Popular Science Monthly/Volume 16/December 1879/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 16 December 1879 (1879)
This is the first volume of what, in the end, is to be a full botanical course of study. Part II., by Professor Goodale, will treat of physiological botany. Part III., by Professor Harlow, will be an introduction to cryptogamic botany; and Part IV., which Professor Gray hopes to accomplish himself, will contain a sketch of the natural orders of phænogamous plants, and of their special morphology, classification, distribution, products, etc.
The title-page of this important installment of the sixth edition will be made more intelligible to the general reader by the following extract from its introduction: "Structural botany comprehends all inquiries into the parts and the organic composition of vegetables. This is termed organography when it considers the organs or obvious parts of which plants are made up, and morphology when the study proceeds on the idea of type." By taxonomy is meant "the principles of classification," and by phytography "the rules and methods of describing plants." In the opening paragraph of Chapter I. it is further explained that morphology, the doctrine of forms, as the name denotes, is used in natural history in nearly the same sense as the older term comparative anatomy. If it were concerned merely with the description and classification of shapes and modifications, it would amount to little more than glossology and organography. But it deals with these from a peculiar point of view, and under the idea of unity of plan or type.
The first edition of Gray's "Text-Book of Botany" was published in 1842, in one moderate-sized octavo volume. The four subsequent editions were each a little enlarged from its predecessor; but, until now, one volume has sufficed for the treatment of the entire field of botanical science. When it appeared, botany was not generally studied in our schools. The analysis of flowers by the Linnæan system was fashionable in girls' seminaries, where there was a pretense of studying plants themselves; but it resulted in the merest pedantry. The system of classification was artificial; it did not appeal to the rational faculties, as did natural philosophy and chemistry; and sensible boys and girls repudiated the subject. To give it rank, it had to be placed on a new basis and Gray's "Test-Book" accomplished this by the masterly way in which he presented the life-history of plants. The structure and development of cells was clearly set forth, the natural system of classification was adopted, and the study became both rational and attractive.
But other changes besides increase of size have taken place in this text-book. In the old editions, structural and physiological botany were considered together. There was no attempt to deal with them separately. But the present volume is specially devoted to structural botany, and leaves out physiology as far as possible. This difference is really greater than at first appears. Although structural botany was given along with physiology in the old editions, yet physiology was the only division of the science that was really learned from its pages. Of course, this was not intended by the author; but, with the human mind what it is, and the public schools such as they are, no other result was possible. When this work first appeared, and for long years thereafter, studying objects was undreamed of in our schools; lesson-learning was their sole occupation. But a descriptive science can not be learned from the pages of a book. Physiology could be acquired by the prevailing method, since it takes little account of the differences among plants, and would be much the same if the vegetable world consisted of only one species. The impression made upon pupils by the descriptive portions of "Gray's Class-Book" was so slight that, to the average student, the science of botany and the physiology of plants were about the same thing.
And so it happened that class after class of our youth left school complacently thinking that they knew botany, but with only the merest book-smattering concerning the classification of plants. Of course, if the forms and modifications of the organs of plants were not regarded, there could be little occasion for glossology; and, by the neglect of both organography and glossology, the sketch of the natural orders at the end of the volume was unintelligible. This could only be understood when the actual features of a large variety of plants were familiar to the mind, and the memory was also furnished with the exact terms applied to them. Educationally considered, therefore, this chapter of illustrations of the natural orders, covering more than a hundred pages, was little better than waste-paper.
The order of publication now adopted, which presents structural botany by itself at the outset of the study, will compel the teachers of botany to change their practice, and make the study of plants by direct observation a serious business. For, interesting and fundamental as is the physiology of plants, the discoveries of the last twenty years have rendered their morphological study more captivating still, so that the interest of the science reaches its highest point in systematic botany, or classification on the basis of genetic relationship. But the only possible admission to this delightful portion of the subject is through such a genuine knowledge of the contents of the present work as will come from wide and careful observation of living vegetable forms.
