Popular Science Monthly/Volume 4/March 1874/Literary Notices
We speak, in another place, of the importance of the great principle of the conservation of energy as a fundamental truth of modern science. The literature of this subject has hitherto been copious, but, as it has been mainly the product of minds engaged with the original research, it has often been so technical and complicated as to be difficult to popular apprehension. The writers have generally been too busy with the investigation to give the needed attention to the art of familiar statement. No subject was in greater need of thorough simplification and careful elementary treatment. Dr. Balfour Stewart, the distinguished physicist of Kew Observatory, and Professor of Owens College, was solicited to undertake this task for the "International Scientific Series." this he consented to do, and, although master of the philosophy, and entitled to a place among its original investigators, he has shown that he can enter into the spirit and do the indispensable work of the pure teacher. His book has been written in the simplest language, with abundant and familiar illustrations, so that the ordinary reader, by its perusal, can get a complete understanding of the elements of the subject. His volume is quite remarkable for its clearness and the success with which it explains many of the hitherto difficult parts of the subject.
Dr. Stewart, as we have said, is a physicist, and he has wisely limited himself to the operations of the law, as disclosed in physical phenomena. But, to give completeness to the volume, an appendix has been added incorporating two able essays, by distinguished men who have studied the question in its vital and mental relations. Prof. Le Conte has revised the essay, which appeared in the November Monthly, on the "Correlation of the Vital with the Physical and Chemical Forces," which is here reproduced; and an able lecture by Prof. Bain, on the "Correlation of the Nervous and Mental Forces," gives an instructive view of this branch of the subject. This little volume will therefore afford a fresh and complete exposition of the elements of the subject for the use of general readers.
Sir John Lubbock is well known to the world as an archæologist and anthropologist, and perhaps less well as an entomologist. Yet he has contributed no less than thirty-five papers to the Royal Society, and to various magazines, on entomology, during the last twenty years; and, as he is not yet forty, we perceive that he must have studied the subject at a very early age. His first paper, "On Labidocera," appeared in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History for 1853.
The little work before us embodies, in a popular form, many of the more interesting results of his observations, condensed from the above-mentioned memoirs. The articles have already appeared in Nature, and the work forms the second volume of the "Nature Series" of books, which Messrs. Macmillan are now publishing.
The main subjects discussed are the classification, origin, and the nature of the different metamorphoses of insects; various views are traced, from the old standard "Entomology" of Kirby and Spence, one of the Bridgewater Treatises, to the more recent memoirs of Müller, Agassiz, and Packard. The intelligence of insects comes out in a remarkable light. Many of our readers will remember Sir John's tame wasp at a recent meeting of the British Association. He remarks: "We are accustomed to class the anthropoid apes next to man in the scale of creation, but, if we were to judge animals by their works, the chimpanzee and the gorilla must certainly give place to the bee and the ant." For example (page 2), the larvæ of certain insects require animal food as soon as they are hatched, and the mother-insect consequently provides them with caterpillars and beetles, by burying them in a cell, side by side with the unhatched larva. But here a difficulty arises: "If the Cerceris were to kill the beetle before placing it in the cell, it would decay, and the young larva, when hatched, would only find a mass of corruption. On the other hand, if the beetle were buried uninjured, in its struggles to escape it would be almost certain to destroy the egg." Look, then, at the wonderful, but diabolical, instinct of the creature. "The wasp has the instinct of stinging its prey in the centre of the nervous system, thus depriving it of motion, and let us hope of suffering, but not of life; consequently, when the young larva leaves the egg, it finds ready a sufficient store of wholesome food." A certain species of ants keeps Aphides in bondage, just as we do cows, for the sake of the honey-dew which they collect; a certain kind of red ant is indolent, and keeps black ants to do work for it. Once more, there is a kind of beetle which is blind and helpless, usually found in ants' nests; the ants care for all their wants and nurse them tenderly. These things, and much more, of the lives of insects, are told us in popular language in Sir John's book, which we recommend, not alone to the entomologist, but to the general reader.—Quarterly Journal of Science.
