Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/April 1881/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 18 April 1881  (1881) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

An Epidemic of Hystero-Demonomania.—An Italian physician, Dr. Franzolini, has published an account of an hystero-demoniac epidemic which prevailed in the rural district of Verzeguis, province of Friuli, Italy, in 1878, and which he and Dr. Chiap were commissioned by the Prefect of Udine to examine. The commune contains about eighteen hundred inhabitants, of whom, at the time the inquest was made, sixty-two women and eleven men in two of its four subdivisions were sick, the majority of them with nervous affections of different degrees of intensity, and generally of the hysteric form without convulsions or delirium. The people of the commune were of inferior intellectual capacity and development, enjoyed little communication with the world, had been in the habit of intermarrying with each other and often with relatives of the third and fourth degrees, and were uneducated, and greatly under the influence of the priests. In November, 1877, previous to the appearance of the disease, the Jesuits had conducted a mission in the commune, with exercises and services occupying nearly all the time for several days. A general, intense religious excitement was thus produced. Two months afterward, Margherita Vidusson, a delicate girl twenty-six years old, who had already had hysteric symptoms, supposed to arise from simple nervous disease, for eight years, was attacked with convulsive fits, accompanied with lamentations and cries, which were repeated with varying frequency, intensity, and duration. Sometimes she would have ten or twelve short and quite distinct attacks in a day; at other times the attacks would continue through the day and night, with alternative remissions and exacerbations. The most intense attacks corresponded with the catamenial period. Physical remedies were employed at first against the disease, but the girl was at last believed to be super-naturally possessed, and the priests were called in to practice their exorcisms upon her. The affection then seemed to become more violent and its manifestations to assume a more dramatic form after each priestly visitation. A second person was attacked in a similar manner in July, 1878, then a third and a fourth. A commission of priests was sent to examine into the cases, a solemn mass was held, and other exercises were instituted, after which the malady took a new start and became epidemic. Drs. Franzolini and Chiap were appointed at this time to investigate the character of the disease, and suggest measures for arresting it. They found eighteen persons suffering from violent attacks, all of whom were of marriageable ages, from seventeen to twenty-six years old; one was forty-five, another fifty-five, and a third sixty-three. The symptoms of hysteria in its most simple form, without convulsions or mental aberration, had been observed in all of them for from one or two to five or ten years before the development of the morbid form. In some of them the symptoms of the former form ceased on the appearance of those of the latter. At a given moment in the course of the simple form, new symptoms would appear which might have passed at first for a graver form of the preëxisting symptoms. From a stage marked by convulsive cries, the patients would fall into a kind of swoon in which consciousness failed and speech became more or less difficult and finally impossible; or the attack would be continued with a kind of mental exaltation in which, without being conscious of it, the patients would indulge in conversations having all the characteristics of the delirium of mania, in some cases of that of demonomania. They would speak ill the third person and as if they were men, clearly giving it to be understood that it was not they that spoke, but some other spiritual person—a demon, who used their organs to express what they seemed to say and to execute what they seemed to do. When asked who they were, they would not give their own name, but some strange man's name, which was an epithet rather than a name, and belonged to the demon that possessed them, adding that he had lived in their bodies for months or years, and before that had lived in the body of a person in some other country. Some, in their fits, declared themselves to be witches or diviners, and pretended to answer all sorts of questions and to predict events; the more they were excited by the curiosity or credulity of those who inquired of them, the more ardent they seemed to be to predict and lie with impudence. Blasphemies and imprecations characterized all the attacks, but no appearance of amorousness was shown. Sometimes the patients spoke in Italian instead of in their native Friulian dialect, and witnesses who can hardly be depended upon asserted that some of them spoke in French and Latin. After the attacks some remained sleepy and exhausted, others recovered their natural physical energy and resumed their ordinary occupations, as if they were in good health. At the same time, a certain mental exaltation remained, with the latter class especially, and was revealed by a loquacity, an impertinence, and a boldness in strong contrast with the ordinary excessive timidity of mountain-girls in the presence of strangers. They would laugh without cause and without restraint when questioned respecting their affliction, and protested that they recollected nothing of what they had done in their fits, seeming to believe that they were not sick, but possessed. The attacks were provoked in the majority of cases by the sound of the church-bells: some pretended that the sound operated as a natural exorcism upon the evil spirits of the air; others asserted that the consecration of the host, which was announced by ringing the bells, was the real determining cause of their attacks. The malady was generally aggravated after religious ceremonies, such as masses and pilgrimages; nevertheless, with some, the contact of a sacred relic applied by a priest to the neck or breast was enough immediately to arrest the attack. The means employed to put a stop to the epidemic embraced the instruction of the population against their superstitious beliefs, the discouragement of the exciting religious exercises, exorcisms, and pilgrimages, the isolation of the sick and their dispersion into neighboring districts, so as to prevent them from making a spectacle of themselves, and the institution of a regular medical visitation. The epidemic character of the disease was arrested, and the attacks suffered by the patients became less frequent and violent; but some of the number who were sent home from the hospital at Udine became worse again after their return. A more rigorous application of remedial measures was urged, the operation of which Dr. Franzolini promises to describe in another report.

