Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/November 1878/Literary Notices

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Scientific Memoirs. Being Experimental Contributions to a Knowledge of Radiant Energy. By John William Draper, M.D. Harper & Bros., 1878. Pp. 473. Price $3.

Those who read the concluding paper of Dr. Montgomery in the October Popular Science Monthly, on the present aspects of the "Problem of Life," will remember the admirable terms in which he refers to a discovery of Dr. J. W. Draper, which seems to have a most important bearing on this subject. Though made many years ago, it is only now beginning to be appreciated in its full significance. The last generation has been especially devoted to the cultivation of the sciences of radiant energy and of that plastic, protoplasmic material out of which the fabrics of all life are spun; Dr. Draper anticipated the developments that were to take place in these fields of inquiry by first determining, thirty-four years ago, that ray of the solar spectrum takes effect upon the green parts of plants to decompose carbonic acid—the initiative and fundamental change that maintains all life processes. He was the first to decompose carbonic acid by exposing leaves to the sun in the actual spectrum, and to prove that it is the yellow ray that produces the change.

The history of science contains many interesting illustrations of the appearance of men of rare and exceptional genius, whose thoughts pierce the future, and who spend their intellectual lives far in advance of their contemporaries. They are the men who lay foundations upon which others build, who carve the great outlines of research which other men come to fill up with details, who open paths of inquiry which other men pursue to their maturer results. Dr. Draper is one of these broad original thinkers whose work has contributed largely to mark and to make an epoch in science. Early trained in chemistry, physics, and physiology, he pursued these subjects as an investigator, not only separately, but in their intimate and complex interactions, reading the mysteries of life by the light of chemical and physical principles. From 1836, onward for fifteen years. Dr. Draper conducted a comprehensive series of researches in the general field of radiant energy in its chemical relations which had been at that time but little explored. His elaborate papers giving shape and direction to this subtile research were published in American and foreign periodicals, and won the cordial applause of his appreciative coworkers in the same fields. Recognizing that he was a good deal in advance of his time, and that years must elapse before the significance of his results would be understood, he wisely collected his papers and had them published in a quarto volume, fully and clearly illustrated. An edition of this work was printed, but the expensive stereotype plates were destroyed in the great conflagration of Harper's establishment, so that no more volumes could be produced. With the recent progress of the subjects to which it was devoted, there has been an increasing demand for copies of the work, which consequently arose in price, and were prized by all who possessed them. In these circumstances Dr. Draper has thought it best to reproduce some of the most important papers, and they are now embodied in this volume of memoirs. In this he has but done an act of justice to himself and to American science, while his volume will prove of lasting interest as a contribution to the history of a most interesting and important branch of scientific inquiry, which is now undergoing rapid development, and will continue to be zealously cultivated in the future.

As to the special subjects considered. Dr. Draper's statement of them in his preface is so much better than any we could make that it is here subjoined:

"Among many other subjects treated of in these pages, the reader will find an investigation of the temperature at which bodies become red-hot, the nature of the light they emit at different degrees, the connection between their condition as to vibration and their heat. It is shown that ignited solids yield a spectrum that is continuous, not interrupted. This has become one of the fundamental facts in astronomical spectroscopy. At the time of the publication of this Memoir, no one in America had given attention to the spectroscope, and, except Fraunhofer, few in Europe. I showed that the fixed lines might be photographed, doubled their number, and found other new ones at the red end of the spectrum. The facts thus discovered I applied in an investigation of the nature of flame and the condition of the sun's surface. I showed that under certain circumstances rays antagonize each other in their chemical effect, and that the diffraction spectrum has great advantages over the prismatic, which is necessarily distorted. I attempted to ascertain the distribution of heat in the diffraction spectrum, and pointed out that great advantages arise if wave-lengths are used in the description of photographic phenomena. I published steel engravings of that spectrum so arranged. I made an investigation of phosphorescence, and obtained phosphorescent pictures of the moon. Up to this time it had been supposed that the great natural phenomenon of the decomposition of carbonic acid by plants was accomplished by the violet rays of light, but, by performing that decomposition in the spectrum itself, I showed that it is effected by the yellow. Under very favorable circumstances, I examined the experiments said to prove that light can produce magnetism, and found that they had led to an incorrect conclusion. The first photographic portrait from the life was made by me; the process by which it was obtained is herein described. I also obtained the first photograph of the moon. I made many experiments on and discovered the true explanation of the crystallization of camphor toward the light. When Daguerre's process was published, I gave it a critical examination, and described the analogies existing between the phenomena of the chemical radiations and those of heat. For the purpose of obtaining more accurate results in these various inquiries, I invented the chlor-hydrogen photometer, and examined the modifications that chlorine undergoes in its allotropic states. Since in such researches more delicate thermometers are required than our ordinary ones, I entered on an investigation of the electro-motive power of heat, and described improved forms of electric thermometers. In these memoirs will be found a description of the method made use of for obtaining photographs of microscopic objects, together with specimens of the results. In a physiological digression respecting interstitial movements of substances, I examined the passage of gases through thin films such as soap-bubbles, and the force with which these movements are accomplished, applying the facts so gathered to an explanation of the circulation of the sap in plants, and of the blood in animals. Returning to an inquiry as to the distribution of heat and of chemical force in the spectrum, I was led to conclude, in opposition to the current opinion, that all the colored spaces are equally warm; and that, so far from one portion—the violet—being distinguished by producing chemical effects, every ray can accomplish special changes. This series of experiments on radiations is concluded in this volume by an examination of the chemical action of burning-lenses and mirrors."

