Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/569

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553
CORRESPONDENCE.

tries are not yet surveyed, and some of the surveys not yet patented.) Out of this system endless confusion and litigation arose in settling the disputed lines and overlapping entries and surveys.

This litigation was not wholly settled until long after I came to the bar, in 1847, and it was my fortune to be engaged in many of these cases. In the trial of these cases it very frequently became important to show the date of the surveys These dates were shown by the indorsement on the survey itself, and corroborated by an examination of the hacks on the line and corner trees of the survey. These hacks invariably left a scar, which, to the practical surveyor, was readily detected, even after a lapse of sixty years. By "blocking" the tree, as it was called, and taking the block and counting the concentric rings, from the hack made by the surveyor to the outside of the tree, it invariably corresponded with the dates as they appeared upon the returns made by the surveyor, showing as many rings as years had elapsed from the date of the survey, thus proving that for each year of the life of the tree an additional concentric ring had been added.

The prevailing timber was oak, in its many varieties, and they were rarely marked unless they were at least four inches and upward in diameter. It will be very difficult to convince an old surveyor, or an old lawyer who has tried many of these land cases, that each concentric ring, on an oak tree at least, does not indicate a year's growth only of such tree.

Judge N. H. Swayne, late of the Supreme Court of the United States, but now residing in New York city, practiced for many years, before he was called to a seat on the bench, in the Virginia military district, and is familiar with these facts. If you will drop a note to him, he will corroborate me.

P. C. Smith.
Circleville, Ohio, January 8, 1883.
 

 

WÖHLER AND "VITAL ENERGY."

Messrs. Editors:

In the June issue of your magazine (vol. xxiii, No. II), in the opening paragraph of an article entitled "Darwin and Copernicus," reference is made to Wöhler as the "chemist who by the first organic synthesis helped to dispel the illusion of vital energy." Have the artificial production of urea by synthesis and subsequent achievements in that line satisfied scientists that vital energy is an illusion, or does Du Bois-Reymond so characterize it upon the basis of his own speculations and the conjecture of a school of physicists? If the non-existence of vital energy has not been demonstrated beyond question, does he not violate "scientific candor" in his assertion? A well-known chemist, for several years pupil and assistant of Wöhler, familiar with his work, and conversant with later chemical research, has told me that in his judgment the expression referred to above is unwarrantable.

Very respectfully,
Austin B. Bassett,
Department of Physics, Massachusetts Agricultural College.
Amherst, June 5, 1883.
 

 

TEACHING ENGLISH.

Messrs. Editors:

Not long since the Board of Education in this city decided to employ a teacher of English and Elocution for their high-school, one of the largest for places of equal size in the country. But, although the University of Michigan, with its fourteen hundred students, is situated here, no one could be found among its graduates competent to teach how to write the most important and forcible of all languages, our own mother tongue, and at the same time speak it with ease, grace, and the most artistic expression. Hundreds are prepared to teach dead languages, none to write and speak the English, and hence a teacher had to be imported. Herbert Spencer's question, "What knowledge is of most worth?" is very pertinent here. Why so much time on dead languages, and none on speaking our own?

X.
Ann Arbor, Mich., June 26, 1883.
 

 

THE CASE OF THE DOG PLUTO.

Messrs. Editors:

In your issue of the present month appears the article of Mr. Eugene N. S. Ringueberg, describing the strange actions of his pointer Pluto. It seems to me a strained explanation which attributes the conduct of this dog, as described, to superstition or the fear of ghosts, etc.

In your number of April last was a paper on "Perceptional Insanities," by Dr. W. A. Hammond, and any person who has read that article, or who is otherwise at all familiar with the subject of illusions and hallucinations, must recognize the fact that all which is related by Mr. Ringueberg is more reasonably to be accounted for by supposing Pluto to have been a victim of perceptional insanity.

The animals, sharing much with man even as to mental or spiritual qualities, arc, like him, subject to madness and insanity, and there is no reason for supposing that they do not occasionally suffer from deception of the senses. In the case of Pluto, the first noticed attack followed immediately upon hearing the noise caused by the falling of a stick of wood in the stove behind which the dog was sleeping. It seems prob-