 

The Strawberry-Leaf Beetle.—A new destructive insect has been described by Professor A. J. Cook, of Illinois, as preying on the leaves of the strawberry-plant. It is described as the Paria aterrima, or strawberry-leaf beetle, and belongs to the family Chrysomelidæ, the same to which the Colorado potato-beetle and the grapevine and cabbage flea-beetles belong. It is about an eighth of an inch long, with yellowish head, antennæ, legs, and wing-cases, brown thorax, clouded with black at the center, and body black on the under side. The yellowish wing-cases have also two black spots, of which the hinder one is the larger. The species is at least two-brooded, appearing first in March, April, and May, and again in July, and may possibly be still more prolific. The larva is white, with a yellowish head and brown jaws, eleven segments back of the head, the breathing mouths showing plainly along the side of the body, and is ·22 of an inch long. The insects are voracious feeders, and numerous enough to strip the strawberry-plants completely of leaves in the spring and after harvest. The larvæ cat the young roots. Both the larvae and the pupae harbor in the earth about the roots of the plants.

 

Singular Powers in Birds.—Mr. A. D. Bartlett, of the London Zoölogical Society's gardens, has called attention to the singular fact, heretofore unnoticed, that certain birds have the power of ejecting the inner linings as well as the contents of their stomachs. He first noticed this peculiarity when a wrinkled hornbill (Buceros corrugatus) in the gardens was observed to have thrown up a closed bag resembling a fig, which seemed to be the inner lining of the gizzard, being "somewhat tough, elastic, and gelatinous," and contained plums or grapes well packed together. He submitted the ejection to Dr. Murie, who regarded it as a result of disease, and expressed surprise that the bird should have lived and been able to feed after having made it. Another perfect specimen of the same kind was obtained a few days afterward and preserved. Others were noticed, all from the same bird, but they were destroyed by other birds in the same cage before they could be saved. Mr. Bartlett rejects the view that the ejection is a sign of disease, and is satisfied that it is a natural secretion provided for the bird during the breeding-season, and is the means by which the male hornbill supplies the female bird during the time he keeps her imprisoned, while she is sitting on her eggs. His opinion is supported by the observations of travelers on the habits of hornbills. The Rev. J. Mason says that, in Burmah, the male bird shuts the female in her nest in a hollow of a tree by plastering up the opening with mud, leaving only a place through which she can put her head, and guards her there; while, to compensate her for the loss of her freedom, he "is ever on the alert to gratify his dainty mistress, who compels him to bring all her viands unbroken, for if a fig or any fruit is injured she will not touch it." Mr. Wallace also has observed that the entrance to the nest of this bird is stopped up with mud and gummy substances. Dr. Livingstone states that when in Kolobeng, South Africa, his attention was directed to the nest of a hornbill, and he, looking, "saw a slit only, about half an inch wide, and three or four inches long, in a slight hollow of the tree." The natives gave an account of the imprisonment of the female bird similar to that related by Mr. Mason, and added that the male continued to feed her and her young family till the young were fully fledged, or for a period of two or three months. "The prisoner," Dr. Livingstone adds, "generally becomes quite fat, and is esteemed a very dainty morsel by the natives, while the poor slave of a husband gets so lean that on the sudden lowering of the temperature, which sometimes happens after a fall of rain, he is benumbed, falls down, and dies." Such exhaustion would result naturally from the draft of repeated ejections upon the vital forces. It is well known that parrots, pigeons, and other birds, reproduce their partially digested food during the pairing and breeding season. The male hornbill has the same habit, and a concave hornbill in the gardens "will frequently throw up grapes, and, holding them in the point of the bill, will throw them into the mouth of the keeper if he is not on the alert to prevent or avoid this distinguished mark of its kindness." The edible swallow's nest is made of a secretion from the glands of a kind of swift; and many other birds are known to cast up secretions having individual peculiarities. Mr. Bartlett, continuing his observations, has found two other birds—the darter (Plotus anhinga) and the Brazilian cormorant (Phalacrocorax Brazdianus)—which throw up the inner linings of their stomachs, as do the hornbills.

 

Mode of Termination of Nerves in Muscle.—M. Foettinger has recently published a memoir on the mode in which nerves terminate in muscles. The muscles of insects were selected for observation in preference to those of other animals, because the details of their structure are more easily recognizable under the microscope than those of other groups of the animal kingdom. The insects were placed in strong alcohol for some days, and the isolated fibers of the legs or trunk were examined with various powers. Each fiber or primitive fasciculus presents several nerve-endings, which are attached to the muscular fiber apparently without any definite rule as to their position or distribution. The muscular elements to which they are fixed are usually conical in form, a nerve running to the summit of each cone. The cone itself is composed of granular matter, with nuclei interspersed through it; and the granular matter is apparently sometimes obscurely segmented into portions surrounding each nucleus. The nerve-endings, or terminal plaques, as M. Foettinger calls them, are situated on the surface of the fiber, and their free surface is covered with a thin, structureless, transparent membrane, continuous with the sarcolernma of the muscular fiber on the one hand and the sheath of Schwann investing the nerve fiber on the other. In insects contraction always begins in the muscular fiber at the plane' of the cones, and at those points exclusively.

