Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/June 1882/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table||Popular Science Monthly Volume 21 June 1882 (1882)
Though an opportune and much-needed book upon a subject that is exciting wide attention in the higher circles of inquiry, yet this treatise is of a much graver character than its title might imply to those familiar with current mythic literature. It is not a book of old fairy tales nor of the mythological legends of different peoples, but it is a compact disquisition on the origin and nature of the common mythical element manifested by all grades of intelligence. It is a philosophical essay, and some critics declare it to be as hard as metaphysics, which is saying a good deal, because the book is far more interesting than metaphysics.
A leading element of interest in this volume comes from the point of view taken by the author in the investigation. He assumes evolution without any reserve, and declares that "it is evident, at least to those who do not cling absolutely to old traditions, that man is evolved from the animal kingdom." It is true that Mr. Max Müller, the grammarian of mythical romance, not long ago republished his prophecy that "the idea of a humanity emerging slowly from the depths of animal brutality can never be maintained again in our century." But it certainly does not look much as if the doctrine were at present thus discredited. Mr. Darwin, its great apostle, was yesterday entombed in Westminster Abbey with the singing of an anthem composed expressly for the occasion, in the presence of the best talent of the country and a formal deputation from the University of Oxford and representatives from learned societies, the import of the whole being that "Darwin's work was at length claimed by the nation as its own," while, by the verdict of Europe, the author of the "Descent of Man" was pronounced to be the greatest scientist of his age. At any rate, Mr. Vignoli has the science of the world and probably the truth of the case on his side. But, if man was developed from the lower animals, he has derived his psychical faculties, as well as his bodily organism, from his inferior ancestors; and, although he has left them by a wide gap, they are still parts of a series with so much remaining in common that the higher can only be interpreted in derivative connection with the lower. On this view the mythical element, as considered by our author, begins with the lower animals, and comparative psychology is appealed to, with many special experiments, to show that animals endow the objects around them with a consciousness like their own. Man, in his early stages, does a similar thing by "animating" the forces and objects of nature, and filling the world with mythical personalities. This process goes on, according to Mr. Vignoli, with the advance of intelligence, so that science, instead of ending myths, only modifies them. Man "personifies all phenomena, first vaguely projecting himself into them, and then exercising a distinct purpose of anthropomorphism until, in this way, he has gradually modified the world according to his own image."
In his opening chapter on the ideas and sources of myths, Mr. Vignoli thus presents the point of view from which he considers the subject:
We must, therefore, seek to discover whether, in addition to the various causes assigned for myth in earlier ages, and still more in modern times, by our great philologists, ethnologists, and philosophers of every school—causes which are for the most part extrinsic there be not a reason more deeply seated in our nature, which is first manifested as a necessary and spontaneous function of the intelligence, and which is, therefore, intrinsic and inevitable.
In this case myth will appear to us, not as an accident in the life of primitive peoples varying in intensity and extent, not as a vague conception of things due to the erroneous interpretation of words and phrases, nor again as the fanciful creation of ignorant minds; but it will appear to be a special faculty of the human mind, inspired by emotions Which accompany and animate its products. Since this innate faculty of myth is indigenous and common to all men, it will not only be the portion of all peoples, but of each individual in every age, in every race, whatever may be their respective condition.Myth, therefore, will not be resolved by us into a manifestation of an obsolete age, or of peoples still in a barbarous and savage state, nor as part of the cycle through which nations and individuals have respectively passed or have nearly passed; but it remains to this day; in spite of the prevailing civilization which has greatly increased and is still increasing, it still persists as a mode of physical and intellectual force in the organic elements which constitute it.
Verily, verily, if the children of this generation do not grow wise in science, it will not be for lack of elementary books for the purpose. "Rudimentary Lessons," "Elementary Lessons," "Simple Lessons," "Easy Lessons," and "Primers" innumerable, separate and in groups, edited by one book-maker and written by others, are already multiplied on every hand, and are increasing more rapidly than ever. They must be purchased, or they would not continue to be made; and, if purchased, they are probably read and used—so that, on the whole, we may assume that the result is good. But one thing is certain—the excellence of these books is in no relation to their numbers, nor is it easy to discern much if any improvement in the successive series. They are all lesson-books with abundant pictures to be learned in the old-fashioned way in the school-room. There is some effort at cheapening the means of experiment for scientific illustration, and, in so far as this promotes demonstration, the effect is undoubtedly beneficial. But these little manuals generally display but a very limited acquaintance with the minds of the young, and they are all conformed to the common type of books of information to be obtained by the regular old process of reading and lesson-learning.
