Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/March 1881/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table||Popular Science Monthly Volume 18 March 1881 (1881)
We have here a volume that will raise still further the already high character of the series to which it belongs. It is a fresh and original contribution to a most interesting branch of zoology, which will be indispensable to every naturalist, and will be prized by all readers who care for the progress of knowledge concerning the general phenomena of life. Professor Semper is a leading German biologist, and, being a master of English, he was invited to come to Boston and give a course of twelve lectures before the Lowell Institute. He availed himself of the occasion to bring forward, in a form as popular as the nature of the materials allows, the results of his studies in a special province, zoölogical science.
The author is, of course, an evolutionist, and recognizes that Darwin's views have revolutionized biological method. But he thinks one of the results has been to give too great an impulse to speculation. He says that enough has been done by Darwinists in the way of philosophizing, and that the task now before us is to apply the test of exact investigation to the hypotheses laid down. It is infinitely easy to form a fanciful idea as to how this or that fact may be hypothetically explained, and very little trouble is needed to imagine some process by which hypothetical fundamental causes, equally fanciful, may have led to the result which has been actually observed. But, when we try to prove by experiment that this imaginary process of development is indeed the true and inevitable one, much time and laborious research are indispensable. We have here the clew to Semper's position as a biologist. He thinks that the school of speculative system-makers, represented by Haeckel, are given to an over-indulgence in hypotheses, and might better concentrate their efforts upon the work of observation and experiment, and the more rigorous investigation of facts.
Of the problems brought into prominence by the doctrine of evolution, none is more fundamental than that of variability in animal organisms. It has, of course, long been known that animals possess this property, but the critical and unsettled question is, To what extent and under what conditions is it manifested? Variability is probably that trait of animate beings which may be first and most easily traced by exact investigation, both to its limits and to its efficient causes. There is, however, at present much strife of opinion upon the subject, and this can be only harmonized by closer research. The present volume is devoted to this inquiry. It is a study in organic variation, and the author aims to present the general facts and hypotheses, which are either of universal significance or offer favorable subjects for experimental treatment.
But it is desirable to still further illustrate the specialty of Dr. Semper's work. The general science of zoölogy has two great branches, morphology and physiology, which, although closely connected, are yet so widely different, both as to their details and to the paths they have struck out for solving their respective problems, that it becomes necessary to keep them separate as two independent divisions of science. Morphology, or the science of form and structure, aims to discover those affinities of relationship in animals which actually exist, and to found on them a natural system of the animal kingdom. It is a statical inquiry—that is, it delineates the conditions and relationships of organic structures, their differences and similarities, simply as existing facts, with no necessary reference to the manner in which they have been produced. Were all life suddenly destroyed upon the earth, and nothing left but dead organisms capable of dissection, there would still remain the material for morphological study.
Physiology, on the other hand, deals with the dynamics of life. It investigates the functions or activities of living parts, and elucidates the forces, causes, and conditions that have produced existing forms. Physiology explains what morphology describes; and, in this large sense, it is the task of physiology to give account of the facts which morphology embraces in its natural system.
But, from this point of view, physiology itself has two broad divisions. Simple physiology, as it is usually known, treats of the activities or the functions of the organs, such as the brain, stomach, heart, muscles, spinal cord, lungs, kidneys, etc., which may be considered as carrying on independent processes, or in their vitally coordinated, intimate, mutual relations. But, in contradistinction to this conception of the physiology of organs, there is also a more comprehensive physiology of animal organisms, which may be properly termed universal physiology. It treats of the general causes, conditions, and laws of the development of organisms, and of the transmutation of one form into others. Here we meet the question of the relation of organisms to their environing conditions, and of animals as acted upon and modified by the external forces of nature. The problem of the geographical distribution of animals, of their extension into new habitats, of their extermination, the acquirement of divergent traits and new qualities, and of the origin of species, is here presented. We have a new order of dependences, analogous to the mutual dependence of organs in common physiology, but it is now a dependence upon the conditions of external nature. Professor Semper says: "If the American prairies were to cease to produce grass, the first result would be the rapid and utter extinction of the now numerous herds of buffaloes, and on their existence depends that of the surviving remnant of the ancient Indian population of America. If the various insectivorous birds of North America were exterminated, within a very few years, beyond a doubt, all the produce of the rich agricultural districts of that continent would be destroyed. If we change the mode of life of any single animal, the change will instantly have an influence on all the other animals whose healthy existence was in any way dependent on its normal functions before it was altered. Although it is certainly true that the various animals inhabiting a country are not so intimately interdependent as the organs of the individual, the relations in the two cases may be very directly compared. The normal numerical proportion, mode of life, and distribution of animals would be altered or destroyed by the extermination of one single animal, just as the whole body suffers, with all its organs, if only one of them is destroyed or injured. And, in both cases. Nature has analogous remedies at her command. In the one case, the function of the incapacitated organ can be assumed, at any rate to a certain extent, by some other uninjured organ, exactly as, in the other case, the function of the exterminated animal may be fulfilled, with regard to the whole fauna of the country, by some other animal. But a perfect compensation for the loss sustained is impossible in either case."