The botanical diagrams of the late Prof. J. S. Henslow, of Cambridge University, have long had a high reputation in England for their scientific accuracy, their completeness of illustration, and their skillful arrangement for educational purposes. They consisted of nine large sheets, and were published by the Science and Art Department of the English Educational Council. After bringing out her method of elementary botany in the First and Second Books, Miss Youmans felt the need of large colored illustrations of the subject; and, as Henslow's series was the most valuable yet prepared in any country, and too expensive to import, her publishers were induced to bring out a revised edition of them here. The English edition was defective from excessive compression, the figures often overlapping so as to produce a confused effect. In the American edition they are spread over twice the original surface, giving them much greater clearness for class-room use. Several American specimens have been substituted for English species which do not occur in this country, and the whole arrangement has been much improved.
These charts illustrate the principles of the whole science of botany. They represent twenty-four orders, and more than forty species of typical plants with all their details of structure, in such a way as to exemplify the complete organization of the science. Each specimen is first shown of its natural size and colors, then a magnified section of one of its flowers is given, showing the relations of the parts to each other. Separate magnified views of the different floral organs, exhibiting all the botanical characters that belong to the group of which it is a type, are also represented. All varieties of botanical structure, in leaf, stem, root, inflorescence, flower, fruit, and seed, are thus exhibited. The charts contain nearly 500 figures, colored to the life, and their purpose is not to supersede the study of living plants, but only to facilitate it. Minute parts which are often difficult to find are represented upon an enlarged scale, and thus become a guide to the study of the plant.
In her Second Book, Miss Youmans says: "Besides this special assistance in object-study, the charts will be of chief value in bringing into a narrow compass a complete view of the structures and relations of the leading types of the vegetable kingdom. In fact, they are designed to present, fully and clearly, those groupings of characters upon which orders depend in classification, while, in several cases of large and diversified orders, the characters of leading genera are also given by typical specimens. The charts will thus be found equally valuable to the beginner, the intermediate pupil, and the advanced student." A key accompanies the charts, ana they can be used with any botanical text-books;' and, during the season of plants, they should be upon the walls of every schoolroom where botany is studied.
The writings of M. Taine on art, literature, and science, have taken a high rank in Europe and in this country. Though his genius may, in strictness, be said to be artistic rather than purely scientific or philosophical, yet, in the work before us, he has shown not only a varied knowledge of the details and specialties of the sciences, but an admirable aptitude in collocating and generalizing their doctrines.
All speculation, to have any permanent value, must be based upon the natural order of things: it must be interwoven with matter, motion, and force. When the intelligence becomes a faithful mirror, and reflects the universe as it is, weighing and measuring it, real progress in thought is inevitable. Well-observed and well-digested facts, thorough and patient experiments, drawn along the varied lines of Nature, generate new and recast old ideas which open out a fresh intellectual life between the two great factors of science, man and the cosmos.
We do not claim for M. Taine any noticeable discoveries in the realm of natural facts, through either observation or experiment; but we claim that he has enriched us with many new ideas and a wealth of expression very rarely equaled. His recondite thoughts are clothed in beauty by a most exquisite imagination.
M. Taine has divided his labor into two parts, containing eight books and eighteen chapters. The first two books, on "Signs and Images," are relieved of much of their necessary subtilty by the picturesque and realistic manner of their treatment. His words are never void of the kernel of the concrete, which is never overshadowed by abstractions. The various objects of the external world and their permanent relationships are physiologically gathered up by the five senses, and require to be properly named or labeled before entering into the laboratory of thought. For this purpose signs are deftly woven together and become indispensable as servants of the mind. This may be called the art of naming. The accumulated materials of the senses are, through a certain chemistry of the nerves and brain, photographed as images on the mind, and these enable us, through the means of signs, to dissect and put into logical sequence the whole order of Nature. What we have in our minds, says M. Taine, when we conceive general qualities and characters of things, are signs and signs only. Signs or words, therefore, branch out of sensations, and, to be of real value in the organization of knowledge, these must originate from healthy and well-regulated senses and sound cerebral functions. The immutability of the external order of things in Nature is the only sure corrective of all the aberrations and errors to which the internal condition of man, as a reflecting medium, is subject.
Books III. and IV., concluding the first part, treat of sensations and of the physical conditions of mental events. In the discussion of these topics M. Taine is fortified by the leading writers of France, England, and Germany, to whose important authority he adds much original thought, and unties many a perplexing knot by his well-directed and practised ingenuity. In the second part of his work, M. Taine treats, in the first book, of the general mechanism of knowledge; in the second, of the knowledge of bodies; in the third, of the knowledge of mind; and in the fourth book, of the knowledge of general things.
