Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/January 1887/Popular Miscellany

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

A Boy's Lesson in Taxidermy.—Mr. Frederick G. Mather, of Albany, communicates to us the following directions in regard to "The Best Mode of Stuffing Birds," which were found in an old portfolio, and which recall lessons that were given by one of the learning taxidermists in the country a generation ago. He has followed his boyish notes to the letter. Materials.—A glover's three-cornered needle; a knitting-needle sharpened and fixed in a handle, and a sharp knife; arsenical soap, prepared as follows: Pulverized arsenic, two pounds; potash, in powder, twelve ounces; camphor-gum, five ounces; white soap, two pounds; lime in powder, four ounces. Shave the soap into small pieces; place it in a pipkin over a slow fire, and add a little water; stir with a wooden spatula till the soap is dissolved; take it off and add potash, stirring till they are well mixed; add the lime by littles, and then the arsenic, stirring till all are internally mixed; when nearly cold add the camphor, dissolved in strong alcohol; if it becomes too thick, add water sufficient. Let the bird lie two to four hours before skinning. Don't squeeze the head. Swab out the throat with cotton and put in powdered plaster of Paris; then stuff cotton into the mouth, which presses the plaster into all the cavities of the head. Pass a thread or string through the nostrils and tie it; then stuff cotton into the nostrils. The use of the string will be seen hereafter. The cotton and plaster prevent any fluids from issuing out of the head and spoiling the skin. Having smoothed the feathers carefully with cotton, lay the bird upon a piece of thick pasteboard, or a thin board covered with canton flannel, soft side up. Place the bird upon this with the head toward the left hand. Separate the legs and feathers, and at the end of the breast-bone begin to cut through the skin, down-ward. If blood or other fluids issue, put in plaster of Paris, which will absorb them. Do left side in the same manner, cutting muscles and flesh from the body. Cut muscles of wings. The membrane of the ear must be undermined by a knife, and the knife forced upward, bringing out the ends nearest the bill. Gouge out the eyes. Clear away the brain, tongue, and muscles. Wash inside the skull with arsenical soap, and fill the skull full of powdered arsenic; then press a piece of cotton into the sockets. Leave the bones of the wing, and cut the muscles. Insert a thread at the other end of the bone in the skin. Break the knob off at the end of the wing-bone. Take the muscles out of the legs, and sometimes take the fat off the legs. Lubricate with arsenical soap, and wind the bone with cotton. Then take and tie the wings with their threads, not too tight. Lubricate the whole of it with arsenical soap. Get the ball of cotton out of the nostrils. Take a little awl, the size of a wire, and run it behind the toes to the joint; then straighten the legs and tie the bone to the wire. Take the cotton off and put more on with arsenical soap. Prepare a cork body of the length of the bird, and as large round as a large-sized bottle-cork. Then take three wires, two for the legs—which are already in the legs—and one for the neck. Join them to the cork body, leaving them to project three or four inches outside the real body. Wind cotton on the wire till it becomes as large as the neck, and lubricate with arsenical soap. Wind cotton around an instrument like a knitting-needle till it is about the size of your little finger, and take them off—as fast as made—and lay them on under and around the cork body. Press it from time to time, and put in arsenic-powder. Insert leg-wires. Don't get the legs too far back, or the breast too full. More arsenic. Begin at the upper part to sew up. Get glover's three-cornered needles. Fix the tail nicely. Put a little aqua ammonia in the eye-sockets, and let it remain for an hour. Then clear away all sorts of matter and put putty in. Then take a glass eye and imbed it in the putty, not letting the latter show.

 

