Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/December 1875/Literary Notices
We had occasion in the October number of The Popular Science Monthly to notice the last report of the Astronomer Royal of England, and to remark upon the great persistency with which "the fundamental idea" of the Royal Observatory had been followed out for forty years, and the great success which had attended its work.
We have a no less remarkable instance of the intelligent, careful, and devoted following out of a well-considered plan and of great success, in the case of our own Smithsonian Institution, under the direction of Prof. Henry and his most efficient seconders and collaborators. The Smithsonian Institution was founded by James Smithson of England, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." In the first annual report of the secretary (Prof. Henry), for 1846, a definite "plan of organization" was proposed, which has been adequate to all the conditions which then existed and which have since arisen.
It proposed in brief: "To increase Knowledge: 1. To stimulate men of talent to make original researches, by offering suitable rewards for memoirs containing new truths; and, 2. To appropriate annually a portion of the income for particular researches, under the direction of suitable persons. To diffuse Knowledge: 1. To publish a series of periodical reports on the progress of the different branches of knowledge; and, 2. To publish occasionally separate treatises on subjects of general interest." This plan has been devotedly carried out, and we propose to extract from Prof. Henry's report for 1874 enough to show in part how important and useful the work of the institution is, and how large a field it covers.
In direct compliance with the programme above given, the institution publishes three classes of works: first, the "Contributions to Knowledge" (quarto), which are memoirs "containing some positive addition to science resting on original research, and which are generally the result of investigations to which the institution has, in some way, rendered assistance;" second, the "Miscellaneous Collections" (octavo), which consist of works "intended to facilitate the study of branches of natural history, meteorology, etc., and are designed especially to induce individuals to engage in these studies as specialties;" third, the "Annual Reports" (octavo) contain, besides the accounts of the operations, expenditures, etc., "translations from works not generally accessible to American students, reports of lectures, abstracts of correspondence, etc." These are liberally distributed free of cost to public libraries, institutions, colleges. States, and Territories, in such a way, and under such conditions, as shall secure them to be most generally accessible and useful. No copyright has ever been secured on any of the publications of the Institution. They are left perfectly free to be used by the compilers of books and all other persons, on the express condition that due credit is to be given, not only to the author of the book, but to the Smithsonian Institution. This is eminently just, because in most cases the researches have been prosecuted with the aid of funds from the Smithson bequest. The publications for 1874 have been Volume XIX. of the "Contributions to Knowledge," which contains the results of three most important researches: 1. On Problems of Rotary Motion, by General J. G. Barnard, pp. '74. 2. On Fresh-water Algæ, by Prof. H. C. Wood, pp. 274, 21 colored plates. 3. Orbit and Tables of Uranus, by Prof S. Newcomb, pp. 296.
Besides this, the eleventh and twelfth volumes of the "Miscellaneous Collections" have been issued, containing nine contributions: On the Families of Mammals and Fishes, by Dr. Theodore Gill; On the Diptera of North America, by H. Loew; Directions for collecting and preserving Insects, by Dr. Packard; two papers on Coleoptera, by Dr. John Le Conte; Review of American Birds, by Prof Baird; On the Constants of Nature, Part I., boiling-points, specific gravities, etc., by Prof Clarke (noticed in The Popular Science Monthly, August, 1874); and Rules for the Telegraphic Announcement of Astronomical Discoveries, by Prof. Henry. Several of the separate memoirs which will make up Volume XX. of the "Contributions to Knowledge" have already been printed and distributed: 1. On the General Integrals of Planetary Motion, by Prof. Newcomb; 2. On the Haidah Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands, by James G. Swan. At the time of making the report, there were in the press, and intended for the quarto publications: 1. The Antiquities of Tennessee, by Dr. Joseph Jones; 2. The Harmonies of the Solar System, by Prof S. Alexander (noticed in The Popular Science Monthly for September, 1875); 3. The Winds of the Globe, by the late Prof. J. H. Coffin; 4. The Temperature Tables of North America, by C. A. Schott. There were also in the press a monograph of American Wasps, by Prof, de Saussure, of Geneva, and a botanical index to all known American species of plants.