In further illustration of this idea, Professor Semper says: "The fauna of a district thus takes the aspect of a vast organism whose separate members—the different species of animals—are living parts of the body, and which has had too its embryology—i. e., its development in time. These species as regards the laws of their local distribution may be regarded morphologically as the limbs of a gigantic organism which throws one or other of them up into the air on the top of some mountain-peak, while others are flung into ocean-depths, subterranean caves, lakes, or rivers. But they may also be studied physiologically, and compared to organs which by their functions and importance influence the life of the whole mass, and are interdependent by the most various physiological relations like the organs of a healthy living body." The nature of the task undertaken by the author is still further exemplified ia the following passages:
Professor Semper's twelve lectures before the Lowell Institute form the twelve chapters of his book. The considerations here presented are put forward in the first or introductory chapter, in which he defines his point of view, and the plan of the discussion. The work is divided into two parts, the first being devoted to "The Influence of Inanimate Surroundings," and the second to "The Influence of Living Surroundings." Chapter II takes up "The Influence of Food"; III, "The Influence of Light"; IV, "The Influence of Temperature"; V, "The Influence of Stagnant Water"; VI, "The Influence of Still Atmosphere"; VII and VIII, "The Influence of Water in Motion"; IX, "Currents as a means of extending or hindering the Distribution of Species"; X, "A Few Remarks on the Influence of Other Conditions of Existence"; XI, "The Transforming Influence of Living Organisms on Animals"; XII, "The Selective Influence of Living Organisms on Animals." Appended to the volume are sixty pages of valuable notes, followed by a copious alphabetical index.
The report describes what was done during the year ending June 30, 1880, and what was needed to be done for the seacoast and lake frontier defenses of the country, and for the improvement of the rivers and harbors of the whole country; and records the progress of the special work and of the surveys assigned to the corps of engineers. Several maps of Pacific States and of the survey of the Mississippi River, and lake charts, have been published, and an outline map of the territory west of the Mississippi River, on a scale of 2000000 is in preparation.
After light came life, and with that life there came its two great functions—growth and development. With the simplest as with the most complex forms there is the same eager race to be run, to increase in size, to multiply, and, thus replenishing this earth, to die. "Life and her Children" is a praiseworthy and admirable attempt to tell us something of the Children that Life sends forth, and of their history. Its main object is to acquaint young people with the structure and habits of the lower forms of life; but in our deliberate judgment it will do a great deal more. None will read its introductory chapter without advantage, and few will read the volume through without enjoyment. Within its narrow limits of three hundred small pages no candid reader would expect to find all the details that might be wished for, or all the illustrations that might be desired. What constitutes the book's chief charm is the marvelously simple yet quite scientific style which runs through it, the food for thought and future study which it affords, and the truly philosophic glow which lights up its every page. The volume gives a general account of Life's Simplest Children, the Protozoa. The word "slime" does not seem to us quite a happy term by which to designate the living protoplasm of these creatures; this word conveys the idea of a something adhesive or glutinous, or of a something thrown off a living organism—a something without a structure (sordies, eluvies)—and there seems somewhat of a "contempt for nature," a thought certainly never present in the author's mind, in the use of such a word. Jelly would seem a more appropriate word, as conveying the idea of the consistency requisite for life, and would have the sanction of use. Thus the Noctilucæ, called in this volume "tiny bags of slime," were described, if we mistake not, by their discoverer as "tiny spherical gelatinous bodies," and Professor Huxley says, "Noctiluca may be described as 'a gelatinous transparent body about the one sixtieth of an inch in diameter.'"