Scientific Novels.—These would serve a better purpose if the exigencies of plot and thrilling situation did not require the inculcation of so much pseudo science. The student in college has to unlearn many things he learned at home from his Jules Verne. A lately published "Romance of Evolution"[1] is a striking example of the scientific misrepresentation needed to make what is known as a good story. The hero of this unique novel is evolved from ordinary mankind, as Maud S. was evolved from ordinary horse-kind, by artificial selection, and his wonderful development is supposed to have been achieved in seven generations. His development is not in certain directions at the expense of others—the usual result of artificial selection—but it is in all directions at one and the same time! In the short space of two hundred years the selected family advances from mediocrity, not in straight lines, but in an expanding circle, to the ideal of human perfection—the hero. He is a "demigod"—physically and intellectually, morally and spiritually. In this universal development are displayed, of course, the most incongruous combinations: savage valor, for instance, in overcoming single-handed a horde of mountain brigands armed with rifles, and "Christ-like goodness" in forgiving their chief, who has subjected him to long hours of torture; the rude simplicity of a wild man of the mountains and the æsthetic tastes of a Parisian. It was necessary to the plot that, though subjected to tortures which would have destroyed an ordinary man, the "demigod" should escape and immediately perform prodigies of prowess; hence the explanation is given: "That his skull was not fractured by the terrible blows it had received was due, under Providence, to the unequaled texture and elasticity of that helmet of Nature; that his cords and sinews were not broken or permanently injured, and his nervous system shattered, in the excruciating ordeal which followed, was because they were of Nature's best handiwork, compacted to endure the severest tests that mortality can sustain" (p.294). How much longer could Maud S. endure blows of an axe upon her dainty forehead than a horse of humble pedigree? As a mere story, the book possesses a certain power and fascination but as a contribution to the literature of evolution, it is, like most scientific novels, a failure.

 

Balance among the Physical Functions.—Dr.H.C. Wood, of Philadelphia, maintains that, to make it possible to live to a good old age, the several vital organs must be approximately equal in strength. The man of ordinary physique, who possesses this fortunate balance of power, will in all probability outlive an athlete whose development has been unequal. Excessive strength in one part is, in fact, a source of danger. An over-developed muscular system invites dissolution, because it is a constant strain upon the less powerful organs, and finally wears them out. Death, in the majority of cases, is the result of local weakness. It often happens that a vital organ has been endowed with an original longevity less than that of the rest of the organism, and its failure to act brings death to other portions of the system, which in themselves possessed the capabilities of long life. The fact of having succeeded in life, with the satisfaction and comfort it brings, contributes to the prolongation of existence, while failure, with its resultant regrets, tends to shorten it. In old age, the organs possess less elasticity to meet and overcome such strains as can be invited with impunity in youth. Hence the old should be spared the strains. It is also desirable that, as their years advance, they should make their personal habits the subject of careful study, and, with the help of some wise counselor, regulate their daily life in accordance with the changed conditions of their animal economy. This is particularly the case with reference to diet.

 

Artificial Precious Stones.—The trade in artificial precious stones has become quite important, and the manufacture of them has reached a considerable degree of perfection. The products of some of the shops would almost deceive an expert; but the test of hardness is still infallible. The beautiful "French paste," from which imitation diamonds are made, is a kind of glass with a mixture of oxide of lead. The more of the latter, the brighter the stone, but also the softer, and this is a serious defect. The imitation stones are now so perfectly made, and are so satisfactory to those who are not very particular, that their influence begins to be felt in the market for real stones. By careful selection of the ingredients and skill and attention in manipulation, the luster, color, fire, and water of the choicest stones are, to the eyes of laymen, fully reproduced. There are a few delicacies of color that can not be perfectly given, for they depend on some undiscoverable peculiarities of molecular arrangement and not on chemical composition, but the persons who are to buy the stones know nothing of that. Yet Sidot, a French chemist, has nearly reproduced these peculiarities, including the dichroism of the sapphire, with a composition of which the base is phosphate of lime. Two other French chemists, Fremy and Fell, have produced rubies and sapphires having the same composition with the genuine stones, and nearly equal hardness.

 

The Future of Political Economy.—Mr.John Biddulph Martin, president, said, in the British Association's section of Economic Science and Statistics, that we need not despair of the future of political economy because its teaching, based too often on a priori reasoning, and too little on the experience of history, does not always square with the judgments of men. May we not claim that political economy has rather taken up wider ground, than that it has abandoned many of its outworks? It is no reproach to economic science to have done so; to have recognized as matters within its proper scope considerations that the older economists, concerning themselves with wealth in its narrow sense, as the summum bonum, and with the desire for its acquisition as the one mainspring of human action, would have regarded as sentimental and philanthropic. Humanity is many-sided, its units do not lend themselves to grouping or combination with the precision of mathematical symbols, and the experiments of the social philosopher are subject to disturbances unknown in the laboratory of the chemist. It is at this point that the statistical method comes in as an inseparable ally of economic speculation. The speaker proceeded to a fuller review of the merits and faults of the statistical method, and then dwelt at considerable length on the tendency of men to accumulate in cities.

