Popular Science Monthly/Volume 2/December 1872/Literary Notices
Technology is the term now generally applied to the applications of the principles of science to the arts of industry. The earth in its matter and its forces is a treasury of material for the service of humanity. These materials furnish the aliment by which our bodies are daily nourished, the textures with which we are clad, the buildings that shelter us, and the innumerable objects of use and pleasure that minister to the service of civilized man. The transformations of matter constitute the great business of mankind in all stages of its development. In the lowest stage they are few in number, crude and imperfect in form, and wasteful both of material and of power applied. Nothing is understood, and blind groping leads to scanty and uncertain results. For every particle of matter is bound in the meshes of inexorable law, and the sole condition on which refractory Nature can be conquered and put to use, is that of knowledge. Science creates this knowledge, and thus becomes the guide of industry. The office of science in directing the operations of labor is now the great fact of civilization, and it is daily becoming of more importance to all classes of the community. Processes are daily becoming more expeditious and more perfect; the uses of things are more extended; new objects of value are created; waste-products are utilized; and the economy of effort in production vastly augmented. There is still great deficiency of scientific knowledge on the part of artisans; but large manufacturing establishments have their scientific directors and advisers, while the movement for extended technical education is participated in by all the leading nations of the world.
Technology, though always grounded in science and starting from it, is not in itself a science like astronomy or mechanics, that is, a body of inductive truths applying to specific divisions of natural phenomena, nor is it mainly concerned with true scientific work which is the elucidation of the laws of phenomena. It begin* where science leaves off, or rather at the highest point which it has attained, and turns scientific results to practical account. Nevertheless, technology is by no means passive in the research after new truths. Its office being to carry out, or to verify, on a comprehensive scale, the results of pure scientific investigation, it cannot fail to react powerfully upon the work of original investigation. It is constantly putting questions, wanting further explanations, and demanding more light; and by thus forcing tangible problems upon the scientist, under pressure of great interests involved, it both stimulates research and furnishes the experimenter with what he most wants—a definite subject to be worked out. The peril of the technologist of falling into routine, and following blind rules, is thus constantly checked and more or less counteracted by the influence of his own difficulties, and the need of frequent appeal to those whose business it is to explain them.
The raw materials of Nature, which require transformation before they can be available for human use, take two routes to this destination. They either go by the mechanical way, or by the path of chemistry, and so we have two kinds of technology—mechanical and chemical. Mechanical technology deals with the outward changes of natural products, or alterations of form only, as, for example, the joiner and carpenter working in wood; the making of iron rails, sheath-metal, and wire; the casting of iron, zinc, and alloys of copper, into various objects; the spinning and weaving of various fibres, flax, cotton, jute, to be-come materials of greater value; also the manufacturing of paper from rags, of horn into combs, and of bristles into brushes—all these operations belong to this section.
Chemical technology, on the other hand, as Dr. Wagner observes, "deals with the operations by which the raw material is not only changed in its form, but especially as regards its nature; such, for instance, is the case with the extraction of metals from their ores; the conversion of lead into white-lead and sugar of lead (acetate of lead); the conversion of sulphate of baryta into chloride of barium and baryta white (permanent or Chinese white); the conversion of cryolite into sulphate of alumina, alum, and soda; the conversion of rock-salt into sulphate and carbonate of soda; the conversion of carnollite and kainite into chloride and bromide of potassium, sulphate and carbonate of potassa; the conversion of copper into verdigris and sulphate of copper; the manufacture of paraffin, and paraffin or crystal oils from peat, Boghead coal, and lignite; the preparation of kelp and iodine from sea-weeds; the manufacture of stearine-candles (stearic acid properly) and soap from oils and fats; the preparation of sugar and alcohol from starch the conversion of alcohol into vinegar; the brewing of beer from barley and hops; the manufacture of pig-iron into malleable iron (puddling process), and the conversion of malleable iron into steel; the production of gas, coke, and tar from coals; the extraction from the tar of such substances as benzol, carbolic acid, aniline, anthracen, asphalte, naphthaline; the preparation of tar-colors, as rosaniline, aniline blue, Manchester yellow, Magdala red, alizarine, iodine green, picric acid, etc."
These illustrations of the scope and character of chemical technology give also an idea of the quality and range of Dr. Wagner's book. For twenty years he has held an eminent position in Germany as an authority upon technology, and his voluminous annual reports upon the subject have been the standards of reference in regard to its progress. The first edition
of the present hand-book was published in 1850; and the eighth edition, which appeared last year, is now translated, and is the first that appears in English. The volume is a compact cyclopædia of the most recent and accurate knowledge on a wide range of practical subjects, and will be of great value to the industrial and manufacturing interests of the country.