For many years the Smithsonian Institution had a large corps of volunteer meteorological observers distributed all over the United States, who forwarded their reports for discussion to Washington. These observers have been transferred to the United States Signal Bureau of the War Department, to whom their reports are now furnished. But an immense amount of valuable meteorological material has accumulated at the Smithsonian Institution, which is to be discussed and published. The first work of this series, on "Rainfall," has already been printed, the discussion of the observations having been done by Prof. Schott, of the Coast Survey. The second volume, on the "Winds of the Globe," by Prof. J. H. Coffin, and continued by his son and by Dr. Woeikof, will be published in 1875. The next work of the series treats of the "Temperature of the United States," and will also be published during this year. It deals with all available observations of temperature in the United States from the earliest times to the present: these have been discussed by Prof. Schott, aided by computers paid from the Smithson fund. Still another work of this series is in progress on the "Geographical Distribution of Thunder-Storms," and another work will soon be commenced on the deductions from barometrical observations in the United States.
The Institution is also aiding in a research on the orbit of the periodic comet of Tuttle (time of revolution thirteen years), prosecuted under the direction of Prof. Stone. An investigation into the efficiency of steam-heaters has been aided by the Institution during the year.
"The diffusion of knowledge among men" is powerfully aided by the Smithsonian system of exchanges. The Institution is in correspondence with more than two thousand institutions, whose publications, etc., it distributes in this country, and to whom it forwards works relating to scientific and literary advances in America. As is said by the secretary in his report, "the effect of this system on the diffusion of knowledge cannot be too highly estimated." The exchanges in books and pamphlets alone amount to 5,546 in 1874, and these are deposited in the Library of Congress, where they are available for research. The telegraphic announcements of astronomical discoveries in Europe and America have been in operation since 1873, and are of the highest benefit to astronomical science. Six asteroids and six comets were so announced in 1874.
The National Museum is deposited in the building of the Institution, and is under the care of Prof. Baird, Assistant Secretary. Constant additions are yearly made to it from all parts of the world, and all sources are laid under contribution. Mr. P. T. Barnum gives to the institution all animals which die in his menagerie, and Mr. Blackford, of Fulton Market, New York City, selects, from the thousands of fish which come weekly into his hands, all rare and curious ones, which are at once sent in Ice to the museum. There is, indeed, no part of the globe from which contributions are not received. All the War Department and other surveys in the West, the Navy Department surveys and exploring expeditions, the State Department Boundary Survey, and many other collectors, deposit the results of their work here, where they are discussed and elaborated. The museum furnishes also, from its duplicates, specimens for study to specialists who desire them. Its collections of insects, etc., are deposited with the Department of Agriculture, and exchanges are constantly kept up with this and other institutions. The United States Fish Commission may be almost considered as a part of the Institution; the valuable results which have already accrued from its scientific and energetic labors are too well known to need more than a mention.
The secretary of the Institution has for twenty years been a member of the Lighthouse Board, and is now its chairman, and to this connection Science owes the extensive series of experiments on sound in its relation to fog-signals, which are published in the appendix to the light-house report for 1874. The results from these experiments will undoubtedly be a guide for all governments in their choice of a method of fog-signaling.
Besides the valuable report of the secretary, of which the above is an abstract, there are given: Eulogies on Laplace, Quetelet, and De la Rive, by Arago, Mailly, and Dumas; a lecture on Tides and Tidal Action in Harbors, by Prof. Hilgard; Observations of Atmospheric Electricity and Aurora, by Lemstrom; an essay on a Dominant Language for Science, by De Candolle; Underground Temperature, by Schott and Everett; The North Carolina Earthquakes, by Du Pre and Henry; Warming and Ventilation, by Morin; and several short communications on Ethnology. All of these translations and memoirs are interesting and valuable, and many of them deserve a special review, but we must be content to notice how carefully they are selected to aid in the diffusion of information not generally accessible.
Enough has been given to show that the closing words of the secretary's report are but a mere statement of present facts: "The Institution is successfully prosecuting the plan adopted for realizing the benevolent intention of its founder, in the way of increasing and diffusing knowledge among men; its funds are again in a prosperous condition, and its reputation and usefulness are still on the increase."
