Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/October 1876/Correspondence

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CORRESPONDENCE.



ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES OF PHILADELPHIA.

To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

AT the risk of appearing ungracious, and possibly fastidious, I beg leave to invite attention to some inaccuracies in a brief notice of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, published in The Popular Science Monthly for August, 1876. The statements are erroneous; and, taken as a whole, the article does not fairly present the Academy to the public. The enthusiasm of my learned friend Prof. Cope has possibly led the writer of the article into misconception.

The Popular Science Monthly says, in substance, that Prof. E. D. Cope availed himself of the occasion of the Academy's taking possession of its new building "to suggest in the Penn Monthly some needed changes and improvements" in the organization of the society.

Prof. Cope, in his article on "The Academy of Natural Sciences" in the Penn Monthly, mentions that the Academy while changing its location revised its organization, "adding some functions which shall" relate it to the public more nearly than heretofore; that "its founder," meaning, of course, its seven founders, designed that the objects of the society should be promotion of original research, of instruction, and of the diffusion of knowledge.

Prof. Cope, Corresponding Secretary of the society, and at the period referred to one of a committee instructed to revise the by-laws with a view to improvement, did suddenly conceive and hastily deliver to the public press, contrary to the usual practice in such cases, an article referring to matters which were under consideration of the committee at the time, possibly in expectation that a small minority on some points of peculiar interest might be made a majority through the influence of his eloquence.

The Popular Science Monthly says that the Academy has "a moderate fund for promoting" the diffusion of knowledge, and regularly publishes "Transactions."

The Academy has a very modest "publication-fund," but it has never put forth anything under the title of "Transactions." It publishes the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (quarto), and the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (octavo), the first now including 6,592 pages and 565 plates, and the second, 10,692 pages and 136 plates, which together constitute the Academy's records of original research.

"Original research is not materially encouraged by the Academy."—The Popular Science Monthly.

Original research is considerably encouraged by publishing the reports of investigators, and by giving them freely the use of a scientific library of 25,000 volumes, and of extensive collections of natural objects while engaged in their work. If it is meant that the Academy does not encourage original research because it does not feed, lodge, and clothe investigators, or pretend to compensate them in any manner for scientific work, the charge must be admitted. It may truly plead, however, in extenuation of the illiberal policy of which it is accused, that its resources have never exceeded its current expenditures for fuel, light, postage, freight, etc., etc. The Academy is accused, indirectly, with doing less to encourage original research than might be done with its means: "for," says The Popular Science Monthly, "in one instance funds, supposed to be devoted to research, were hoarded, and afterward turned over to the building-fund."

The Academy never had funds which were in fact or "supposed to be devoted to research." The assertion to the contrary is not true. A section of the Academy had a surplus accumulation in its publication-fund, and generously contributed a part of it to aid the Academy to finish its building. The members of that section are as earnest in the promotion of the interests of science and of the Academy, and as intelligent in the application of their means, as the gentleman who makes their gift the basis of an accusation of dereliction of duty against the Academy.

The Popular Science Monthly says, "Less than five hundred dollars per annum is devoted to 'instruction.'"

For this purpose the Academy expends $480, the entire proceeds of a fund bequeathed to it for this object. Is it reasonably honest to make it a fault that it does not spend more for a specific purpose than it has to spend?

Again, "The chief fault found by Prof. Cope in the organization of the Academy is that, while it secures good financial management, it minimizes the scientific features of the body." And, as if to sustain the assertion that the organization minimizes the scientific features of the body, we are gravely assured, in a somewhat contemptuous manner, in the words of Prof. Cope, that "its officers are the usual president, vice-president, secretary, etc., constituting a management as appropriate to an historical society, library company, or, I might add, church vestry, as to an academy of natural sciences. It has no position designed for its distinctive and essential feature, its scientific experts."

Since its foundation the organization of the society has been frequently and carefully revised. In 1858 provision for the formation of departments, which were called sections in 1868, was made. About six years ago a council was added to it, and in May last the council was enlarged, and authorized to elect thirteen professors, but no source of compensation or rate of compensation has been provided for them. Positions for its scientific experts have been thus provided. In this revision of the organization it was considered to be not expedient at this time to dispense with president, vice-presidents, secretaries, treasurer, etc., although it is freely admitted that these officers are as appropriate to a church vestry as to an academy of natural sciences.

