Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/September 1881/Literary Notices

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LITERARY NOTICES.

The Bacteria. By Dr. Antoine Magnin, Translated by George M. Sternberg, M.D., Surgeon United States Army. Boston: Little & Brown. Pp. 227. Price, $2.50.

The readers of "The Popular Science Monthly" have been from time to time informed concerning the progress of inquiry in relation to those lowest, minute, and curious organisms now known under the general name of "Bacteria." The first observer who perceived them was the father of microscopy, the Dutchman Leuwenhoek, as early as 1675. He was examining with his magnifying-glasses a drop of putrid water, when he remarked with profound astonishment that it contained a multitude of little globules which moved with agility. In 1773 they were studied by O. F. Müller, and classified as a group of the Infusoria. They soon began to occupy a good deal of the attention of microscopists, and there was much conflict of opinion about their nature, as was inevitable from the novelty of the research and the imperfection of instruments. At one time they were considered as animals, and at another they were taken for plants; were now ranked as Algæ, and again as fungi. But it is only in the present generation that our knowledge of them has become so perfect as to lead to a large amount of agreement among observers respecting their nature, varieties, and classification. It is now recognized that they are the lowest organisms, standing upon the limit of the two kingdoms, animal and vegetable, and are thus defined by the botanists who have most recently studied them: Cells deprived of chlorophyl, of globular, oblong, or cylindrical form, sometimes sinuous and twisted, reproducing themselves exclusively by transverse division, living isolated or in cellular families, and having affinities which approach them to the Algæ, and especially to the Oscillatoriæ. There has been, as our readers are aware, a long and intense struggle over the question of their spontaneous generation, but the great preponderance of opinion is now against that mode of origin. They vary much in form and dimensions, but are regarded as the smallest of all microscopical beings. Some of them are motionless, but they are generally remarkable for the movements they exhibit. These are thus described by the eminent observer Cohn:

In certain conditions they are excessively mobile; and, when they swarm in a drop of water, they present an attractive spectacle, similar to that of a swarm of gnats, or an ant-hill. The bacteria advance, swimming, then retreat without turning about, or even describe circular lines. At one time they advance with the rapidity of an arrow, at another they turn upon themselves like a top; sometimes they remain motionless for a long time, and then dart off like a flash. The long rod bacteria twist their bodies in swimming, sometimes slowly, sometimes with address and agility, as if they tried to force for themselves a passage through obstacles. It is thus that the fish seeks its way through aquatic plants. They remain sometimes quiet, as if to repose an instant: suddenly the little rod commences to oscillate, and then to swim briskly backward, to again throw itself forward some instants after. All of these movements are accompanied by a second movement analogous to that of a screw which moves in a nut. When the vibrios, in the shape of a gimlet, turn rapidly round their axis, they produce a singular illusion: one would believe that they twisted like an eel, although they are extremely rigid.

An order of beings so amazingly minute that the various kinds of them are just barely revealed by the utmost powers of the microscope, might seem of little importance, at least, practically, in this world's concerns. But this is not so. The bacteria are at the foundations of life, and it is now admitted that they have a grand office in relation to the general preservation and continuance of life. Exactly in what way is perhaps not yet determined; but they are in some way essential to the carrying on of vital organic changes. Dr. Magnin says, in his introduction: "It is known that organic matter once produced, and become solid, so to speak, can not again enter into the general current until it has undergone new transformations—metamorphosis produced according to some, favored, according to others, but without contradiction accompanied by the development of bacteria. And without wishing to attribute to these organisms a finality which is repugnant to our monistic conception of the universe, it may be said that it is, thanks to them, that the continuance of life is possible on the surface of the globe."

But the interest of these organisms is still more marked in practical directions. Their germs are in the air; they are distributed in the waters; and they swarm and propagate with astonishing profusion in organic liquids and infusions. They are involved in the processes of fermentation and putrefaction, and they have a rôle in the operation of violent diseases, such as variola, scarlatina, measles, diphtheria, typhoid fever, etc.; while their agency in connection with wounds gives them the highest interest to the surgeon.