The adoption of a wise and well-considered plan and a steady adherence to "the fundamental idea" have resulted in this instance, as they will result in all, in lasting and permanent good and in brilliant success. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be derived from the present report is in its unwritten precepts, which show how a scientific trust may be administered so as to produce the greatest return to the world, and at the same time to preserve for science the full benefit of the endowment. There is no country where these lessons deserve more careful study than in our own, and we are fortunate in having in our midst an example of good administration based on wise prevision, and guided by high scientific intelligence.
In the early pages of this pamphlet the author explains what is meant by the terms bacterium and vibrio, gives the various classifications that have been proposed for them, and then goes into an account of their natural history, including structure, development, motions, nourishment, functions, and distribution. Briefly summed up, "Bacteria are microscopical vegetable organisms of two main varieties: 1. Round or oval cells 0.0005—0.0010 mm. in diameter, single or arranged in lines or groups.... 2. Cylindrical cells, 0.002—0.003 mm. long, single or arranged in lines.... There is no genetic relationship between them and ordinary mould and fungus. They are found in the air, water, and most animal and vegetable tissues. They are saprophytes, not parasites, and are unable in themselves to cause infectious diseases." The remainder of the essay is on the second branch of the subject, viz., what these organisms have to do with the origin and development of the putrid conditions of wounds, and on the treatment to be adopted for the prevention or relief of such conditions.
The author shows that fire-burial was once the ruling custom with the Germanic races, and thinks it not strange that the German people should so readily accept the views of Sir Henry Thompson on cremation. Their occasional torchlight processions at night in honor of departed princes are lingering relics of fire-burial.
The Saxons and Frisians of old were terrified at the dark, narrow grave when the change was made from burning to burial. With the Northmen, cremation succeeded mound-burial. In Gaul, Cæsar observed that the natives practised cremation, and Tacitus mentions fire-burial as a Germanic custom, special kinds of wood being set apart for chieftains.
The dog of the Norse warrior was burnt with him. Horses, too, were burned, and in some countries the custom of leading his horse after the coffin of a chief still prevails.
"We burn the corpses of those we love," said a Norseman in the tenth century to au Arab embassador, "but you bury in the earth where vermin and worms devour."
The Northmen buried the ashes after cremation, and planted flowers over the tomb. These practices have found expression in many poems and legends of the races where they prevailed, and the author is exceedingly happy in pressing them into service in his historical notice.
From this Report we learn that during the past year the Curators purchased, as a locale for the School of Mines, the public school-building in the town of Rolla, at a cost of $25,000. Since 1867 the library has grown from 2,000 volumes to 9,000; scientific apparatus has been increased in a yet greater ratio. The School of Mines numbered last year over 100 students. In addition to the School of Mines, the following professional schools are now fully organized in connection with the university, viz.: Normal School, Agricultural and Mechanical College, College of Law, Medical College, and Department of Analytical and Applied Chemistry.
In this volume we have the results of the detailed survey of five counties, viz., Jefferson, Scott, Jackson, Brown, and Morgan, as also of special researches in other parts of the State. In a former number of the Monthly we gave the result of one of these special researches, viz., the discovery of a considerable bed of white porcelain clay, in Lawrence County. Another inquiry prosecuted by the State surveyors during the year 1874 had reference to the archaeology of Indiana: attention was directed to collecting stone implements and other relics of the mound-builders, and to the mapping of tumuli and walled or fortified prehistoric village-sites. Only a small portion of the State has been as yet examined, with a view to researches of this kind, yet the results attained are highly gratifying. The volume before us gives a detailed description of some very remarkable monuments of the mound-builders. One of these, built on a high bluff which overlooks the Ohio River, consists of two circular piles of stone with neck-like prolongations lying in opposite directions; greatest diameter, twenty-two feet; length, forty feet. The mounds are built of stones piled up regularly and lapped so as to break joints, but without mortar. Another curious monument is an earthwork, circular in shape, six hundred yards in circumference, ten or twelve feet wide, and at present fifteen to twenty inches above the general surface. There is a gap six to eight feet wide in the northeast part of this circular wall. Four or five other mounds are described in the work.
