Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/97

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



go quite as far astray as theologians often do in dealing with questions of science.

My reply to Prof. Huxley is accordingly confined to the strictly personal questions raised by his references to myself. I hope that, after making due allowance for Hibernicisms and for imperfect acquaintance with English modes of thought and expression, he will accept my explanation as sufficient.—Nineteenth Century.


By A. H. ALMY.

THE statistics collected from the sugar-producing countries show that more than one half of the world's sugar is derived from the beet-root; and it is known that the consumers of sugar in the United States often make daily use of it in their households without suspecting that they are contributing to the support of the peasantry and wage-earners of continental Europe.

Whenever the history of the beet-sugar industry shall have been written, it will prove interesting and instructive to the student, as an achievement of science, and will present a problem to the political economist of grave import in its reflection on the future business possibilities. It is a matter of historical record that for many years, in the early part of the present century, continental Europe worked almost hopelessly to produce a sugar-yielding plant which would thrive in its northern climate and supply the sugar it consumed.

Chemistry had demonstrated that the beet-root—as well as other forms of plant-life—contained a solution of sugar identical with that found in the cane-plant of the tropics; but the amount of sugar extracted was so inconsiderable as to preclude the hope of obtaining a supply from that source, unless new discoveries should make it possible to increase the saccharine product.

Schools of instruction were established for imparting special information in the cultivation of the beet and the extraction of the saccharine principle. And costly experiments and researches were made.

Scientific men were rewarded, subsidies were granted, and factories were built, but sugar was produced only at extravagant cost; and, as a financial venture, without other considerations, it proved a stupendous failure. The industry was abandoned in France with the fall of Napoleon, but was continued in a moderate way by some of the continental states without a profitable result, until about twenty years ago, when the possible war complications of that period—which afterward culminated in the humilia-