The two volumes before us on "Light" and "Heat" are of the usual character. The name of Professor Barrett as editor may be taken as a guarantee that the volumes are accurate in their statements, but we see no evidence that the editorship goes any further. They seem to be ordinary text-books merely reduced in dimensions. Good teachers might use them, we think, with good effect, but good teachers are few, and the best teachers are independent of their books. On the other hand, bad teachers are innumerable—they are the rule, and the real question about primary books is how they work in the hands of incompetent teachers. The best books in these circumstances are those that favor the self-education of the pupil, and release him from the over-meddling of stupid instructors. The books before us, it is needless to say, are not of that order.
Since the first synthesis of an organic body, urea, was made by Wöhler in 1828, say the authors of this treatise, vital force has been regarded as the result of chemical and physical processes. This has been accepted as satisfactory till the present time, notwithstanding it has been necessary to admit, on a closer consideration, that a clearer definition of the chemical activity by which living protoplasm is governed would be hailed as a very desirable step of progress. The idea that there was a chemical difference between dead and living protoplasm never found expression till 1875, and nearly all physiologists still hold the view that a complete chemical identity exists between them, notwithstanding that it would be hardly possible to explain the cause of life if this were the case. E. Pflüger was the first to assert, in 18*75, in a paper on physiological combustion in living organisms, that a chemical difference must necessarily exist between living and dead protoplasm. One of the authors of this treatise, in verifying an hypothesis he has proposed on the formation of albumen, met with a number of unaltered Aldehyde groups which stood in close relations with the Amidon groups, and immediately conceived the idea that the source of the vital movement in protoplasm was to be sought in the Aldehyde groups with their intense atomic movements, and the origin of death in the passage of the Aldehyde groups into Amidon groups. Shortly afterward both the authors succeeded in demonstrating the real existence of Aldehyde groups in living plasma. The present monograph gives a full and connected account of their experiments, and of the verifications of them.
The present monograph is a part of a series on "The History and Present Condition of the Fishery Industries," which is in course of publication under the direction of the United States Fish Commission, in connection with the census. The arrangement of the main part of the work is geographical, beginning with the maritime provinces of Canada, and passing, with copious accounts of the culture and trade in oysters at all important points on the Atlantic coast, to the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast. Chapters follow on the utilization of oyster-shells, and the natural history of the oyster, with notices of the fatalities to which it is subjected. "An Oysterman's Dictionary " offers an entertaining as well as informing collection of phrases and words descriptive of mollusks and other invertebrates of the Atlantic coast. Statistical tables are given in the final chapter.
The fur-seal was very often mentioned in the discussions that took place during the negotiations for the acquisition of Alaska, but very little was known of it, and it was hardly represented in the best zoological collections. The author of this monograph became interested in the subject, and in 1872, by the joint action of the Secretary of the Treasury and Professor Baird, was enabled to visit the Pribylov Islands and study the life and habits of the animals. The notes, surveys, and hypotheses here presented are founded on his personal observations in the seal-rookeries of St. Paul and St. George, during the seasons of 1872, 1873, 1874, and 1876. They "were obtained through long days and nights of consecutive observation, from the beginning to the close of each seal season," and cover, by actual surveys, the entire ground occupied by these animals.
The question, "What constitutes the area of the United States?" is by no means a simple one, but involves other questions of including or leaving out inlets, and the measurement of numerous gores. For the purpose of this work the main area was procured by summing up the square degrees, and the areas of the fractions of square degrees were computed after direct measurement, with scales on the maps of the Coast, Lake, and Mexican Boundary Commission surveys. The whole contour of the country is thus given by surveys whose accuracy is unquestioned, except as to the part between the Lake of the Woods and Lake Superior, and a part of the eastern boundary of Maine, of which exact surveys have not been made. The same principles were observed in computing the areas of States and counties, where, however, boundary surveys are often not so accurate as they should be.
This statistical statement is offered in advance of the author's report on the production of the precious metals, of which it will form the concluding chapter, on account of its immediate interest to legislators, financiers, and metallists. It consists almost wholly of statistics, presented in a full and clear manner.
The Signal Service continues to manifest its value, particularly in the meteorological department. The present officer, General Hazen, has endeavored to bring it into active sympathy and co-operation with men of science; and it enjoys the assistance of an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The work of the year has been marked by advance in nearly every department, among the evidences of which we notice the establishment of a permanent school of instruction at Fort Myer, Virginia; the extension of forecasts to periods of more than twenty-four hours; the forecasts of "northers" for the interior plateau; the extension of the special frost-warning to the fruit interests; the organization of a service for the special benefit of the cotton interest; arrangements for original investigation in atmospheric electricity, in anemometry and in actinometry; and in the last subject, especially with reference to the importance of solar radiation in agriculture, and the absorption of the sun's heat by the atmosphere; the publication of special professional papers; the offering of prizes for essays on meteorological subjects; the organization of State weather services; co-operation in work in the Arctic regions; arrangements for organizing a Pacific coast weather service; and a large increase of telegraphic weather service, without additional expense to the United States. The popular confidence and support of the bureau, General Hazen says, have never been impaired, and the scope of its usefulness increases with each year.