 

An Improved Smokeless Grate.—Dr. C. W. Siemens has recently proposed to remedy the smoke-nuisance, where it is due to the burning of bituminous coal in private houses, in a very simple way. Instead of burning such fuel in its crude state, in which the volatile and solid constituents are combined, he makes use of them after they have been industrially separated into the forms of coal-gas and coke. In these forms perfect combustion of both constituents is possible, and a smokeless and cleanly fire is produced at but little greater cost than with coal, and considerably less than gas alone. In order to burn the gas and coke together. Dr. Siemens has devised a simple and inexpensive modification of the ordinary grate, that can readily be made in any existing one. The construction consists in covering the bottom bars of a grate with a metal plate, which is bent to extend up the back, and in placing a gas-pip along the lower front edge. This pipe is perforated on its upper side, the holes being a little inside of the middle line, so that the gas-flames incline slightly inward. The grate is filled with coke, which becomes incandescent upon its surface from the flame passing over it, and, as the interior of the mass is not heated, the maximum radiation from a given amount of fuel consumed is obtained. The coke has, of course, to be from time to time replenished, and the ashes removed, but in neither of these operations is there the trouble, or the dust and dirt, incident to the ordinary method of burning coal. Air is allowed to enter only in front, so that the mass of coke is protected from cooling drafts by the layer of hot gases. The heat of the bottom bars of the grate may be made to warm the air supplied to the gas, by a bent plate placed below, so as to form a chamber through which this air has to pass. Compared with the various forms of gas grate. Dr. Siemens estimates that the cost for. fuel is largely in favor of this. A thousand cubic feet of ordinary illuminating gas develops by its combustion 748,000 heat units, and costs in London eighty-seven cents, while, to produce the same amount of heat by coke, fifty-six pounds are requisite, the cost of which is but eleven cents. Experiment has shown that, to heat a large room, eight feet of gas burned in this grate arc sufficient, while fifty to seventy feet. Dr. Siemens states, are needed in a grate using gas only. Such grates could go into use very largely without any change in the present gas plant, as gas companies produce both the gas and the coke in about the proportions used, and this Dr. Siemens regards as an additional point in their favor.

 

Elevator Pneumonia.—The pulmonary diseases to which men employed in elevators are subject are described in an article by Dr. Thomas F. Rochester, published in the "Buffalo Medical and Surgical Journal." These men, who are generally Irish, of a nationality subject to affections of the lungs, work in gangs, shoveling in a close atmosphere which is teeming with dirt and dust and bearded particles of grain, often for thirty-six hours—sometimes, they assert (although the employers deny it), for six or seven days and nights at a time. They are liable to contract a disease which is known in the hospitals as elevator pneumonia. A new man, soon after he begins to work in the elevator, experiences catarrhal, nasal, and throat irritation; and, while he may labor through a whole season with nothing more than this, he is liable to develop a subacute bronchitis, and occasionally a more dangerous affection. The morbific effects increase in the second and third years, and the shoveler will at last probably have to go to the hospital with a peculiar pulmonary disease, which may be of every grade and usually affects both lungs. The attack fixes him in the ward for at least three months, after which he may wholly recover if he goes into a new business, but, if he returns to his shoveling, he will soon fall a victim to lung-disease. A very few men continue to work in the elevators till they become old; and it appears that those who begin it at thirty-five or forty years of age bear it better than those who begin at twenty. Dr. Rochester considers a regulation and limitation of the hours of continuous labor, the sanitary regulation of lodging and boarding houses, and restriction in the use of ardent spirits, essential parts of any measures for checking this disease.

 

The Green Color of Oysters.—The fact that the green color of some oysters is caused by a variety of navicula, which is called Navicula ostrearia, is illustrated and established by experiments which have been recently made by M. Puységur, at Sissáble. A quantity of the green slime scraped from the edges of the "clears" was put, after the mud had been allowed to settle, into soup-plates. Perfectly white oysters, which had never been in the "clears," and the shells of which had previously been washed and brushed clean, were then put into the fluid. Other precisely similar oysters were put into plates of ordinary sea-water. In twenty-six hours after the beginning of the experiment, the oysters charged with diatoms had all acquired a marked greenish hue, while the other oysters remained unaltered. The experiment was repeated several times, with identical results; and the green color in the oysters was found to be more decided in proportion as the water was more highly charged with diatoms. The greenness disappeared on leaving the oyster for a few days in ordinary sea-water, to appear again when it was put in fresh water containing the navicula. It appears that the diatoms are drawn into the stomach of the oyster with the currents which it induces, and there part with their nutritive constituents. The chlorophyl is digested, and imparts its color to the blood, whence it happens that the most vesicular parts of the structure, as the bronchiæ, are most highly colored. The fact of the absorption of the diatoms was proved by the examination of the digestive tubes of the oysters experimented upon. Their stomachs, intestines, and exuviæ were strewed with carapaces of naviculæ.