Another noticeable change in this treatise is the substitution of the doctrine of the development of species by natural selection for that of the special creation of species, which was taught in all former editions. The fifth was published in 1857, and Darwin's work on the "Origin of Species" did not appear until 1859. The new direction given to inquiry in natural history by this work, and the copious literature of the subject which followed it, have profoundly altered the aspects of biological science. The old system of comparative anatomy, which was based upon the doctrine of special creations, has given place to the modern science of morphology; which, from being, before Darwin's time, merely a descriptive study of forms, has become an analytical science of form, pervaded throughout by the principle of descent with variation. The following extract from his chapter on "The Principles of Classification" will sufficiently indicate the present attitude of Professor Gray toward the question of the evolution of species:
In looking through Part I. we are struck by the many new illustrations, and the new headings of pages and sections, all bearing witness to the recent rapid growth of morphological science. There is an entire section of nearly thirty pages given to the subject of "Adaptations for Intercrossing"—a subject the interest in which began in 1862, with the publication of Darwin's book on the fertilization of orchids by the aid of insects.
But, important and interesting as is the volume before us, and rejoicing as we do in the promise of those to come, we are chiefly glad that Professor Gray has proceeded upon the method of putting structural botany first in this elaborate course of study. It is now possible in some of the schools to study living plants, and this arrangement is an assurance that students of Gray's Botany will rationally pursue the subject of classification.
There is something ludicrous and pitiable in the estimates which men form of the relative importance of different subjects of thought. It seems to be still the law that the popular solicitudes are in inverse ratio to the vital usefulness of the questions to which they are directed. Men lash themselves into furious excitement over the differences between tweedledum and tweedledee in politics, while they can be aroused to only a languid and careless attention to the life-and-death interests of daily family life. Say what we will, the next great subject in order in the development of civilization is that of hygiene. To use this world rightly, and get the most out of it, health is the first condition, and there is no interest so important both to the individual and to the community as its promotion and preservation. But to accomplish these objects knowledge is necessary. Valuable and trustworthy information upon hygienic topics such as can be followed with confidence to beneficent results has been but slowly acquired, and is yet far from perfect; but enough has been accumulated to work a sanitary revolution in society if reduced to general application. Of course, in matters of personal hygiene everything depends upon individual knowledge, and the disposition to use it; but the efficiency of measures for the promotion of public health is hardly less dependent upon popular intelligence. Needful sanitary laws may be passed, but the essential thing, after all, is that they shall be faithfully and vigorously carried out and not remain dead letters in the statute-book. This must depend upon the degree to which the people are instructed in hygienic subjects and are alive to the care of health. Hygiene has grown in recent years into an important branch of study, with a copious literature of monographs and manuals. Cyclopædias have been attempted, but they have hitherto been hastily compiled and are altogether inadequate for their purposes. We can, however, no longer complain of the want of a comprehensive and authoritative treatise upon this many-sided subject. The work before us covers the full ground, is thoroughly digested, and constitutes of itself a tolerably complete hygienic library.
This elaborate work seems to have had the following origin: In reproducing Ziemssen's "Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine" from the German, the editors and publishers found that the first volume, relating to the subject of public health, had been prepared so entirely from the German standpoint, and took cognizance of a state of things so materially different from that which exists in this country, that it was considered advisable to omit it in the American edition. But as the subject was of fundamental importance, it was felt that this omission must be repaired, by taking up the subject with special reference to the different climates, conditions of soil, habitations, modes of life, and laws of the United States. In this way the deficiency of Ziemssen's "Cyclopædia" would be amply repaired, so that its subscribers might possess the work in its completeness, while the hygienic volumes would be of interest to physicians generally, and also to the educated classes, who are acquiring a growing interest in the subject.
The introduction by Dr. John S. Billings, besides prefatory explanations, treats of the causes of disease and the jurisprudence of hygiene. After considering the various definitions of hygiene, and showing how its meaning may be so extended as to sweep in immense tracts of human knowledge. Dr. Billings says: "The hygiene of which this volume is to treat has not so broad a scope as that just hinted at, since the intention has been to produce a practical treatise limited to a consideration of the most usual preventable causes of disease in civilized countries, and more especially in the United States, and of the surest and most economical means of diminishing or destroying these causes."
