Our readers are reminded that one of the most important scientific papers that have appeared in "The Popular Science Monthly" since its establishment is that by Herbert Spencer, in the present number, on "The Factors of Organic Evolution." It is a popular paper, but it will demand close attention to appreciate its significance and ltd force. The biological questions discussed are fundamental in organic evolution, or the theory of descent with variations, and Mr. Spencer brings into clearness aspects of the subject upon which there has hitherto been much confusion of thought. His root question is as to the import and value of the principle of natural selection contributed by Mr. Darwin, and the decision of which must fix Mr. Darwin's permanent place in relation to the doctrine of evolution. The need of a thorough investigation here is shown, on the one hand, by the confessed unsettledness in regard to the limits of the doctrine of natural selection, and how far it is capable of accounting for evolution phenomena—an uncertainty shared prominently by Mr. Darwin himself; and, on the other hand, by the exaggerated and extravagant claims that have been made for this principle as being all there is of evolution, and that Mr. Darwin is, of course, its founder. No man was so capable of dealing with this subject as Herbert Spencer, and it will be a matter of general congratulation that he has seen fit to take it up in the interests of science and of justice. But, quite aside from all personal bearings of the discussion, it will bo found of the highest interest as a study in the progress of modern biology.
Mrs. Rickoff describes in another place in this number an exhibition of hand-work made out of school by children of from five and six to fourteen years, and draws various suggestive conclusions from the experience. Among those is the following remark: "One of the noticeable features of the exhibition was an apparent decline in originality of invention and spontaneity of thought after the first year or two at school." The inference, of course, is that the school exerted an unfavorable influence upon the manual practice. This could not well be otherwise, as the ideal of the schools is mental cultivation by books, and not by the exercise of the active powers; and, as the schools are machines run by verbal methods and backed by old bookish superstitions, the child brought under their influence will very naturally and very quickly lose any interest it may have previously acquired in manual efforts. The two systems are antagonistic, and we do not believe it is possible to graft any thorough or valuable plan of technical study on our public schools as at present organized. The technical system must be independently developed, and will force its way through or over the narrow, unpractical system that now has the field.
An Introduction to the Study of Chemistry. By Ira Remsen, Professor of Chemistry in the Johns Hopkins University. American Science Series. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Pp. 387. Price, $1.40.
This is one of the cases in which the bare announcement of the author's name goes far to establish the character of his performance. Professor Remsen could make no other than an excellent book on the subject of chemistry. He is a master of the subject, thoroughly familiar with its latest developments, a clear thinker, and a lucid writer, and he has besides had much practical experience as a teacher of the science.
The method of Professor Remsen's work is thus distinctly presented by the author. He begins his preface by remarking: "In preparing this hook I have endeavored to keep in mind the fact that it is intended for those who arc beginning the study of chem-