Popular Science Monthly/Volume 5/August 1874/Literary Notices
This volume of 263 pages is No. 255 of the publications of the Smithsonian Institution, and it is yet another evidence of the care and thought bestowed by the venerable Secretary of that Institution upon all means and aids suitable for the advancement of human knowledge.
It is Part I. of a series which is to contain the Constants of Nature, tabulated in such a way as to be immediately available for the uses of scientific men, as well as for general reference.
A careful examination of its general plan shows that this work has been admirably done by Prof. Clarke (now of Howard University, Washington). The work can be consulted with great convenience by means of the very complete Index, and on turning to any page the information is found in five columns side by side. The first column contains the name of the substance, as, for example, Iodine; in this column also the letter l or s shows that the substance has been examined in a liquid or a solid state.
The third column contains the specific-gravity determinations which have been made, accompanied by figures showing the temperature at which they were made, and a reference number to each line indicates the authority (volume and page usually) from which the datum is selected. Another symbol in this column, "m. of 6," for example, shows that the determination was the mean of six determinations.
The next column gives the boiling-point in degrees Fahrenheit, together with the height of the barometer at which this element was determined, and the fifth column gives the melting-point.
Sulphur has thirty-two lines devoted to its properties; Tin has eighteen; Bismuth eighteen, etc.
As an example, we extract line No. 7 of Sulphuric Acid. The No. 7 refers us to a paper by H. L. Buff in the "Annals of Chemistry and Pharmacy," fourth supplement (1865-'66), p. 129, and also to various articles quoted in that paper. The line reads: "Sulphuric Acid; SO 3; 1.81958, 47°; 46° to 47° 760m.m.; rs. 25°;" which shows that the specific gravity was determined at 47° Fahr. to be 1.81958, that at 760 m.m., the boiling-point was from 46° to 47° Fahr., and that this specimen resolidified at 25° Fahr.
It only remains to add from Prof. Clarke's modest preface, that the work, "exclusive of its supplement, contains the specific gravities of 2,263 substances, and over 5,000 determinations in all. There are over 2,000 determinations of boiling-point, representing 1,205 different substances; and nearly 500 of melting-point for 326 different substances. In all, the names of 2,572 distinct bodies will be found in the table."
Too few books have honest titles, for these are as often chosen to mislead as to instruct. The present is among those that are accurately described by their names. For, while there is a great deal of interesting scientific physiology in this volume, its distinctive character is that it furnishes physiological knowledge that can be continually applied to practical use. Dr. Hinton, the editor, is an eminent aural surgeon of London, and contributes the article to this volume on "The Faculty of Hearing." We published a portion of that article some time ago in the Monthly, and all who read it will attest that it was one of the best practical presentations of the subject that has yet appeared. The other chapters of the volume are contributed by other medical men, who have given special attention to different departments of practical physiology; and the ruling idea of all the articles is to give in the clearest and plainest manner that information concerning the bodily organs and their management which is most constantly needed, and which all common readers can understand and apply. The papers of the volume were first contributed to the People's Magazine in monthly parts, running through two or three years; they were then collected and carefully revised by Dr. Hinton, and brought into the unity and completeness which they now present, in the volume form.
In several respects this book presents universal claims upon the reading public. To begin with, the style in which it is written is remarkable for its simplicity, its freedom from technical terms, and its extreme readableness. The writers seem to have constantly kept in mind that they were addressing the non-scientific public, and they have studiously refrained from any pedantic show of physiological language. There is not a chapter in the volume that any ordinary person cannot take up and peruse with facility and pleasure. The importance of this cannot be over-estimated where the object is to produce clear and lasting impressions upon the general mind.
