Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/December 1890/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 38 December 1890  (1890) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Philosophy at Harvard. — The courses of study in philosophy that are offered to students by Harvard University for the year 1890-'91 number seventeen. In the elementary courses, students attend one, two, or three lectures or recitations a week, as the case may be. Advanced students carry on their studies mostly by themselves, meeting for a conference with the professor once a week. The facilities for philosophical study at Harvard have about doubled within the last ten years. In 1880-'81 there were ten courses in philosophy for undergraduates and graduates, two of which were given only in alternate years, the instructors being Prof. Bowen, and Asst. Profs. Palmer and James. These dealt with logic, psychology, ethics, contemporary philosophy, earlier English, French, and German philosophy, German philosophy of the present day, and the history of philosophy. Courses covering substantially the same ground are given now, besides which four courses given in the Divinity School, on the philosophy of religion, are open to general students of philosophy, and there have been added a course on Greek philosophy and three which deal with modern thought and modern problems. One of these last is called Cosmology: a Discussion of the Principal Problems of the Philosophy of Nature, with Special Reference to the Doctrine of Evolution, and embraces lectures by the professor and the writing of theses by the students. For the current year three theses upon assigned topics will be required, and are to be based upon the private reading of Herbert Spencer's First Principles, and of Le Conte's Evolution in its Relations to Religious Thought, and other reading to be announced. Another of the newer courses deals with the ethics of the social questions — charity, divorce, the Indians, temperance, and the various phases of the labor question. The mode of study includes lectures, essays, and practical observations. There are also three "seminaries" for advanced students — a psychological, a metaphysical, and an ethical — and guidance will be furnished to students who wish to take up individual investigations of questions in ethics. In the psychological seminary the subject for the current year is Pleasure and Pain, and it will be studied by means of lectures, essays, and laboratory work. The present officers of the Philosophical De- partment are Profs. G. H. Palmer, A. M., C. C. Everett, D. D., William James, M. D., and P. G. Peabody, D. D., Asst. Prof. Josiah Royce, Ph. D., and George Santayana, Ph. D., instructor.

The Founder of Inebriate Asylums. A sketch of the late Dr. J. Edward Turner, founder of the first inebriate asylum in the world, has been published by T. D. Crothers, M. D., in The Quarterly Journal of Inebriety. Dr. Turner was born in Maine, in 1822, and had his mind turned to the subject of his life work by being called upcn to take care of an inebriate uncle at intervals of several months, during his student life and after he began to practice medicine. When he first mentioned his idea of an asylum, where such cases could be secluded, housed, and treated, it was received with derision and contempt. He went to Europe in 1S43, and spent two years visiting hospitals and asylums, and dis- cussing his ideas with medical men. On his return he began the systematic collection of facts concerning inebriety. About this time Drs. Valentine Mott aud John W. Francis be- came interested in his plan for an asylum, and continued all their lives to be his warm- est friends. There was much bitter opposi- tion to the idea of treating drunkenness as a disease, and still more indifference to the matter, so that Dr. Turner made but slow headway. In 1848-'49 he made a second visit to Europe. After his return he began to solicit subscriptions to the stock of a company to build an inebriate asylum. A charter was obtained from the State of New York, and finally, in 1858, ground was broken at Binghamton for a build- ing planned by Dr. Turner, and the erec- tion of which he personally superintended. By persistent petitioning he obtained from the New York Legislature a grant of one tenth of the money obtained each year from liquor licenses, for the building and main- tenance of the asylum. In 1S62 Dr. Turner married. The building had progressed far enough in 1864 to open it for patients, and a number of inebriates were admitted. At this point success seemed to have crowned the efforts of the founder. He had won