 

Australian Paradoxes.—In connection with the recent determination of the oviparous character of the monotremes, "Nature" republishes the following list of the paradoxes of Australia from a work published in 1832: "But this is New Holland, where it is summer with us when it is winter in Europe, and vice versa; where the barometer rises before bad weather, and falls before good; where the north is the hot wind, and the south the cold; where the humblest house is fitted up with cedar; where the fields are fenced with mahogany, and myrtle-trees are burned for fire-wood; where the swans are black and the eagles white; where the kangaroo, an animal between the squirrel and the deer, has five claws on its fore-paws and three talons on its hind-legs, like a bird, and yet hops on its tail; where the mole lays eggs, and has a duck's bill; where there is a bird with a broom in its mouth instead of a tongue; where there is a fish, one half belonging to the genus Raja and the other half to that of Sgualus; where the pears are made of wood, with the stalk at the broader end; and where the cherry grows with the stone on the outside."

 

A New Incandescent Gas-light.—Mr.Conrad W.Cooke described, in the British Association, the Welsbach system of gas-lighting by incandescence. It consists in impregnating fabrics of cotton or other substances, made into the form of a cylindrical hood or mantle, with a compound liquid composed of solutions of zirconia and oxide of lanthanum (or with solutions of zirconia with oxides of lanthanum and yttrium). This mantle, under the influence of a gas-flame, is converted into a highly refractory material capable of withstanding the highest temperature that can be obtained from the most efficient form of atmospheric burners. Under the influence of such temperatures it glows with a brilliant incandescence, very white and steady. The light emitted is, at a distance, hardly distinguishable from that of a twenty-candle incandescent lamp, while a yellower light may be obtained by modifying the composition of the impregnating liquid. A saving of from fifty to seventy-five per cent of gas is made with this light, and it is, moreover, smokeless.

 

The "Racket" of Society.—"The Spectator," discussing the "wear and tear" or "racket" of London society, observes that "wear and tear" implies not regular and natural use and tension of the powers, but a dragging in opposite directions, "such as is produced, for example, by the attempt to combine intellectual effort with a perfectly inconsistent amount of social effort; to carry off grave anxieties with a display of vivacity; to unite an unconstrained manner which implies a mind at ease with a concentration of effort implying a mind always vigilantly preparing for its next step." It means "the simultaneousness of a strain which is comparatively easy in cases of fully concentrated effort with that interchange of feeling which is natural only when there is no prior claim on the attention; the interference of social duties with professional duties; the making time for one thing, when all the time there is is really pre-engaged for another thing; the squeezing of gayety out of a preoccupied mind, or of severe but reluctant thought out of preoccupied feeling." This "tear" could be easily avoided by taking the natural precautions. "For nothing is easier than for the busy to claim and to insist on a certain amount of seclusion sufficient for the purposes of their work, if they would but recognize fairly that a great deal of what is called amusement doubles and trebles the tension of men's work." Regarding conversational intercourse with people, "A person of any mind will get more out of two or three conversations in a week or a month with the right people than he could get out of twenty or thirty." If people only realized how little pleasure their company can give when they are exhausted by the mechanical friction of the "racket" of society, they would, even from self-respect, forbear. The best evidence that persistent society-haunting is useless or mischievous is the relief with which those are received who have been long kept by any good reason out of the vortex of society, and return to the world with a little of the clearness of mind and confidence of view which the social racket saps and ultimately destroys. Social stimulants do the same kind of mischief that alcoholic stimulants do, though in a different region; and, "like an intoxicating drink, the racket of society becomes most indispensable to the very people whom it most seriously injures."

 

The Brocken and its Mist-Effects.—The Brocken is the culminating point of the Harz Mountains, and in its general form represents an oval slightly inclined from northwest to southeast. Its highest elevation is 1,141 metres above the sea. In consequence of its isolation in the midst of a lowland region, it is immediately exposed to the moist winds from the North Sea, and presents some very remarkable meteorological phenomena. The mean annual temperature at the top of the Brocken is about 36°C, and nearly the same as that of Tromsö in Norway, in 70° of latitude; but while Tromsö enjoys a summer in which potatoes and barley may be grown and fruits will fully ripen, no efforts to cultivate such plants on this range have succeeded. Clear days are rare on the Brocken, and the summit of the mountain is veiled by clouds nearly every morning; but the topmost peak may often be seen above the vapors which cover the slopes below; and it is not rare for the ,fogs to be so thick and so sharply defined that a man of the ordinary stature standing among them will have his head above the vapor while the lower part of his body is still densely involved. It is under such conditions as these that the "specter of the Brocken," a celebrated attraction to travelers, may be seen at the rising and setting of the sun, particularly in winter. The spectators view their silhouettes projected, in exaggerated proportions, upon the surface of the mist, which seems to rise like an immense curtain from out of the clouds. Their heads appear to be surrounded with an aureole, while the shadows of other objects, notably of the tower of the inn, assume gigantic dimensions, all within the compass of a grand picture-frame defined by a rainbow. A similar phenomenon has been observed on the top of the Egisch-horn, above the Aletsch glacier, in Switzerland. Another series of striking effects is produced in the Brocken by the excessive precipitation and deposition of moisture. Guests at the inn say that the telegraph-posts sometimes appear a yard thick under the accumulation of frost upon them, and the wires are frequently broken under the weight of the ice with which they become covered. The extremely fine drops of water, suddenly frozen, deposit themselves in crystalline figures upon everything against which the wind drives them. Under these effects Brocken landscapes take on a fantastic aspect in winter, which is heightened, when the sun is shining, by the reflections from the innumerable minute crystals.