Mr. Leifchild's book, entitled "The Higher Ministry of Nature," has been re-published by the Putnams, who have appropriately prefixed to it the title "The Great Problem." The general aim of the author, who is a semi-preacher and semi-geologist of London, is to show that the higher teachings of Nature confirm true religious faith instead of subverting it; but he feels it incumbent upon him to go into all the controverted questions of the time in theology, metaphysics, and science, and is equally ready in the treatment of theism, pantheism, the unknowable, Spinozism, Darwinism, evolution, morals, the correlation of forces, protoplasm, and other knotty matters too numerous to mention.
The American volume comes well commended to the public. A gentleman high in the honors of scholarship, and the responsibilities of education, and who presides over our metropolitan university, has prepared a compact and telling introduction to Mr. Leifchild's volume, in which he assures us that it is a work that strips off disguises and goes to the core of things. His decisive views are put in a narrow compass, so that we are happily enabled to give them complete to the readers of the Monthly. If any should happen to think that the volume lacks point and incisiveness, they will find this quality eminently supplied in the chancellor's brief prologue. When, however, he calls for a thousand such books, we think he underestimates the potency of a smaller number, for certainly, before a score had made their appearance, "The Modern Huxleys," whose skins are so ruthlessly stripped off, would call upon their eternal protoplasmic firmament to fall upon them and hide them forever from the calamities to come.
The author of the performance before us is of a most conservative temper, and refrains from altering even by a hair's-breadth any of the questions he has undertaken to discuss. All the conflicts, confusions, and obscurities of the subject, are faithfully reflected in his pages. For the alleged stripping off of disguises and plucking out the core of things, we have sought in vain, our impression being that this is exactly what the author has avoided. The assiduity with which he leaves things as he finds them is remarkable, and this trait gives a special value to his treatment of the subject. What is denounced by many people, Mr. Leifchild denounces, and what is indorsed by many other people, Mr. Leifchild indorses, and, if it happen to be the same thing, that is none of his business. Mr. Lyell's views of species are quoted, and then it is naively stated that Mr. Lyell has abandoned them—with Mr. Lyell be all the responsibility. His book may therefore be taken as having some value in indicating the various drifts of public opinion. Mr. Herbert Spencer is freely denounced by certain parties as the prince of materialists and the arch-enemy of all religion, because he is the leading exponent of the doctrine of evolution, and Mr. Leifchild joins in the condemnation, and quotes President Porter, of Yale, exultingly as the great "Spencer-crusher." But there are others who maintain that the doctrine of evolution is not necessarily atheistic, or materialistic, or destructive of religion, and with these also Mr. Leifchild is in equal accord. Lest the readers of Chancellor Crosby's introduction should be puzzled at this statement, and perhaps a little skeptical about it, we quote the following passages from "The Great Problem:"
The author of this work is the highest authority in England—perhaps the highest in the world—upon the subject of which it treats. A gentleman of extensive means and a laborious student, he has taken up that "great division of Prehistoric Archæology which deals with the vestiges of man in the age of stone, and in the present volume we have the matured and comprehensive results of his inquiries. He has concentrated his main attention upon England, and given an exhaustive presentation of the evidence that has now been gathered, regarding the primitive state of the inhabitants of that island, when their implements of war and peace were chiefly constructed of flint. The volume is a valuable contribution to the obscure but interesting question of the antiquity of man, and the primeval conditions of his life. Mr. Evans is not a partisan, or a propagandist of any extreme views upon this subject, but deals with it simply as a scientific question, to be elucidated by the painstaking accumulation of the relics of antiquity which yet remain, and which are becoming more varied and abundant with increasing search and observation. He has figured in his pages about 800 objects—arrow-heads, daggers, knives, axes, hammers, adzes, picks, chisels, gouges, drills, scrapers, whetstones, stone-vessels, buttons, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and various other things—stating their locality and under what circumstances they were found. Great care has been taken with the illustrations, Mr. Evans having spared no expense in procuring the best artistic talent in order to secure the highest accuracy of representation. The book is valuable for the fidelity of its preparation, both in a scientific and artistic point of view, and, as it contains most of the information at present available with regard to the class of antiquities of which it treats, it will at once take eminent rank among treatises upon this branch of the natural history of man.