This work and Professor George F. Becker's "Digest" of the investigations of "Atomic Weight Determinations, published since 1814," which forms Part IV of the series of "Constants," are complementary to each other. Professor Clarke began his investigations in 1877, for the purpose of revising the determinations of the atomic weights of all the elements. lie does not claim that any of the results he has reached are final, but admits that each one of them is liable to repeated corrections. The real value of the work, he believes, lies in another direction; the data have been brought together and reduced to a common standard, and the probable error has been determined for each series of figures. Thus the ground is cleared, in a measure, for future experimenters.
We are glad to see such a book by such an author from such a place. A lady engaged in teaching practical chemistry in an institute of technology, and applying her science to the art of improving domestic life, affords an example of the fitness of things which is seen much too rarely. To the eye of a stupid public opinion, cooking and cleaning are very vulgar things—the operations of menials and scullions. But to the eye of science they are most interesting processes, tasking thought to master them, giving pleasure in understanding them, and valuable benefit in applying them. To the eye of ignorance, however cultivated, there is nothing about cooking and cleaning that is worthy of respect, and they are therefore left to the incompetent, who give us bad work; but, if they were better understood, practice would be improved, and we should have more wholesome cookery and more perfect cleanliness.
Mrs. Richards's neat little brochure is a contribution to domestic education which, though too slight, will be well appreciated. It is not an attempt to compress a great deal of information in a small compass, but to make the subject clear as far as it is treated. Her "Chemistry of Cooking" is at the same time a course of brief lessons in chemistry; that is, enough of the science is thoroughly explained to make its applications intelligible. We cordially commend it as an excellent beginning in a direction that must in future be more carefully and thoroughly pursued.
The work of the year covered by this report consisted chiefly of the arrangement for the museum of the crystalline rocks gathered during the previous seasons in the northern part of the State, including the cupriferous series; determinations in paleontology; examinations of building-stones; the study of the hydrology and water powers; field work in the southwestern part of the State; and the examination of the "Lake region" of the center, with reference to hydrology and the distribution of forest trees.
The authors have taken advantage of the revelations which the recent International Electrical Exposition at Paris afforded of the extent to which electrical force has been developed as a working power, and the variety of purposes to which it has been practically applied, to prepare this elegant work, showing what has been done in that direction, when, and how. The large mass of material which they had to dispose of has been divided among six books, in the first of which is reviewed the history of artificial illumination, and the different phases through which it has passed from the dimly tempered darkness of the ancients, with their rude oil-lamps, through the stages of tallow, sperm, and stearine candles, and the improved lamps of modern days, to the beginnings of the electric light. The second book treats of voltaic or arc lights, the manner in which the arc is produced, the fabrication of the carbons, and the mechanism of the regulating apparatus, and furnishes descriptions of the different lights of this class. The third book is devoted to incandescent lamps, and includes descriptions of the Edison, Swann, Lane Fox, and Maxim lamps. In the fourth book the different kinds of apparatus for generating the electric current, and in the fifth book the several systems for securing its distribution and division, are described; and the sixth book comprises accounts of the applications that have been made of the electric light in light-houses, war, navigation, in industry, the arts, and commerce, its installation in mines and excavations, railroad-stations, warehouses, and even in agricultural operations. All of these accounts are profusely illustrated with clear representations of the machinery and apparatus described, with a few landscapes electrically lighted. The authors have also given much information concerning the cost of establishing and maintaining the electric light for these several purposes. The work is thus not only one to be read, but also one that may be profitably consulted for practical purposes.
This pamphlet embodies the results of an inquiry which the author has made into the relations of the two moneys to each other, and into the utility of gold, silver, and paper as materials for money. He concludes that gold is the sole money of commerce, and will continue to be so as long as present commercial customs continue, but that the demand within the several States for paper or silver tokens for use in internal business is sufficient to absorb all the silver, and raise it to its coin value in gold, and keep it there. Silver, if its use for such a purpose should become general in the states of Europe and America, might thus eventually gain a recognized place as money in commerce, but not otherwise; while, under existing circumstances, "silver or any other metal could not be coined at its commercial value in gold without subjecting the coinage to frequent changes."
