sidgwick is a man given to highly-abstract studies, and he therefore occupies a province that has been thus far least affected by the progress of physical and biological science. He heard a great din in an adjacent field about evolution, but as it did not seem to affect him, he paid little attention to it. When, however, the claim was made that ethics, like almost everything else in this world, must be influenced by evolutionary doctrine, he put in a mild but decisive protest; and in an article in Mind maintained, virtually, that it makes no difference as to the present exposition of ethical science how its phenomena came about. In the new edition, however, this judgment is modified. In the preface he says, "I have further been led, through study of the theory of evolution and its application to practice, to attach somewhat more importance to this theory than I had previously done;" to which we may add that, in his still further study of that theory, he will attach still more importance to it. Possibly, indeed, his views may become so much more evolved that he will wonder how he could at first have treated the subject with so little reference to that doctrine. If ethics refers to the obligations of conduct, and if the American eagle and the American citizen are not required to conform to the same standard—if organization comes into the question, and man himself, in his organic and racial modifications, illustrates the same principle—then may it become a prime question in ethics as to the right and wrong of conduct in different stages of social unfolding. Should it in fact turn out that the factor which Mr. Sidgwick at first excluded from ethical inquiry, becomes, at length, its dominant factor, it will be but another illustration of that inversion of values of which we have already so many examples in the history of progressive thought.
After a patient examination of these massive volumes, we confess our inability to find what it is that is "unveiled." The dominant aim of the work seems to be to establish the identity between ancient magic and modern spiritualism, and to show that here alone is the ground of a possible compromise in the contest between religion and science. It is but fair to say that the author declines to be considered an ordinary spiritualist, which is certainly creditable to her, but we must refer those who are curious to know in what manner she differs from them to the book itself, with the hope that they will be more successful than we have been. The first volume professes to be devoted to science, and the second to theology; and, in dealing with science, much space is given to the refutation of the idea that it is infallible. When that assumption is set up, this part of the author's effort will become pertinent, and will be, no doubt, appreciated. Scientific men are scolded by her, in a copious variety of diction, because they will not "investigate" the spiritualistic hypothesis. This is quite in the vein of the ordinary spiritualist, and is far from new. When the so-called spiritualist's hypothesis is offered for investigation on the same terms and conditions as the other problems of Nature, there will be no difficulty in getting it investigated. Two or three things are essential to a legitimate scientific hypothesis: It must be expressed in intelligible terms; it must present a definite subject-matter for solution or determination; and it must be one by which predictions can be made that can be proved or disproved by experiment. In regard to the phenomena, or the alleged facts, the whole question hinges, of course, upon the character of evidence; but here we must say that the author of "Isis Unveiled" shows not the slightest discrimination. There is displayed a great familiarity with magic lore, and a deal of industry in getting together a vast medley of materials. Bible-stories, legends from all lands, from all times, ancient and modern accounts of witchcraft, newspaper reports of table-turning, mind-reading, levitation, the psychological vagaries of a novelist, like Bulwer, and the results of scientific research, are all raked together promiscuously and accorded equal weight. There is no attempt toward a systematic arrangement of these multitudinous materials, nor are they held together by anything deserving the name of reasoning or argument. We are reminded by the book of nothing so much as the rush of débris which passes through a sewer after a summer shower. Everything is washed along—garbage, remnants of things once valuable, with now and then something that might be of real worth if sifted out—and the whole borne on by a turbid watery medium which takes its quality from the dirt it carries.
We should say that the work evinces great reading in certain directions, much ill-digested learning, a curious credulity in these times, and a strong tendency to mysticism. It is sure to find readers, as it deals with questions which interest all, and in a manner that will be satisfactory to many. Unhappily, education has not been carried far enough to teach the people to distinguish between the valuable and the worthless among things printed, and we have no doubt there are many who have gone through college and acquired nothing that will protect them from accepting "Isis Unveiled" as pretty fair gospel for these days. We may add that, aside from the uses for which the author designs them, there is a large amount of curious information, facts, and opinions, in her volumes which will be interesting to many, and are elsewhere inaccessible to ordinary readers.