In the next place, the selection of the subjects treated is as practical as the manner of their statement. How completely the whole ground is covered may be shown in no other way so well as by an enumeration of the subjects, which are as follows:
|I.||The Brain and its Servants.|
|II.||The Faculty of Hearing.|
|III.||The Eye and Sight.|
|IV.||The Sense of Smell.|
|V.||The Sense of Taste.|
|VIII.||The Bath.––The Sense of Touch.|
|IX.||Notes on Pain.|
|XVII.||The Liver and its Diseases.|
|XVIII.||The Action of Alcohol.|
|XIX.||Muscular Motion as exemplified in the Human Body.|
|XX.||Occupation and Health.|
|XXI.||Training and Gymnastics.|
In the third place, on all of these subjects it has been the aim of the writers to present that kind of information which can be made practically available for the preservation of health. There is only so much scientific physiology as is calculated to give point and effect to the useful inculcations of the work. It is the best popular hygienic treatise that we know, and is the kind of book to tell in a salutary way upon the daily conduct. It is here that our physiological text-books generally break down. The information they contain is of the wrong kind — too scientific and too unpractical. There is a good deal of excellent science in this volume, clear and accurate in its presentation; but it is all subordinated to the useful lessons and conclusions that are enforced in regard to what may be called physiological conduct and practice. Such a volume has been long wanted, and we commend it for family reading and for class-exercises in schools, as superior to any other we know.
This work, which is extended to thirteen volumes, forms the completest history of contemporaneous events that is now to be obtained. Year-books of science, agriculture, inventions, and arts, have latterly appeared, in response to the demand for the results of the annual progress in these departments. But something more comprehensive was needed, that should treat of what is done in all the great branches of activity. Appletons' Annual Cyclopædia is perhaps the most perfect register of the advance of civilization that we have — covering the complete ground, carefully compiled, conveniently arranged for consultation, and constituting a full repertory of passing occurrences. It is indispensable to the student of current affairs, and should have a place in the library of every working thinker. Appletons' Annual Cyclopædia is a work entirely distinct from their regular American Cyclopædia, which is of a more general character, and treats of the past as well as of the present.
The volume just issued contains the annals of the past year. Its wars and military operations are faithfully described. The internal commotions of states also receive due attention, and the student of foreign politics will peruse, with keen interest, the succinct account here given of the civic strifes of France and Germany, and the sanguinary conflict still going on in Spain. The chronicle of home events is very full. The questions which occupied the minds of our legislators during the year, and which have in any way affected the prosperity of the country, are faithfully presented. Thus we have articles on the national finances, revenue, and taxation; banking, financial crises, commerce, manufactures, etc. The financial condition of the several States also receives attention. In short, no great public concernment is overlooked, and, to give an exact idea of what this volume contains, we should have to enumerate every living practical interest of our people—the movements of political parties, the transportation question, the granger question, the results of elections, proceedings of legislative bodies, judicial decisions, the progress of educational and charitable institutions, the extension of railroads and telegraphs, etc. The diplomatic correspondence of the United States Government, derived from authentic sources, is presented with great fullness. The progress of science, in various branches, is recorded; special prominence being given to the practical applications of scientific discoveries, and, finally, we have the authentic statistics of religious denominations in the United States.
Smithsonian Report for 1872.—The Smithsonian Institution closed the first quarter of a century of its existence with the year for which this report was made. During that time it has made itself known in every part of the civilized world, and "the publications which result from the facilities it has afforded to original research are to be found in all the principal libraries, and its specimens in all the great public museums in the world."
The report of the Secretary, Prof. Henry, evidences admirable management in the financial affairs of the Institution. The original fund, instead of being impaired, has been increased. It now amounts to $704,811; the income from which, during the year 1872, amounted to $46,916. The expenditures for the same time were $45,420. However, this good management has not always existed. Prof. Henry shows that in the establishment of the Institution, the United States Government, through a misconception of the object of the founder, expended $600,000 in the erection of buildings, while the object could have been attained by an outlay for the same purpose of only $50,000. The object of the founder appears to have been the establishment of an institution for the promotion of original scientific research, and the distribution of the knowledge thereby gained; while the Government construed it to be the establishment of a museum, library, art-gallery, lectorium, arboretum, etc. Prof. Henry now suggests that the Government should devote the present building to the use of the National Museum, and repay the Smithsonian fund $300,000; one-third of which could be used for the erection of another building suitable to the Institution, and the remainder be added to the present fund.