The following remarks are still further illustrative of the ideas involved in the scheme of this work: "To what extent the prevention of disease, the prolongation of life, and the improvement of the physical and mental powers in man may be carried, we do not know; but no doubt the tendency of those who write and speak most on this subject is to exaggerate the possibilities of improvement; since it does not seem probable that the conditions of perfect personal and public health are attainable, except in rare and isolated cases, and for comparatively short periods of time; yet 'that the average length of human life may be very much extended, and its physical power greatly augmented; that in every year within this Commonwealth thousands of lives are lost which might have been saved; that tens of thousands of cases of sickness occur which might have been prevented; that a vast amount of unnecessarily impaired health and physical debility exists among those not confined by sickness; that these preventable evils require an enormous expenditure and loss of money, and impose upon the people unnumbered and immeasurable calamities, pecuniary, social, physical, mental, and moral, which might be avoided; and that means exist within our reach for their mitigation or removal; and that measures for prevention will effect more than remedies for the cure of disease'—will probably be admitted by every one who has carefully studied the subject and made himself familiar with what has been accomplished in certain limited localities."
It will not be possible in our space to go into any analysis of the varied and extensive contents of this treatise, much less to attempt a criticism of its plan or execution. It has evidently been done with admirable judgment, and the names of its contributors are a sufficient guarantee that its pages faithfully reflect the present state of hygienic knowledge. Part I. of the first volume is devoted to individual hygiene, and begins with the treatment of "Infant Hygiene," by Dr. A. Jacobi, of New York. This iii followed by "Food and Drink," by Dr. James Tyson, of Philadelphia. Professor William Ripley Nichols, of Boston, writes "On Drinking Water, and Public Water Supplies." The article on "Physical Exercise" is by Dr. A. Brayton Ball, of New York; and the last essay of Part I. is on "The Care of the Person," by Dr. Arthur Van Harlingen, of Philadelphia. Part II. of Volume I. treats of "Habitations," and its first essay is on "Soil and Water," by Dr. William H. Ford, of Philadelphia. Dr. D. F. Lincoln, of Boston, next takes up "The Atmosphere," and Dr. Francis H. Brown, of Boston, closes Volume I. by a disquisition on the "General Principles of Hospital Construction." Part I. of Volume II. treats of "Occupation." The first essay is on the "Hygiene of Occupation," by Roger S. Tracy, M. D., of New York. Charles Smart, M. D., C. M., assistant Surgeon U. S. Army, takes up the "Hygiene of Camps"; and Dr. Thomas J. Turner, Medical Director U. S. Navy, treats of "Hygiene of the Naval and Merchant Marine." Henry C. Sheafer writes on the "Hygiene of Coal Mines," and Rossiter W. Raymond, New York, contributes an essay on "The Hygiene of Metal Mines." Part II. of Volume II. is devoted to the general subject of "Public Health." Dr. Thomas B. Curtis, of Boston, presents the subjects of "Infant Mortality" and "Vital Statistics"; Professor Stephen P. Sharpies, of Boston, considers "Adulteration of Food"; and Dr. Roger S. Tracy develops the subject of "Public Nuisances." "Quarantine," with reference to seaport towns, is by Dr. Vanderpoel, of New York; and Dr. S. S. Herrick, of Louisiana, writes on "Inland Quarantine." "Small-pox and other Contagious Diseases" are treated by Drs. Hamilton and Emmett, of New York, and "The Hygiene of Syphilis" by Dr. F. R. Sturges, of New York. "Disinfectants" is by Dr. Elwyn Waller, of New York; "Village Sanitary Associations" is by Dr. R. S. Tracy; and Dr. Lincoln, of Boston, closes the work by an essay on "School Hygiene."
The treatise has an excellent index, and a very valuable feature of it is the copious bibliography appended to each contribution.