Mr. St. George Mivart, best known as an opponent of Darwinism, strictly so called (but not of evolution), has in this work examined into the relations of man and the apes as well as other primates. In a first chapter, he gives a summary of the "external forms, habits, geographical distribution, and classification," of the primates; in a second, the "external skeleton (skin and hair) and internal skeleton (the bones)" are examined; and the last or third chapter is devoted to the consideration of the "nervous system, visceral anatomy, summary of characters, and questions of affinity and origin." He admits, with all competent naturalists, that man is most nearly allied to the apes, that is, the group composed of the gorilla, chimpanzee, orang-outang, and gibbons: the difference, then, between Mr. Mivart and others is as to the special form of apes that man is most allied to. In order to solve this question, he successively recapitulates the characters common to man and the several forms referred to, as well as the main points of difference. His results are rather negative than positive: he entirely rejects the claim made on behalf of the gorilla to nearest kinship, but does not positively claim such rank for any of the other forms, although evidently disposed to regard the affinity at least as great between the gibbons and man as with any of the other forms; he is more reserved, however, in this respect than on a former occasion. Adopting the general theory of evolution, he applies it, so far as the body is concerned, to man, but he claims that in his case a specific creation has been manifested by the endowment of that body with a soul.
For forty years this work has been an accepted authority in the hands of the profession, both here and in England. It was originally made in obedience to the demand created by the rapid advance of medical science, and how well it fulfilled its intended purpose is attested by its long and steady popularity. The present edition—the preparation of which was begun by the author, but, owing to his death, was finished by his son—is much enlarged, including more than six thousand subjects and terms not embraced in the last, and making altogether over a hundred pages of new matter. The book is something more than a dictionary. Besides the derivation, pronunciation, synonymy, and technical definitions of medical terms, it gives, under the appropriate heads, a large amount of valuable practical information which, from its conciseness and ready accessibility, cannot fail to be of great service to the physician. The typographical arrangement has also been somewhat changed, heavy type being employed for the leading terms, while synonyms and subordinate words are put in small capitals—a modification which affords greater facility of reference. Taken as a whole, the work is much superior to any other of the kind we know of in the language, and no medical library can be considered complete without it.
This is a semi-annual publication, giving the facts and figures of the world's affairs, boiled down even to the point of desiccation. The matter is arranged in the form of tables, giving, for each country, its area, the name of its present ruler, population, debt, army and navy, imports and exports, products, coin values, weights and measures, capitals, and principal cities, together with railway, educational, and religious statistics. The facts, we are told, are collated from the latest reports, and the method of presentation, so far as convenience is concerned, appears to be a good one. With all its concentration, however, we notice some apparently needless repetitions. For example, after giving a list of the successful presidential candidates in the United States, from the foundation of the government, with the vote cast for each, their names are given over again on another page, with the State they were from, and the time of service of each, information which might more properly have gone into a single table. An excellent feature is the comparison of the weights and measures of each country with the French and English standards; their coin-values are also given in dollars and cents.
On the Early Stages of Terebratulina Septentrionalis. By Edward S. Morse, Ph. D. 10 pages, with Illustrations.
Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers. November, 1873. 48
A Description of New Instruments for making Examinations and Applications to Cavities of the Nose, Throat, and Ear. By Thomas F. Rumbold, M. D. St. Louis, 1873. 16 pages, with Illustrations.
Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, vol. i., No. 3, pages 129-184. Illustrated.
The Function of the Eustachian Tube. By Thomas F. Rumbold, M. D. St. Louis, 1873. 40 pages.
Second Biennial Report of the San Francisco Park Commissioners for 1872-'73. San Francisco, 18*74. 94 pages. Illustrated.
On the Structure and Affinities of the Brontotheridæ. By Prof. C. C. Marsh. 8 pages. Illustrated.
Johnston's Dental Miscellany. A Monthly Journal of American and Foreign Dental, Surgical, Chemical, and Mechanical Literature. New York, January, 1874, vol. i., No. 1, 38 pages.
On the Geology of Western Wyoming. By Theo. B. Comstock, B. S. 8 pages.
Transactions of the Michigan State Medical Society. Lansing, 1873. 170 pages.
The Larynx the Source of the Vowel Sounds. By Thomas Brian Gunning. New York, 1874. 29 pages.