 

Deep-Sea Explorations off the Coast of France.—A commission appointed by the Minister of Public Instruction in France has just accomplished an exploration of the depths of the Gulf of Gascony, and of a great submarine valley which lies parallel to the coast of Spain. The commission was composed of MM. Milne-Edwards, father and son, and several other naturalists, and Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys and the Rev. Mr. Norman, of England. The expedition was completely successful, having collected at least five hundred species, nearly all of which are new to the fauna of the Gulf of Gascony, and some of which are new to science. Previous to this expedition, Messrs. Gwyn-Jeffreys and Norman had explored the fosse, or ditch, of Cape Breton, a curious submarine cavity in the sea-bottom of the department of the Landes, in which a connection was traced between the fauna of the Mediterranean Sea and of that part of the Gulf of Gascony.

 

M. Delaunay's Theory of Earthquakes.— M. J. Delaunay has proposed a theory that earthquakes, as well as many meteorological phenomena, are produced by the passage of the planets through the masses of meteors. The more severe seismic tempests, he believes, are caused by the passage of the larger planets through the cosmic groups, particularly through those in longitudes 135º and 265º, which appear to give rise to the August and November meteors. The passages of Venus, the Earth, and Mars through the groups seem to occasion only earthquakes of a secondary order; but each of these planets produces on its passage an increase of shocks in the months of August and November. The most violent and longest-continued convulsions, M. Delaunay suggests, take place when two large planets pass by the cosmic groups at the same time. Of this character were the earthquakes of 1755, 1783, 1829, and 1841. Accepting these principles as the laws regulating the occurrence of earthquakes, and admitting that certain of the cosmic groups may have a slow oscillatory motion around a mean position, it is not difficult to predict when earthquakes may be looked for. M. Delaunay ventures to predict the dates at which the earthquakes to occur between this time and 1920 will, according to his theory, be due. The most important earthquake periods will probably occur in the years and groups of years 1886, 1890-'91, 1898, 1900'01, 1912-'13, 1914, 1919-'20, The next seismic tempest may be expected to follow the passage of Jupiter through the zone of the August meteors in 1883.

 

Do Stenches cause Disease?—The people of Paris were frequently annoyed during the last summer by the presence of mephitic odors in the atmosphere. A commission, appointed to discover the origin of the smells, traced them to certain establishments in the neighborhood where refuse matter is manufactured into fertilizers. M. Bouchardat, of the medical faculty of Paris, has examined the question of the effect of these emanations upon health, and has concluded that they are innocent. He does not believe that they convey with them the germs of disease, and finds that the gases of which they are composed do not load the air enough to produce a perceptible poisoning. Moreover, no injury to health has been traced to them. Assuming that contagious diseases should manifest themselves within eight or ten days after the germs have been planted, the weekly health bulletins of the year have been examined to learn if any increase of mortality followed the prevalence of the unpleasant odors. No such increase has been detected, but the mortality seems rather to have fallen off.

 

