Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/June 1888/Popular Miscellany

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The Discoverer of Chloroform.—The Jefferson County (N. Y.) Historical Society, having secured the battle-field of Sackett's Harbor, besides erecting a monument to the soldiers buried there, has determined to perpetuate the memory, in a similar way, of Dr. Samuel Guthrie as the discoverer of chloroform. In aid of this object, Mr. O. Guthrie has prepared an account of Dr. Guthrie and his work, in which his claims to the original discovery of chloroform are set forth. Dr. Guthrie was born the son of a practicing physician in Brimfield, Mass., in 1782. He was an examining surgeon in the army during the War of 1812, and established a vinegar-factory at Sackett's Harbor, for supplying the military post there. In 1817 he removed to that place, and prosecuted experiments in the manufacture of powder, which, extending over a period of nearly forty years, were, perhaps, more extensive than those of any other man of his day. The priming-powder—"percussion pill"—made there, is of his invention. He died in 1848. His claim to priority in the discovery of chloroform rests upon his publication, in "Silliman's Journal" for October, 1831, of an article which circumstances indicate to have been written not later than in July of the same year, describing the preparation and properties of a spirituous solution of chloric ether. The ether was prepared by distilling chloride of lime with alcohol. In the article referred to. Dr. Guthrie says: "During the last six months a great number of persons have drunk of the solution of chloric ether in my laboratory, not only very freely, but frequently to the point of intoxication; and, so far as I have observed, it has appeared to be singularly grateful, both to the palate and stomach, producing promptly a lively flow of animal spirits and consequent loquacity, and leaving, after its operation, little of that depression consequent to the use of ardent spirits. This free use of the article has been permitted, in order to ascertain the effect of it in full doses on the healthy subject; and thus to discover, as far as such trials would do, its probable value as a medicine." The subject has been investigated since the publication of Mr. Guthrie's pamphlet, by a committee of the Chicago Medical Society, whose report, we understand, fully substantiates Dr. Guthrie's claim to priority. It appears, in fact, that the account of Dr. Guthrie's process for obtaining chloric ether was in the publisher's hands prior to May 8, 1831; that his chloroform was at the same time in Prof. Silliman's hands for distribution; and that experiments had then been making with the article for six months. This would carry the date of the discovery back into 1830. The claim of Dr. Soubeiran, the Frenchman, is based upon the publication of his account in January, 1832; and Liebig's work upon the subject was, by his own assertion, completed in November, 1831.


Training for Census-Work.—Hon. Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Labor, in a recently published paper on "The Study of Statistics in American Colleges," says: "I would urge upon the Government of the United States, and upon the governments of the various States, the necessity of providing by law for the admission of students that have taken scientific courses in statistics as honorary attachés of or clerks to be employed in the practical work of statistical offices. This can be very easily done without expenditure by the Government and with the very best economic results. We take a census of the United States every ten years, but, as a rule, the men that are brought into the work know nothing of statistics. They should be trained in the very elementary work of the census-taking and of statistical science. How much more economical for the Government to keep its experienced statisticians busily employed in the interim of census taking, even if they do no more than study forms, methods, and analyses connected with the presentation of the facts of the preceding census! Money would be saved, results would be more thoroughly appreciated, and problems would be solved."


Plant-Lice and their Insect Enemies.—Two features in the life of plant-lice are the enormous rate at which they multiply, and the suddenness with which they sometimes disappear. The cherry-trees may be black with them in May, and in a month hardly a specimen of them will be found. This welcome riddance is due to their insect enemies. A syphus maggot with a pointed head, says Mr. A. J. Cook, of the Agricultural College, Michigan, just revels in plant lice. It seems never satiated, and it is hard to understand how so small an insect can make so large a meal. The lady-birds, and especially their larva; or grubs, do signal service in the same direction. Several species of the genus Aphidius of the ichneumon family, very minute parasites, destroy the lice by the thousands. Thus, plant-lice on out-door vegetation, which may threaten dire mischief early in the spring, are almost vanquished before summer comes. In some years, however, probably favored by drought, the plant-lice live out of proportion, and succeed in spite of their enemies, when they do most serious injury. They are sometimes favored, too, by misguided cultivators, who destroy their enemies, mistaking them for mischievous insects. The aphides may be destroyed by the kerosene-and-soap mixture, which consists of a quarter of a pound of hard soap or a quart of soft soap, and a quart of water, heated till the soap is dissolved, to which a pint of kerosene is added, and the whole agitated till a permanent emulsion or mixture is formed. It is applied with a force-pump, of which some are made for the purpose.