 

Decrease of the English Death-Rate.—The English Registrar-General shows, from a review of the mortality of England during the ten years (1871-80), that the mean annual death-rate has fallen to 21-27 per thousand, the lowest average since civil registration began. With this general fall is an increase in the death-rates in the later periods of life. This is also significant of improved tenure of life, for it shows that a larger proportion of persons live to be old enough to die in the later periods. Dr. Ogle gives the credit of the lessened death-rate among young people to improved sanitation, which has removed many fruitful sources of mortality, while by aiding the survival of weakly persons it may have had a tendency to increase the death-rate of the later periods. The changes in the death-rates. Dr. Ogle adds, "have given to the community an annual addition of 1,800,047 years of life shared among its members; and, allowing that the changes are the direct consequence of sanitary interference, we must regard this addition of nearly two million years of life as an annual income derived from money invested in sanitation."

 

Cardiac Overstrain.—The "Lancet" improves the occasion of the recent deaths of two persons by syncope after severe muscular exertion—one during an Alpine expedition, and the other after a sharp row on the river—to enforce the necessity of undergoing suitable preparation by training before engaging in unusual exercises. Both of the deceased persons, it says, "were of an age when degenerative changes in the muscular tissue of the heart or of the vessels would hardly be expected, and the syncope must have resulted from the sudden strain thrown on the cavities of a heart weakened previously by a long period of inactivity, and before the concordant action between the heart and great vessels had been established. This is always a danger when violent exercise is suddenly undertaken, and the mischief is of course greater in elderly persons than in young adults."

 

How Rice is Cleaned and Polished.—According to the reports transmitted by our consular officers from England and Germany, the processes for cleaning rice are quite complicated. The grain, after having been taken to the top story of the mill and blown and sieved, is divested of its paddy or husks by passing it over a sieve having a jumping action or tapping motion at the bottom, or by being carried between stones like those usually employed for grinding wheat. These stones, in England, are of a composition of magnesian calcinate and emery, and always keep a sharp face through the difference in hardness between the emery and the magnesian cement. Shelling-stones covered with cork have been tried and given up; and in Italy a surface of hard wood set on end is sometimes used, like the Burmese native hand-mills. In the process of shelling, a meal or flour is made from the crushing of the rice-paddy and the three pellicles which, inside of the paddy, inclose the grain, and is removed by apparatus adapted for the purpose. The busks are separated from the grain by a blast or exhaust, and the pellicles which still adhere to the grain by bruising in a mortar. The rice is then winnowed again, milled, re-screened, and polished, in polishers that generally consist of a sheep-skin-covered drum—the skin of a South Down is preferred, on account of the thickness of its wool—which revolves inside of a fixed wire casing about eighteen hundred to two thousand feet per minute at the periphery. The form of apparatus mostly used is that of an inverted frustum of a cone. The general principle of its operation is that of a wooden cylinder revolving in a wooden mantle or mantle of wire-work, between which the rice has to circulate and be rubbed. Sometimes the rice, as it passes into the polisher, is subjected to an infusion of indigo toned down with rice-flour to a pale blue. This gives the rice a bluish tint, that is liked better in England than the natural creamy whiteness of the grain itself. On leaving the polishers, the grain is blown or aspirated, and separated into whole rice, broken rice, and rice of different sizes. A recent "improvement" is to pass the grain through an oiling-machine so as to give it a smoother and glossier surface.