Mr. Thomson's Journey in Eastern Africa.—Mr. Keith Johnston was dispatched by the London Geographical Society, in 18*78, with an exploring expedition to East Africa, charged with examining the country in the neighborhood of Lakes Tanganyika and Nyassa. Mr. Johnston died at Behobeho, just at the borders of the objective region of the expedition, on the 23d of June, 1879, and the whole responsibility of the undertaking fell upon Mr. Joseph Thomson, his geologist and general assistant, a young man twenty-two years of age, to whom this was almost the first serious experience in life. Mr. Thomson gave a most interesting account of the expedition, which was attended by unexampled success, at a meeting of the Society on the 8th of November last. His story is enlivened with accounts of different tribes of the most diversified characters and degrees of civilization, living by the side of one another. Leaving Behobeho on the 2d of July, the expedition went toward the west, into the country of the Wakhutu, passing through the valley of the Mgeta, where perennial showers precipitated from the high mountain-range on the right, which forms the ridge of the great central plateau of the continent, stimulate a tropical vegetation to grow and rot in marshy tracts. Under the influence of such an enervating and malarious climate, the Wakhutu are one of the most miserable and apathetic races to be found in Africa, and presented a disgusting sight to the traveler as they gathered around him in crowds, "sitting with their miserable, withered bodies doubled up, and idiotic, lack-luster gaze." Their neighbors, the Mahenge, a hitherto unheard-of tribe, living between the Ruaha and Uranga Rivers, were brought several years ago in contact with a migration of Zooloos, and have adopted the arms, dress, and manners of those people, although in other respects having no affinity with them. To the Wakhutu the Mahenge are a warlike and dreaded tribe; to the English traveler, "they were a set, of most arrant cowards, a mean, sneaking, lying race, unworthy of the name of men." Ten days were occupied in crossing the mountain ranges that bound the central plateau—a charming journey, with diversified scenery and luxuriant vegetation—after which the party entered upon a bleak, moorland country four or five thousand feet high, unrelieved by hill or dale or forest-tree. The scanty population of this barren district of Uhehe are settled in villages at very wide intervals; "the people are a fine-looking race of gentlemen savages, who dress indifferently in nothing, or roll themselves into a winding-sheet of twelve yards of cotton." They treated their visitors courteously, "and always took indirect means of telling us anything unpleasant." Another plateau, from six to nine thousand feet high, extends around the north and east sides of Lake Nyassa, half-way to Lake Tanganyika and around Lake Hikwa, or Leopold, and is inhabited by three tribes in the lowest physical and mental condition, with whom it was almost impossible to communicate, as they seemed to be devoid of abstract ideas, and shut out from all knowledge and communication with the outside world. A short distance beyond the northwest corner of the beautiful Lake Nyassa, the expedition came to Makula's country, where the life and manners appeared of charming Arcadian simplicity. "The clean and ornamental villages would have adorned the neighborhood of any nobleman's park, and the richness of the soil was quite unrivaled"; and Mr. Thomson left, as he left no other place, with regret, a country which he had entered with apprehension. Thence the expedition passed through the country of the bold, rude, exceedingly inhospitable Wanyika; through Itawa, where Mr. Thomson was taken prisoner, and escaped by laughing at the excited warriors and being thought uncanny; and through other not very remarkable districts, to the "noble river Lukuga" and Lake Tanganyika. The Lukuga winds through a charming valley, with beautiful wooded hills rising on each side from its borders, adorned with forest clumps and open glades, where antelopes and buffaloes grazed in abundance. The river moved along in an exceedingly rapid current, full of cataracts, along which it roared and surged, making any attempt at navigation a matter of impossibility. Mr. Thomson would have followed it, but his men refused to go farther, and he turned back. He passed three weeks with the Warua, a very fine-looking race of men, living in the plain between the Lukuga and the Lualaba. They "are possessed of well made figures, which the women adorn most artistically with tattooing. They wear a kilt made of the fibers of the Mwale palm, and dress their hair in the most elaborate fashion, the operation requiring two days' hard work. They are exceedingly ingenious in their carvings, and in every respect they are neat in their appearance and cleanly in their habits, but there all praise ends." They are arrant scoundrels and thieves, and one is not sure of his life among them for a moment. The feature of the return journey to Zanzibar most worthy of remark was the sight—the first to Europeans—from the highlands of Fipa, of the curious Lake Rukwa, Likwa, or Ilikwa, to which Mr. Thomson took the liberty of giving a fourth name, Leopold. It is situated about four thousand feet above the sea, is surrounded by precipitous mountains about as much higher, and has no visible outlet. The people of the country are agriculturists, who do not join either in war or the chase; their chief is a king with absolute power, who lives on native beer, and is prevented by custom from wearing anything but a simple loin-cloth. Mr. Thomson reached Zanzibar in the spring of 1880. During his journey of a year in this most difficult country, he lost only one of the one hundred and fifty men with whom he started; and though often placed in critical positions, he never once had to fire a gun for either offensive or defensive purposes.

 

Artificial Production of Minerals.— M. Friedel gave an extended account, m a recent lecture at the Faculty of Medicine, Paris, of what has been accomplished in the artificial formation of minerals. The condition necessary to be fulfilled in this manufacture is that of obtaining crystalline products as nearly as possible identical in composition and appearance with the minerals to be reproduced. Generally experimenters have had to be satisfied with microscopic crystals; accepting these as sufficient, numbers of them have succeeded. Some hare tried to imitate the processes of nature; others have reached their end by independent processes. M. de Senarmont, considering that the minerals in veins had been deposited from water charged with their constituents and flowing through the fissures of the rocks, with carbonic acid, sulphuretted hydrogen, and the alkaline sulphurets as solvents, and under suitable conditions of temperature and pressure, obtained the sulphurets, oxides, and metallic salts he sought, with the bed-rock that held them. M. Daubrée has reproduced cassiterite, and several of the minerals that are found with it, by subjecting water and the right oxides to the action of chloric and fluoric vapors. MM. Fouqué and Michel Levy, also following the indications of geological observation, have obtained the minerals of volcanic rocks in crystals, not only as isolated minerals, but also with the associations under which they form real rocks, resembling the natural rocks so closely as to deceive. Other processes have been employed, varying in their nature and operation according to the minerals which it was desired to produce, or the substances from which their production was sought. The number of minerals obtained by the different processes is so great that the mere enumeration of them all would be tedious. The most obvious and simple process is that of fusion. Some substances, among them the silicates, tend, when they cool from a liquid condition, to form amorphous glasses. Many of these, it has been found, will crystallize when heated again nearly up to the melting point. By this process of sub-fusion several of the feldspars, oxide of iron, spinel, garnet, and other minerals have been obtained. When the substance does not melt readily, or is liable to decompose before melting, the process is aided by heating it with some suitable solvent. Thus have been obtained apatite, wolfram, tungstate of lead, pyrites, boracite, and other minerals. A considerable number of minerals may be crystallized from solutions in water of different temperatures. A curious feature of this process is that it operates sometimes to render a hydrate anhydrous. At other times the water may serve as a base to remove a portion of acid. It has been noticed also in this process that the crystals may be made larger by exposing them to repeated variations of temperature. Some minerals have been obtained from volatile solvents by vaporizing the solvents, when the minerals would be precipitated. Another process is by the action of two substances upon each other with or without the addition of electrical excitement, as when the oxide of copper is produced by the action of the solution of sulphate of copper and galena; another is by the reaction of vapors and gases on other bodies of similar nature or on solids—a process in which chlorine and the members of its group may play an important part.