The chapter on "How Starfish walk and Sea-Urchins grow" is excellent. The story of how the five curious little oval jelly bodies, swimming about by their jelly lashes in the depths of the smooth water in some English bay ended in becoming respectively a lily-star, a brittle-star, a starfish, a sea urchin, and a sea-cucumber, is well told, and woodcuts, though they make one see as in a glass darkly, help in their own way to make the meaning plain. In the "Outcasts of Animal Life" a difficult problem is treated of. It need not surprise one that it is not solved. The last four chapters tell of "the Snare-Weavers and their Hunting Relations (spiders)"; the insects which change their coats but not their bodies, and those which remodel their bodies within cover of their coats; "the Intelligent Insects with Helpless Children, as illustrated by the Ants." This volume thus tells of the greater part of the living invertebrate animals as they are spread over the earth to fight the battle of life. "Though in many places the battle is fierce and each one must fight remorselessly for himself and his little ones, yet the struggle consists chiefly in all the members of the various brigades doing their work in life to the best of their power, so that all while they live may lead a healthy, active existence. The little bird is fighting his battle when he builds his nest and seeks food for his mate and his little ones; and though in doing this he must kill the worm, and may perhaps by and by fall a victim himself to the hungry hawk, yet the worm heeds nothing of its danger till its life comes to an end; and the bird trills his merry song after his breakfast, and enjoys his life without thinking of perils to come. So Life sends her Children forth; and it remains for us to learn something of their history. If we could but know it all, and the thousands of different ways in which the beings around us struggle and live, we should be overwhelmed with wonder. Even as it is, we may perhaps hope to gain such a glimpse of the labors of this great multitude as may lead us to wish to fight our own battle bravely and to work and strive and bear patiently, if only that we may be worthy to stand at the head of the vast family of Life's Children."
The work forms a charming introduction to the study of zoölogy—the science of living things—which we trust will find its way into many hands.—Nature.
There was considerable excitement a year or two since over the spiritualistic demonstrations at Leipsic, Germany, in which the professors took up the claims of Henry Slade, the eminent American "medium." Zöllner was prominent in the inquiry, and published his results, which arrested attention chiefly from the novelty of some of the doctrines which he connected with the experiments. lie published a book of views and results under the title of "Transcendental Physics," which was the third volume of a course of scientific criticism. The substance of that work is reproduced in the present translation, together with numerous well-executed illustrations of the appliances used and the operations performed.
The book is a contribution to spiritualism, and treats of a portion of the experiences of Mr. Slade in his great mission over the world to establish, by slate-manipulations, etc., the immortality of the human soul. Poor old senile Dr. Hare, when captured by the Philadelphia spiritualist several years ago, undertook to prove that the soul is immortal by inventing a wooden spiritoscope for public exhibitions. Believing that this great question has been left in doubt quite long enough, our enterprising spiritualistic friends have decided that it must be solved. And as speculation seems to have failed to settle it satisfactorily, they are bound to do it in the clearest and completest possible manner by experiment, so that the conclusion shall have the same validity that is conceded to strict scientific investigations. It would seem that Professor Zöllner had got tired of being shut into the common field of natural law as a theatre of research, and was determined to break out and get into a larger and more promising field. Hence he properly terms his new results "Transcendental Physics," that is, physics beyond the sphere of the senses. We doubt if the time has quite come for so ambitious an adventure. Old-fashioned physics is still in its infancy, though its growth is vigorous, its accomplishments already vast, and its legitimate promises boundless. After thousands of years of groping to find the true method of arriving at the truth of nature, that method has at last been found and abundantly verified as opening the right path of future inquiry. Yet the method has been really but just mastered, and we think it would be wise if our physicists could content themselves to pursue it humbly and faithfully—for say the next thousand years. Nor does Professor Zöllner's experience encourage us in the least to qualify this recommendation; for it looks as if he had not yet served half his apprenticeship to the existing and well-attested method. The proneness to indulge in wayward fancies, in groundless conjectures, in imaginary explanations and insane speculations, has always been the great obstacle to sober and cautious science, and we think it is the great office of science to discipline and subdue this tendency. But Professor Zöllner has hardly yet learned the rudiments of his scientific lesson. Nature, as disclosed to the common intellect of man, is not sufficient for him. He scorns its limitations, and is bound to know what is outside. So at the very opening of his book he makes a grand transcendental somersault, and comes down—Heaven save us!—in the fourth dimension of space. Zöllner is free, but we poor worms of the dust can not follow him. We have all we can possibly do in three dimensions of space, and it will be a considerable period before this is exhausted. Let those who are inclined buy the "Transcendental Physics," and follow its author if they can. Yankee enterprise is proverbial, and there will no doubt be many who hold to the inspiring motto of the daring Sam Patch, that "some things can be done as well as others."
