Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/865

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CORRESPONDENCE.

vindicated only at the expense of his good sense and intelligence.

Yours truly, C. M. Mead.
Andover, Massachusetts, January 31, 1882.
 

Messrs. Editors.

A note in your department of correspondence, February number, page 553, on "The Duration of Human Life," by Charles S. Bryant, of St. Paul, Minnesota, calls for an answer. I do not undertake or need to reply to it in full. It would be enough to follow the saying, Ex uno disce omnes.

Says Mr. Bryant, "Seth was born when Adam was one hundred and thirty years old, and was his last child." He says this which I have italicized, although, in the Scripture account, the very next words to those concerning the birth of Seth (Gen. v, 3) are, "And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years, and he begat sons and daughters" (Gen. v, 4).

Here I might drop the matter, simply saying that this is a specimen of Mr. Bryant's statements throughout the letter. But I will follow them a little further. Mr. Bryant does not pretend to question the record that "Adam lived a hundred and thirty years and begat. . . Seth"; but, where the account adds, as quoted above, that "after this he lived eight hundred years," he gives him nine years! Now, even his own so-called "rule" about the Hebrew reading of "concrete" (sic!) numbers—the largest, first could not twist eight hundred (800) into nine (9). This "rule" itself applied to eight hundred would give a hundred and eight, which added to one hundred and thirty, would be two hundred and thirty-eight, instead of Mr. Bryant's one hundred and thirty-nine, for Adam's lifetime.

Carry out this process of examination (and any bright school-boy can do it), and Mr. Bryant's amazingly shrunken "table" of the ages of the antediluvian patriarchs at death (page 554) is, according to his own (and I know not whose it is, if it is not his own) "rule," elaborately wrong in every instance.

But, now, whence comes this "rule"? The Hebrew grammar (see Conant's "Gesenius," for instance) teaches that "when units and tens are written together, the early writers commonly place the units first, as 'two and twenty'; the later writers almost invariably reversing them, as 'twenty and two.'" But what has this to do with writing hundreds, thousands, etc.? Nothing at all. The "rule" is—mythic—to say the least of it.

Again, that "at the date of this writing, the Hebrews had no means of writing nine hundred or any number of hundreds above one, without repetition or circumlocution," is as untrue as it is to say that we now have no such means. Mā-âh was one hundred; mâthăyim (a dual form) was two hundred; sh'lōth mā-ōth (the last a "construct form" of mā-âh, one hundred) was three hundred; and so on throughout. There was just as much "circumlocution" in this as there is in our language, and no more.

The fact is, that in Gen. v, 3, the Hebrew says, "Adam lived thirty and a hundred years (sh'lōshïm u m'ăth shânâh)," i. e., one hundred and thirty years; while in the fourth verse it says, "And all the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years (sh'mōnĕh mā-ōth shânâh)," with no and (u or v) between eight and a hundred; and no "rule," let us remember, but Mr. Bryant's fictitious one, for putting the "larger" number one hundred before the "smaller" eight. In the fifth verse, in exactly the same unmistakable way, the Hebrew says, "And all the days that Adam lived were" (not "a hundred years and thirty years and nine years," as Mr. Bryant expressly and untruly states it, but) "nine hundred years and thirty years," just that and nothing else.

I am prompted to take the trouble to write this, and ask you to publish it, because the positive and yet positively false and misleading article in hand not only might do, but is doing, violence to truth between the covers of a scientific journal. In the Teachers' Institute of our city, a company numbering some two or three hundred, I had, not long ago, given a summary of general history, when this very article was referred to by a teacher, in remarking upon the exercise as perhaps affording an explanation of, and a way to remove, the "difficulty" (?) in the Bible account of the longevity of the antediluvians. Even though there were any real difficulty here (I am glad to see that M. de Solaville does not feel obliged to get rid of a difficulty at this point, but only mentions some offered explanations of a remarkable fact), the cool fabrications of the letter I criticise are not the means that would remove it.

Albert Bigelow.
Buffalo, New York, February 15, 1882.
 

 

AN ELECTRICAL NUISANCE.

Messrs. Editors.

The scientists will confer a boon on one of our mechanical trades if they will suggest some practical solution to the following difficulty: Every one conversant with the machinery of the press-room of a large printing establishment has heard of the great annoyance caused by the generation of electricity while the sheets are passing through a cylinder press. The action of the fluid causes the sheets on issuing from the press to adhere closely, and at all angles, to the