The volume is well printed in clear type, on good paper, and contains a fine steel portrait of Dr. Draper—much the best likeness of him that we have ever seen. It contains various woodcuts to illustrate experiments which the reader will find a useful accompaniment to the text.

Handbook of Modern Chemistry, Inorganic and Organic, for the Use of Students. By Charles Meymott Tidy, M. B., F. C. S. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston. Pp. 780. Price, $5.

This seems to be a very good practical treatise on chemistry, for the use of students in colleges and laboratories. It is well condensed, and judiciously classified. The author says concerning the work:

"I venture, therefore, to plead my apology for the publication of these outlines of chemistry. Within three months of graduating—in other words, when 'fresh from the schools'—I was appointed Joint-Lecturer on Chemistry with the late Dr. Letheby, at the London Hospital, consequently my first lecture-notes were prepared when familiar by practical experience with the wants of a student. Year by year these notes have been added to, and, to some extent, rewritten; nevertheless, except in a few instances, I have strictly adhered to the general plan I first adopted. I submit these lecture notes to the profession as the joint experience of a student and a teacher."

Sound: A Series of Simple, Entertaining, and Inexpensive Experiments in the Phenomena of Sound, for the Use of Students of Every Age. By A. M. Mayer, Professor of Physics in the Stevens Institute of Technology. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 181. With numerous Illustrations. Price, $1.

This volume is the second in Prof. Mayer's "Experimental Science Series for Beginners," the first volume of which, that on "Light," appeared a few months ago. The "Experimental Science Series," as the author states, originated in the earnest and honest desire to extend a knowledge of the art of experimenting, and to create a love of that noble art which has worked so much good in our generation. All attempts, however, to extend the knowledge of experimental science will fail unless these endeavors on the part of scientific men are seconded by our teachers; hence Prof. Mayer while writing these books, has been constantly actuated by the desire to assist teachers to become experimenters. "These little books," Prof. Mayer remarks in his preface, "will show how many really excellent experiments may be made with the outlay of a few dollars, a little mechanical skill, and patience. This last commodity neither I nor the school can furnish. The teacher is called on to supply this, and to give it as his share in the work of bringing the teaching of experimental science into our schools. when the teacher has once obtained the mastery over the experiments, he will never after be willing to teach without them; for, as an honest teacher, he will know that he cannot teach without them. Well-made experiments, the teacher's clear and simple language describing them, and a free use of the blackboard, on which are written the facts and laws which the experiments show—these make the best text-books for beginners in experimental science. Teach the pupil to read Nature in the language of experiment. Instruct him to guide with thoughtfulness the work of his hand, and with attention to receive the teachings of his eyes and. ears. Youths soon become enamored of work in which their own hands cause the various actions of Nature to appear before them, and they find a new delight in a kind of study in which they receive instruction through the doings of their hands instead of through the reading of books. The object of this second book of the series is to show how to make a connected series of experiments in sound. These experiments (a hundred and thirty in number) are to be made with the cheapest and simplest apparatus that the author has been able to devise, and they have been arranged so that one leads naturally to the making and understanding of the next." And it must be added that much of the apparatus needed for making the experiments is such that the student himself may construct it at trifling expense. So much for the method and principle of the work—a method which compels the student constantly to employ his own mental faculties of comparison, generalization, etc., and to be, in fact, a discoverer of the truths of science, not a mere passive recipient of instruction. Unless the teacher is more than ordinarily stupid, and addicted to the routine of book-teaching, the pupil can hardly fail to have his mental stature increased, his reasoning powers strengthened, by going over the course of experiments here laid down. Of the author's success in carrying out this scheme, the first volume of the series was evidence; and our readers can see from the copious extracts which we elsewhere publish in the present Monthly that the promise made in the preface is more than fulfilled in the body of the work. Prof. Mayer's text leaves nothing to be desired in point of clearness, and, where the imperfection of written speech might cause obscurity, the illustrations, which are all new and rigorously exact, will serve to guide the leader aright.

Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Free Religious Association (1878). Boston: The Free Religious Association. Pp. 90. Price, 40 cts.

Besides the financial reports and the list of officers for the ensuing year, this volume contains several more or less elaborate addresses, among which may be mentioned an essay by Thaddeus B. Wakeman, entitled "The Religion of Humanity," in which the author explains what that religion is, and shows how it may be organized and cultivated upon American soil; also, an essay by William H. Spencer: "Religion of Supernaturalism; why it should be disorganized, and how it may be done."

Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College.—Photometric Researches. By C. S. Peirce. Made in the Years 1872-1875. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann. Pp. 181. With Plates.

Of the five chapters into which this elaborate work is divided the first treats of the sensation of light; the second, of the numbers of stars of different degrees of brightness; the third is a record of the author's original observations with the astro-photometer of Zöllner; in the fourth, the star-magnitudes given by the different observers are compared; and the fifth treats of the form of the galactic cluster.

In the Wilderness. By Charles Dudley Warner. Pp. 175. Price, 75 cts.

If you cannot compass a trip to the Adirondacks, this inimitable little volume of forest sketches is a capital substitute, for Mr. Warner brings to his work a love of the woods and a knowledge of their varied features, rivaling that of "Old Mountain Phelps" himself. Moreover, subtile humorist as he is, he cannot escape being funny, and his little volume sparkles with delicate wit and keen but not unkindly satire from beginning to end.

Metric Weights and Measures for Medical and Pharmacal Purposes. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 40.

In the Marine Hospital service, medical officers are now required to employ metric weights and measures for all medical and pharmacal purposes, and in this little pamphlet are contained rules and tables for the conversion of quantities according to apothecaries' weight and measure into quantities according to the metric system. The work will interest physicians and pharmacists, and will probably be of service in hastening the general adoption of the metric system in the United States.

Sound and the Telephone. By C. J. Blake, M. D. Pp. 12.

In this paper, which was read before the British Society of Telegraph Engineers, the author states in part the result of experiments made for the purpose of measuring the vibrations of the disks of the Bell telephone, and determining the loss of power sustained in the transmission of sound. He further compares the vibrations of the telephone-disk with those of the human tympanum membrane.

American College Directory (1878). St. Louis: C. H. Evans & Co. Pp. 111. Price, 10 cts.

This volume contains a list of all the colleges, seminaries, special schools, etc., in the United States, and gives in brief much essential information concerning each; for instance, the number of teachers and pupils, number of volumes in the library, value of scientific apparatus, value of buildings, etc.

Annual Report of the New York Meteorological Observatory (1877). By D. Draper, Director. Pp. 32.

An important feature of this report is Mr. Draper's remarks upon the rainfall of New York City. It has been found by observation that there was an increase of rain from the date of commencing the observatory records till 1869, and after that year a steady decrease. The question now arises, "Does the rainfall of New York still diminish, will it continue to do so, and does this variation occur in the early or late portion of the year?" To which the author replies that from his study of the subject "it appears that the rainfall of this city will most probably continue to decrease by fluctuations for several years to come, and that the variations are nearly the same in the two portions of the year."

The Former and Present Number of our Indians. By G. Mallery. From "Proceedings of the American Association." Pp. 27.

Some Common Errors respecting the North American Indians. Same author. From "Bulletin of the Philosophical Society of Washington." Pp. 6.

The errors here exposed and corrected by Mr. Mallery have regard first to the color of the aborigines: they are not "red," nor "copper-colored." Their real prevailing color is brown. Second error: the opinion that the Indian believes in a "Great Spirit." Their common religious system is "polydemonism." Third error: that the aboriginal race is rapidly becoming extinct; the author holds that they are rather on the increase.