Monuments, Sculptures, and Inscriptions at Copan.—Mr. A. P. Maudsley has made a systematic examination of the principal ruins of the ancient city of Copan, in Central America, one of the most interesting of the sites explored and described by Stephens in his first account of his investigations. Mr. Maudsley's examination included surveys and measurements of the mounds, excavations, and the taking of casts, which will be preserved in the South Kensington Museum. He believes that the nature of the structures has been in some points mistaken; that the so-called pyramids are the raised foundations which sup ported roofed buildings—probably temples—which were approached by steep flights of steps; that the long heaps of stones which were taken to be the ruins of city walls are in fact the remains of single chambered, stone-roofed houses; and that the great "river-wall" is merely a wall in appearance, resulting from the river having changed its course and eaten into the raised terraces and lofty foundations on the east side of the ruins, the plan of the structure on that side having been originally the same as on the other sides, with slopes and stairways. A few worked stones, including some beads and a whorl of jade, pearls, and carved pieces of shell, a pot containing red powder and several ounces of quicksilver, human bones, dog's teeth, and skeletons of jaguars, parts of one of which were painted red, were found in the excavations. Mr. Maudsley adduces evidence, from the failure of all the Spanish chroniclers to make any mention of the cities which these ruins represent, or of anything like them, and from the comparison of the ruins with what the Spaniards did speak of, that the sites had been deserted, and the buildings buried in the forest and lost, long before the time of the conquest. The ruins of Copan have been famous ever since Stephens made them known, for the profusion of sculptured ornament and hieroglyphics which they bear. In examining them, Mr. Maudsley was-struck with the frequency with which the serpent symbol, usually the plumed serpent, is used in the sculptures. It appears in the scrollwork, is often found in connection with a natural or more or less grotesque human head; and occurs under various disguises, in many of which its presence is not revealed at first sight. One of the most interesting points noticed in the inscriptions—which the author believes should be read in double columns, from left to right, and from top to bottom—is that all those which there is reason to believe are complete from the beginning are headed by what might be called an initial scroll, and begin with the same formula, usually extending through six squares of hieroglyphic writing. The sixth square, or sometimes the latter half of the sixth square, is a human face, usually in profile, inclosed in a frame or cartouche, like the names of the kings in Egyptian inscriptions.


Some Old Natural History and Fables.—The "Speculum Mundi; or, a Glass representing the Face of the World," which was published in 1670, before the advent of real science, contains some very curious statements in natural history. The bigness of the whales, it says, "equalizeth the Hills and mighty Mountains." Indeed, some authors mention "far greater whales than these." Above all others, mermen and mermaids are considered "the most strange fish in the waters." A fine specimen of mermaid, which was said to have been caught in Holland, "suffered herself to be cloathed, fed with bread, milk, and other meats, and would often strive to steal again into the sea, but, being carefully watched, she could not. Moreover, she learned to spin and perform other petty offices of women; but at the first they cleansed her of the sea-moss which did stick about her." The ostrich is said to be compounded, as it were, of a bird and a beast. For making a drunkard loathe his liquor, a prescription is given for breaking owl's eggs and putting them into it. Birds-of-paradise "have no wings, neither do they fly, but are borne up into the air by the subtility of their plumes, and lightness of their body." The unicorn is described as being like a two-year-old colt, with a horn growing out of his forehead, "a very rich one. . . being a horn of such virtue as is in no beast's horn besides, which, whilst some have gone about to deny, they have secretly blinded the eyes of the world from their full view of the greatness of God's great works." The gorgon is "a fearful and terrible beast to look upon. He causeth his mane to stand upright, and, gaping wide, he sendeth forth a horrible and filthy breath, which infecteth and poysoneth the air." The cockatrice or basilisk is called the king of serpents, not only on account of his size, but also "for his stately pace and magnanimous mind." His poison scorches the grass as if it were burned. The "beams" of his eyes will kill a man. The dragon is found chiefly in India and Ethiopia. "His wings will carry him to seek his prey when and where occasion serveth"; his teeth are very sharp and set like a saw, but his prodigious strength "resteth in his tail." The amphisbena has two heads and no tail, "having a head at both ends." Africa "aboundeth" with them.