This little monograph is aimed at the prevention of the most destructive of all diseases. It offers an explanation of the nature of consumption, and then takes up the various hygienic agencies which are potent to protect the system from its invasion. The author epitomizes his book as follows: "In summing up the considerations in the preceding pages, I think it appears conclusive that consumption, or the tendency to it which exists in many individuals, is essentially a premature dissipation of the force and matter of the body, and that improper food, bad air, deprivation of sunlight, poor clothing, want of physical exercise, disease, imperfect digestion, all accelerate this process of waste. Therefore, in all our efforts at prevention, the path of duty lies straight before us, and consists in conserving these two elements of the body by laying a good foundation in infancy, by preserving the organs of digestion, by eating an abundance of rich and nutritious food, such as fat, butter, meat, milk, eggs, etc., by breathing pure air, by living on dry soil, by wearing warm and comfortable clothing, by taking plenty of physical exercise, and by avoiding disease and injurious occupation."
This volume is founded on some lectures lately delivered before a mixed audience of ladies and gentlemen at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. It professes to be introductory rather than exhaustive—an invitation to reflective and systematic study rather than a substitute for it. There is a considerable biographical clement in the treatment, and the author's aim seems to be to elaborate "correct views concerning the essential nature and value of the most conspicuous current of abstract thought in the English language." The author is a metaphysician and an ontologist, and, in so far as his work is doctrinal, it is a dry agnosticism. He does not believe that knowledge is bounded by phenomenal relations, and spurns the idea that any amount of generalized truth derived from the sciences can form a system of philosophy properly so called; but, independent of its speculation, there is much instruction to be gained from his work.
The first of these text-books is the well-known manual of Professor Warren, which has now reached a fifth edition. It has undergone a thorough revision, and some parts of it have been rewritten, while it has been made more complete by the addition of a division devoted to a consideration of the elements of machines.
The work of Professor Angel is one in the "Advanced Science Series" of the publisher, and forms a continuation of the more elementary one of the author in the same series. The chapters upon projection are prefaced by several upon plane geometry, while the main subject is fully presented and illustrated by numerous examples and problems. A volume of finely executed plates accompanies the text.
The subject of projection-drawing, besides being of large educational value, is also of great practical importance. It is concerned with representing upon a plane surface solid objects in such a way as to show their real dimensions, and is, therefore, a necessary preparation for the artisan who has to construct work from drawings of this kind. It is also of value to all those who desire to know how to represent their ideas of any construction, so that they will be understood by mechanics. Any one desiring to pursue the study will find in either of these works all that he needs to a thorough comprehension of it.
This massive volume embraces the latest catalogues of their books supplied by the publishers, preceded by an order list including all books issued from January to August, inclusive, by the publishers represented in the annual; a classified summary and alphabetical reference list of books recorded in the "Publishers' Weekly" from July 1, 1879, to June 30, 1880, with additional titles, corrections, changes of price and publisher, etc. (forming a provisional supplement to the American Catalogue); and the American Educational Catalogue for 1880. The work, the materials of which are received directly from the publishers themselves, gives the complete literary history of the year in the United States, and is indispensable to the book-buyer.
