Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/May 1875/Literary Notices

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Popular Science Monthly Volume 7 May 1875  (1875) 
Literary Notices
 

LITERARY NOTICES.
Nature and Life. Facts and Doctrines relating to the Constitution of Matter, the New Dynamics, and the Philosophy of Nature. By Fernand Papillon. Translated from the second French edition, by A. R. Macdonough, Esq. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 363 pages. Price, $2.00.

The readers of The Popular Science Monthly cannot fail to learn with pleasure that the complete essays of this gifted young author are now accessible in a single compact volume to the American public. Several of Papillon's masterly articles have appeared in our pages, and they awakened so deep an interest in the subjects considered, and were read with so much admiration, that it was felt to be important that all his principal papers should be reproduced in a separate issue. Of the character of these compositions it is hardly necessary to speak. They are not only written with great clearness, force, and eloquence, but they evince a subtile perception and a strong grasp of the higher problems of modern scientific thought. Beyond doubt the French lead the world in the arts of lucid and attractive scientific exposition; and Papillon stands eminent among his countrymen in the display of this excellence. Although dealing with the most complex questions, and surveying the great phenomena of life on all sides, and especially in its dynamical aspects, yet there are a glow and a fascination in his pages which we do not hesitate to say are unsurpassed in modern scientific literature. Nor has the work lost aught of these impressive characteristics in its English dress. Papillon has passed prematurely away, but Mr. Macdonough has done justice to his memory by this brilliant reproduction of the Frenchman's work, by which a distant and foreign people will be able to appreciate his genius. Papillon's view as a thinker, and the spirit of his scientific studies, are so admirably presented in his brief preface, that we quote it in full:

"This volume contains a series of essays written and published at different times, some of a general character, and others more special, and all relating to the activity of natural forces, especially those of life. The mere bringing together of these fragments has presented an opportunity of completing a methodical and uniform whole, combining exactness in details with generality of doctrines, and distinctly tracing the precise aspect of each group of phenomena in the picture of the close and universal relations that bind the whole together. An exposition is thus offered under an elementary form, in language freed from technical dress, of the most essential truths established of late by physics, chemistry, and biology, regarding the mechanism of natural forces, and the arrangement and combination of the fundamental springs of being in the world, especially in the living world. I indulge the hope that such a work might meet a kindly welcome from minds, ever increasingly numerous, that regard science as the subject neither of idle curiosity nor of passing entertainment, but as the object of earnest sympathy and of serious examination. Such, at least, is the principal purpose of this book.

"It has another, also. The evident disposition of the present day is to repose infinite hopes on the natural sciences, and to expect unlimited benefits from them. I certainly shall not view this inclination as an illusion, and this volume sufficiently attests the high value I set upon all that can encourage and foster such feelings. But precisely because I am not suspected of enmity to those sciences, it has seemed to me the more necessary to indicate a fatal mistake accompanying those commendable sentiments; I mean the mistake of those who, after loudly praising the excellence of science, denounce the weakness and deny the authority of metaphysics.

"Now, my reader will come upon more than one page manifestly inspired by the conviction that science, properly so called, does not satiate the mind eager to know and to understand, and that therefore metaphysics holds a large and an authorized place in the activity of human thought. While I have retouched every thing in these essays which seemed to me, from an exclusively scientific point of view, susceptible of a higher degree of exactness and precision, I have, on the contrary, preserved with jealous care the literal tenor of all the pages expressly written under the influence of that conviction. And I have done so, not because of any peculiar value in those reflections, many of which are nothing more than a very imperfect representation of my way of seeing, but because those reflections were then made for the first time, with absolute spontaneousness, and without the slightest system or premeditation. The reader will thus be able to see how general ideas naturally emerge from deep and close contemplation of a group of various details, how forcible their unsought impression is; in other words, how surely thought, following orderly and regular evolution, without studied intention as without dogmatic aim, arrives at the loftiest philosophic certainties.