��over public opinion to his side, and the most active interest was being manifested all over the State in the work. But trouble arose over the mode of treatment. Dr. Turner's system was military in its strictness, his first principle being, that the asylum officers should have full control of the patient, and that this control should extend over a long time, and not be governed by the will of the patient or his non-expert friends. An un- scrupulous, money-getting lawyer in the board of directors, and a weak president of the board, caused a division, which was fol- lowed by persecution of Dr. Turner, and his resignation as superintendent in 1867. The asylum was then sold to the State for a nominal consideration, and thirteen years later was changed to an insane hospital, being known now as the New York State In- sane Asylum at Binghamton. The trans- fer was not legally made, and Dr. Turner be- gan a suit for possession of the property, which was never carried to an issue. Dr. Turner then undertook to raise subscriptions for a woman's hospital for inebriates and opium-eaters. After three years, the sub- scriptions in money and materials had reached a great amount, ground had been broken for a building, when the Legislature of Connecticut crushed the scheme by re- pealing the charter previously granted. For the next two years after this discouraging defeat Dr. Turner occupied himself with writing a book called the History of the First Inebriate Asylum in the World, which was a general account of his forty years' efforts. He then started out to sell the work, and to solicit aid to push his suit for the Binghamton asylum, and was busied thus when he died, July 24, 1S89. Dr. Turner's career was a striking example of over- whelming defeat for the individual joined with signal triumph for his idea. Inebriety is being more widely recognized as a disease each year. There are to-day over one hun- dred inebriate asylums in the world, all the direct result of his efforts in founding the first one at Binghamton.

Origin of American Public Museums. The first chapter in the history of American museums, says Dr. G. Brown Goode, in his lecture on museums, is short. In the early years of the republic, the establishment of POPULAR MISCELLANY.

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��such institutions by city, State, or Federal Government would not have been considered a legitimate act. When the General Govern- ment came into the possession of extensive collections as the result of the Wilkes Ex- ploring Expedition in 1S42, they were placed in charge of a private organization, the Na- tional Institution, and later, together with other similar materials, in that of a corpora- tion, the Smithsonian Institution, which was for a long period of years obliged to pay largely for their care out of its income from a private endowment. It was not until 18*76 that the existence of a National Museum, as such, was definitely recognized in the pro- ceedings of Congresss, and its financial sup- port fully provided for. In early days our principal cities had each a public museum, founded and supported by private enter- prise. The earliest general collection was that formed at Nonvalk, Conn., prior to the Revolution, by a man named Arnold, de- scribed as " a curious collector of Ameri- can birds and insects." This it was which first awakened the interest of President John Adams in the natural sciences. He visited it several times, as he traveled from Boston to Philadelphia, and his interest culminated in the foundation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1790 Dr. Ilosack brought to America from Europe the first cabinet of minerals ever seen on this conti- nent. The earliest public establishment was the Philadelphia Museum, founded by Charles Wilson Peale in 1785, which had for a nucleus a stuffed paddle-fish and the bones of a mammoth, and was for a time housed in the building of the American Philosophical Society. In 1800 it was full of popular attractions. The Baltimore Mu- seum was managed by Rembrandt Peale, and was in existence as early as 1815 and as late as 1830. Earlier efforts wore made, however, in Philadelphia. Dr. Chovet, of that city, had a collection of wax anatomi- cal models made by him in Europe ; and Prof. John Morgan, of the University of Pennsylvania, who learned his method from the Hunters, in London, and Sue, in Paris, had begun to form such a collection before the Revolution. The Columbian Museum and Turell's Museum, in Boston, are spoken of in the annals of the day ; and there was a small collection in the attic of the State

��House in Hartford. The Western Museum, in Cincinnati, was founded about 1815, by Robert Best, M. D., afterward of Lexing- ton, Ky., who seems to have been a capable collector, and who contributed matter to Goodman's American Natural History. In 1818 a society styled the Western Museum Society was formed among the citizens, which, though hardly a scientific organiza- tion, seems to have taken a somewhat lib- eral and public-spirited view of what a mu- seum should be. With the establishment of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Phil- adelphia in 1812, and the New York Lyceum of Natural History, the history of American scientific museums had its true beginning.