These pamphlets are issued under the auspices of the U. S. Geological Survey, and are designed to contain such special information of interest or importance in connection with the objects of the commission as may from time to time seem useful. The first bulletin was published in April, and gave instruction as to the destroying of the young insects, which should be done throughout the West during April, May, and June. Number 2 is filled with the natural history of the locust. It is a good compendium of the habits of the pest, and is illustrated by woodcuts and a map. Prof. C. V. Riley is presumably the writer of both numbers.
This is a practical work, and has been prepared with especial reference to the requirements of medical students. The author remarks that it would have been easier to compile a larger book, from the bewildering wealth of results afforded by the labors in this branch of science, but he has preferred to prepare a concise and perspicuous outline of the subject, designed to follow some previous work on inorganic chemistry. The book is very neat in form; parenthetical references are given to authorities and original papers; pains are taken to give due prominence to the researches of American chemists; and the volume is supplemented by a careful and copious index.
By Rome, the author here means the Roman Catholic form of Christianity. He early migrated out of Protestantism, and, having settled for a while in Catholicism, moved out into the region of religious doubt and denial, where he claims that he first found true peace. The book is a sort of theological autobiography, in which he visibly and forcibly delineates his mental experiences as a Protestant, a Catholic, and a skeptic. It is earnest in spirit, keenly controversial, and contains many views which mark the author as a man of reflection and originality.
This old and standard book of reference has been revised, brought up to time, and is now reported as in its twenty-first edition. It contains a great amount of information, and, when the method of it is understood, it is conveniently available for use; but it may be observed that if the world's progress had taken place in accordance with the plan of this work, it would have been a somewhat mixed and chaotic affair. The chronological tables conform to the idea of historical progression, but the main body of the book consists of Hayden's "Dictionary of Dates," in which the events of the world are represented, not in the order of time, succession, and causality, but in the alphabetical order, and to this the progress of things has fortunately not conformed.
The interest of the Eastern question in England has risen to such a point as greatly to stimulate the demand for works relating to the countries now implicated in war. Sir Edward Creasy has thus been led to revise and republish his history of the Turks, which has been long out of print, and Mr. Holt has done a good service to American literature in adding the book to his valuable series on the Oriental countries. The reputation of its author is a guarantee of its excellence, and in making the book over he seems to have spared no pains in the consultation of all authentic sources of information. Judge Creasy says, in his preface, that the most important historical work on the Turks is by the German Von Hammer, who has dealt with the subject so exhaustively that his history, if translated, would make at least twenty English octavo volumes. He has followed this author closely in the reconstruction of his own work, and he speaks of the German treatise to which he is so much indebted in the following terms:
The author of this monograph, while stationed at a military post in Dakota Territory as assistant surgeon, availed himself of the opportunity thus afforded of studying the manners and customs and the language of the neighboring Indian tribe—the Hidatsas or Minnetarees. Among the subjects treated under the head of ethnography are ceremonies, mythology, marriage, relationships, hunting, divisions of time, etc. The philological section is very elaborate, containing a systematic grammar of the language, a pretty full Hidatsa-English dictionary, an English-Hidatsa vocabulary, and a list of local names.
The bulletins of the U. S. Geological Survey, issued by Dr. Hayden to facilitate the publication of the work done by the scientific men of his staff, and to place before the public speedily the results of his explorations, have now reached the completion of their third volume. The last number is mainly of interest to entomologists, containing an account of the first discovered traces of fossil insects in the American Tertiaries, by Mr. S. H. Scudder. This paper, of 20 pages, is a complete statement of past and present investigations, showing a record of forty-six described fossil species, of which more than half belong to the Diptera. Mr. Scudder also describes two species of Carabidæ from interglacial deposits near Toronto, C. W. The remaining papers in the number are a description of a new crawfish (Cambarus Couesi) from Dakota, by Dr. Thomas H. Streets; and three paleontological papers, by Prof. E. D. Cope, upon reptiles and fishes from Colorado and Wyoming. A very minute index to the whole volume concludes this number.