It was therefore a capital service to science that was performed by Dr. Magnin in the preparation of this careful and complete book on the general subject at the present time. His volume is an ample report on the present state of what may be called bacterial knowledge. It is accompanied by faithfully executed plates and photographs, and contains, furthermore, an elaborate and exhaustive bibliography of the subject.

As a further illustration of the practical interest of the investigation here digested, it may be stated that Dr. Sternberg was led to translate it in consequence of its value in carrying on the work of the National Board of Health, the phenomena being vitally connected with various problems of public hygiene. The work has claims upon the scientific naturalist, the physician, and the non-professional man of general culture.

Life of Voltaire. By James Parton. In two volumes. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Pp. 1,292. Price, $6.00.

Mr. Parton has been for many years a critical and deeply interested student of Voltaire and his times, and he has now given us the fruit of his studies in these two most entertaining and instructive volumes. Of Mr. Parton's large experience as a biographer, and his proficiency in the art, it is unnecessary to speak. He has had a lifelong preparation in this branch of literature, and now, in the maturity of his powers, he has produced a comprehensive work, that will enhance his reputation, and undoubtedly prove a valuable and prominent acquisition to our biographical literature. There was greatly needed a good life of Voltaire, both on account of the great historic interest of his personality, his profound influence upon his age, and the mass of prejudice and misrepresentation that has been piled upon his memory during the last hundred years. The task of clearing away the errors, and arriving at such truth as the circumstances allow, has been performed conscientiously by Mr. Parton with unsparing labor, and, so far as we can judge, with eminent success. He has made exactly such a book as we wanted ourselves, and we believe it will adequately meet an extensive need among American readers.

We note that some exceptions have been taken to the work by English critics, who write about it in a somewhat disparaging tone; and, perhaps, some reference to their treatment of it may be helpful in judging of its real merits. But it is necessary to bear in mind the nature and difficulties of the task which Mr. Parton had before him, and these can not be better stated than in his own prefatory words. He says:

I attempt in these volumes to exhibit to the American people the most extraordinary of Frenchmen, and one of the most extraordinary of human beings.

When first I ventured, many years ago, to think of this task, I soon ceased to wonder why a subject so alluring had not been undertaken before by any one employing the whole of the existing material. Voltaire was then buried under a mountain of heterogeneous record. The attempts of essayists, even those of the first rank, to characterize him truly, were in some degree frustrated by an abundance of unsorted information that defied all ordinary research. Since that time the Voltairean material has continued to accumulate, and never so rapidly as during the last three years.

At this moment, if I lift my eyes from the desk on which I write, I see before me volumes containing fifty thousand printed pages of his composition, including more than two hundred and sixty separate publications. The published correspondence of Voltaire now comprises more than ten thousand letters. The works relating to him and his doings form a catalogue of four hundred and twenty-eight entries, which will probably be increased before these volumes see the light. Scarcely a month passes without some addition to the wonderful mass. At one time it is a series of letters found in a grocer's shop, or rendered accessible by the death of an heir of one of his princely correspondents; now, an enterprising editor gives his readers an unpublished poem; recently, Mr. Gallatin deposited in the library of the New York Historical Society sixty-six pieces of paper and card containing words written or dictated by him; and in September, 1880, came from Paris the announcement of "Le Sottisier de Voltaire," from one of the eighteen volumes of manuscript in his library at Petersburg. No sooner is an edition of his works published, than it is made incomplete by a new discovery. Since the issue of the ninety-seven-volume edition in 1834, enough matter has accumulated to fill six or seven volumes more.

Still more strange, the mass of his writings, and I may even say every page of them, has to this hour a certain vitality and interest. If it has not intrinsic excellence, it possesses the interest of an obsolete kind of agreeable folly; if it is not truth, it is a record of error that instructs or amuses. He was mistaken in supposing that no man could go to posterity laden with so much baggage. In some cases it is the baggage that floats him, and many readers of today find his prefaces, notes, and introductions more entertaining than the work hidden in the midst of them. Nearly every 'page of this printed matter contains at least an atom of biography, and I can fairly claim to have had my eye upon it, indexed it, and given it consideration.