This seems to be an excellent introduction to the practice of geometrical drawing. Its method has been used for several years in classes with the most favorable results. It was prepared for the use of the lower classes in engineering schools, but parts of it may no doubt be made excellent use of in the high schools. The author claims that it is well adapted for those who desire to pursue this branch of study by themselves and without a teacher. But he strongly recommends pupils to commence with a master wherever practicable, as they will thus save time, and avoid the formation of bad habits, so easy to get and so hard to lose.
On the extensive subject of machinery, which would fill cyclopædias, this volume takes up only such parts as are assumed to have a general interest, and concerning which it is well that all active-minded boys should be instructed. It treats of those fundamental laws which underlie the system of machinery, and upon which are founded the various mechanical combinations which have contributed so much to the development of manufactures. The need of understanding these principles would be apparent, and we remember that hand processes are rapidly disappearing by the substitution of machinery, so that the mechanic who has been trained to a special manipulation hardly knows at what moment an unexpected invention may undermine and destroy his vocation. Each new victory and invention is, moreover, but a step toward others, and we are every day surprised to observe how triumphant ingenuity has overcome difficulties hitherto supposed to be insurmountable, and which makes an inroad upon the traditional handicraft labor, and cheapens a product of general utility. The author of this book, therefore, thinks it a fit time to instruct the younger portion of the community in the details of the more ordinary machines with which they may perhaps some day become closely and personally interested. Twenty chapters are devoted to the most important machines, processes, and mechanical arrangements in the wide field of manufacturing industry.
The longitude of points on the east coast of South America has been very uncertain until recently, for the results obtained by apparently trustworthy methods have differed by almost incredibly large quantities. The extension of telegraphic cables gave the opportunity to make more accurate determinations from some well-determined point in Europe by way of Madeira and the Cape Verd Islands with the eastern South American coast. The connection was made from Land's End by Carcavellos, at the mouth of the Tagus, and the Brazilian submarine telegraph. The determinations made by the commission, combined with the determinations of meridian distances made by Professor Gould at Cordova, furnish a valuable system of longitudes embracing about twenty stations in the interior. A curious fact connected with this work is, that it has given the first correct determination of the longitude of Lisbon.
This work was the last written by the illustrious French author who has done so much to rationalize art education. His method of instruction was logical, beginning always with the simplest elements and proceeding slowly to more complex considerations, while the progress at every step is made pleasant and attractive. Le-Duc was always suggestive, and, instead of grinding students through a hard didactic course, he ever aims, by showing the connection between one study and another, to make the work intellectually attractive. All special results must have the broadest possible foundation. And in every way the student is inspired with a love of excellence and an i ambition to attain the highest standard and accomplish the most thorough work. Of I the value of the author's method the translator thus speaks: "Teachers of art, both! general and technical, and, for that matter, teachers of any subject, will find this volume of Viollet-le-Duc of no little service in suggesting methods of instruction. It shows bow students, young or old, are to be interested; how all the surroundings of daily life contain suggestions for the most interesting and important lines of investigation; how students are to be taught to think out processes for themselves, and to develop their powers of comparison and reasoning; how the study of art of necessity leads us back to the study of nature, which underlies all art; and how, as before said, the basis of all education must be perception, so that learning to draw well and learning to do anything properly depend upon first learning to see correctly."
Professor Dana has aimed in this work to present the subject of mechanics clearly and concisely, and develop its fundamental principles in their logical order. The book is restricted to the mechanics of solids, which is considered under the general heads of kinematics, dynamics, and statics. Numerous problems, involving the principles elucidated in the various sections, are furnished for the pupil to work upon, answers to which are given at the close of the book. We can discover no reason why this latter feature should have been added, and think the space might have been much better devoted to additional problems.
The author starts with the assumption that all authority, "so called," not founded on what nature teaches through facts actually demonstrable or knowable through analogy, should be rejected. Nevertheless, he believes that the theory that what is non-objective to the senses is immaterial and unknowable is erroneous and deleterious, as is also the theory that knowledge is, either directly or indirectly, miraculously revealed. In harmony with these doctrines, he endeavors to build up a new philosophy of the human organism. The present essay appears to be introductory to a larger work on the same subject.