The first of these handsome pamphlets consists chiefly of tables giving the results of the daily observations at the park, as to the heights of the barometer; force and direction of the wind; rainfall; temperature, etc. The value of a single volume of this kind is very small, but the great importance of such records when extending over a great length of time and a wide area is beginning to be duly appreciated, not only by scientific men, but by the business community generally, being often consulted, Director Draper tells us, for legal and other purposes.
Last year the director was engaged in examining the question, "Has there been in late years any change in the rainfall of New York City, or its vicinity, to affect seriously its water-supply?" His conclusions are, that for a series of years, up to 1869, the rainfall was increasing; "it then showed a tendency to decrease. There are, undoubtedly, cycles of rainfall, as there are cycles in sun-spots and other astronomical phenomena, occupying years for their completion." No predictions are ventured as to the date when the diminution will have reached its minimum and the ascent recommence, the observations being too incomplete for that purpose.
The "Report on the Menagerie" does not show that feature of the park to be in a growing condition. During the year 1876 but nineteen dollars was expended for the purchase of animals, while additions by donation, births, exchanges, and losses, have all fallen oil'. The number of animals on exhibition at the close of 1876 was: mammals, 184; birds, 394; reptiles, 5: total, 583. The value of those owned by the department is $15,554; owned by exhibitors, $47,390. This result is doubtless due to a reduction in appropriations. It would seem that the menagerie was deserving of a little more fostering care, for that it is a feature which largely interests the public is shown by the great number of visitors, estimated at 3,000,000 for the year.
The object of the first of these papers is to call attention to the importance of improving all opportunities for research, in the region of the National Park on the Yellowstone, concerning the rare phenomena presented by the geysers. These striking features are rapidly waning, and must be studied soon if studied at all.
The "Two-Ocean Water" is, it would seem, a verity, the fact having been established by the expedition of Captain W. F. Jones in 1873. Between Flat Mountain and the Yellowstone Range, and near the headwaters of the Snake and the Upper Yellowstone Rivers, there is a rivulet which was found to divide, "one portion gliding silently into the river behind us, to find its way at last into the Gulf of Mexico, while the other branch descended in front to join the westward-flowing waters of the Columbia, via Snake River, finally reaching the Pacific Ocean." The stream bears the name of "Two-Ocean Creek," and its two branches are named respectively Atlantic and Pacific Creeks.
We give this long title in full, as it explains in as few words as possible the scope and contents of a very useful book. It is a check-list of American Palæozoic fossils, but it is something more; and the added features are those which will make it specially welcome to students and amateurs who do not have access to large libraries and collections.
The labor of collecting and arranging the materials for such a work is very great, and will, we hope, be appreciated sufficiently to reward the author in some degree for his painstaking zeal.
A paper on the "Construction of Systematic Names in Paleontology," by Prof. E. W. Claypole, forms an important part of the book.
These papers, reprinted from the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, are examinations into the nature of the worship of the serpent, with a view to tracing its origin and connections, and are important as contributions to the material from which alone a philosophical theory of sociology can be formulated. The facts cited confirm Mr. Spencer's conclusions as to the intimate relations between ophiolatry and ancestor-worship.
This seems to be in some measure an effort to reconcile the antagonism between the languages and science as means of culture.
The author is not disposed to underrate the importance of the sciences, and makes some excellent remarks as to the methods of teaching them to the young; the necessity of beginning the science-teaching early; and also as to the value of the languages as tools for the scientific man. But he seems to miss the real question at issue in the "conflict." It is not "What kind of training is best to produce a scientific specialist?" but "What are the relative claims of the study of language and of natural science in giving the discipline and culture which will be useful in the ordinary walks of life?" Upon this point we would refer Prof. Bessey to Prof. Bain's article on "Language-Culture and the Civil Service," in the December number of The Popular Science Monthly.