The reader is probably aware that every circumstance in the history of this man, from the date of his birth to the resting-place of his bones, is matter of controversy. If I had paused to state the various versions of each event and the interpretations put upon each action, this work would have been ten volumes instead of two. It would have been, like many other biographies, not a history of the man, but a history of the struggles of the author in getting at the man. Generally, therefore, I have given only the obvious or most probable truth, and have often refrained from even mentioning anecdotes and statements that I knew to be groundless. Why prolong the life of a falsehood merely for the sake of refuting it?

The Voltaire of these volumes is the nearest to the true one that I have been able to gather and construct. I think the man is to be found In these pages delineated by himself. But he was such an enormous personage, that another writer, equally intent upon truth, could find in the mass of his remains quite another Voltaire.

Now, it is obvious enough from these statements that the work of sifting materials and discussing minutiæ in regard to Voltaire, his multitude of works, and the interminable comment thereon, might have no end. Its perfection, according to the ideals of a pedantic scholarship, is impossible. Numberless details must remain for ever unsettled, and there would remain room for charges of error, no matter how far investigation was pushed. Mr. Parton is the last man who will claim that his treatment of the subject is infallible, but he may justly claim that he has gone as far as fair criticism can demand, toward making his book accurate and trustworthy. Mr. George Saintsbury, who has the reputation of being "one of the highest English authorities on French literature," reviewing Mr. Parton's work in "The Academy," recognizes that Mr. Parton is no "mere book-maker," but a "perfectly honest writer, and appears to have digested his enormous materials with a great deal of diligent effort"; but he thinks he has failed in producing "a work of art and an independent contribution to literature." And what is the evidence of this? Why, that "an innumerable multitude of small errors disfigures his pages." Mr. Saintsbury read the first 250 pages of Mr. Parton's book in careful search of defects, and says that he finds on the margins no less than fifty-four black marks, indicating what he deems imperfections. Some are awkwardnesses of expression, some excusable slips, some inept observations, some critical mistakes, and some actual errors. The examples he gives show the triviality of the blemishes he has marked, and they are mainly of a sort which could never be perfectly eliminated from a performance of this kind. Mr. Saintsbury objects that Parton's biography is not a "work of art," but works of art appeal to the taste, and tastes differ. Mr. Saintsbury comes to his work of criticism as "one of the highest English authorities on French literature." He is an adept in Voltairean studies, and in the first half of a large volume he finds fifty-four petty flaws, some of which are differences of opinion, and some, no doubt, real faults. We want no better evidence of the general ability and fidelity of the work than that a master of the subject can find no more to say against it than is stated in this criticism of "The Academy."

Marine Algæ of New England and Adjacent Coast. By Professor W. S. Farlow. Reprinted from the Report of the United States Fish Commission for 1879. By George A. Bates. Salem, Massachusetts. Price, 1.50.

Since the publication, by the Smithsonian Institution, nearly twenty-five years ago, of Harvey's "Nereis Boreali-Americana," there has been no work on United States algae, except formal lists, to which the student could refer. Dr. Farlow, who is one of the most eminent algologists in the country, has given us in this work a compact hand-book which will be of great service to the collector and student. In the introduction much interesting information is given regarding the distribution of species along the coast. Cape Cod forms a barrier to many species. Dr. Farlow says the difference between the flora of Massachusetts Bay and Buzzard's Bay, which are only a few miles apart, is greater than the difference between those of Massachusetts Bay and the Bay of Fundy. This difference is found to correspond precisely with what is known of the fauna. He speaks of the occurrence of southern species of sea-weeds in a small sheet of water near Gloucester, to which the sea has access during a small portion of each tide, and, in referring to the presence of certain northern species south, says, "It seems to be the rule that wherever the water is cold enough we meet Arctic species, and wherever it is warm enough we have Long Island species, regardless of the remoteness of localities where the species naturally abound, and, as far as we know, of the absence of currents to transport the spores." The book closes with an excellent bibliography, and fifteen plates containing fifty-seven figures.