This important work is addressed to a fundamental question in practical medicine—the old question of the relations subsisting between nature and art in the cure of disease—what is the value to be assigned to the vis medicatrix naturæ, or the spontaneous processes of healing and recovery in the diseased constitution? That the followers of the medical art should magnify their vocation, and that practitioners should be led to favor those theories which enlarge the sphere of practice, is perfectly natural, but there can be no doubt that the consequence is greatly to exaggerate the efficacy of drugs in the treatment of disease. The doctors want business, and the people want medicine; and so the profession is at any rate not pecuniarily interested in belittling the administration of remedies. But able physicians have appeared from time to time who recognized very clearly that there is far too much medical meddling, and too little recognition of the forces and tendencies of nature in the eradication of disease. It is to the credit of the profession that its best mind is in cordial sympathy with all rational hygienic measures which have for their object the prevention of disease; but the use of hygienic agencies in disease is a lesson which many think has yet to be more enforced in the sphere of medical practice.
Many medical men have ranged themselves on the side of this question represented by Dr. Harvey in the present volume, prominent among whom have been Alison Gubler and Sir John Forbes—the latter author, indeed, having carried his views so far as to be ranked as a therapeutic nihilist. But it is difficult to take up a position strongly without being charged with exaggeration and exclusiveness. Dr. Harvey, at any rate, is not open to the charge of extreme partisanship, and has done an excellent service to his profession by this digest of information from wide sources, and the analysis which he has made of the nature of the curative powers of the organism, and the quality of disease; and while he strongly asserts the supremacy of nature over art, he yet gives to art that which is fairly its due. The final chapters of the work, on the "Physiology of the Several Processes of Dying," are of especial interest.
The author publishes an extract from a letter written him by Sir Thomas Watson, author of the well-known "Principles and Practice of Physic," a portion of which we here append. Dr. Watson says: "You have thoroughly thrashed out the great theme which you proposed to discuss. It is certain that a sound system of therapeutics must rest on a consideration of what nature in many cases is capable, and in some fewer cases is incapable of doing in disease; and, on the other hand, on what art may do in helping or hindering nature. All this, I say, you have most fully explained; and I feel sure that the student of your volume can not fail to have his mind cleared up and settled on these most important subjects."
The reception of Spencer's "Data of Ethics" by critics generally has been most gratifying, and indicates a favorable change in the habits of these parties. Formerly they seem to have been chiefly anxious to put before the world their own views of Spencer's works; now they conclude it is better to let him speak for himself. This may somewhat belittle the function of the critical go-between, but it will be much more satisfactory to both the author and the public, besides the incidental advantage of getting more truth into circulation. A large number of the reviews of the "Ethics" have consisted of able and discriminating summaries of Spencer's doctrines; and even Professor Bain, whose position certainly entitles him to assume the function of judge, is chiefly concerned to get Spencer's opinions fully and fairly before his readers. We reprint his article because of its authority in this branch of thought.
Mr. Spencer has resumed labor upon the "Principles of Sociology," and will shortly publish that part of Vol. II. which treats of the "Development of Ceremonial Institutions." This is a most interesting subject, and becomes very attractive in Spencer's hands. This will be followed by the "Development of Political Institutions," one of the most important parts of his philosophical undertaking.
The point which the author aims to establish in this essay, if we rightly understand him, is that physical energy is sufficient for the production of all the phenomena of life without the intervention of a so-called "vital" force; and that the nervous system is capable of holding in its substance all forms of physical energy which by means of "cells and ganglia may be interchanged into different higher and lower forms or held as originally absorbed."
Lectures and Essays. By the late W. K. Clifford, F. R. S. L. London and New York: Macmillan. 1879. 2 vols., pp. 840 and 321. $7.50.
Units and Physical Constants. By J. D. Everett, F. R. S. L. Same publishers. 1879. Pp. 191. $1.10.
Seeing and Thinking. By the late W. K. Clifford. Same publishers. 1879. Pp. 156. $1.
First Book of Qualitative Chemistry. By A. B. Prescott. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 1879. Pp. 160. $1.50.
Ice-making Machines. By M. Ledoux. Same publisher. 1879. Pp. 150. 50 cents.
The Origin of Fever. By R. T. Colburn. Rochester, New York: Andrews print. 1879. Pp. 26.