 

The Volcanic Eruption in New Zealand.—The recent volcanic eruption which laid waste a large tract of country in New Zealand was one of the most remarkable that has taken place in civilized lands since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in a.d.79. It also presented many features in common with the Vesuvian eruption. Like that, it took place from a volcano which had never been known to exhibit activity since man had lived in the region; like it, it was distinguished by immense emissions of ashes and the burial of towns; and as the Vesuvian eruption numbered among its victims the naturalist Pliny, so in this one the young Englishman Brainard was overtaken while interested in observing the phenomena. The district afflicted by the eruption was becoming a favorite resort for tourists from all parts of the world on account of the remarkable phenomena and the beautiful aspects of scenery it presented, which in some respects resembled those of our Yellowstone wonderland. It is called the "Hot Lakes" district, and is situated about forty miles inland from the Bay of Plenty, on the east coast of the island. The lakes Rotorua and Rotomahana occupied its central portion, and were divided by fifteen or sixteen miles of "hot-spring country," in which numerous small columns of steam rise from bubbling pools of hot water. The ground around these springs is of the most treacherous character, is frequently broken up by the bursting out of new springs, and has been known to swallow up human beings passing over it. Nine miles from Rotomahana Lake rose Mount Tarawera, a curious truncated mountain two thousand feet high, whose summit was regarded by the natives with a peculiar veneration, and two adjacent peaks. On the borders of the lake were the "pink and white terraces," curved formations of sinter, of the color named, rising stairwise for about one hundred and fifty feet in height, with clear water running over them or standing in pools on their flats, the constant depositions from which added to their growth. The volcanic disturbances began on the night of the 9th of June, with a frightful earthquake-shock, followed by the burst of a glaring, pillar-shaped light from the top of Mount Tarawera, while over it hung a great black cloud. The scene was accompanied, according to the accounts, with loud reports, heavy shocks, tongues of flame, and the shooting of fire-balls. Then came a shower of ashes, mud, and stones over the township which buried the village of Wairoa under a deposit of from ten to twenty feet in thickness. About a hundred lives were lost, among them those of a part of the family of Mr.Haszard, the schoolmaster. The "pink and white terraces" were blown into the air, and the lake on whose borders they stood was ingulfed. Mud cones, vomiting forth steam and stones and mud, occupy their place. The aspect of the mountains was changed, and a large fissure was opened east of Mount Tarawera. As seen from New Plymouth, one hundred and fifty miles distant, the column of ashes rising into the air appeared to be about twenty-two thousand feet high. The noise of the explosion was heard at Christchurch, three hundred miles away; and vessels sailing one hundred and thirty miles away found the air thick with fine dust which settled on their decks. A hurricane arose about an hour after the explosion, blowing toward the scene of volcanic activity, and then in a few hours suddenly ceased, when ashes fell. The weather also became very cold. It is said that, about a fortnight before this disaster occurred, a wave three feet high suddenly arose on Lake Tarawera, at the foot of the mountain, and washed the boats out of the boat-houses.

Book-Worms and their Food.—The book-worm—that is, the larva that eats books and binding—is named, according to Mr. Sydney Klein, Tenebrio mollitor, and is a coleopter. It is attracted by the gluten in the paste used in binding the books; and Mr. Klein says that a dark flour—the "whole-wheat" flour—coming from America, and rich in gluten, is used largely for making paste and in the manufacture of cardboard. Hence the tenebrio is likely to find rich pastures in the books of to-day if he is admitted to them, and they are not "medicated." Light is thrown on this subject of medication by the observation of Mr. Russell Gubbins that the tenebrios have an apparent choice of colors. His tenebrios "had a decided preference for dark-colored paper," while "light-yellow paper, almost without exception, escaped." One of the papers that escaped was a light green—an arsenical paper. The light-yellow paper was probably colored with chrome-yellow, chromate of lead. So it appears that the insects may be fought by exercising Judgment in coloring the papers which are to receive the paste.

 