Hand-book of Chemical Physiology and Pathology, with Lectures upon Normal and Abnormal Urine. By Victor C. Vaughan, M. D., Ph. D., Lecturer on Medical Chemistry in the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor Printing and Publishing Co. Pp. 347.

The second edition of this work was called for in 1879, the first having been speedily exhausted. A third edition, revised and enlarged, appeared last year. The nature of the work is expressed in its title. It makes no claim to completeness, but is offered as a guide to the student who desires to pursue this branch of study. The latest authorities have been followed, and free use has been made of standard works and journals treating upon the various subjects discussed. In the present edition there is appended a second part, consisting of finely executed plates for illustration of the text. The book may be commended as giving within reasonable limits an excellent account of chemical physiology and pathology.

"English Philosophers, David Hartley and James Mill." By Mr. G. S. Bower, M. A. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 250. Price, 1.25.

The reason why these authors are reviewed in company is probably because James Mill's system forms a sort of sequence to Hartley's, although this sequence is manifestly due more to the incidents of general intellectual growth in England than to any relation of discipleship between the authors.

The doctrine of association is shown to have first received a definite form at the hands of Hartley, although its inception as a principle is traced as far back as Aristotle. James Mill elaborated this doctrine, having at his command richer stores of science, but deprived it of some of those wider applications which later writers have adduced, and which were foreshadowed by the superior imagination of Hartley. To quote the author: "Let us first find a statement of the doctrine of association, in its very simplest terms. So far Hartley and James Mill are perfectly at one. We will take the definition given by the latter. 'Our ideas,' he says, 'spring up, or exist, in the order in which the sensations existed of which they are copies. This is the general law of the association of ideas, by which term, let it be remembered, nothing is here meant to be expressed but the order of occurrence.'"

On the whole, Hartley's conception of the doctrine was more physical than Mill's. He called it a theory of vibrations. The counterpart and development of this theory of vibrations, as explained by Hartley, is to be found, the author tells us, in the "neural tremors" described by G. H. Lewes and Dr. Maudsley.

A very simple and, perhaps, more advanced view of it might be expressed as follows: If all the physical forces are but affections of matter, quivering particles of the medium affected, it is easy to see that the senses, which we find to be special adjustments of ourselves to these different forces, are merely channels of different kinds of motion leading to the brain. In a word, therefore, the sensation of light is a definite motion of a definite part of the brain. If it were possible to study the lines or areas of motion which a sensation of a given intensity sets up in the brain, or the structural changes which accompany the repetition and combining of different sensations, there would be some hope that the physical or subjective aspect of the law of association could be explained. The difference between the apprehensions of this law by Hartley and Mill is that Hartley, being a physiologist, and moved by the excitement of discovery, endeavored to portray the subjective aspect of this law, while Mill devoted himself to its manifestations in the relations and history of life.

The author has made a great many selections from these two writers, which has the effect of bringing their systems into view side by side. He precedes these selections with a biographical sketch of Hartley and Mill, and accompanies them with comparisons and criticisms of his own, which constitute the greater part of the book. The value of such a book depends, of course, upon the point of view from which the criticisms are made, and the skill of the selections. With regard to the latter, but little improvement could be suggested, and, although some opportunities have been neglected of bringing important points into bold relief, the criticisms are remarkably just and free from error.

Text-book of Experimental Organic Chemistry for Students. By H. Chapman Jones. New York: D. Van Nostrand. Pp. 145.

The author of this book has added another to the already considerable list of useful little manuals on practical chemistry. He confines himself to organic chemistry and has endeavored to make the study of that branch of science more interesting to the quite elementary student than has been done by previous authors. The work is not a text-book, but merely a laboratory companion for the student, and is, moreover, especially arranged for those who have but a limited time at their command. It is not illustrated, though a good number of simple experiments are described.

The Botanical Collector's Hand-book. By Professor W. Whitman Bailey. Naturalists' Handy Series, No. 3. Salem, Massachusetts: George A. Bates.

This is precisely what its name implies. The contents are arranged under the general headings of Herborizing, Field-Work, Collecting and preserving Fungi, Closet Work, The Herbarium, Bibliography, Herbaria, and Public Herbaria.