The first of the above volumes is largely taken up with records of the business meetings of the Davenport Academy, its condition, etc., interspersed with some papers of interest. The majority of these are archaeological, being descriptive of mounds and their contents, illustrated by several fine photographic plates of inscribed tablets. Iowa is rich in these relics of the mound-builders, and there is a fitness in the Academy devoting itself to a study of these remains, which are fast disappearing.
The Boston "Proceedings" is filled with the results of more steady-going, thorough work, as might be expected from its greater age, and its locality in a centre where scientific men congregate. The table of contents includes papers on "The Origin of the Domestic Sheep," by G. W. Bond; "Genetic Relations of Stephanoceras," by Prof. A. Hyatt; "Reptiles and Batrachians from the Isthmus of Panama," by S. W. Garman; "Notes on Noctuæ from Florida," by A. R. Grote.
This continuation of Prof. Riley's labors in the field in which he has become so well known covers observations on the currant, gooseberry, strawberry, and pine worms; the army-worm, Colorado potato-beetle, Rocky Mountain locust, etc.; together with the insects which, acting as parasites, help to diminish the number of these pests.
The illustrations are numerous, drawn mostly by the author from Nature; the suggestions are practical, and make the reports valuable to the agriculturist as well as to the scientific entomologist. The locust, or so-called grasshopper, naturally receives the fullest attention, and certainly the facilities for observation have been ample enough for the accumulation of information that will be of use, should the West be again visited by that scourge.
This, as might be expected from the long experience of the author, is a valuable addition to savings-banks literature.
In the history of the rise and progress—we had almost said decline—of the system; the criticism of past and present management; and the suggestions as to the proper way to run such institutions, a thorough familiarity with the subject is shown. The remarks on the nature of investments are to be commended to presidents and trustees, and the plan for winding up insolvent institutions would, if adopted, do much to mitigate the loss and suffering which the present mode of procedure involves.
Some space is given to the details of a plan for school penny savings-banks, which is simple and perfectly practicable, having been found to work well both in England and on the Continent, cultivating habits of thrift in the young, and exercising an excellent influence in the communities where they have been started.
The task which Mr. McCoan has undertaken is, to describe and explain the economic conditions of the New Egypt, as will appear from the titles of the chapters, which include those on the territory, population, administration, finance, commerce, agriculture, public instruction, public works, manufactures, etc., with a series of appendices giving statistical information about the government, finances, trade, cost of living, etc.
The author says that he found this corner of the field of book-making on Egypt almost untouched. No material lay ready to his hand, but his facilities for getting it were good, and he has made excellent use of them. The Government of Egypt is the khedive. Legislative bodies, ministers, and cabinets, are mere agents of his personal will, and the recent progress is due mainly to his wisdom and energy. His highness is now forty-six years old, below the middle height, stout, though not unwieldy, and with nothing of an Eastern but the native dignity and easy polish of his manners. He devotes fourteen hours a day for at least three hundred days in the year to the work of administration, is familiar with all the details of national affairs, and in the extent and variety of his information is as encyclopedic as Dom Pedro himself.
The book corrects some common misapprehensions. Taxation of the peasantry, for example, though heavy, is not so oppressive nor enforced so brutally as we have been given to understand; and the system of slavery, though in itself indefensible, is not at all such as formerly obtained in the United States, and still exists in Cuba and Brazil. In both these respects the condition of Egypt is vastly better than that of the nominally ruling country, Turkey. An excellent map and a copious index add to the value of the book.