"The thinker who freely seeks for truth, continuously changes his position in his aspirations toward mind and the ideal. He deserts the regions of phenomena and concrete things, to rise to those of the absolute and eternal. The farther he withdraws from the former, which had at first absorbed all his attention, the more strikingly does the perspective in which he viewed them alter. At last, he discerns nothing else in them but spectres without substance, and delusive phantoms. And in the degree and extent of his drawing near to the eternal and the absolute, reality comes more surely within his ken, and he gains a more vivid feeling and a keener conception of it. He measures the distance he has traversed, and values the worth of his own contemplations by the fullness of lucid clearness-which enlightens his faint view of the first principles of things, and by the depth of humble reverence with which he bows before the mysterious Power which created all!

 "Concarneau (Finisterre), May, 1878."

The Microscope and its Revelations. By William B. Carpenter, M. D., F. R. S. Fifth edition. 848 pp. Price $5.50. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1875.

This standard work on the microscope has been carefully revised by the author, so as to present the latest improvements in modern instruments. It also includes the new methods and principles of Dr. Royston-Piggott, which have lately been the subject of so much discussion among microscopists; it likewise gives the latest results of microscopical study. It is a volume of goodly size, containing 449 woodcut-illustrations, and 25 plates illustrative of its wide range of subjects, and forming a standard and complete guide to the use of the microscope. The author's object throughout is to direct the possessor of a microscope in the intelligent study of any department of natural history for which he may have a taste, or his circumstances afford him the facilities of pursuit; and, again, to meet the wants of those who, coming to the study of minute animal and vegetable life with no scientific preparation, yet want something more than a mere sight of them. Of his use of scientific terms the author says:

"Some... may think that he might have rendered his descriptions simpler by employing fewer scientific terms. But he would reply that he has had much opportunity of observing among the votaries of the microscope a desire for just such information as he has attempted to convey; and that the use of scientific terms cannot be easily dispensed with, since there are no others in which the facts can be readily expressed. As he has made a point of explaining these in the places where they are first introduced, he cannot think that any of his readers need find much difficulty in apprehending their meaning."

Dr. Carpenter recognizes the impossibility of keeping pace with the rapid extension of knowledge over every part of the constantly-widening field of microscopic research, to say nothing of furnishing an exhaustive treatise on each of its many departments, in the limited compass of his book, the original purpose of which is to impart general guidance, rather than special instruction; and, instead of attempting the impossibility of teaching his reader all there is to be learned, he is put in the way of learning it from that best of all teachers, experience. And so, in the applications of the microscope, the proportion of space allotted to the different departments has been determined more from their special interest to the amateur microscopist than their physiological importance, and more space and treatment in detail are given to subjects having no special sources of information than to such as are the subjects of special treatises.

The first five chapters, embracing 269 pages of the work, treat respectively of the principles of the microscope, its construction, accessory apparatus, management of the microscope, preparation of objects, etc., while the rest of the work is devoted to the practical applications of the microscope in the study of minute forms of animal and vegetable life, and its uses in geology, mineralogy, and chemistry.

Health; A Hand-book for Households and Schools. By Edward Smith, M. D., F. R. S., Author of "Foods," etc. 198 pages. Price $1.00. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

Under the general title of "The Popular Science Library," it is proposed to issue a series of neat and attractive volumes at the moderate and uniform price of a dollar each, that shall treat of the most important and interesting scientific subjects in a way suited for general readers. The books will be original, translations, reprints, and abridgments, with illustrations when necessary, and will take a free range in the selection of subjects, giving prominence to those that are practical, but aiming to represent all the aspects of science which are of general or of prominent interest. Dr. Smith's volume on "Health" was issued first, and is a plain, practical, useful book, which aims only to give valuable information for everybody, in a form which anybody can understand. Dr. Smith never paid much attention to the elegances of literature, and cared only to make his statements clear, intelligible, and adapted to the wants of his readers, and, while the pages of this little volume will be found to contain no fine writing, they are filled with compressed and simplified statements of extreme importance in relation to Food, Diet, Clothing, Exercise, Rest and Sleep, Cleanliness and Bathing, Ventilation, Mental Work, the Hygiene of the Senses, Personal Habits and Conduct, Sickroom Management, etc., etc. The volume is freely illustrated, and we know of no hand-book of health that contains within its compass more of the knowledge that should be universally diffused than this. It would be an excellent primary text-book of health for adoption in schools.