Memoirs of the Science Department of the Tokio University. Vol. I., Part I. Shell Mounds of Omori. By E. S. Morse. Tokio: The University 2589 (1879). Pp. 86, with 18 Plates.
Der Irrthum des Speciesbegriffes. Von Dr. Otto Kuntze (Verhandl. d. Leipz. geogr. Ges. 1879). Pp. 18. Verwandtschaft von algen mit Phanerogamen. Von dem selben (Ans "Flora." 1879). Pp. 22.
The Creeds or Christ: a Plea for Religious Honesty. By Rev. J. L. Douthit. Shelbyville, Illinois; "Democrat" print. 1879. Pp. 35. 10 cents.
The Railroads and the State. By H. S. Haines. Savannah: "Morning News" print. Pp. 23.
Lithophane and New Noctuidæ. By A. R. Grote. From "Bulletin U. S. Geological Survey." Pp. 8.
Practical Mode of studying the Heart. By Dr. W. H. Smith. From "Physician and Surgeon." Pp. 15.
Darwinism: its Weak and Strong Points. By A. J. Howe, M.D. Pp. 8.
Anatomical Uses of the Cat. By Burt G. Wilder, M.D. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1879. Pp. 16.
On the Superposition of Glacial Drift upon Residuary Clays. By W. J. McGee. From "American Journal of Science and Arts," October, 1879. Pp. 2.
On Heating and Ventilation, with Special Reference to the Public School Buildings of Nashville. By N. T. Lupton, M.D.. LL.D., with Descriptive Plans and Tables, by William C. Smith, Architect. Pp. 23.
A New, Simple, and Complete Demonstration of the Binomial Theorem and Logarithmic Series. By J. W. Nicholson, A. M. Baton Rouge: "Capitolian" print. 1879. Pp. 5.
Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. By W. Douglass Hemming, M.R.C.S. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 72. 50 cents.
A Pocket Classical Dictionary for Ready Reference. By Frederick G. Ireland. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 144. 75 cents.
The Secret of a Clear Head. By J. Mortimer-Granville. Salem, Massachusetts: S.E. Cassino. 1879. Pp. 108. 50 cents.
Aids to Anatomy. By George Brown, M.R.C.S., etc. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 64. 50 cents.
Aids to Therapeutics and Materia Medica. By C. E. Arnoud Semple, M.R.C.P. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 60. 50 cents.
King's Pocket-Book of Cincinnati. Edited and published by Moses King, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1879. Pp. 88. Paper, 15 cents; cloth, 35 cents.
Electro-Metallurgy practically treated. By Alexander Watt, F. R. S. Sixth edition. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 1879. Pp. 195. $1
Modern Meteorology: Six Lectures delivered under the Auspices of the Meteorological Society in 1873. London: Edward Stanford. New York: D. Van Nostrand. Pp. 186. $1.50.
Fuel: its Combustion and Economy. Edited by D. Kinnear Clark, C. E. London: Crosby, Lockwood & Co. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 1879. Pp. 394. $1.50.
Studies in German Literature. By Bayard Taylor, with an Introduction by Geo. H. Boker. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 418. $2.25.
Consumption, and how to prevent It. By Thomas J. Mays, M.D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 89. $1.
The Magic of the Middle Ages. By Viktor Rydberg. Translated from the Swedish by August Hjalmar Edgren. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1879. Pp. 231. $1.7.5.
Notes on Railroad Accidents. By Charles Francis Adams, Jr. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 280. $1.25.
Water-Color Painting. By Aaron Penley. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 68. 50 cents.
The Publishers' Trade List Annual. 1879, embracing the latest Catalogues supplied by the Publishers, preceded by an Order List for 1879; a Classified Summary and Alphabetical Reference List of Books recorded in the "Publishers' Weekly," from July 1, 1878, to June. SO, 1879. with Additional Titles, Corrections, Changes of Price and Publisher, etc., forming a Third Provisional Supplement to the "American Catalogue"; and the "American Educational Catalogue" for 1879. Seventh year. New York: F. Leypoldt. 1879. $1.50.