 

M. Faye's Theory of the Solar System.—M. Faye, having pointed out in a former paper certain particulars in which the nebular hypothesis of Laplace fails to account for the movements of the planets, has published a second paper propounding a theory by which the retrograde movements of a part of the planets may be reconciled with the direct motions of the other planets, as results of the same laws. The theory of Laplace presupposes the existence of an immense degree of heat expanding the mass of the sun and its atmosphere to the extreme limits of the solar system, and a contraction by cooling, in the course of which planetary rings were thrown off by an excess of centrifugal force. M. Faye objects to the hypothesis of great heat as one of which there is no evidence; moreover, if the heat had existed and contraction had taken place by cooling, the outer atmosphere of the sun would have participated in the cooling and contraction so fully that it would have adhered to the mass, and no rings would have been thrown off. The new theory which he proposes in the stead of that of Laplace is based on the observation of the nebulae, bodies which astronomers have often regarded as the points of departure for evolutions very different from those pictured by Laplace for evolutions tending to formations of the most varied character, as simple, double, triple, and quadruple suns, and globular aggregations of minute suns numbered by thousands. Would it not be natural, he asks, to accept the suggestion of these facts, the more so since our system belongs to the most common type—that of a nebula at first vague, then undergoing a central condensation, absorbing itself gradually and regularly into a nebulous star and finally into a solitary sun? Under this view, heat would no longer have to be invoked arbitrarily as an external agent; we would, on the other hand, see it gradually developed in certain points of the nebula, as the proper result of the energy of every great dissemination of matter where the different members of the mass exercise a mutual attraction upon each other at a distance. M. Faye admits that in the transformation of the nebula rotatory movements would take place, and that trains of matter analogous to the rings of Saturn might be formed, and might break and give rise to planets. These formations, he believes, could be divided, according to their relations to the gravitation of the mass, between two zones, in the outer one of which the revolutions would, by the regular operation of the laws of gravity, be retrograde, while in the inner zone they would, under the same laws, be direct. This is shown to be possible by the following considerations: The density in the original nebula increases regularly from the periphery to the center, as appears actually in several nebulæ with which we are acquainted. It has been shown by calculation that the force of weight in a mass thus constituted increases, as we depart from the surface, in the inverse ratio of a power of the distance from the center. This progression, however, soon reaches a maximum, after which the weight is proportional simply to the distance itself, till at the center it is nothing. If we suppose planetary rings to be separated from a nebula of this nature, we may see that those separating from the external region will be of such a character that the motion of their outer circumference will be more rapid than that of their inner circumference, so that, when it is reduced to a globe turning upon itself, the globe will move in a retrograde direction. In the rings found in the second or inner region, on the other hand, the relative rapidity of the motion of the greater and lesser diameters will be reversed, and the rotation of the resultant globe will necessarily be direct.

 

Infertility in France.—The population of France has increased very slowly for several years. Among nineteen principal states of Europe, France stands the lowest in the rate of growth, having shown an annual increase of only 3·16 per thousand inhabitants from 1861 to 1869, while such countries as England, Norway, Scotland, and Russia, show an increase of from 12·94 to 13·85 per thousand. The rate of increase has fallen from six per thousand in 1770'85, and has never since risen to that figure. The smallness of the excess of births over deaths, which is measured by the rate of increase, is due solely to the paucity of births; for the mortality has at no time been excessive, and has diminished steadily in the face of wars and epidemics, except during the German war, since the beginning of the century. It is not accompanied by a diminution in the number of marriages, for the proportion of marriages has not undergone any material variation during the century, and was higher in the sixth decade than in the first. Moreover, France outranks in the proportion of marriages to the whole population, and of marriages to the marriageable population, some of the states which greatly exceed it in the rate of increase of population. M. A. Legoyt has investigated the subject, and assigns the infertility thus shown to various moral, political, economical, and physiological causes. The decay of religious beliefs is a cause, the influence of which is shown in the tolerance given to the voluntary limitation of fertility, which is opposed by every religious system, and the increase of illegitimate unions, abortions, still-born, and infanticides. The unusually large proportion of persons who arc just well enough off to be carefully provident is economically unfavorable to fertility. The popular opinion that poverty and children go together seems to be confirmed in France, where the poorer departments are the more fruitful ones. Other economical influences are the tendency of population to cities, the increasing expenses of living, and the system of dividing the paternal estate among all the children, which offers a standing temptation to the parent to have only a few children, so that each shall have as large a share as possible. The destruction caused by war operates powerfully to cut down the population. It is worse than pestilence, for it takes away the best and most vigorous. France has suffered much by wars during the last century, and has lost heavily at several periods, most notably during the two years of the German war, when the deaths considerably exceeded the births. The statistics of the recruiting officers show, however, that the vigor of the race has not diminished, and that the mean length of life has been prolonged since 1815. Men and women marry at a later age than formerly, diminishing by several years the time during which they can have children, and, consequently, the number of children they can have. The host of women who are employed as nurses must suspend child-bearing while they are so employed. Young men are withdrawn from the possibility of marriage during their most vigorous age by the long period of military service; marriage itself is discouraged by the complicated and expensive processes the parties have to go through; and increasing alcoholism contracts the reproductive powers of both sexes.