The Question of Tertiary Man. The an- tiquity of man and an account of anthropo- logical museums were the chief topics dis- cussed in the address of Mr. John Evans, President of the Anthropological Section of the British Association. The question of the antiquity of man, the author said, is sus- ceptible of being separated from any specu- lations as to the generic descent of man- kind ; and even were it satisfactorily an- swered to-day, new facts might to-morrow come to light that would again throw the question open. On any view of probabili- ties, it is unlikely that we shall ever discov- er the exact cradle of our race, or be able to point to any object as the first product of the industry and intelligence of man. We may, however, the author thought, hope that from time to time fresh discoveries may be made of objects of human art, under such circum- stances and conditions that we may infer with certainty that at some given point in the world's history mankind existed, and in suffi- cient numbers, for the relics that attest this existence to show a correspondence among themselves, even when discovered at remote distances from each other. After reviewing the course of discovery of prehistoric man, and the considerations on which the attempt is based to show that he existed in the Ter- tiary, Mr. Evans declared his conclusion that on the whole the present verdict as to Tertiary man must be in the form of " not proven." When we consider the vast amount of time comprised in the Tertiary period, with its three great principal subdivisions of the Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene, and when we

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��bear in mind that of the vertebrate land animals of the Eocene no one has survived to the present time, while of the Pliocene but one the hippopotamus remains un- modified, the chances that man, as at pres- ent conditioned, should also be a survivor from that period seem remote, and against the species Homo sapiens having existed in Miocene times almost incalculable. The a priori improbability of finding man un- changed, while all the other vertebrate ani- mals around him have, from natural causes, undergone more or less extensive modifica- tion, will induce all careful investigators to look closely at any evidence that would carry him back beyond Quaternary times ; and though it would be unsafe to deny the possi- bility of such an early origin for the human race, it would be unwise to regard it as estab- lished except on the clearest evidence.

Enibryological Recapitulation. Prof.

A. Milnes Marshall, in his presidential ad- dress before the Biological Section of the British Association, after remarking on the general subject of the study of embryology, spoke more particularly of its relation to the doctrine of recapitulation, which, sug- gested by Agassiz, had been elaborated by eminent contemporary zoologists. Natural selection, he showed, explains the preserva- tion of useful variations, but does not ac- count for the formation and preservation of useless organs ; but recapitulation solves the problem at once, by showing that those or- gans, though now useless, must have been of functional value to the ancestors of their present possessors, and that their appearance in the ontogeny of existing forms is due to the repetition of ancestral characters. Such rudimentary organs are, as Darwin has point- ed out, of larger relative or even absolute size in the embryo than in the adult, because the embryo represents the stage in the pedigree in which they were functionally active. Ru- dimentary organs are extremely common, es- pecially among the higher groups of ani- mals, and their presence and significance arc now well understood. Man himself affords numerous and excellent examples, not mere- ly in his bodily structure, but by his speech, dress, and customs. For the silent letter b in the word doubt, or the w of answer, or the buttons on his clastic-side boots are as true

��examples of rudiments unintelligible but for their past history, as are the ear muscles he possesses but can not use, or the gill-clefts which are functional in fishes and tadpoles, and are present, though useless, in the em- bryos of all higher vertebrates. It was the elder Agassiz who first directed attention to the remarkable agreement between the em- bryonic growth of animals and their palaeon- tological history.

The Scope of Mathematics. Mr. J. W. L.

Glaisher, President of the Mathematical Sec- tion in the British Association, in his address spoke of the range of subjects comprehended within the scope of mathematics. Its field extends from the most exact of all knowl- edge to brauches of inquiry in which only un- correlated facts have been collected. Con- sidering pure mathematics, or that of the abstract sciences which could be conquered and explored only by mathematical methods, it is difficult not to feel somewhat appalled by the enormous developments it has re- ceived in the last fifty years. The mass of the investigations, as measured by the an- nual additions to the literature of the sub- ject, is so great that it is fast becoming be- wildering from its mere magnitude and the extraordinary extent to which many special lines of study have been carried. There can be no end to this. So wide and various are the subjects of research, so interesting and fascinating are the results, so wouderful are the fields of investigation laid open at each succeeding advance, that we may be sure that, while the love of learning and knowl- edge continue to exist, there can be no relax- ation of our efforts to penetrate still further into the mysterious worlds of abstract truth that lie spread temptingly before the inves- tigator. The speaker did not believe that the bearing of the modern developments of mathematics on the physical sciences is likely to be very direct or immediate, but it would be rash to assert that there is any branch of mathematics so abstract or so re- condite that it may not at any moment find an application in some concrete subject. Still, it appears that if the extension of the pure sciences can only be justified by the value of their applications, it is very doubt- ful whether a satisfactory plea for any further developments can be sustained. Although

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��the condition of mathematical science in Eng- land is not fully satisfactory, there is more cause for congratulation at present than there has been at any time during the last one hun- dred and fifty years, and we are far removed from the state of affairs that existed be- fore the days of Cayley and Sylvester. The author concluded with a plea for the study of the theory of numbers.