We noticed several months ago some volumes of a series of small hand-books published under the supervision of the Boston Society of Natural History, which were designed as aids to teachers wishing to instruct their pupils in branches of that department, but not to be used as text-books. We notice in addition to the works we then named the two whose titles stand at the head of this article. The manual on mollusks is fully illustrated with excellent plates, and Mr. Hyatt is strong in insisting that teachers can not use any text-book as a basis of good instruction, but must lead children to see for themselves. The system of classification set forth in Mr. Crosby's book on minerals is practically illustrated and exemplified in the arrangement of collections in the museum of the society.
Mr. Sewall regards ethics as appertaining to the will rather than to the intellect; and suggests that it may be considered as a kind of moral æsthetics, or "æsthetics on the moral plane," and defined as a science of taste that treats of the will of man as subject to sensations of pleasure and of pain from moral objects presented to it, and capable of being affected and modified by them. The object of moral education is to adapt man to the moral law of the universe, which, assuming that it is real, may be expressed as the law of use, or of service, "but the law of mutual service, not the service of self." The author has no confidence in intellectual culture as an element of moral progress.
The papers of most general interest in the former of these two volumes are the notice of the death of Dr. Thomas M. Brewer, by President Bouvé; and the review of Professor Brewer's scientific labors, by Mr. J. A. Allen. The other volume contains notices of Mr. Bouvé's withdrawal from the presidency of the society, and of the deaths of Dr. C. T. Jackson, Count Pourtales, Mr. L. S. Burbank, and Mr. George D. Smith. Many of the special papers, which concern a wide variety of subjects in natural history, geology, physics, and archæology, have been noticed from time to time in "The Popular Science Monthly." Mr. S. H. Scudder, the new president of the society, defines its aim in his inaugural address as distinctively educational; and with this view it restricts its museum to the collection and exhibition of such objects as can be put directly to public use; furnishes direct instruction by lectures, lesson and guide books, to those who have in charge the education of youth; and is working for the introduction and retention of the study of nature in the public schools.
This little volume has been added to Dr. Granville's excellent series of small books on the mental phases of personal hygiene. They are all devoted to the conditions of mental health, and to the care of the mind under the strain and exposure of neglect, overwork, bad habits, etc. The present volume is full of miscellaneous suggestions and practical precautions in the conduct of every-day life that, if followed, will be certain to guard against trouble and increase the enjoyment of health. Dr. Granville has improved the literary form of his work as he went on, so that this last part is written in a clearer and simpler style than those which preceded it.
The report includes the facts gathered by the State Board of Health respecting the prevalence of diphtheria in the State of Minnesota during two years, from November, 18*78, to November, 1880. It embodies the substance of replies received from the several counties of the State in answer to inquiries sent out by the board respecting the prevalence or non-prevalence of the disease, its forms and degree of malignancy, the apparent causes and means of propagation (with express attention to the relations of the disease to water-supply and sanitary surroundings), and the means employed for its prevention. The facts collected, which are given as they were sent up, form a mass of valuable material to aid in the study of the malady. By this study the board say in the report: "We have been able to confirm many points of doctrine now generally understood concerning this disease, and, by observing its behavior on our soil, in our climate, and among the people of the various nationalities of our State, we have been able to arrive at some conclusions as to the kind of sanitary work demanded." These conclusions are given, and are not essentially different from those that have been agreed upon by sanitarians generally.
This little work presents a view of the subject adapted to popular comprehension, with arguments against the use of tobacco based chiefly on economical, hygienic, and moral grounds, which are designed to reach the public.
By the "temple" the author typifies the soul of man, which has been cast into ruins by sin, and is rebuilt on the hew foundation of the plan of salvation as laid down by Christ, by the Christian virtues and graces serving as builders, and using prayer and good works as their implements.
A volume of "Van Nostrand's Science Series." It has been called out by the public interest in the growth of the Edison and other systems for maintaining a steady electric light of low intensity. Besides the paper of Compte du Moncel and the address of Mr. Preece, which give the title to the book, the volume contains articles on "The Economy of the Electric Light by Incandescence," by John W. Howell, and on "The Steadiness of the Electric Current," by C. W. Siemens.
The Wings of Pterodactyls. By Professor O. C. Marsh. Pp. 16. With Plates,
Nature the One and Only Deity; and Humanity in its Entirety, in all its Stages of Being, Nature's Highest Expression. By John Franklin Clark. Boston: Colby & Rich. Pp. 16.
Contributions to the Chemical Laboratory of Harvard College. By Henry B. Hill. Pp. 32.