Opening of the Lewis Brooks Museum. At the University of Virginia, June 27, 1878. Richmond: Printed by order of the Board of Visitors. Pp. 60.

The University of Virginia is indebted to the late Lewis Brooks, of Rochester, New York, for the fine Natural History Museum—building and specimens—which was opened during the present year. The pamphlet before us gives a brief history of the founding of the institution, and contains an address on "Man's Age in the World," by James C. Southall, author of the work entitled "Epoch of the Mammoth."

Deep-Sea Soundings. A Lecture by Lieutenant-Commander T. F. Jewell, U. S. N., Claremont, N. H.: Manufacturing Company print. Pp. 63.

The first material improvement made in deep-sea sounding instruments was the employment, by Lieutenant Walsh, U. S. N., of a steel wire in place of a hempen cord; that was about thirty years ago. Since then sounding has received much attention from naval officers and scientific men, and so numerous are the devices contrived for the purpose of exploring the bottom of the sea, that the author of the above-named address finds it necessary, with a view to presenting a clear history of the subject within the ordinary limits of an evening lecture, to confine himself to the achievements, in this field, of our own countrymen. From a perusal of the address, it is seen that American inventive genius has played an important part in the improvement of sounding-instruments.



Parks and Gardens of Paris considered in Relation to the Wants of other Cities and of Public and Private Gardens. By W. Robinson. F. L. S. With numerous Illustrations. New York: Macmillan. Pp. 572. $7.50.

American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States. By Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte. Illustrated with Plates engraved from Drawings from Nature. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates. Three volumes in one. Pp. 1178. $7.50.

Life of George Combe, Author of "The Constitution of Man." By C. Gibbon. London: Macmillan. 2 vols. Pp. 335 and 404. $8.

A Candid Examination of Theism. By Physicus. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. Pp. 215. $2.50.

What is the Bible? By J. T. Sunderland. New York: Putnams. Pp. 189. $1.

Goethe: Faust—Erster Theil. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by J. M. Hart. Same publishers. Pp. 257. $1.25.

The Ethics of Spiritualism. By H. Tuttle. Pp. 155. 60 cts.

Ferns in their Homes and Ours. By J. Robinson. With Plates and Woodcuts. Salem: S. E. Cassino. Pp. 194. $1.50.

Evolution evolved. A Part of "The Problems of Human Life here and hereafter." By Wilford. New York: Hall & Co. Pp. 132. 50 cts.

Central Ohio Scientific Association. Urbana: Saxton & Brand print. Vol. I., Part 1. Pp. 100, with Plates.

Geography of Kentucky. By W. J. Davis. New York: Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. Pp. 16, with Map and Woodcuts.

American Journal of Mathematics. Pure and Applied. New York: Sold by Van Nostrand. Vol. I., No. 3.

Eleventh Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology. Cambridge: Printed by order of the Trustees. Vol. II., Ko. 2. Pp. 280, with Illustrations.

Observations and Orbits of the Satellites of Mars, with Data for Ephemerides in 1879. By A. Hall. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 46.

Origin of Comets. By H. A. Newton. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 15.

Selenide of Bismuth. By J. W. Mallet. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 3. Production of Magnesian Nitride by Smothered Combustion of Magnesium in Air. Same author. Pp. 2.

Palæolithic Implements from the Glacial Drift in the Valley of the Delaware, near Trenton, New Jersey. By Dr. C. C. Abbott. From the "Report of the Peabody Museum." Salem: Printed at the Salem Press. Pp. 32.

Fermented Liquors. By Dr. A. J. Howe. Pp. 8.

Manual Education. By Prof. C. M. Woodward. St. Louis: G. I. Jones & Co. Pp. 31.

Report on Cold-rolled Iron and Steel. By R. H. Thurston. Pittsburg: Printed by Stevenson, Foster & Co. Pp. 109, with Plates.

Rate of Earthquake-Wave Transit. By E. Mallet. From Philosophical Magazine. Pp. 4.

A Mass of Meteoric Iron from Augusta County, Virginia. By J. W. Mallet. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 2.

Contributions to Natural History. By R. E. C. Stearnes. San Francisco. Pp. 6.

Electric Constitution of our Solar System. By J. Ennis. From "Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia." Pp. 17.

Some Seleniocyanates; Electric Estimation of Mercury; Some Specific Gravity Determinations. By P. W. Clarke. From American Journal of Science. Pp. 6.

Illinois State Laboratory. Circular of Information. Springfield: State Register print. Pp. 14.