Volcanic Lava-Cones.—Professor Dana observes, in connection with studies of the recent eruption of Kilauea, that in external dress the crater of highly viscid lava is very unlike that of the feebly viscid. The cone in the former often rises with slopes of from 30° to 35°; that in the latter often of but from 5° to 10°, The former commonly uses cinders largely in making its cone, or else has the less fusible orthoclase lavas to deal with; the latter is lava-made, cinder deposits being subordinate to those of lava. The crater in one is lengthened upward at the top by cinders, and has crater-cones about each vent of liquid lava within the crater; that in the other is often a broad pit, with a floor of cooled lava, over which are large and small lava-vents, and low, lava-made cones. The volcano of the former kind is more liable to catastrophic eruption, with noisy earth-shocks, though often quiet in some discharges; those of the latter commonly work with comparative quiet, having their large outflows at times without announcements of any kind to those dwelling a few miles away. There are differences, but they are differences in some of the results of the action going on, not in causes or methods. The first of the two kinds of volcanoes prepares for a new eruption by the gradual filling up of the emptied crater, doing this by means of one or more lava-vents in the bottom, which, besides throwing up cinders, have their little outflows (as well described by Secchi for Vesuvius), and keep at the work until the crater is filled, or nearly so; and then come the break and the greater outflows. The second kind differ only as to the cinders; and in Kilauea, as to the height of the floor before the outbreak. Both from Vesuvius and Kilauea we learn that, next to the lava-vent, the crater of a volcanic mountain is its prime or most fundamental element. It incloses the extremity of a lava-conduit of greater or less breadth that reaches down to the seat of fires; and this inclosure exists because of the ejections by outflows and upthrows of the consequent downplunges, which superficial conditions in large part determine. The growing mountain-cone can not be rid of its crater except by the gradual disappearance and healing over of the lava-vent; and, commonly, when extinction happens, the crater is still of nearly full size. If half or wholly obliterated, it may be again restored; and is likely to be, if activity is ever renewed in the region by new aggressive action below. If so renewed, it may go forward through refusions and new ingulfment. But the first step may be the opening of the old fissure upon which the crater was originally made; in this way the lava-conduit might secure for itself at once an open way to the surface. It may be that the course of the old fissure has been a chief cause in determining the form of a crater; and it may lead, in after-history, to changes in the locus of the chief vent, or an elongation of the crater in one direction rather than in another.


Water-Pipes of Lead, Tin, and Iron.—On the question of the "Action of Drinking-Water on Lead," Dr. Tidy, Mr. Crookes, and Dr. Odling have reported to the British Association that they deem it impracticable, even though it were advisable, which they doubt, to replace lead pipes by iron pipes, or even by pipes of tinned lead. In tinned-lead pipes the tinning is found not only to be detrimental to the strength of the lead, but to be likely, unless the coating is perfect, to assist the dissolution of the lead. Iron pipes, although strong, and safe so far as health is concerned, are more likely to break, more difficult to adjust and repair, very easy of oxidation, and liable to obstruction from accumulation of the oxide. Tin is also acted upon by water, though its toxic action is below that of lead. It is fairly flexible, but four times as expensive as lead, but a thinner pipe would suffice. There is reason, however, to believe that waters do not afford a protective coating to tin as they do to lead. The advantages of lead service-pipes are their cheapness, durability, and flexibility, and the ease with which they can be wrought and repaired. The authors recommend the systematic and continuous filtration of the water, with such modifications of the filter-bed as will insure its efficient silication. This will, in their belief, minimize and practically prevent the action of the water on the lead surfaces. It would, moreover, improve the brightness and color of the water, and lessen the quantity of organic matter held in solution.