The Natural History of Man. By A. De Quatrefages. Translated from the French by Eliza A. Youmans. 12mo. Pp. 152. With Numerous Illustrations. New York: D, Appleton & Co.
POPULAR SCIENCE LIBRARY, NO. II.

This volume contains the substance of a course of lectures delivered to workingmen by A. De Quatrefages, a distinguished Professor of Natural History at the Museum, in Paris, and one of the eminent founders of anthropological science. These lectures have been extensively circulated on the Continent, in different languages; and the translations of several of them, printed in this magazine, were received with such favor as to induce their republication in a connected form. Prof. De Quatrefages is an acute and discriminating observer, and an ardent cultivator of science, but with strong conservative tendencies of thought. At the outset he announces that he shall treat the subject not as a philosopher or a theologian, but in the pure light of natural science.

Contrary to Agassiz, he takes the ground that all men form but a single species, though of different races. He holds that the origin of man must be referred to a date much more remote than has usually been allowed, and that his original locality was confined to a narrow spot in Central Asia. As to the origin of man, Prof. De Quatrefages believes that science is unable to furnish any clew to the mystery, although he insists that, if science cannot say whence man came, it can say positively whence he did not come, and as a teacher of science he opposes the idea that man is a transformed and perfected animal. That the book may fairly represent the present state of opinion upon this subject the arguments on the other side of this question are briefly given in an appendix. As an elementary work upon this subject, these lectures will be found remarkable for clearness and simplicity of statement, felicity of illustration, vivacity of style, and skill in bringing large questions within the range of ordinary apprehension. It is the most admirable popular introduction to the races of mankind that has yet appeared.

Heredity: A Psychological Study of its Phenomena, Laws, Causes, and Consequences. From the French of Th. Ribot, author of "Contemporary English Psychology." New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 393. Price, $2.00.

We cannot be too often reminded that it is the essential character of science to winnow, limit, verify, and extend the ordinary knowledge of mankind. The germs of science are given in common experience, and undergo gradual development, until they take the shape of proved and formulated principles. The subject of the volume before us forms an excellent illustration of this tendency. Heredity, or the transmission of qualities from parents to offspring, has been vaguely recognized as a verity of Nature for thousands of years; but it was at the same time considered so obscure and capricious a thing, that it could never be reduced to law, or become the proper subject-matter of science. But all that is now past. The principles of physiological heredity have been elucidated, and are now so clear and well established that they are brought to the test of every-day practice; and the law is so sure, that the skillful breeder is able to mould his stock in any direction, and to realize almost any ideal of desirable physiological characters.

In the world of mind, also, there has long been an uncertain recognition of the fact of heredity, and the descent of special mental traits in families is within nearly everybody's observation. But it was currently believed that such observations were rare exceptions, and that nothing like a general law of the descent of mental traits could be established in the field of mind. But this error must now be regarded as abandoned. With the establishment of heredity as a biological law, or in the field of life, the presumption immediately became strong that it must also hold in the field of psychological phenomena. From the metaphysical point of view in which mind is regarded as an abstraction detached from organization, the law of heredity would probably never have been arrived at; but modern scientific psychology, which regards psychical phenomena as rooted and based in vital phenomena, passes naturally to the question as one of the necessary correlations of the higher organic science. And so it has come about that this principle of inherited mental predispositions and character, from being universally discredited as a baseless doctrine, is now admitted as a great truth, and not only so, but as a truth which forms the corner-stone of the latest philosophy. Among the students of mind, there is an old and inveterate quarrel about the origin of our ideas—one school holding that they are intuitions existing in an abstract mental world, and independent of all experience; and another school holding that all ideas are derivable from the experience of individuals. Herbert Spencer has shown that there is a partial truth in both these views, and that they are capable of essential reconciliation through the principle of the evolution of faculties by inherited experience.

So prominent has this doctrine become in recent inquiry, and so profound is its importance, that there has been an imperative need of some work that should deal distinctly and broadly with the subject, and present its scientific aspects in a form suitable for popular study. Such a work we now have from Prof Ribot. Mr. Galton's work on "Hereditary Genius" is a valuable contribution to the subject, but it is very far from being complete in its exposition, and its main facts are presented in a form somewhat difficult for the reader to deal with. Prof. Ribot's work is systematic and full, taking up the subject under the four successive departments of the facts, the laws, the causes, and the consequences of heredity.