Curious Central African Peoples.—The Rev.T.J.Comber, a Baptist missionary, has given to the Royal Geographical Society an account of his voyage, in company with the Rev.George Grenfell and in the missionary steamer Peace, up the Congo to the Bangala, and up the Bochini to the junction of the Kwango. The width of the river, from Stanley Pool to the Bochini, varies from twelve hundred yards to two miles. It is swift and strong, and navigation has to be performed carefully, on account of up-cropping feldspathic rocks An interesting feature of the first days' sails was the little clusters of huts on the sand-banks in twos, fours, and sixes, inhabited by Ba-Buma people, who sold beer and caught fish. The people are ruled by a queen, Nga Nkabe, whose husband, or "prince consort," Nchielo, "knows his place, and sits quietly by, smoking his pipe meekly and philosophically, while his wife rules." She is tall, brawny, and dignified, and about fifty years old, but "did not seem to think it beneath her to take her paddle, and, entering into a little canoe with another woman, to go herself to cut us a bunch of plantains." Her great desire was to possess a double-barreled gun, and she was evidently pleased with a present of cloths, a big bell, a soldier's great-coat, and some brass. The Ba-Buma were the best specimens of the African encountered on the journey. The women wear brass collars weighing from twenty-five to thirty pounds. The most primitive people seen by the travelers were the Ikelemba, about the great Ruki River, who go about with bow and arrow, or spears and shield, or a murderous sacrificial knife, wearing hats made of monkey-skins, of which the head of the animal comes to the front of their heads, while the tail hangs down behind. They are cruel, ingeniously cruel, and indulge among other amusements in chasing their human victims across the country as our hunters would chase a fox. Another exercise of their braves is inflicting "death by the knife," in which the head of the victim is so adjusted that, when it is cut off by a blow of a sickle-sbaped knife, it is tossed by the spring of a sapling high into the air. In strange contrast with these revolting practices was "a pretty little performance by children, lasting several hours, and consisting, first, of clever dancing, and then of a little bit of operatic acting, after the style of a Greek play, the chorus part of which was very prettily rendered by little girls of eight to twelve years old. A strange-looking bier was carried in on the shoulders of four men. On the top of it was somebody or something covered over with red baize cloth. Sitting up at one end was a little girl looking sad and mournful. This bier (a native bamboo bed) was placed on the ground and surrounded by the 'chorus'—six little girls. A plaintive song was chanted by a woman who came to the side of the bier, which was chorused by the little girls. It was really pretty and effective; the idea of a drama in Central Africa surprised us altogether. We could understand but little of the words sung, but caught the frequent repetition at the end of the chorus of 'Ka-wa-ka' ('He is not dead'). After a time the spells of incantation were considered to have worked, and there was a noticeable heaving and shuddering in the covered mass at the girl's feet. The red cloth was drawn aside, and a girl was discovered, her chest heaving quickly and her limbs trembling as if in a paroxysm of epilepsy. Two persona came forward, and, taking her by her arms, raised her to her feet. . . . The little performance was enacted to please the white man."

 

The Life-Term of Animals and Plants.—Dr. August Weissman regards the life-terms of animals and plants not as fixed and the results of internal processes, but as modifiable according to external conditions and the incidents of the struggle for existence. The idea that the immediate cause of death is the wearing away of the tissues does not agree with the theory that the tissues are undergoing constant changes of substance, resulting in alteration and restoration, nor with the fact that some kinds of cells go on reproducing themselves indefinitely, or with the other fact that some animals perish, when apparently in full vigor, immediately after performing the generative function. It would seemingly be better to look for the cause of death in the terminability of the reproductive powers; and we might explain the difference in the possible life-terms of different species by supposing that the number of cell-generations which can proceed from the egg-cells normally differs in each species. A perishable material is provided for the inevitable wear and destruction of the body, and the function of unlimited increase has been confined to a smaller number of cells, which we call reproductive cells. We have in this and in some other facts justification for supposing that the life-force is essentially and originally unlimited. This appears to be actually the case with some of the lower organisms. They may be killed in various ways, it is true; but, so long as the conditions essential to life are around them, they live, and bear within themselves the conditions of never-ending existence. The process of division by which ana mœba becomes two is sometimes spoken of as death and propagation, but there is no death in the case. Both parts equally live, and either might with equal right consider itself the mother and the other as the daughter body; and, if there be any transmission of consciousness and individuality, it is alike to both. We have no reason for supposing that either of the bodies will eventually die while the other lives; for, so far as our observation enables us to predict, both will go on dividing continuously without death taking place in any part. To account for the loss of the property of perpetual existence in the many-celled organisms, we may observe that a division of labor has been established among the cells as their structure has become more complex; and we have the life-supporting or somatic cells, and the reproductive cells, the former of which perform their several functions and cease to live, while the latter retain the faculty of continuous division or multiplication, and continue to live as the seed of offspring. They could not lose these properties without risking the extinction of the species. Death could not be introduced as a normal liability of one-celled organisms, because the two functions are united; but, in more complex organisms where there is a division of function, it is possible and exists. The normal vital term of the somatic cells appears to be contingent on the completion of the faculty of reproduction.

 

  1. "A Demigod." Harper & Brothers.