It is made the duty of each professor to preserve, classify, and increase the collections in his department, and report annually their condition and needs to the council, to give special or objective instruction to the beneficiaries of the scholarships in the Academy, and to deliver courses of lectures, under such regulations as the council may establish.

If any properly-qualified gentleman is willing to assume the duties of a professorship without pecuniary compensation, his services will be cheerfully accepted, and he will be encouraged to pursue original investigations as far as can be done without money. It is conjectured, however, that competition for these chairs will not be very active until they are adequately endowed.

The old building was universally admitted to be crowded to excess, and that more space was needed for the collections as well as for the library. Prof. Cope speaks of the collections, and considers them, with one or two exceptions, as extremely meagre, and tells us that a great museum of the future, to be complete, should contain 10,000,000 species of animals, represented by "several specimens of each," aggregating from 30,000,000 to 50,000,000 specimens, adding in the sequel that all the money spent on the new building would have been "as well spent in endowing chairs in the old locality."

In spite of the authority of Prof. Cope's opinion thus implied, that the old building was large enough, it is now found that a half-million of specimens cannot be satisfactorily displayed in the new edifice, though it is twice as capacious as the old one. There is already urgent demand for more space, and this is so evident that contributions to the building-fund have been recently made with a view to an immediate completion of the edifice conformably to the approved plans of the architect. No one thing which can be done now is likely to promote the prosperity of the Academy in the future to a greater degree than to finish the building without loss of time. Efforts to augment the collections will not be very earnest, nor successful in result, until there be accommodation for additions which may be made to them. Original investigation will be more active in the Academy when it can offer a well-appointed laboratory for the use of workers; and an apartment suitably furnished to accommodate an audience, and enable the professors to illustrate their teachings, is prerequisite to the delivery of systematic courses of popular or elementary lectures on natural science in the Academy. The completion of the building will facilitate and strengthen all the functions of the society in all its departments, and lay the foundation of a workshop in which experts and students may pursue investigations advantageously to science and themselves.

The progress of the Academy has been always deliberate and unobtrusive. It will so continue until accelerated by enlarged resources.

To the full extent of its means the Academy encourages original research, gives instruction to those who seek it, and promotes the diffusion of knowledge. Its doors are never closed against a student or votary of science; every one is cordially welcome, and given such assistance and facilities as the society has, which are all charitable gifts, benevolently aggregated and preserved here for the benefit of the intellectually hungry. It may be safely conjectured that its usefulness will increase, pari passu, with the augmentation of its pecuniary resources, unless Utopian projects of scientific grandeur and exclusiveness be injected into its policy.

Observance of that wise and holy precept, suum cuique — to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's — relatively both to substantial things and mental products, would save us all a world of trouble and vexation. Commending the consideration of this precept to my readers most cordially, I am,

Very respectfully,

W. S. W. Ruschenberger. 
 Philadelphia, August 1, 1876.
 

 
LIMITS OF THE WESTERN GRASSHOPPERS' RAVAGES.

To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

In The Popular Science Monthly for July I find the statement quoted from Prof. Riley that the southern limit of the locust ravages is the 44th parallel of latitude, and the eastern limit the 103d meridian. The latitude of this place is 39° 52' nearly. As I write, the locusts are flying so thickly as to give sunlight the yellow tinge of dense smoke. Last night, in a single hour, whole fields of barley were eaten to the ground, and the fields swept cleaner than the harvester could have done the work. These ravages to-day extend one hundred and twenty-five miles south of this place, or to latitude 37°, and how much farther the news has not reached me. Their appearance here is neither unexpected nor exceptional. During the three preceding years agricultural products throughout Colorado were almost entirely destroyed, and thousands of farms were financially ruined. They have visited us to a greater or less extent annually for the last twelve years, and their ravages have often extended as far east as Lawrence, Kansas, or two hundred miles east of the line prescribed in the article referred to. Our altitude is 8,300 feet above the ocean, but this is not their limit. A few days ago I was on a mountain-summit, 14,000 feet in height, and there they were flying to the westward, high overhead, in immense clouds. Many plans are resorted to for their destruction. Kerosene dripping slowly upon the water in irrigating ditches is very effective. Traveling machines, filled with fire, passing over the ground like mowers, destroy millions; but when they come in clouds, as to-day, I know of no defense at all adequate.