The following passage, from the conclusion of the work, will give an idea of the author's style, and of the method of his argument. In summing up all facts in favor of psychological heredity, he says:

"As regards specific characteristics" (i. e., those which distinguish one species from another), "heredity comes before us with the evidence of an axiom. In the physical, as in the moral order, every animal necessarily inherits the characteristics of its species. An animal which should possess, with the organism of its own species, the instincts of another, would be a monster in the psychological order. The spider can neither have the sensations nor perform the actions of the bee, nor the beaver those of the wolf. Just so in one and the same species, whether animal or human, the races preserve their psychical precisely as they do their physiological characteristics.... Under the specific form, then, mental heredity is unquestionable, and the only doubt possible would have reference to individual characteristics. We have shown, from an enormous mass of facts, that the cases of individual heredity are too numerous to be the result of mere chance, as some have held them to be. We have shown that all forms of mental activity are transmissible—instincts, perceptive faculties, imagination, aptitude for the fine arts, reason, aptitude for science and abstract studies, sentiments, passions, force of character. Nor are the morbid forms less transmissible than the normal, as we have seen in the case of insanity, hallucination, and idiocy."

The book consists of four parts, as we have remarked, under the headings indicated in the sub-title. In Part I. we have chapters on the Heredity of Instincts; of Sensorial Qualities; of Memory; of Imagination; of Intellect; of Sentiments and Passions; of Will; of Natural Character; of Morbid States. In Part II. the author devotes four chapters to a discussion of the Laws of Heredity, the titles being: "Are there Laws of Heredity?" the "Laws of Heredity;" "Essays in Statistics" (containing a criticism of Galton's great work);" Exceptions to the Law of Heredity." Part III. shows the dependence of psychological upon physiological heredity. In Part IV. we have chapters on "Heredity and the Law of Evolution;" "The Psychological Consequences of Heredity;" "Moral Consequences;" "Social Consequences."
Annual Report upon the Surveys and Explorations west of the One Hundredth Meridian. By Lieutenant George M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A. With a Map showing the Areas surveyed up to the Close of the Field Season of 1873.

This is a pamphlet of 130 pages, issued from the Government Printing-Office, being Appendix F F of the Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers for 1874. It contains the report of Lieutenant Wheeler, in charge of the expedition, together with the reports of scientific researches made in connection with the survey. In addition to topographical work proper, the survey combines the establishment of numerous points astronomically; observations in meteorology and hypsometry; investigations in geology, mineralogy, and natural history; together with the collection of many other facts bearing upon the industries and resources of the regions traversed.

Notes on the Natural History of Portions of Montana and Dakota.

This is a pamphlet of 61 pages, emanating from the Boston Society of Natural History, and is the substance of a report made to the Secretary of War on the collections made by the Northern Pacific Railroad Expedition of 1873, by J. A. Allen, naturalist of the expedition. It comprises a description of the mammals, birds, reptiles, plants, and butterflies, met with in their route from the Missouri River to the Yellowstone, between the 46th and 47th parallels, and the 100th and 109th meridians.

Eighth Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Building Fund of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia to the Contributors to the Fund. January, 1875.

This Report gives the list of subscribers from December, 1865, to December, 1874, as 461, of whom 39 are ladies. The total subscription is given at $203,965.24. This building fund is the result of a call made in 1865 for means to provide a new building, as their former limited space was becoming inconveniently crowded by new collections. The new building was begun July 9, 1872, on the north wing, which is expected to be ready to receive its collections in time for the Centennial, if the now nearly-exhausted treasury be sufficiently replenished for that purpose, an appeal for which is made in this Report.

On the Muridæ. By Dr. Elliot Coues, U. S. A. Reissued with Additions from the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1874.

The present pamphlet of 28 pages is the first of a series of preliminary zoological reports to be elaborated from the material secured by the United States Commission for the survey of the northern boundary, and of which Dr. Coues was the naturalist. The ground covered is the northern border of the Territories of Dakota and Montana, along the parallel of 49°, from the Red River of the North to the Rocky Mountains.