The Daggatouns, a Tribe of Jewish Origin in the Desert of Sahara: A Review. By Henry Samuel Morais. Philadelphia: Edward Stern & Co. Pp. 14.
Consumption: Is it a Contagions Disease? What can be done to prevent its Ravages? By Bela Cogshall, M. D. Flint, Michigan. Pp. 12.
The Importance of introducing the Study of Hygiene into the Public and other Schools. By Stanford E. Chaille, M. D., Professor of Physiology, etc., University of Louisiana. New Orleans. Pp. 20.
Annual Report of the Board of Health of the State of Louisiana to the General Assembly, for the Year 1881. New Orleans. Pp. 427.
Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Animals: A Lecture. By Professor O. V. Riley. Washington: Judd & Detweiler. Pp. 82. 10 cents.
State Education. By Charles S. Bryant, A. M. Pp. 16.
On Some Hegelisms. By William James. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pp. 24.
Notes of Work by Students of Practical Chemistry in the Laboratory of the University of Virginia. No. X. Communicated by J. W. Mallet. London. Pp. 15.
Transactions of the Seismological Society of Japan. Vol. II. July to December, 1880. Tokio: "Japan Mail" Office. Pp. 103. With Charts.
Journal of the American Chemical Society. Vol. III. New York: Lehmaier & Bro., printers, 95 & 97 Fulton Street. Pp. 110.
A Study of the Various Sources of Sugar. By Lewis S. Ware, Member of the American Chemical Society, etc. Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird & Co. Pp. 66. 50 cents.
Bacilus Anthracis. By George M. Sternberg, Surgeon, United States Army. New York: Thompson & Moreau, 51 & 53 Maiden Lane. Pp. 4. With Plate.
Experiments with Disinfectants. By George M. Sternberg, Surgeon, United States Army. Pp. 12.
A Contribution to the Study of the Bacterial Organisms commonly found upon Exposed Mucous Surfaces, and in the Alimentary Canal of Healthy Individuals. By George M. Sternberg, Surgeon, United States Army. Pp. 24. With Three Photo micrographic Plates.
The Silk-Worm: Being a Brief Manual of Instructions for the Production of Silk. By C. V. Riley, M.A. Ph. D. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 37. Illustrated.
Guide to the Flora of Washington and Vicinity. Washington: United States National Museum. Pp. 264. With Map.
Civilization in its Relation to the Decay of the Teeth. By Norman W. Kingsley, M.D.S., D.D.S. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 10.
Geologie des Eiseus (Geology of Iron). By E. Reyer. Vienna, Austria. Pp. 19.
Some Remarks on the Tastes and Odors of Surface Waters. By William Ripley Nichols. Boston: Society of Civil Engineers. Pp. 16.
Utah and its People: Facts and Statistics bearing on the "Mormon Problem." By a Gentile. New York: R. O. Ferrier & Co., 62 Vesey Street. Pp. 48.
Natural Filtration at Berlin. By William Ripley Nichols. Boston. Pp. 8.
History and Causes of the Incorrect Latitudes as recorded in the Journals of the Early Writers, Navigators, and Explorers, relating to the Atlantic Coast of North America, 1535-1740. By the Rev. Edmund F. Slafter. A.M. Boston: Privately printed. Pp. 20.
Intermittent Spinal Paralysis of Malarial Origin. By V. P. Gibney, A. M., M. D. New York: B. Westermann & Co. Pp. 20.
Annual Report of the Connecticut Agricultural-Experiment Station for 1881. New Haven, Connecticut: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor. Pp. 122.
Proceedings of Meetings held February 1, 1882, at New York and London, to express Sympathy with the Oppressed Jews in Russia. New York: Industrial School of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. Pp. 50.
The Orthoëpist. By Alfred Ayres. Twelfth edition, revised and enlarged. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1882. Pp. 208. $1.00.
The Ventilation of Coal-Mines. By W. Fairley, M. E. New York: D. Van Nostrand. 1882. Pp. 95. 50 cents.
The Student's Guide in Quantitative Analysis. By H. Carrington Bolton, Ph. D. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1882. Pp. 127. Illustrated.
The Medical Adviser in Life Assurance. By Edward H. Sieveking, M. D. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston, Son & Co. 1882. Pp. 196. $2.
Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1881. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1881. Pp. 428.
Consular Reports, Nos. 1, 2, and 3. 1880 and 1881. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1881. Pp. 600.
Comparative New Testament; Old and New Versions, arranged in Parallel Columns. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates. 1882. Pp. 690.
Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains. By G. K. Gilbert. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1880. Second edition. Pp. 170. Illustrated.