Popular Science Monthly/Volume 3/September 1873/Literary Notices

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 3 September 1873  (1873) 
Literary Notices

Prehistoric Races of the United States of America. By J. W. Foster, LL.D. Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Co., 1873, pp. 415, price $5.00.

In briefly referring last month to the sudden and lamented death of Dr. Foster, we mentioned that he had just completed a new work on the prehistoric American races. A careful examination of the book has satisfied us that it is one of the most interesting and important contributions to American archæology that have yet appeared, and will take rank with the leading treatises upon the general subject by European archaeologists. We had thought of making some extracts from the volume, but it is so full of interest, from beginning to end, as to make selection perplexing, and were it not for the restraints of copyright we should be tempted to run the whole work through The Popular Science Monthly, as it contains just that kind of information, in clear, compressed, and intelligible form, which is adapted to the mass of readers. Although drawing upon various authentic sources for his facts, Dr. Foster was very far from being a mere compiler. He had an enthusiastic interest in the question, and pursued it by direct observation and extensive original inquiries. The author explains how he was attracted to the investigation, in the opening passage of his preface. He says: "In early manhood, when, for the first time, I gazed upon the works of that mysterious people known as the mound-builders, my mind received a class of impressions which subsequent years have failed to efface. These works are in the vicinity of Newark, Ohio; and, although not the most stupendous, are the most elaborate in the whole series. It was a bright summer's morning, and the sunlight, streaming through the opening of the dense canopy of foliage above, fell upon the ground in flickering patches. A slumberous silence filled the air; and I confess that, as I traced out the labyrinthine system of earthworks here dis- played, with its great circles and squares, its octagons, gate-ways, parallel roads, and tumuli, the whole spread over an area of several square miles, and as I speculated upon the purposes of their construction, and on the origin and extinction of the people by whom they were reared, I was profoundly impressed."

The first chapter of the work gives an excellent summary of the general argument on the antiquity of man, as illustrated by European evidences. The second chapter discusses the same question, on the basis of evidence furnished in the United States. Chapter III. opens the question of the mound-builders, and the geographical distribution of their works; and the fourth chapter treats of shell-banks and shell-heaps, and the character of the crania found associated with them. Chapters V., VI., and VII., amplify the discussion of the mound-builders, their enclosures, their arts and manufactures, and the character of their ancient mining. The cranial and anatomical characters of the mound-builders are dealt with in Chapter VIII., while Chapter IX. considers their manners and customs, on the basis of ethnic relations. The problem of the old American civilizations is here entered upon, preparatory to the question, "Who were the mound-builders?" considered in Chapter X. Chapter XI. summarizes the discussion of the unity of the human race; and Chapter XII. closes the work, by treating of chronometric measurements, as applied to the antiquity of man. The whole exposition is condensed into 400 pages, and the publishers have done their part, in the fine execution of the engravings, and the beautiful typography of the book.

Foods. By Edward Smith, M. D., LL. B., F. R. S. New York: Appletons, 1873, pp. 485, price $1.75.

When the editor of this periodical was in Europe, in 1871, arranging with authors to write for the International Scientific Series, he was assured, by good authority, that the ablest man in England to treat the subject of foods was Dr. Edward Smith. This gentleman had made important researches into the character and physiological effects of aliments, and his results were accepted among men of science as of great value. He was a Government Inspector of Dietaries, and had published several works upon Food and Diet. His services were secured for the undertaking, and the little treatise he has produced shows that the choice of a writer on this important subject was most fortunate, as the book is unquestionably the clearest and best-digested compend of the Science of Foods that has appeared in our language.