Under each of these headings much valuable information for the collector is given.

 

 
PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.

The Epidermal Organs of Plant?: Their Morphology and Physiology. By Charles F. Cox, F. R. M. S. Pp. 15.

A Report on the Teaching of Chemistry and Physics in the United States. By Frank Wigglesworth Clarke, S. B., United States Bureau of Education. Pp. 219.

"The Tonic Sol-Fa Advocate." Edited by Theodore F. Seward. Vol. I, No. 1. New York: Biglow & Main. Monthly. Pp. 16. 50 cts. a year.

Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Astronomical Society, together with the Report of the Director of Dearhorn Observatory. 1881. Pp. 16.

Descriptions of some New Tortricidæ (Leafrollers). By C. V. Riley, M. A., Ph. h. Washington. Pp. 9.

Some Double and Triple Oxalates containing Chromium. By F. W. Clarke. The Titration of Tartaric, Malic, and Citric Acids, with Potassium Permanganate. Preliminary Note. By F. W. Clarke. Pp. 7.

Pliocene Man in America. By James C. Southall, A. M., LL. D. . of Richmond, Virginia. New York: A. D. F. Randolph & Co. Pp. 30.

Braithwaite's Retrospect of Practical Medicine and Surgery. Part lxxxiii. New York: W. A. Townsend. Pp. 276.

What shall We do with the Inebriate? By T. D. Crothers, M. D. Hartford, Connecticut. Pp. 24.

Hip-Injuries, including Hip-Joint Disease, and Fractures of the Femoral Neck: Splint for. By De F. Willard, M. D. Philadelphia. Pp. 4.

Hip-Joint Disease; Death in Early Stage from Tubercular Meningitis. By De Forest Willard, M. D. Microscopic Appearances, with Cuts. By E. O Shakespeare, M. D. Cambridge: Riverside Press. Pp. 20.

Fifth Annual Report of the State Board of Health of Wisconsin. 1881. Madison, Wisconsin. Pp. 156.

Catalogue of the Phænogamous and Vascular Cryptogamous Plants of Michigan, Indigenous, Naturalized, and Adventive. By Charles

F. Wheeler and Erwin F. Smith. Hubbardstown, Michigan. Pp. 105. 50 cents.

The Mineral Resources of the Hocking Valley: Being an Account of its Coals, Iron-Ores, Blast-Furnaces, and Railroads. By T. Sterry Hunt, LL.D. Boston: S. E, Cassino. Pp. 152, with Map. 75 cents.

Educational Journalism. By C. W. Bardeen. Syracuse, New York. Pp. 30.

The Physiology of Climate, Season, and Ordinary Weather Changes. By Alexander Rattray, M.D. San Francisco, California. Pp. 20.

"The Odontographic Journal: A Quarterly devoted to Dentistry." Conducted by J. Edward Line, D.D.S. Rochester, New York: Davis & Leyden. Pp. 64. $1 a year.

Proceedings of the United States National Museum, June 2 and 22, 1881. Pp. 80.

A Manual of Accidents and Emergencies. By George G. Graff, M.D. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Printed for the Author. 1881. Pp. 92. 50 cents.

Revised Odd-Fellowship illustrated. By President J. Blanchard, of Wheaton College. Chicago: Ezra Cook & Co. 1881. Pp. 272. $1.

The French Revolution. By Hippolyte Adolphe Taine. Translated by John Durand. Vol. II. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1881. Pp. 358. $2.50.

Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer to the Secretary of War, for the Year 1879 Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1880. Pp. 782.

Algebra for Schools and Colleges. By Simon Newcomb. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1881. Pp. 454.

The Young Folks' Astronomy. By John D. Champlin, Jr. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1881. Pp. 236 60 cents.

Sea-Mosses. An Introduction to the Study of Marine Algæ. By A. B. Harvey, A.M. Boston: S. E. Cassino. 1881. Pp. 281. $2.

Book of the Black Bass. By James A. Henshall, M.D. Cincinnati; Robert Clarke & Co. 1881. Pp. 470. $3.