Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/March 1885/Notes

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Dr. B. A. Gould, of the observatory at Cordoba, Argentine Republic, writes to Professor J. D. Dana that, after fourteen years of absence from his country, he finds himself so near the end of the special work on which he has been engaged that he hopes to revisit New England in the spring. Four volumes of star positions have been published, and a meteorological volume is started on its way. lie hopes to leave a mass of similar material for the occupation of his successors in the institutions; to leave the manuscript of seven astronomical quartos ready for the press; and to bring with him for publication in the northern hemisphere the "General Catalogue of Southern Stars," which will complete the astronomical work.

Mr. W. E. Garforth, of Normanton, England, has invented a simple apparatus for detecting fire-damp in collieries. It consists of a small India-rubber hand-ball fitted with a protected tube. By compressing the ball and then allowing it to expand in a suspected atmosphere, it becomes filled with the air. It can then be taken to a safe place, and the air can be tested in a lamp.

Success is claimed to have attended the operation of the system of jetties planted by Captain Eads for deepening the channel of the Mississippi River near its mouth. While there were formerly only from eight to thirteen feet of water over the bars at low water, the least depth through the jetties was, last May, thirty-three feet, and the channel is steadily wearing itself deeper.

At the recent meeting of the German naturalists and physicians at Magdeburg, Professor Landois, of Münster, spoke of the imperfections and comparative uselessness of most zoölogical gardens, and advised the institution of smaller gardens having well-defined fields of observation and investigation, lie cited the successful example of the zoological section of Westphalia and Lippe, whose garden of native beasts yielded an annual surplus. In connection with this is established a zoölogical museum of the district, in which the biological side is kept prominent, and which is nearly complete in invertebrates. The section publishes scientific lists of the native fauna, and is preparing for a wider circulation a "Westphalian Animal Life in Word and Picture," which is to be published in elegant style, and of which the first volume, the "Mammalia," is ready.

Dr. A. N. Randolph has made experiments on the behavior of the mixture of hydrocarbons called petrolatum, or, commonly, vaseline, in the digestive tract, by which he has learned that it passes from the system wholly unchanged. It is, therefore, valueless as a food-stuff, while it is at the same time entirely unirritating to the digestive tract.

Mr. a. V. Adrianof has contributed to the Russian Geographical Society an account of a people living in the basin of the river Kemtsik, called the Sayanians, or Sayantsi, who display a remarkable capacity for mixing with neighboring races without being merged. Many of their burying-places are of considerable antiquity, and are either marked by conical cairns or are flat areas surrounded by a circular row of stones. The stones are sometimes plain, but often covered with inscriptions, and bear in some instances rude representations of the human figure. In the immediate neighborhood of the tombs may be observed the remains of the sacrifice, the victim usually being a horse. Similar sacrifices are still offered, at which the flesh of the slaughtered horse is eaten, and the head and skin are raised on a pole.

A paper by Mr. F. Cope Whitehouse, stating his reasons for believing Fingal's Cave in the Island of Staffa to be of artificial construction, accompanied by photographs illustrating his views, was presented to the French Academy of Sciences at its meeting of December 1st, by M. Daubrey, the geologist.

M. Eugène Foucault, a French antiquary, has found in Brittany a bronze axe, with the handle attached—the first specimen of the kind known to have been found in France, and probably in the world. The tool is furnished with a cutting edge on one end, and a kind of hammer-cap on the other.

Professor Landois, of Münster, reported to the recent scientific assembly in Germany on his examinations of the viscera of Westphalian woodpeckers, for the estimation of the economical influence of the birds. They showed that those particular woodpeckers at least were decidedly useful and beneficial. Their food consists, summer and winter, of both animal and vegetable matter, but the latter is mostly the seeds of coniferous plants. The abundance of aphides and larvæ of diptera found in the entrails showed that the birds made a very extensive slaughter of minute insects. The simple percussion on the bark of the trees does no harm, and their nesting is rather beneficial than otherwise, for it anticipates the destructive life that would otherwise be hatched in the hollows.


Professor Benjamin Silliman, of Yale College, died in New Haven, January 14th, of dropsy induced by heart-disease, after having been ill since the 6th of October. He was in the sixty-ninth year of his age. He had been connected with Yale College as a teacher or professor since he graduated in 1837. He had been identified with the Yale (or Sheffield) Scientific School, which he organized, from its beginning. He was one of the Trustees of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and was a member of numerous scientific societies on both sides of the Atlantic. A portrait and sketch of Professor Silliman were published in "The Popular Science Monthly" for February, 1880.

Mr. Alfred Tylor, F. G. S., of Carshalton, England, a business man, who also found time to contribute to the advancement of science, died December 31st, more than sixty years old. He was a brother of E. B. Tylor, the anthropologist, and had been the friend and the companion, in some of his earlier geological excursions, of the late Professor Edward Forbes. He was interested in questions of physical geology, including the formation of valleys, the erosive action of rivers, and the origin of gravels and other superficial deposits, on which subjects he was a frequent writer. He was also interested in questions of archæology and anthropology, and had enjoyed the pleasure of discovering some remarkable Roman remains on his own premises.

Mr. James Napier, of Glasgow, who has been long identified with chemistry and the manufacturing arts, especially with electrometallurgy, died, near the close of last year, at about seventy-four years of age. He was the author of "Ancient Workers in Metal," "The Manufacturing Arts in Ancient Times," "Old Ballad Folk-Lore," and of many memoirs in the "Proceedings" of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow.

M. Jules Bertin, a French forest-inspector, and author of several books on forestry, died in December last, at Boulogne.

Mr. Searles V. Wood, a British geologist, distinguished chiefly for his investigations of the newer Pliocene and glacial deposits of the eastern counties, died in December. He was author of several papers relating to his special subject in the Geological Society and the "Geological Magazine."

The death was announced, early in January, of M. Victor Dessaignes, a French chemist, who was distinguished for his delicate researches in organic chemistry. He was eighty-five years old.