These pamphlets are all reprints of papers read before medical societies, and have a common object, which is to show the importance of heredity in fixing the organic characteristics of the individual, and so determining the part which he shall play in society—characteristics which are, of course, modified to a greater or less extent by the environment. They are chiefly interesting as showing how wide is the recognition that is being accorded to the important labors of Mr. Darwin and his co-workers.
Proteus; or, Unity in Nature. By C. B. Radcliffe, M.D. London and New York: Macmillan. Pp. 222. $2.50.
Deed and Creed. By Dr. Felix Adler. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 248. $1.50.
Determination of Rocks. By E. Jannetaz. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 165. $1.50.
Creed of Christendom. By W. R. Greg. Boston: Osgood & Co. 2 vols. $7.
Report of the Nashville Board of Health. Pp. 230.
Biology. By J. Cook. Boston: Osgood & Co. Pp. 337. $1.50.
The Signal Boys. By G. C. Eggleston. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 218.
Doubleday's Children. By D. Cook. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 430.
Myths and Marvels of Astronomy. By R. A. Proctor. New York: Putnam's Sous. Pp. 371. $4.
Report of the Commissioners of Agriculture (1876). Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 447.
Methods of Ethics. By H. Sidgwick. London and New York: Macmillan. Pp. 497. $4.
Geology of Wisconsin. By T. C. Chamberlin, Chief Geologist. Vol. II. Pp. 787. With Atlas.
Vital Magnetism. By F. T. Parson. New York: Adams, Victor & Co. Pp. 235. $1.25.
At the Court of King Edwin. By W. Leighton, Jr. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. Pp. 157. $1.25.
The Electric Register. By Le R. C. Cooley. From the Journal of the Franklin Institute. Pp. 5.
The Convection Thermoscope for Projection. By Le R. C. Cooley. Pp. 4.
Five Entomological Papers. By O. V. Riley, Ph. D. From "Transactions of the St. Louis Academy of Sciences." Pp. 34.
Functional Dystocia. By Dr. E. M. Hale. Pp. 36.
Birds of Connecticut. By C. H. Merriam. From "Transactions of the Connecticut Academy." Pp. 165.
Circular of Bureau of Education. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 28.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. Topeka: G. W. Martin. Pp. 75.
Contributions from the Chemical Laboratory of Harvard College. By J. P. Cooke, Jr. Pp. 131. With Plates.
Admission of Girls to the Boston Latin School. By President Warren. Pp. 8.
Why Scientists are not Christians. By E. A. Beaman. New York: E. H. Swinney. Pp. 16.
Medical Intolerance. By Dr. R. A. Gunn. New York: Munroe & Metz. Pp. 23.
What Anæsthetic shall we use? By Dr. J. J. Chisolm. Baltimore: Sun print. Pp. 23.
Reptiles, Fishes, and Leptocardians of the Bermudas. By G. Brown Goode. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 10.
Report of the Philadelphia Water Department (1876). Pp. 125.
List of Writings on Method of Least Squares. By M. Merriman, Ph. D. From "Transactions of the Connecticut Academy." Pp. 82.
American Archæology. By Dr. A. J. Howe. Pp. 8.
Sanitary Condition of Portland. By Dr. F. H. Gerrish. Portland: S. Berry print. Pp. 30.
Illinois State Historical Library. Springfield: D. W. Lusk print. Pp. 7.
Notes on Leather. By Lieutenant D. A. Lyle, U. S. A.
Medical Jurisprudence. By Dr. S. E. Chaillé. From "Transactions of the International Medical Congress." Pp. 40.
Catalogue of Minerals in the Naval Academy Cabinet, Annapolis. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 21.
Budge and Toddle. By L. G. Morse. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 303.
Syllabus of Lectures in Anatomy and Physiology. By T. B. Stowell. Syracuse, N. Y.: Davis, Bardeen & Co. Pp. 82.
A Layman's Experience in Homœopathy. By W. H. Purness. Pp. 8.
Money and Legal Tender. By H. R. Linderman. New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 173. $1.25.