I have driven them a hundred times today from the little twenty-foot green spot in front of my house, and yet there are as many there as if I had done nothing. Fortunately they are fastidious, and often will not eat grass, potatoes, or oats.

There is one remedy which I believe would be effective, and that is the preservation of prairie-grouse and other insectivorous birds. The number of locusts eaten by prairie chickens and quails is perfectly marvelous. For the destruction of hawks and eagles there should be a reward offered by the State. This would preserve many of the birds; and heavy fines imposed for the destruction of birds, at any time of the year, would work the rest.

As long as Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, permit the unlimited slaughter of these, their best friends and preservers, they deserve to suffer from the devastation of the locusts, or grasshoppers, as we call them. Respectfully yours,

D. C. Collier. 
 Central City, Colorado, August 10, 1876.
 

 
ACCIDENTAL VARIATION.

To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

The following figures and description show a somewhat interesting case of accidental variation:

The antlers are those of a common deer (Cervus Virginianus). The buck from which they were taken was about five years old, and was shot by a gentleman of long and varied experience as a hunter; he thinks them quite exceptional in shape.

PSM V09 D778 Deer antler dimensions 1.jpg
Fig. 1.

In their dimensions and their great width, as compared with thickness, they show a strong resemblance to the palmated antlers of the caribou, or an approach to the antlers of the elk.

Fig. 1 shows the position and curvature of the antlers. As indicated, they differ somewhat in outline, and the left one is shorter and broader than the right.

Fig. 2 is a reduced sketch obtained by tracing the outlines of the left antler on a large sheet of paper, and then corrected by careful measurements with calipers.

The measurements are:

Width from tip to tip 15-3/8 inches
Length of exterior curvature from root to tip 18-3/4 "
Direct height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14-1/4 "
Width at 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-3/8 "
" 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-1/4 "
" 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-1/8 "
" 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-7/8 "
" 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-1/8 "
" 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 "
" 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-13/16 "
" 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-5/8 "
PSM V09 D778 Deer antler dimensions 2.jpg
Fig. 2.
Thickness at a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7/8 inch.
" b . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2 "
" c . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5/8 "
" d . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7/8 "
" e . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3/4 "
" f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9/16 "
" g . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7/8 "
Girth at root of antler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-3/8 inches.
" 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-5/8 "
" 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10-3/8 "
" 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-3/8 "
" 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-1/8 "
E. R. Leland. 
 Eauclaire, Wis., June 19, 1876.
 

 
WHO ERECTED STONEHENGE?

To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

When a boy, the writer walked many miles to visit Stonehenge. He was utterly alone with these hoary ruins on that treeless plain, and retains, after a third of a century, a vivid reminiscence of the scene and its suggestions.

The attribution of these remains to the Druids always seemed to him quite as absurd as if a discoverer of the mounds of the Mississippi Valley should credit them to the medicine-men of the Indian tribes who alone were found in their vicinity.

Neither Cæsar nor any other ancient author found in the Keltic population of Britain any indication of either the skill or the numerical force commensurate for such undertakings.

The vast slabs composing the circles of Stonehenge are now, it is true, as they were no doubt in Bede's time, shapeless, with one notable exception.

Some of the slabs which have more recently, say within a thousand years, lost their lintels exhibit the unique feature of a duplex tenon, while the lintels show the corresponding mortises. Now this dove-tailing, so to speak, of masonry, shows architectural skill and genius of a high order—immeasurably ahead of anything the Kelts were capable of; nay, more, in advance of even modern art in this department. Further, the material of Stonehenge must have been transported many scores of miles. A people so advanced as to mortise their masonry would scarcely have left the exterior surfaces unchiseled.

The tenons were protected in their inclosing mortises, while the storms of, it may be, two hundred centuries rasped off all vestige of the pristine beauty of their exteriors.

G. H. Knight. 
 Cincinnati, August 23, 1876.