 

Statistics of Suicide.—Professor Morselli, of Milan, in his "Étude de Statistique Morale" ("Study of Moral Statistics"), gives an analysis of the statistics of suicides in the countries of Europe, compiled from official reports, which reveals the important facts that the number of suicides is increasing, with only a few exceptions, in all European countries, and that it increases more rapidly than the population. The facts are set forth in a table showing the number of suicides in the several countries, in each of the seven periods of five years, from 1841'45 to 1875. Except in the three Scandinavian states and the kingdom of Saxony, where there seems to have been a slight temporary decline, the table shows a progressive increase, and in all cases, except the four mentioned, the number of suicides is greatest for the last period, 1871-'75. Such statistics as Professor Morselli has been able to collect since 1875 show continued "enormous aggravations," particularly in Denmark, Finland, England, Belgium, France, Bavaria, the kingdom of Saxony, Prussia, Germany, Austria, Galicia, and Bukowina, the cantons of Neufchatel and Geneva, and Italy. A comparison of the number of suicides in the latest period with the number at earlier periods shows an increase of 183 per cent. in Sweden since 1816; of 57·7 per cent, in England since 1836; of 322 per cent, in Prussia since 1816; of 308·8 per cent, in Austria since 1821; of 651·9 per cent, in Galicia and Bukowina since 1821; and a greater or less percentage of increase in other countries. A part of the increase is doubtless only apparent, and due to the greater perfection of the later statistical reports, but a great real increase remains to be accounted for. Professor Morselli arranges the influences which may predispose to suicides under the heads of cosmic and natural, ethnic, social, and individual. In the first class, climate, technical conditions, the phases of the moon, days, and hours, exert no perceptible influence, but an increase of suicides seems to accompany the monthly rise of temperature. The influence of race is not well defined, except, perhaps, feebly in the Germanic race. As for social influences, the inclination to suicide does not appear to be determined by the degree of civilization or of general instruction, by moral conditions (as to the prevalence of crime and natural births), nor by political and economical conditions. As for religion, Protestants seem as yet to kill themselves oftener than Roman Catholics, and still more frequently than Jews, in the countries where the three religions are represented in proportions of any importance. Density of population is without appreciable effect; but suicide is more frequent in cities than in the country. So far as individual influences are concerned, women kill themselves three or four times less frequently than do men; suicide increases with age to the extreme limit of life; marriage exerts a very marked preventive effect, while celibacy and widowhood favor suicide. Inquiries into the motives for suicide have not brought satisfactory answers, for it is hard to get the truth told about them, and official reports must be accepted with reserve. In France, higher, more generous motives are attributed to women than to men.

 

Mr. John Gould.—Mr. John Gould, F. R. S., an eminent British ornithologist, who died early in February, was born in September, 1804. The appointment of his father, as a foreman in the Royal Gardens at Windsor, gave him an opportunity of beginning the preparation for the work of his life by studying British birds in a state of nature. In 1827 he was appoint Curator to the Museum of the Zoological Society in London. Here he published, under the title of "A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains," the figures of a small collection of birds which were then rare and little known in Great Britain. He then undertook the "Birds of Europe," on a similar plan, which was finished, in five large folio volumes, in 1837. In 1838 he made extensive journeys in Australia and the neighboring islands, and collected specimens for the "Birds of Australia," a work which he gave to the public in seven folio volumes, in 1848, and which contained much that was new on the range and habits of sea-birds. The "Birds of Asia," "Mammals of Australia," and "Birds of Great Britain," which followed, were on the same comprehensive plan, and revealed the same thoroughness of preparation and accuracy in the representation of typical specimens as the previous works. Besides these great undertakings, Mr. Gould was the author of monographs on the toucans, the trogons, the humming-birds, the ant-thrushes of the Old World, the partridges of America, and the birds collected during the voyage of the Beagle by Mr. Darwin, for all of which, as well as for the larger works, he prepared the original designs, from which the splendid colored plates—constituting "the most beautiful series of pictures of animal life which have yet been produced"—were executed.

 

The New Mineral, Peckhamite.—Professor J. Lawrence Smith has found a new meteoric mineral in the analysis of the great meteorite which fell in Emmett County, Iowa, in May, 1879, and has named it Peckhamite. He describes it as decidedly different from any mineral he has seen associated with meteorites. It is a silicate of iron and magnesia, opalescent, of a light greenish-yellow color, of greasy aspect, and cleaves readily. In two or three specimens the mineral projected from the outer surface of the stone, with a dingy-yellow color and a fused exterior. It differs widely in structure from olivine, which was abundant in the stone. Professor Smith states, as an additional fact concerning the meteorite, that its fall was attended by a shower of fragments like hailstones, of which several thousand, varying from the size of a pea to five hundred grammes in weight, have been picked up. All the smaller pieces are lumps of nickeliferous iron, and even the larger ones have but little stony, material attached. They lay on the wet prairie for nearly a year, and are yet not at all rusted; many parts are still bright, and some look like nuggets of platinum.

