Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/256

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

miles would correspond to the height of the colored prominences, his scale tells us how many globes as large as our earth could be placed one above another, so as barely to reach to the summit of the solar flames.

The sections on the stars and nebula? are full of interest, though Dr. Schellen is disposed to place somewhat more reliance on the researches of F. Secchi into the stellar spectra than is entertained by our leading spectroscopists. On dealing with meteors and their spectra Dr. Schellen lays a well-deserved stress on the labors of Schiaparelli, to whom science owes the recognition of the strange fact that meteoric rings are associated with comets. Nearly ten years have passed since Schiaparelli announced that 'the comet of 1862, No. III.' (a large and bright object) is no other than the remains of the comet out of which the meteoric ring of the 10th of August has been formed in the course of time. Received with doubt for many months, this bold assertion gradually commended itself more and more to the attention of those who studied meteoric phenomena, until in 1866 the recognition of a corresponding agreement between the November meteor-ring and Temple's comet of that year removed all doubt as to the reality of the relation. On February 9th of the present year, the gold medal of the Astronomical Society was awarded to Schiaparelli in recognition of this important contribution to our knowledge.

The editorial work of Dr. Huggins adds considerably to the value of Schellen's treatise. In places, the author apportions somewhat incorrectly the merit due to various workers in the field of spectroscopic research; so that some of the notes in which Dr. Huggins refers to these points are, in reality, very necessary. But the work of the editor is yet more important in removing errors and explaining difficulties relating to scientific details.

Ancient America: in Notes on American Archaeology. By John D. Baldwin, A. M. Harper & Brothers.

One of the great results of modern science is the power it confers of arriving at true interpretations of the past. Just in proportion as it discloses orderly relations in the events of Nature, and trains the human mind in the careful weighing of evidence, it enables investigators to turn backward and gather a knowledge, which was before impossible, of the ancient order of things. We owe to science, therefore, a history of man which is earlier than books—of civilizations which rose and passed away with no literature to preserve its memory. Fragmentary and most incomplete it assuredly is, and a host of questions arise in the inquirer's mind to which no answers can be given; yet a vast and constantly-increasing mass of facts is known, from which many valid conclusions are deduced of interest to the students of Nature and of Man.

Archæology, or the science of antiquities, searches for all the vestiges of human action in the distant past; the remains of architectural structures, of public works, carvings, inscriptions, coins, medals, heraldic symbols, workmen's tools, articles of use and ornament, and whatever can serve to throw light upon the state of man and society when they were produced. It matters nothing how apparently trivial are the relics of by-gone ages; they have interest for the archæologist because they are the results of art, industry, intelligence, and social organization, and become the measures of these conditions.

The book before us treats of the most interesting departments of American archæology. Its author published a volume in 1869 on the prehistoric nations, and now follows it with a popular compendious statement of what is known of the ancient monuments of North and South America, and the inferences they warrant as to the condition of the early inhabitants of our continent. For, whatever theory is adopted regarding the origin and career and relationship of the American races of men, one thing is certain: this continent was formerly the theatre of a people greatly superior to the Indian tribes. Many of the works that remain give evidence of high, though of course, indefinite antiquity.

One of the phases of ancient works which remain to us in great abundance is the mound-structures; the people who made them being known as the mound-builders. These are numerous in the Mississippi Valley—there being 10,000 of them in Ohio