Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/602

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



to those of which Torula is a sort of offshoot. It is certain that such diseases are propagated by contagion and infection, in just the same way as ordinary contagious and infectious diseases are propagated. Of course, it does not follow from this, that all contagious and infectious diseases are caused by organisms of as definite and independent a character as the Torula; but, I think, it does follow that it is prudent and wise to satisfy one's self in each particular case, that the "germ-theory" cannot and will not explain the facts, before having recourse to hypotheses which have no equal support from analogy.—Contemporary Review.



WHILE the scientific world and his own countrymen are rivals in doing honor to Prof. Palmieri for his zeal in remaining at his post in spite of all danger, it may be interesting to examine in some detail the work done at the Observatory of Mount Vesuvius. We know wonderfully little about the origin and mutual dependence of volcanic phenomena. This is due to a want of accurate observations. For the complete investigation we require first to know at what dates earthquakes and eruptions occur at different parts of the earth. Next we must have observations of the direction and exact hour at which a wave of disturbance passes different places whose positions are known. This gives us the velocity of the wave, and helps to determine the position, under the earth's surface, of the centre of disturbance; or, if a wave be propagated over the sea, we obtain a means of estimating the average depth of the intervening ocean; for the velocity of a wave increases with the depth of the sea. This method gives one of the best determinations we possess of the depth of the Pacific Ocean. But beyond this we must have observations made systematically at some place subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. No place in Europe is more suitable for this than the neighborhood of Mount Vesuvius; and it was for such observations that an observatory was established there.

Every one knows that Mount Vesuvius consists of a vast cone of lava and ashes, at the top of which is the great crater. On the northern side, separated from it by the deep valley called the Atrio del Cavallo, rises the precipitous and semicircular Monte Somma. This once formed the crater of the volcano, and the present cone seems to have been formed inside that great crater at the time when Pompeii was overwhelmed. On a spur of rock, a mile or two in length, running down from the Atrio del Cavallo, the Observatory is placed. It is