Value of Living Traditions. According to Mr. J. G. Frazer, the author of a compara- tive study of religions, entitled the Golden Bough, the best source for knowledge of an- cient folk-lore is among the people of the present. Every inquiry into the primitive religion of the Aryans, he says, "should either start from the superstitious beliefs and observances of the peasantry, or should at least be constantly checked and controlled by reference to them. Compared with the evidence afforded by living tradition, the tes- timony of ancient books on the subject of early religion is worth very little. . . . The mass of the people who do not read books remain unaffected by the mental revolution wrought by literature ; and so it has come about that in Europe, at the present day, the superstitious beliefs and practices which have been handed down by word of mouth are generally of a far more archaic type than the religion depicted in the most an- cient literature of the Aryan race."

The Magnctograph. The magnetograph, the adaptability of which to use as a seis- moscope has been tried by Prof. T. C. Men- denhall, is described by him as a system of magnetic needles, free to vibrate, and con- nected with a mirror that turns with the needles. It has long been noticed that an earthquake causes a considerable disturb- ance of the needles ; and that this is not an effect of vibration is shown by the fact that a series of brass needles is not thus dis- turbed. It appears from the study of the magnetic records that there are two distinct vibrations, one due to solar influence and seeming to be dependent jointly on position and temperature ; the other series were de- pendent on the relative position of the earth and the moon, and were therefore regarded as of a tidal nature ; and the disturbances of the magnetic needle may be, and probably

��are, due to the stress of the earth's crust. The author mentioned as a remarkable fact that a periodic disturbance, smaller in am- plitude than the thickness of the line re- corded, could be positively and perfectly determined. This evidence that the lunar influence is due to variation of stress fur- nishes a clew to the explanation of the dis- turbances due to earthquakes. The stress to which the earth is then subjected causes an alteration in its magnetic condition which is recorded upon the sheet. It may there- fore be possible to recognize an earthquake by disturbance of the magnetic needle, even when the motion is too small to be recog- nized by a seismoscope. It is a curious fact that it is supposed in Japan that an earth- quake can be predicted by the vibrations of a loadstone.

The Natural Gas Supply. The perma- nence of the natural gas supply was dis- cussed in the American Association, which, meeting in the heart of the natural gas re- gion, visited some of the more famous sta- tions at Noblesville, Marion, Muncie, and Anderson, where the new fuel is used. Presi- dent Goodale warned the people at Anderson against waste of the gas, because, he said, it will surely give out some day. Dr. Edward Orton affirmed in a paper in the Economic Section that the supply in the Indiana and Ohio fields is not only exhaustible, but is rapidly and surely being exhausted. It is not now being generated, and every foot that escapes to the surface leaves the quantity remaining for future use just so much smaller. This is proved by the fact that the pressure of the gas is steadily diminish- ing, the decrease having already amounted to thirty or forty per cent. Prof. P. II. Van- der Weyde is of a different opinion. He be- lieves that the gas is formed in much the same manner as water-gas ; that the evolu- tion of oxygen and hydrogen is constantly going on in the regions of the earth's in- terior, where the temperature of dissociation exists; and that when carbureted metals having great affinity for water are present within reach of the dissociated gases, they will be oxidized by the ascending oxygen, while the hydrogen will combine with the carbon to form hydrocarbons. Thus the pro- cess of generating the gas is going on all the

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��time, and the prospect for the continuation of the supply is cheerful. " Look," the au- thor says, " at the burning gas-wells of Baku, where the gas escapes by fissures in the soil, and has been blowing and burning for cent- uries, and all for nothing thus far. There appears to be no diminution in their flow, while from the Chinese historical records it appears that natural gas has been evolving in more than one locality for at least a thou- sand years, and I expect the same here. It comes from regions far below the deepest coal mines, and may continue to flow when some mines are exhausted."