Address in Medical Jurisprudence. Psychology, State Medicine, etc. By James F. Hibberd, M.D. Philadelphia. 1880. Pp. 17.
On the Action of Carbolic Acid upon Ciliated Cells and White-Blood Cells. By T. Mitchell Prudden, M.D. January, 1881. Pp. 17.
How to Live in Winter. By Amelia Lewis. New York: Food and Health Publishing Office. 1881. Pp. 84. 25 cents.
"The Chrysanthemum: A Monthly Magazine for Japan and the Far East." Yokohama: Kelley & Co. Vol. I, No. 1. January, 1881. Pp. 36. 25 cents each, or $2 a year.
"Quaker City Gazette: A Weekly Periodical devoted to Science, Literature, and Art." E. Ellsworth Wensley, Editor. Philadelphia: Quaker City Publishing Co. Vol. L No. 1. January, 1881. Pp. 16. $2 a year.
"The Illustrated Cosmos." Issued Monthly. Everett W. Fish, General Editor. Chicago. Vol. I, No. 1. January, 1881. Pp. 16. 15 cents a copy, $1.50 a year.
Principal Characters of American Jurassic Dinosaurs. By Professor O. C. Marsh. Part IV. Spinal Cord, Pelvis, and Limbs of Stegosaurus, with Three Plates. February, 1881.
On the Microscopic Crystals contained in Plants By W. K. Higby. Pp. 18.
Annual Report of the California State Mineralogist, from June to December, 1880. Sacramento. 1880. Pp. 43.
"The Floral World: A Monthly Journal devoted to Floriculture, Horticulture, etc." D. R. Woods, Editor. New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Vol. 1, No. 1. January, 1831. Pp. 21. $1 a year.
"The Religious Evolutionist: A Monthly Magazine devoted to a Scientific and Practical Religion." S. W. Davis, Editor. Topeka, Kansas. Vol. I, No. 1. January, 1881 Pp. 28. $1.00 a year.
Circulars of Information of the Bureau of Education. No. 4, Rural School Architecture. Illustrated. No. 5, English Rural Schools. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1880.
The Geology of Central and Western Minnesota: A Preliminary Report. By Warren Upham. St. Paul: The Pioneer Press Co. 1880. Pp. 58.
Historical Sketch of the Erie Natural History Society. Erie, Pennsylvania. 1880. Pp. 28.
The Succession of Glacial Deposits in New England. By Warren Upham. Salem, Massachusetts. 1830. Pp. 14.
Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History at Normal. Bulletin No. 3. Peoria. November, 1880. Pp. 160.
Thirty-fifth Annual Report of the Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College. By Edward C. Pickering. Cambridge: University Press. 1881. Pp. 17.
Adam Smith. 1723-1790. By J. A. Farrar. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1881. Pp. 201. $1.25.
The Actor and his Art. By C. Coqnelin. Translated from the French by Abbey Lingdon Alger. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1881. Pp. 63.
Sanskrit and its Kindred Literatures: Studies in Comparative Mythology. By Laura Elizabeth Poor. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1880. Pp. 463. $2.
Guide to the Study of Political Economy.. By Dr. Luigi Cossa. Translated from the Italian, with a Preface, by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S. London: Macmillan & Co. 1880. Pp. 237. $1.25.
The Cause of Color among Races, and the Evolution of Physical Beauty. By William Sharpe, M.D. Revised and enlarged edition. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1881. Pp. 36. 75 cents.
Natural Theology. By John Bascom. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1880. Pp. 306. $1.50.
American Sanitary Engineering. By Edward S. Philbrick. New York: "The Sanitary Engineer." 1881. Pp. 129.
The Bacteria. By Dr. Antoine Magin. Translated by George M. Sternberg, M.D. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1880. Pp. 227. $2.50.
On Certain Conditions of Nervous Derangement. By William A. Hammond, M.D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sous. 1881. Pp. 286. $1.75.
Fever: A Study in Morbid and Normal Physiology. By H. C. Wood, M.D. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1880. Pp. 258.
Electric Lighting by Incandescence. By William E. Sawyer. New York: D. Van Nostrand & Co. 1881. Pp. 189.