In the chapters devoted to the several counties, the economic geology of each receives due attention. The principal minerals of economic value found in Jackson County are building-stone, brick-clay, and ochre. In Brown County gold is found in the bed or on the bars of all the brooks that flow into Bean Blossom Creek from Indian Creek Ridge. Fine dust and minute scales may be found in the county wherever black sand and small pebbles indicate former currents of ice-water. The metal is of unusual purity, but the total product of gold in the county has not exceeded ten thousand dollars. There are numerous quarries of valuable building-stone in the county. The manganiferous iron-stone of Scott County yields an excellent quality of mill and foundery iron. There are as many as thirteen distinct seams of the ore, ranging from three inches to one foot or more in thickness, in a vertical space of twenty feet. Beyond brick-clay and building-stone, Jefferson County possesses no minerals of any considerable economic importance.
The volume contains a "Synopsis of the Fishes of Indiana," by D. S. Jordan, M. D., and a "Partial List of the Flora of Jefferson County," by John M. Coulter.
This work may be called a running commentary on the text of the Scriptures. The author has no hesitation in expressing his opinions, but yet be does not transgress the limits of just criticism. He has no prejudices against the "sacred books," but he is unwilling that they should be reverenced without discrimination. "Faith," says he, "is excellent if founded on a noble life... We have no intention of setting at naught infinite wisdom or of treating eternal things with irreverence. The manly course for all writers is to say what they think just and true, and leave the event to God. Keeping back truth is a sin."
These books belong to the series known as "Robinson's Shorter Course." In paper, print, and binding, they are very attractive. The "First Book in Arithmetic" abounds in pictures, which are employed not so much for the purpose of embellishment, as in order to make plain to the infant mind the problems and operations set before it. "The Complete Arithmetic" is designed to fill the place usually occupied by three or more graded text-books. "Algebraic Problems" is intended for the use of teachers. It contains a great variety of problems, by means of which the student's knowledge of the principles of algebra may be tested.
The numbers of this series cost but a trifle each, and when completed they will make a volume, not only of fascinating interest, but full of valuable practical information. Of the parts before us, VI. is on the "Population of an Apple-Tree," VII. on "Insects of the Field," and VIII. on "Insects of the Forest." The illustrations are numerous and well executed, and the descriptions are admirably clear.
We have here a comprehensive account of the usually accepted methods of extracting the useful metals from their ores. The scientific principles involved in each process are clearly set forth, and the processes themselves described with considerable detail, though the author does not descend to the ultimate technical minutiae. The metals treated of in this volume are copper, lead, zinc, mercury, silver, gold, nickel, cobalt, aluminium. The subject of assaying, although it forms an important branch of metallurgy, is not touched upon, as being too large for the compass of the work. Numerous excellent woodcuts serve to illustrate the text.
This book is made up of six unconnected essays, the first, "Nature and her Lessons," being an exposition of current scientific theories of the origin of the universe, and the history of the earth's changes. The author's style is very attractive, and doubtless this essay will tend to suggest many a novel line of thought to the reader previously unacquainted with the current of modern scientific research and speculation. The other subjects treated are: "Woman and her Sphere;" "Education and its Errors;" "America and her Future;" "Life and its Aspirations." The final chapter contains an address delivered by the author on the occasion of the dedication of a "Mission Monument" apparently on the grounds attached to Williams College.
The Border-Lands of Insanity. By A. Wynter, M. D. New York: Putnams. Pp. 321. Price, $2.00.
Weights, Measures, and Money, of All Nations. By F. W. Clarke, S. B. New York: Appletons. Pp. 117. Price, $1.50.
The Mechanic's Friend. By W. E. A. Axon. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 348. Price, $1.50.
Report on United States Marine Hospital Service. Pp. 260.
Health Fragments. By G. H. Everett, M. D. New York: Somerby. Pp. 312. Price, $2.00.
Soul Problems. By Joseph E. Peck. New York: Somerby. Pp. 63. Price, 70 cents.
Elements of Meteorology. Part II. By John H. Tice. St. Louis: the Author. Pp. 216. Price, $2.50.
Politics as a Science. By Charles Reemelin. Cincinnati: Clarke & Co. Pp. 186.
The Taxidermist's Manual. By Captain Thomas Brown. New York: Putnams. Pp. 163. Price, $1.25.
Daily Bulletin of the United States Signal Service. 4 vols.
The Mechanical Engineer. An Address by R. H. Thurston. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 24.
Water and Water Supply. By W. H. Corfield. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 145. Price, 50 cents.
Course to be pursued with an Eye lost through Accident. By J. J. Chisolm, M. D. Pp. 8.