Geography-teaching in Russia. The

object of a paper in the British Association, by Dr. H. R. Mill, on Geographical Teach- ing in Russia, was to give an idea of the method of instruction as prescribed by the official syllabus enforced in government and private schools. The books are generally illustrated by black and white maps, and by diagrams of great interest and ingenuity, ex- emplifying statistics in graphic form. It is characteristic of the Russian system to go deeply into statistics. The absence of pict- ures in the instruction books is noticeable, but subjects are treated exhaustively. Great- er attention is paid to ethnography than in the system of any other country, because, probably, of the many races among which the subjects of the Czar are divided. Rus- sians are in the habit of regarding Asia rather than Europe as nearest to them.

Coffee-drinking. Dr. Mendel, of Ber- lin, has recently published a clinical study on Coffee Inebriety. His observations were made upon the women of the work- ing population of Essen, a town in Prus- sia, Department of Dusscldorf. He found large numbers of women who used over a pound of coffee a week. The leading symp- toms are profound depression, frequent headache, and insomnia. A strong dose of coffee relieves this for a time ; a partial loss of power over the muscles occurs, and an increasing aversion to labor. The heart's action becomes rapid and irregular. Dys- pepsia of an extreme nervous type is pres- ent. Brandy offers only a temporary relief. The face becomes sallow and the hands and feet cold. Acute inflammation is likely to

��occur; an injury to any part of the body is the starting point for inflammation of an erysipelatous character. Melancholy and hys- teria are common symptoms. Many opium and alcoholic cases have an early history of excessive use of coffee.

The Dangers of the Present Mode of Burial. Human effluvium from the living body, taken into the lungs or stomach, is a weil - recognized cause of disease. That it is not, at the least, equally so from the body dead, especially when it is putrescent, is difficult to believe. The following, taken from Johnson on Trop- ical Climates (American edition, p. 83), is an illustrative case : " An American merchant- ship was lying at anchor in Whampoa Roads, sixteen miles from Canton. One of the crew died from dysentery. He was taken on shore to be buried. No disease of any kind had occurred in the ship during her voyage from America to the river Tigris. Four men ac- companied the corpse, and two men began to dig the grave. Unfortunately, they pitched upon a spot where a human body had been buried two or three months previously (as was afterward ascertained). The instant the spade went through the lid of the coffin a most dreadful effluvium issued forth, and the two men fell down nearly lifeless. It was with the greatest difficulty that their com- panions could approach near enough to drag them from the spot and fill up the place with earth. The two men now recovered a little, and with assistance reached the boat and returned on board." Both died one on the evening of the fourth and the other the morning of the fifth day of a malignant fever, with symptoms resembling plague. The other two men, who were less exposed, were similarly affected, but recovered. That the poisonous emanations inhaled in this case would have been any less dangerous if swal- lowed with the subsoil water in the vicinity can be surmised by those only who believe inhumation of the dead to be without dan- ger to the living.

An Early Form of Telegraphy. Among the early devices for conveying information to a distance by means of signals the follow- ing is very ingenious. It was used by a Grecian general, ./Eneas, who flourished in

�� � the time of Aristotle. It consisted of two exactly similar earthen vessels filled with water, each provided with a cock that would discharge an equal quantity of water in a given time, so that the whole or any part of the contents would escape in precisely the same period from both vessels. On the surface of each floated a piece of cork supporting an upright, marked off into divisions, each division having a certain sentence inscribed upon it. One of the vessels was placed at each station, and when either party desired to communicate with the other he lighted a torch which he held aloft until the other did the same, as a sign that he was all attention. On the sender of the message lowering or extinguishing the torch, each party immediately opened the cock of his vessel, and so left it until the sender re-lighted his torch, when it was at once closed. The receiver then read the sentence on the division of the upright that was level with the mouth of the vessel, and which, if everything had been executed with exactness, corresponded with that of the sender, and so conveyed the desired message.