English Grammar. By the Rev. Richard Morris, LL. D. 115 pp. 18mo. Price, cloth, 40 cents; paper, 80 cents. Macmillan & Co., 1875.

This little book is the first of a forthcoming series of "Primers of History and Literature," edited by J. R. Green, M. A., Examiner in the School of Modern History at Oxford. It presents in a handy and concise form the practical principles of English grammar, together with much information seldom found in grammars of greater pretensions.

Preliminary Report upon Invertebrate Fossils collected by the Expeditions of 1871, 1872, and 1873, with Descriptions of New Species. By C. A. White, M.D. Government Printing-Office, Washington, 1874. 27 pages.

This preliminary report upon invertebrate fossils collected by Lieutenant Wheeler's expedition is made in order that the expedition may obtain due credit for priority of discovery, as nearly all the species noted are new. The pamphlet contains a full description, together with location, of some forty new invertebrate fossils.

Migrants and Sailors considered in their Relation to the Public Health. From Reports and Papers of the American Public Health Association.

This pamphlet, of 21 pages, comprises two papers: A. "Some Defects in the Immigration Service; Suggestions of Remedy therefor, with Reference to the Sanitary Interests of the country. By John M. Woodworth, M. D., Supervising Surgeon United States Marine Hospital Service." B. "Sailors as Propagators of Disease;" Abstract of a paper entitled "The Hygiene of the Forecastle." By Heber Smith, M.D., Surgeon-in-charge United States Marine Hospital Service, Port of New York. The latter author gives diagrams of some representative forecastles, the sight of which is enough to condemn them. He shows how many of the gravest diseases are introduced and disseminated through communities to a greater extent by sailors than by any other agencies.

 

PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.

An Analysis of the Life-form in Art. By Harrison Allen, M.D. Pp. 71. Philadelphia: McCalla & Stavely.

The Next Phase of Civil Progress. Pp. 43. New York: Button & Co.

The Glacial Epoch of our Globe. By Alexander Braun. Pp. 40. Price, 25 cents. Boston: Estes & Lauriat.

Protection and Free Trade. By Isaac Butts. Pp. 190. Price, $1.25. New York: Putnams' Sons.

Comparison of Certain Theories of Solar Structure with Observation. By S. P. Langley. Pp. 9.

Water in the Treatment of Disease. By V. Zolnowski, M.D. Pp. 39.

Vital Statistics and the "Military Reconstruction" of Louisiana, By S. E. Chaille, M.D. Pp. 20.

Flora of Nebraska. By S. Aughey, Ph.D. Pp. 31.

Our Currency. By J. G. Drew. Pp. 43. Price, 20 cents. New York: Hinton & Co.

Irredeemable Paper Currency. Abridged from J. S. Mill's "Principles of Political Economy." Pp. 51. Price, 20 cents. New York: Hinton & Co.

The Cremation Theory of Specie Resumption. By David A. Wells. Pp. 19.

Measurement of Air-Angle of Microscope-Objectives. By R. B. Folles. Pp. 8.

Elements of Embryology (Foster & Balfour), Macmillan.

Elements of Mechanics (Nystrom), Porter & Coates, Philadelphia.

Birds of the Northwest (Coues), Government Printing Office.

Improvement of Health (Knight), Putnams.

Lectures on the Teeth (Chase), Gray, Baker & Co., St. Louis.

Catechism of the Locomotive (Forney), Railroad Gazette, New York.

Maintenance of Health (Fothergill), Putnams.

New Manual of Physiology (Küss, Duval, and Amory), Campbell, Boston.

Philosophy of Breeding (Sturtevant), Wright & Potter, Boston.

Composition of the Ground-Atmosphere (Nichols), Wright & Potter, Boston.

Brooklyn Journal of Education.

Population of an Apple-Tree (Packard), Estes & Lauriat.

Geological Survey of Alabama (1874).

Physical Features of Minnesota River Valley (Warren).

The Mammoth Cave and Some of its Animals (Putnams).

The Family Nemophidæ (Putnams).

Stevens Institute of Technology (1874).