Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/713

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



each case through zoölogical strata of different types, until we arrive at those where no land mammals are to be found at all. And this succession in space, as evidenced by geography, corresponds in a rough way with the succession in time as revealed by geology: 1. As we recede in distance, we meet with increased dissimilarity. 2. This dissimilarity partakes of a recession in type. 3. Some of these geographical districts seem to have their counterparts in geological periods. The Ethiopian region, as Wallace has shown, presents us with the exiled Miocene fauna of Europe. Eocene forms may be seen in its dependency of Madagascar. Highly isolated Australia, with its marsupials, etc., appears as if it were still in the secondary age. Oceanic islands, such as New Zealand, give no land mammals at all. In others, the reptiles "possess the land."

Antiquity of the Practice of Inoculation.—Inoculation as a means of mitigating the severity of smallpox was practiced in Eastern countries ages before its introduction into the West by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The Chinese appear to have practiced it as early as the sixth century. Smallpox is by the Chinese called "heaven's flowers," and their term for inoculation is "cultivating heaven's flowers." Their mode of procedure is to pulverize the scabs taken from a smallpox patient, and to blow the powder thus obtained up the nostril of the child. The powder is injected into the left nostril in the case of a boy, and into the right in the case of a girl. It is impossible to tell whether the disease induced will be severe or not. In some years there are few if any deaths, at other times the mortality is much the same as that from smallpox. A lucky day is carefully chosen for the operation, and at a time when the child is in good health. No particular rules are observed in selecting the matter, except that it is always taken from a mild case of the disease. Gradually, however, vaccination is coming into use in China. The suspicion with which vaccination was formerly regarded by the people as a subtle device of the foreigners to destroy the inhabitants of the Central Flowery Kingdom is dying out, and Dr. Osgood, of Foochow, who has every opportunity of knowing, says that "vaccination is gaining ground every year, and is destined in time to drive out inoculation." But the process of substitution must necessarily be very slow in so strictly conservative a country as the Chinese Empire.


Among the results of the labors of the United States Fish Commission during the year 1878 is to be reckoned the discovery of fifty new species of fishes in our Atlantic waters. These species are enumerated by Messrs. G. Brown Goode and Tarleton H. Bean, in the "American Journal of Science." Full descriptions of the fishes, with discussions of sundry questions of classification, will appear in the publications of the United States National Museum.

A new danger to health is found in the use of artificial flowers colored with aniline dyes. The bronze-green and other colors now so much in vogue are not "fixed," and the dye is apt to be transferred to the skin of the head, producing much annoyance, unpleasant irritation, or even inflammation.

Professor Leidy, having examined with the microscope a "black mildew" found growing on brick walls in shaded situations, found it to be a species of alga closely allied to Protococcus viridis, which gives the bright-green color to the trunks of trees, fences, etc. The species which produces the black discoloration may be only viridis in a different state, but, until it is proved to be such, he proposes to distinguish it by the name of Protococcus lugubris. The latter consists of minute round or oval cells, from 0·006 to 0.009 millimetre in diameter, isolated or in pairs or in groups of four, the result of division; or it occurs in short irregular chains of four or more cells up to a dozen, occasionally with a lateral offset of two or more cells. In mass, to the naked eye, the alga appears as an intensely black powder.

In certain districts of Austria where cretinism exists the skulls of the wretches who have been afflicted with that disease are disinterred a few years after death and preserved by their nearest relatives. A like custom prevailed in Peru in times prior to the discovery of America, as we learn from an article in "La Nature," on the Anthropological Exposition lately held in Paris. Two crania were there exhibited, one of them overlaid with gold and the other with silver. The evidences of cretinism in these skulls are unmistakable, and there can be no doubt that they were at one time objects of pious care. The custom in Austria is to