 

Quarantine and Systematic Medical Inspection.—The "Lancet" denies that there is any value in the ordinary practice of quarantine. The reasoning on which the system is founded is plausible and seductive, but it is impossible to make it practically efficient. Contraband—the secret escape of infected persons and goods through the lines—is one of its commonest accompaniments, and most often defeats its purpose. "Moreover, in all great extensions of disease, the initial extension has generally occurred before the danger was anticipated, and the imposition of quarantine has taken place after the mischief which it was designed to avert had been accomplished." Quarantine is generally credited with having prevented the extension of the recent plague from the Volga to Europe, but wrongly; though enforced, it did not prevent the conveyance of the pest from Persia to Russia; and it had no effect upon the transmission of the disease from the Volga, for the plague had practically ceased to prevail before any measure of quarantine was adopted. It has been, in fact, an evil, both on account of its futility and because it has diverted attention from a true means of preventing infectious disease. "In so far as it may have contributed to a clearer knowledge of the conditions under which the isolation of persons and things is desirable and may be advantageous, and of the hygiene of ships and of masses of persons, such as pilgrims and emigrants, journeying both by sea and by land, quarantine may indirectly have yielded certain advantages, but advantages wholly disproportionate to the cost at which they have been gained, and which were attainable in a much simpler and more effective fashion." England and Denmark have ceased to rely upon quarantine as a protection against infection, though they still keep up the forms in order to obviate disabilities that would be imposed on their shipping by other governments which adhere to the practice. The system of medical inspection and the general sanitary administration take its place in England. The sanitary administration is so devised that every district, whether inland or on the coast, is enabled to deal with infectious disease, coming from whatever source, in the most efficacious manner. The sanitary authorities of the ports are, moreover, given power to inspect medically persons arriving in ships from infected places, remove and isolate the sick, and use whatever processes of disinfection may be deemed necessary. Experience has shown that this system "does all that the most efficient quarantine can be hoped to do, and that more effectually, without involving those grave hardships to individuals and interruptions and disturbances to commerce which have arisen and must arise from quarantine."

 

Retreat of Glaciers.—M. Charles Dufour read a paper on the retreat of glaciers, at the recent meeting of the French Association for the Advancement of Science. His observations of the phenomena were begun in 1870, while he was sojourning by the glacier of the Rhône for the purpose of measuring the amount of the condensation of vapor on the ice. In connection with Professor Forel, he made a chart of the front of the glacier, as it was defined by reference to marks fixed in the moraine. The comparisons for the revision of the chart from year to year established the fact that the glacier was constantly receding. According to the statements of the inhabitants of the country, the retreat began in 1855 or 1856, and it now exceeds all that has been otherwise certainly determined within historical times. This phenomenon is not peculiar to the glacier of the Rhône. All of the glaciers of the Alps have begun to recede at some time more or less distant, and some of them have even disappeared. The same is the case with the glaciers of the Pyrenees and the Caucasus. Information is still wanting with reference to the glaciers of the Scandinavian Alps. A general retreat of so much importance as appears to be shown can hardly be explained by a theory of casual modifications of climate.

 

American Storms in Europe.—M. Hébert communicated to the French Association for the Advancement of Science the results of an investigation which he had made, day by day, during six months of winter, of the meteorological phenomena of North America from Greenland to Colombia and Venezuela. He traced the formation, along the grand mountainous crest of the continent and on its eastern slope, of powerful phenomena of sirocco, which dried the continent and limited its vegetation. lie followed the rotatory storms which are produced on these crests step by step across the continent and the adjacent seas and to the western coasts of Europe. These storms, which are much more powerful than those which he has investigated in Europe, have otherwise, but with much more intensity, the same characters with them, and are the source of the depressions and tempests which are experienced in Europe. The storms which reach the European coast originate for the most part in Mexico, Central America, and the northern parts of South America; but they do not generally strike the Atlantic till after they have traversed a more or less extended part of the length of the North American Continent. The storms which originate in the United States reach Greenland, or pass the neighborhood of Iceland or the Faroe Islands, too far away to affect Europe.

 

Carbonic Acid in the Sea.—In communicating his studies on the proportion of carbonic acid in the air, M. Schloesing remarks that some of the causes which regulate the production and consumption of this substance are subject to considerable and relatively rapid variations; such are vegetation and the slow combustion of organic residua, the activity of which depends on the temperature. But, besides the fact that these variations take place in an inverse degree in the different regions of the globe, and therefore partly balance one another, there exists a powerful regulator of them, which combines its action with that of the circulation and the commingling operation of the atmosphere: it is the sea. Acting upon this idea, M. Schloesing has calculated the quantity of carbonic acid concealed in the seas, and has arrived at the conclusion that the sea holds in reserve a quantity of acid available for exchange with the atmosphere ten times greater than the whole quantity contained in the atmosphere, and, a fortiori, much greater than the variations in that quantity. Although the figures can not be absolutely correct, we may certainly conclude that the sea is much richer in disposable carbonic acid than the atmosphere, and is in good condition to play the part of a regulator of the supply.