The most important work of the Institution consists in the publication of contributions to knowledge, or scientific papers, containing positive additions to knowledge, papers which are the results of investigations directly or indirectly fostered by the Institution, or of individual investigations, but are too expensive in character to be otherwise published. Also, the publication of miscellaneous collections intended to facilitate the study of particular branches of science. These publications are distributed with various specimens, ethnological and otherwise, to libraries and museums throughout this and foreign countries. The most important works published or prepared for publication by the Institution, in 1872, were "Tables and Results of Precipitation of Rain and Snow in the United States and Adjacent Parts of North, Central, and South America;" "Work on the Fresh-Water Algæ, " by Dr. Horatio C. Wood, of Philadelphia; and Prof. Newcombe's "Investigations into the Orbit of Uranus." The Institution has also in preparation "Vocabularies of the Indian Languages of North America;" a "Hypsometrical Map of North America;" and the "Meteorological Observations" of the Institution up to 1870.
The report also contains the late Prof. Agassiz's "Narrative of his Expedition from Boston through the Straits of Magellan to San Francisco," and a number of valuable papers by foreign authorities on various scientific subjects, published because of their inaccessibility to students generally.
This is a republication in book-form of a series of articles first published in Leffel's Milling and Mechanical News. It advances no new theory on the subject, but presents a description of various plans that have been tried and found effective in different localities. The work is more descriptive than scientific in character, but it contains some apparently valuable suggestions on the building of small and economical dams, such as are required for a single grain or lumber mill. Descriptions are given of the Housatonic Dam, in Connecticut, the Moline Dam, on the Mississippi, and other remarkable dams. A simple and seemingly sufficient method is given for determining the available power of small streams. The work is admirably illustrated throughout.
This is a work of some historic interest, being one of the earliest contributions to the elucidation of glacial phenomena. The merit of Rendu, as a pioneer explorer in this field, is now generally recognized; and whatever of truth there was in his views has been absorbed into the common literature of the subject. Nevertheless, it is well to have his valuable book in an accessible form. But we are afraid that its intrinsic interest would have been insufficient to secure its translation, and that the reason of its appearance at the present time is to be sought elsewhere. The train of names upon the title-page gives a clew to the purpose for which it is now reproduced. A clique of Scotchmen, in getting up a biography of Principal Forbes, has contrived to get into a quarrel with Tyndall, in regard to the allotment of the honors of discovery, and Rendu's book is now used as a means of bespattering the Royal Institution professor. We publish Prof. Tyndall's review of the work, and readers who wish to go deeper into the matter can consult the book itself.
The last number of the Bulletin is full of interesting matter. It contains, besides other entomological contributions, several papers on the study of butterflies, by A. K. Grote, Samuel H. Scudder, and others. In "Contributions to the Geology and Physical Geography of the Lower Amazons," Prof. C. Frederick Hartt gives some valuable information on the topographical features, drainage, and geological formation of the Ereré-Monte-Alegre district of South America. The number is embellished with numerous fine plates.
This work was first published in 1848, and, five years later, was rendered into English, with notes and additions, by-an American translator. Since its appearance, the subject of which it treats has been rapidly advanced, twenty-five years of observation and active work having added hosts of new facts, and, in many instances, totally changed the interpretation of old ones. Yet the work is now reissued in its old form, without so much as a recognition of later investigations, or of the changes that have taken place in methods of classification. The book is also defective in the total absence of illustrations, which are indispensable to the elucidation of this class of subjects. The publisher assigns, as a reason for its reappearance, that no other work on the subject meets existing requirements. This is a mistake. Both Owen and Huxley are equally eminent authorities in this field, and both have published books on the subject since Siebold—that of Huxley being later by sixteen years.