The excellent work of Pereira was published thirty years ago, and nothing better has been issued during the past generation; but the advances in our knowledge of the subject have been so great that it is now out of date, and is but rarely referred to Dr. Smith's book is not only scientific but practical: besides explaining the nature and properties of foods, as determined by the chemist, he shows how they are altered in taste and digestibility by the operations of the kitchen; and presents the information in so simple and intelligible a form, that it may be apprehended by everybody. Dr. Smith's "Foods" is emphatically a book for the people; not a mere receipt-book, although it contains many excellent directions for the preparation and use of aliments, but a summary of facts and principles for those who desire to understand the subject. His classification is simple and comprehensive. The term foods, as he uses it, embraces all forms of matter that are introduced into the living system to carry on the vital processes, and his leading divisions are into solid foods, liquid foods, and gaseous foods. Part I., treating of solid foods, takes up first animal foods, which are grouped as nitrogenous and non-nitrogenous, and the vegetable foods are then considered under the same groups. Part II. treats of liquids—water, milk, tea, coffee, and the various beverages, including alcohols. Part III. treats of atmospheric air, from the alimentary point of view. As it costs nothing, requires no cooking, and is not passed into the stomach for digestion, air is not generally included among foods; but, as it is more necessary to the vital processes than any other substance, and is honored with a special channel for introduction into the system, and is liable to such variation of quality as profoundly to affect the health, its treatment was necessary to give completeness to the plan of the work, and no portion of it will be found more interesting or important than this. Dr. Smith has enriched his volume by a series of graphical diagrams, which present to the eye the effect of various alimentary substances upon the pulse and respiration. This method of physiological illustration is of great value, and has been long in use among scientific men, as it brings into pictorial view, so as to be quickly comprehended and easily remembered, the results of long trains of investigation. This is the first time that the graphic method of illustration has been applied to this subject, for purposes of popular instruction. A little careful attention will be required at first, to get familiar with the mode of illustration, but for this the result will be found amply compensating.


Arrangements have been made for the translation of the International Scientific Series into the Russian language, and the works are all to be published in St. Petersburg. Negotiations are also pending for the reproduction of the series in the Italian language. When this is done, each author will be read in six countries, and have payment for his book from six publishers. The works of Prof. Bain on "Mind and Body;" of Dr. Pettigrew, on "Animal Locomotion;" of Balfour Stewart, on "The Conservation of Energy;" of Prof. Marey, on "The Animal Machine;" of Herbert Spencer, on "The Study of Sociology;" of Prof. Amos, on "The Science of Law;" and of Dr. Carpenter, on "Mental Physiology," are now all in press, and will be soon issued, and are to be rapidly followed by other English, German, French, and American works, now in course of preparation.

Second Book of Botany; a Practical Guide to the Observation and Study of Plants. By Eliza A. Youmans. Pp. 310, 422 cuts. Price $1.50. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

This volume is a continuation of the method adopted by Miss Youmans in the "First Book of Botany," published three years ago; and its peculiarity is that it enforces the direct and systematic study of plants themselves. Her object is to make the study of Nature a means of mental cultivation—an end which can only be gained by familiarity with the objects of Nature, and for this our schools, as at present managed, make no suitable preparation. In her Introduction Miss Youmans says: "Our plan of general education includes not a single subject that can secure the mental advantages arising from the direct and systematic study of Nature. We do a great deal in the way of 'mental discipline,' but the order and truth of things around us are not allowed to contribute to it. We train the faculty of calculation and drill the memory in lesson-learning; but the realities of Nature find no place in our schools, as means of mental unfolding, for training in observation, and for working the higher faculties of reason and judgment, upon natural things. In short, for calling out the more important powers of the mind by actual exercise upon the objects of surrounding experience, our educational system makes no provision whatever. Neither reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, nor geography, brings the mind into contact with Nature at all; and even the sciences of physics, chemistry, physiology, and botany, are usually acquired from books, and with so little regard to the real objects of which they treat, that, as means of mental improvement, they are of very slight service."

Believing that botany has special and preëminent claims to be introduced into all schools, as a means of training the faculties of observation and reason upon actual phenomena, Miss Youmans has shaped her method entirely to the attainment of this end. She holds that "like arithmetic, botany is only to be acquired by first mastering its rudiments. And as in arithmetic the student is compelled to exercise his mind directly upon numbers, and work out problems for himself, so in botany, if worth pursuing at all, it should be studied in its actual objects. The characters of plants must become familiarly known by the detailed and repeated examination and accurate description of large numbers of specimens. The pupil must proceed step by step in this preliminary work, digesting his observations, and making the facts bis own, until he becomes intelligent in regard to the common varieties of plant-forms and structures. It is because the text-books of botany hitherto in use fail to provide for and to enforce this thoroughness of introductory study of the characters of plants—fail in the very groundwork of the subject—that the present plan of study has been prepared."

