Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/443

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429
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

made at the Certosa, near Florence, by a few lingering Carthusians of the old society, whose secret is likely to perish with them. The Dominicans of Santa Maria Novella formerly manufactured elixirs and scents, but, according to Chambers's Journal, have been broken up by the Government. The Benedictines make a rival to Chartreuse; and the monks of Tre Fontane, near Rome, make a "Eucalyptica," with Eucalyptus; but Chartreuse continues to enjoy the higher esteem.

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.—The twenty-fifth anniversary of this highly respected school occurred in 1890, and was commemorated by an address reviewing the career of the institution, which was delivered by Augustus Lowell. The Institute was founded by the eminent geologist, Prof. William B. Rogers. The work of organization was retarded by the civil war, but in February, 1865, the school opened with twenty-seven students. In 1872 the number had increased to three hundred and forty-eight, and then came the financial crisis, which very nearly wrecked the undertaking. It survived, however, and the revival of business brought it a new era of prosperity, so that its students now number nine hundred, with ninety instructors and eleven courses of study. The purpose of the Institute of Technology is to prepare men to direct those great industrial enterprises and public works which require a thorough training, based upon an adequate acquaintance with science, for their successful prosecution. Additions to the facilities of the school have been made in rapid succession, often looking to the future to supply the requisite means. This institution was one of the first in the world to instruct chemistry classes by the laboratory method. Its first chemical instructors were Charles W. Eliot, now President of Harvard, and Prof. Frank H. Storer. A physical laboratory was established at about the same time. In 1871 a laboratory for the course in mining engineering was begun, by the purchase of apparatus in which economic quantities of ores could be treated. Two years later a sixteen-horse-power engine, with apparatus for engine and boiler tests, was provided. In 1881 a laboratory of applied mechanics, devoted especially to tests of building materials, was added. A distinct course in electrical engineering was organized in 1882, and this study had its special laboratory fitted up in the new building which the growth of the school required to be erected in the following year. Six years later another new building was put up, and during all these years delicate instruments and powerful machines of great variety have been continually added to the equipment of all departments. In carrying on its work the Institute has several times incurred heavy debts, most of which have been canceled by the efforts of its friends. It still owes, however, the cost of its latest building ($1 20,000). The graduates that it has been sending out for over twenty years are doing valuable work in the several engineering professions, and as instructors in various departments of science and technology, while the example of the Institute has done much to extend the laboratory method of science-teaching.

 

The Nature of a Flash of Lightning.—Describing the electric discharge of a flash of lightning, Prof. Oliver J. Lodge compares the cloud and the earth as forming the two coats of a Leyden jar, in the dielectrics of which houses and people exist. The occurrence of the discharge is determined at the moment when the maximum electric tension which the air can stand is reached. "At whatever point the electric tension rises to this value, smash goes the air. The breakage need not amount to a flash; it must give way along a great length to cause a flash; if the break is only local, nothing more than a brush or fizz may be seen. But when a flash does occur, it must be the weakest spot that gives way first—the place of maximum tension—and this is commonly on the smallest knob or surface which rears itself into the space between the dielectrics. If there be a number of small knobs or points, the glows and brushes become so numerous that the tension is greatly relieved, and the whole of a moderate thunder-cloud might be discharged in this way without the least violence. This is by far the best way of protecting anything from lightning: do not let the lightningflash occur if you can possibly avoid it. But one can not always prevent it, even by a myriad points. A good deal more might be