The necessity of the microscope to the naturalist and physician, and its wide employment as a means of recreation and study by the non-professional, have created a demand for something that shall serve as a guide in the delicate operations connected with its use. So far as the management of the instrument itself is concerned, this has been supplied in various treatises; but, with the exception of incidental directions, widely scattered, and therefore not readily accessible, we do not remember to have seen any thing recent that would help the student in the preparation and mounting of specimens. Yet this is by far the most difficult part of microscopic work, and, after the management of the instrument has been learned, the beginner not unfrequently breaks down, or becomes sorely discouraged in his attempts to prepare and mount his objects. But, if he fails to master this department, all opportunity for original research is precluded, and he is compelled to rely on the use of purchased slides, which, often got up merely "to sell," are not always to be depended on. His need is a set of clear and explicit directions in regard to all the important details of this part of the work, and this the book before us appears well designed to fill.
Beginning with the illustrated descriptions of all the necessary apparatus, and minute directions for its use, there follow very complete explanations of the various methods of mounting, with careful directions how to proceed in each; and after this the manner of preparing specimens for the purpose of mounting is very fully treated. How to collect, label, and temporarily preserve all sorts of objects intended for mounting is next considered; and then we come to the seventh and last chapter, which gives instructions how to proceed in the examination of organic and inorganic substances, with tests for adulterations—a branch of microscopic work of much practical importance.
The book closes with an appendix, containing some seventy-five receipts for preparations useful to the microscopist, and a short explanation of how to convert and correct microscopic measurements. It is also provided with a good index.
We have read Mr. Haweis's "Thoughts for the Times" with much interest, and believe it is destined to make a deep and wholesome impression upon many minds. Books of sermons are getting to be very different things from what they were formerly, and this is one of the improved kind—a book of broad, liberal, and decisive views, applied to practical questions. It is a work of the type of "Robertson's Sermons," fresh and breezy with the stir of living thought, strong in criticism, and thoroughly hospitable to modern ideas. Mr. Haweis does justice to those whom sermonizers generally delight to denounce, and in his search for truth he does not neglect its latest forms. Instead of sounding the alarm-bell, and proclaiming the peril of religion at every step in the onward course of Science, he denies the antagonism, and is in no dread that faith will be destroyed by any discoveries that can be made concerning the order of Nature. While the whole book is pervaded by independent thought, and by a devotional and reverent spirit, the sermons upon the "Idea of God" and the "Law of Progress" are especially significant and instructive.
No field of literature has been more cultivated, and yet with so little apparent success, as that of elementary text-books, and particularly is this the case in the department of science and technics. Every new effort in this direction is therefore fully deserving of all the encouragement which can conscientiously be extended to it. And we are sure that the little book on Qualitative Chemical Analysis by Messrs. Eliot and Storer deserves as full a measure of recommendation as the success of its first edition implies. It is a book especially adapted to the necessities of the beginner in this branch of chemical technics, and will leave him, if not inclined to pursue the subject into the higher details of analytical practice, with sufficient knowledge of the subject for the man of culture, or, if so inclined, will fit him to erect the edifice of his chemical education on a firm foundation of elementary knowledge.
The Gardener's Monthly.—The amateur in need of practical directions as to the laying out and tending of a garden, and the choice of plants, shrubs, etc., cannot do better than to subscribe for this exceedingly valuable little monthly. He will there always find, in the "Monthly Hints," just the information he is likely to want, coming precisely in season for him; while in the department of "Communications" he will have detailed in brief the experience of some of the most successful amateur and professional gardeners in the country. A glance at the headings of the various departments of this magazine will perhaps best show the ground it is intended to cover. Besides the two already mentioned, we have the following: Editorial, Scraps and Queries, Book Notices, New and Rare Plants, Fruits, etc., Foreign Correspondence, Horticultural Notes. Mr. Thomas Meehan is the editor; and, this said, there is no need of further commendation of the magazine. $2.00 per annum. Philadelphia: Published by Charles H. Marot, 814 Chestnut Street.
The Bee-Keeper's Magazine (H. A. King & Co., 14 Murray street, N.Y)., the initial number of which is out, presents a very creditable appearance, and will no doubt be favorably received by the special public to which it is addressed. It has a very interesting table of contents, and a handsome chromo frontispiece, "A Group of Honey Plants."
Annual Report of the Director of the Meteorological Observatory, Central Park, New York, 1871.
Reports on the Observations of Encke's Comet during its Return in 1871. By Asaph Hall and William Harkness. Washington: Government Printing-Office, 1872.
The Health and Wealth of the City of Wheeling, etc. By James E. Reeves, M. D. Baltimore, 1871.