Miss Youmans's books, therefore, bear the same relation to the vegetable kingdom that an art-gallery "guide" bears to a collection of pictures: in connection with them it is valuable and important; apart from them, of little use. To those who wish to read botany, or to acquire it by the usual method of lesson-learning, her books will be of small service; but, to such as desire to know the science itself in its facts and principles at first hand, and to become so intelligent in regard to vegetable forms that they can read them as they walk in the fields, like printed pages, the method of study that she has arranged will be invaluable. The object that she wishes to secure being mainly educational—the cultivation of independent observation and reason, as applied to objects of experience she insists that the study must be commenced early, while the childish mind is in its perceptive stage and peculiarly alive to external things. The First Book is therefore adapted to young children and beginners, and deals only with those readily-observed characters of plants which can be examined with the naked eye. The Second Book begins where the First left off, and goes more thoroughly into the work; the use of magnifying-glasses and microscopes is now commenced, and observation becomes careful and complete. The schedule system is carried out in its application to the flower, and "the pupil is introduced to the leading principles by which plants are arranged, and set to making groups of those that most nearly resemble each other in important characters. He is here called upon to do his own thinking, and to form opinions as to the amount of resemblance between different plants. He has to decide whether a certain group of characters presented by this specimen is most like one or another group presented by other plants, and this leads on to the comparison and estimate of the relations of different groups with each other. It is thus that the discipline of the judgment and reason begins to be secured at an early stage of the study, and is continued with more and more completeness as it goes on."

A great deal is said by thoughtful educators about the need of the more direct and thorough study of Nature, but the difficulty has hitherto been, how to make it generally possible and practicable. These little Books of Botany show how it may be done, and provide for the doing of it. "They are guides to self-education, and are adapted for use in school or out, by teachers and mothers, whether they know any thing of the subject or not, and by pupils without any assistance at all." They set the pupil to work, guide him in his course, and bring him face to face continually with difficulties which it will require the exercise of independent judgment to deal with. Mistakes will of course be made, and effort will be necessary to correct them, but this is the sole condition on which the judgment of things is to be educated. The value of the study of natural history classifications as a means of higher mental discipline—not in books, but in the objects themselves which illustrate them—has been long recognized, and botany unquestionably affords the best facilities for obtaining it. Upon this point Miss Youmans remarks: "Its discipline is corrective of the most common defects of education, and is eminently applicable in forming judgments upon the ordinary affairs of life. Carelessness in observation, looseness in the application of words, hasty inferences from partial data, and lack of method in the contents of the mind, are common faults even among the cultivated, and it is precisely these faults that the study of botanical science, by the method here proposed, is calculated to remedy. That the habit of systematic arrangement, in which the study of botanical classification affords so admirable a training, is equally valuable in methodizing all the results of thought, is testified to by one of the most intellectual and influential men of our time, Mr.John Stuart Mill. He was a regular field botanist, and cultivated the subject with a view to its important mental advantages; and his great work on logic took a form which could not have been given it if the author had not been a working naturalist as well as a logician. In the second volume of his "System of Logic" Mr. Mill says:

"Although the scientific arrangements of organic Nature afford as yet the only complete example of the true principles of rational classification, whether as to the formation of groups or of series, these principles are applicable to all cases in which mankind are called upon to bring the various parts of any extensive subject into mental coordination. They are as much to the point when subjects are to be classed for purposes of art or business, as for those of science. The proper arrangement, for example, of a code of laws, depends on the same scientific conditions as the classifications in natural history; nor could there be a better preparatory discipline for that important function than the study of the principles of a natural arrangement, not only in the abstract, but in their actual application to the class of phenomena for which they were first elaborated, and which are still the best school for learning their use."
The Sanitarian. A Monthly Journal, edited by A. N. Bell, M. D. New York: A. S. Barnes & Co. $3.00 per annum.

The sanitary question is now uppermost in the public mind, and it is gratifying to see that the discussion of it is not going to be kept as a "mystery" in the medical profession. Every human being is concerned in this matter; and, if sanitary science has any suggestions to make, they must be made directly to the people themselves. This is what the periodical before us aims to do, and this it is doing well. The paper in the August number on the ventilation of the public schools of this city ought to be printed separately and placed in the hands of all the commissioners, trustees, inspectors, superintendents, and other officers connected with the schools not excepting the janitors. The same number contains also the following articles: Cholera stamped out; Animal Refuse of Large Cities; Defective Drainage; Action of Tea on the Human System; Cholera; Morbid Effects of Alcohol; the Public Health; Editor's Table; Book Notices.