Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/651

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635
MISCELLANY.

his present influence on science very pernicious as favoring the habit of "filling up the wide gaps of knowledge by inaccurate and superficial hypotheses." What we need, in order to extend our knowledge of the origin of species, is not hypothesis and speculation, but a careful collation of facts, and a careful extension of our observation of facts. The hypothesis that the differences of species were produced by variations taking place in unlimited, in indefinitely long periods of time, is, at all events, strongly negatived by this occurrence of such marked peculiarities of difference from the surrounding world, in an archipelago that belongs wholly to the present geological epoch, and has not existed an indefinite time.

 

The Bore of cutting Leaves.—A correspondent of the Scientific American thus complains to its managers: "You do not cut your paper; you compel us, the 50,000, each to cut his own! You have this day robbed me of five minutes precious time in cutting your paper, and the 50,000 each of five minutes! This would make about 520 days of the popular eight-hour kind. Suppose it reached a year or half a year of our most inestimable time; by machinery you could cut the whole edition for $25. Can you excuse yourself? Can all the slovenly publishers of books, periodicals, and newspapers furnish any sort of apology for this wasting of priceless time, amounting to some hundreds of times your own culpability? Why, Harper's Monthly has just cost me thirteen minutes, worth to me twice the price of the magazine! What! 100 years or 500 years of human labor wasted weekly in cutting the leaves of your paper, when a few dollars' worth of work by machinery would do it greatly better, and keep your papers and books neat, genteel, and durable! Shame on your whole fraternity!"

 

Curious Effects of a Brain-Injury.—The recent legal contest over the will of Davis B. Lawler, of Cincinnati, involved many interesting medical and psychological questions. Mr. Lawler died at eighty-two, without issue, leaving an estate valued at $500,000. The question arose concerning his mental state at the time when certain codicils were added to his will, which gave the bulk of his property to the German relatives of his deceased wife.

In October, 1867, nearly two years before his death, Mr. Lawler had a severe fall and concussion of the brain, which was followed by loss of memory of written language, and the codicils in question were made about a month after the accident. His physician, who saw him first six months after the fall, says that he ascertained definitely on his first visit that Mr. Lawler could see printed characters, but that they conveyed no ideas to his mind. The large head-lines of the newspaper, the Cincinnati Gazette, he could not read, though he saw them perfectly. He could write his name, and yet could not tell whether what he had written was or was not his name. He could write directions about his business, but could not read the writing though it was plain enough to others. The sight of written or printed characters failed to be converted into ideas, while his power to make them seemed to imply the possession of such ideas. But such writing as he did was shown to have been done automatically. It is well known that many acts, at first acquired with great labor, by endless repetition come to be performed without will and even without consciousness. Piano-playing, dressing, winding a watch, are acts of this nature, and signing one's name may be classed with them. Herbert Spencer says: "The actions we call rational are, by long-continued repetition, rendered automatic and instinctive." He further says: "In short, many, if not most of our daily actions (actions every step of which was originally preceded by a consciousness of consequences, and was therefore rational), have, by perpetual repetition, been rendered more or less automatic. The requisite impressions being made on us, the appropriate movements follow without memory, reason, or volition coming into play." Maudsley holds that, "when an idea or mental state has been completely organized, it is revived without consciousness and takes its part automatically in our mental operations, just as an habitual movement does in our bodily activity." And again: "As it is with memory, so it is with volition, which is a physiological function of the supreme centres, and which, like memory, becomes more unconscious and automatic the more completely it is organized by repeated practice."