This book is an explanation of the primary principles of drawing. It teaches the student to draw straight and curved lines, to mingle them with effect in shading, and to realize the results of varying the direction lines in perspective. It also gives him some hints on studying from Nature, and is, in every thing, clear, simple, and effective. It is illustrated throughout.
Half-Hours with Insects—Part III. By A. S. Packard, Jr. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. 31 pp. Price, 25 cents.
Coal, as a Reservoir of Power, by Robert Hunt, F. R. S.; and Atoms, by Prof. Clifford, M. A. No. 2, Half-Hour Recreations in Popular Science. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. 39 pp. Price, 25 cents.
The Conditions of the Conflict. Oration before the Medical Society of Kings County, N. Y. By Alexander Hutchins, M. D. New York: George F. Nesbitt & Co. 32 pp.
Kindergarten Toys, and how to use them. By Heinrich Hoffman. New York: E. Steiger, 1874. 33 pp. Price, 20 cents.
History of the Colored Schools of Nashville, Tenn. Compiled by G. W. Hubbard. Nashville: Wheeler, Marshall & Prince. 34 pp.
On the Modern Hypotheses of Atomic Matter and Luminiferous Ether. By Henry Deacon. London, 1874. 16 pp.
Longevity, or the Relative Viability of the Sexes, etc. By John Stockton-Hough, M. D. Reprinted from the Medical Record of June 16 and July 15, 1873. 9 pp.
Annual Report of the Supervising Surgeon of the Marine Hospital Service of the United States. From July 1, 1872, to June 30, 1873. By John M. Woodworth, M. D. Washington, 1873. 8vo, 154 pp.
Observations on the Pathology and Treatment of Cholera. By John Murray, M. D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 12mo, 58 pp. Price, $1.00.
On the Thermal and Mechanical Properties of Air, and other Permanent Gas, subjected to Compression or Expansion. By Prof. R. H. Thurston. Philadelphia, 1874. 7 pp.
An Extract from the First Volume of the Final Report upon the Geology of New Hampshire. By C. H. Hitchcock. Concord, 1874. 53 pp.
Report of the Civil Service Commission to the President, April 15, 1874. Washington. 98 pp.
A New System of Plane Trigonometry. By Marcius Willson. New York, 1874.
The Philosophy of Evolution, together with a Preliminary Essay on the Metaphysical Basis of Science. By Stephen H. Carpenter, LL.D. Madison, Wis., 1874. 32 pp.
Catalogue of Flowering Plants of the Southern Peninsula of Michigan. By N. Colman. Grand Rapids, 1873. 49 pp.
Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Fourth Cincinnati Industrial Exposition, 1873. 267 pp.
On Geographical Variation in Color among North American Squirrels. By J. A. Allen. Boston, 1874. 21 pp.
Annotated List of the Birds of Utah. By H. W. Henshaw. Salem, 1874. 14 pp.
Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Meeting of the New England Cotton Manufacturers' Association. Boston: L. F. Lawrence & Co., 1874. 29 pp.
Metamorphism produced by the Burning of Lignite Beds in Dakota and Montana. By J. A. Allen. Boston, 1874. 19 pp.
Ancient Faiths embodied in Ancient Names, or an Attempt to trace the Religious Belief, Sacred Rites, and Holy Emblems of Certain Nations. By Thomas Inman, M. D., London. New York: Asa K. Butts & Co., 1874. 2 vols., 8vo, 1820 pp. Price, $27.00.
Descriptions of New North American Phalænidæ and Phyllopoda. By A. S. Packard, Jr. Salem, Mass., 1874. 18 pp.
Essays and Addresses by Professors and Lecturers of the Owens College, Manchester. London: Macmillan & Co., 1874. 8vo, 560 pp. Price, $5.00.