Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/472

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iarized with its employment in favor of or against many classes of wrong-doers, that the practicability and propriety of its application to offenders generally were first perceived.


Translated from the French by Miss E. A. YOUMANS.

MEN of science, whose patient researches have accumulated the proofs of the theory of evolution, have perhaps found more facts in support of this great philosophical doctrine in the vegetable than in the animal world. When we say the vegetable world, we of course mean chiefly fossil vegetables. It is only by the study of extinct forms, and their comparison with the living flora, that the affinities between actual types and distant ancestors have been discovered, and their mode of evolution revealed. Vegetable paleontology, it is true, is yet in its infancy, and has many great gaps; still, the rapidity with which it is being developed, and the prodigious number of facts that have been already collected, give good ground for the hope that the day is not far distant when we shall have surely determined the ancestral lines of most of our plants. To this the efforts of paleontologists are tending, and their activity is beyond all praise. During the last twenty years their discoveries have furnished the matter for large volumes and for many memoirs, published in the reports of academies of science, in the bulletins of geological societies, etc. But the profound lessons derived from these discoveries have hitherto been almost the exclusive possession of scientific men. People of general intelligence, who are interested in all progress have known little of the results obtained. This injustice could be no longer tolerated. A complete treatise was required, written in a style that all could comprehend, and summing up the progress thus far accomplished; and M. de Saporta, one of the most eminent authorities in vegetable paleontology, has just published such a work.

He devotes his first chapter to the theory of evolution, passing successively in review the most important arguments in its favor. Notwithstanding the great interest of this subject, it will not detain us now, for we wish to examine the main body of the work. Besides, Saporta is now writing for the "International Scientific Series" a book devoted to the study of evolution in the vegetable kingdom, where he will show the line of descent of the great families of plants.

  1. The World of Plants before the Appearance of Man. By Count de Saporta, Correspondent of the Institute. 8vo. 416 pages, with Thirteen Plates, of which five are colored, and One Hundred and Eighteen Figures in the Text. Paris: G. Masson. 1879.