Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/707

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THE AQUARIUM.

THE AQUARIUM.
By WILLIAM E. SIMMONS, Jr.

IT is a subject for regret, as well from a national as a scientific point of view, that, while London, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Naples, Brighton, in fact nearly every European city of note, has its aquarium, or aquaria, New York, the metropolis of the New World, is as yet without one. True, the necessity has not been overlooked; but, beyond the agitation of the subject, no practical steps have, I believe, been taken in the matter. To the conductors of Appletons' Journal belongs the honor of having first directed public attention to the necessity for establishing an aquarium at Central Park, and their praiseworthy efforts to that end have received, besides the very general approval of the daily press, encomiums from Prof. Henry and other eminent scientific men. Indeed, in the latter part of 1873, they even opened the way for securing to the enterprise the valuable services of Mr. W. Saville Kent, late Curator of the Brighton Aquarium. Unfortunately, during the delay that has subsequently occurred in the development of the scheme, Mr. Kent has been induced to accept the curatorship of the Manchester (England) Aquarium.

But of what use, it may be asked, other than embellishment, is the aquarium? The scientific reader, knowing its value, will not require an answer; but, to the unscientific, it doubtless seems of small practical use to spend time and money in gathering together a few fish and plants, that their growth and movements may be observed. The answer is, first, its scientific value. Its influence would be to engender in the thousands who would daily visit it a taste for scientific knowledge and pursuits. In seeing the objects it contained, people would naturally find a desire to know something of them beyond what can be learned by cursory observation, and thus be led to scientific reading and scientific education. Second, it constitutes a science by itself, and therefore demands the same encouragement that is given to any other one science. It is not yet half a century since Madame Jeannette Power began the study of marine animals, by the aid of glass cases filled with water, in which she confined them; still almost our entire knowledge of aquatic zoology having been obtained through the aquarium rests upon it. A striking result, recently obtained, is at least a partial settlement of the vexed question whether fish hear; the observations of Mr. Henry Lee on that subject, in the Brighton Aquarium, having determined that some fish certainly do hear.

In addition to these very cogent reasons is the fact that the aquarium is a never-failing source of interest. The objects it presents are, many of them, entirely new to human sight, and not a few are wonderfully beautiful. So great is the attraction of the aquarium, that,