Practical Chemistry in Housekeeping.—The "Popular Science News" notices some facts connected with the preparation of food that illustrate how the housekeeper is in reality a practical chemist. The object of all cooking, or application of heat to the raw material of food, is to bring about changes in the character of certain bodies of complicated organization; and this is often done without producing any difference in composition perceptible to the chemist. Such is the case when albumen is coagulated: we clear coffee with albumen or the white of an egg, through its power of inclosing particles in suspension when it becomes hard. If the coffee-maker uses fish-skin, it performs the same office by forming a kind of leather with the tannin of the coffee. Glue is a coarse, and cooking gelatin a refined form of the same substance, which is insoluble in cold water, but absorbs it, swelling up and becoming soft. When heated with the water, gelatin dissolves, and then, when cooled again,"jells"; but, if boiled too long, it loses the " jelling" quality; the same property of gelatinizing is possessed in fruits by pectine, which is, however, a distinct substance. The stimulating properties of tea and coffee are due to their peculiar alkaloids, theine and caffeine; their flavor, to aromatic substances which are extracted by the hot water from the leaf or berry. Wheat-flour is composed of starch with gluten, and more or less of mineral or inorganic substances. The finer and whiter flours are nearly pure starch, and are not so nutritious as the less attractive brown flours. The raising of dough is a true process of fermentation, precisely similar to that of the brewer or distiller, but the alcohol soon passes away. Sugar, when heated, melts, and is converted into an uncrystallized, pliant mass, known as barley-sugar, or sugar-candy. At a somewhat higher temperature it is decomposed, and a dark-brown substance, known as caramel, is formed. Granulated sugar is seldom adulterated. The term salt, in its technical sense, includes the fats, which are compounds of characteristic acids with glycerin as a base. Upon adding potash or soda, the acid combines with the alkali, forming soap, and the glycerin is set free. If soda is used, hard soap, if potash, soft soap, is formed.


Purification of Sewage by Infiltration.—Filtration of sewage is defined in the report of the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Sewage Discharge to be its concentration, at short intervals, on an area of specially chosen porous ground, as small as will absorb and cleanse it; not excluding vegetation-culture, but making the produce of secondary importance. On a suitable soil, such as a sandy loam with a small proportion of gritty gravel, specially prepared by surface leveling and deep under-drainage, one acre is said to be capable of purifying the sewage of one thousand people, manufacturers' refuse and storm and surface waters excluded. Mr. Bailey Denton, who has had ten years' experience in filtration, and has published a book about it, does not think it necessary, or even, in most cases, desirable, to precipitate the sludge before applying the sewage to the filtration-beds. He does not believe that under proper treatment sludge is capable of clogging the pores of the land or of injuring vegetation. He advises the laying out of the filtration-beds in ridges and furrows, the sewage only to flow into the furrows and not to be allowed to flood the ridges on which plants and vegetables are growing. As soon as the deposit of sludge on the sides of the furrows is sufficient to prevent infiltration in any great degree, the sewage should be withheld from the areas so affected. The sludge should then be allowed to dry partially in the furrows, and when in a fit condition be lifted and dug into the ridges. The slimy matter, which has appeared so considerable and which puddled the bottom of the furrows when wet, shrinks to a skin of very insignificant thickness when dry, and is readily broken up and mixed with the soil. The intermittency of the application of the sewage to the filter-beds is essential. Each bed should have eighteen hours' rest out of the twenty-four, to allow air to follow the pores of the land, and thereby renew the oxidizing properties of the soil. The assimilative power of growing plants is doubtless also a great aid in the purification of sewage. Intermittent filtration is probably, however, likely to have its most useful application in combination with surface or broad irrigation.


The Slavic Feast of St. Nicholas.—The feast of St. Nicholas takes the place, among some of the Slavic peoples, of our Christmas. The chief feature of the festival is the catechization of the children on the eve of the day, for which the good bishop is personated by a youth dressed in long white vestments, with a silk scarf, and furnished with miter and crosier. He is accompanied by two angels, also suitably dressed, and followed by a troop of devils, having blackened visages, horns, pigs' faces, and other ingeniously devised distortions, and all rattling chains. The visitations take place at the houses where the children are gathered in their evening parties. St. Nicholas enters with two angels, while the devils are left outside. He calls up the children one by one, and seriously examines them, with questions suited to their ages, and in their knowledge of prayers and hymns. Those who pass the questioning successfully are rewarded with presents of nuts and apples; those who fail have to stand aside. After the examinations are completed, the devils are called in, and, while they are not allowed to annoy the good children, they are permitted to tease the naughty ones as much as they like. The performance passes at last into an hour of jollity and romping. The children having returned to their own homes, and said their prayers previously to going to bed, place dishes or baskets upon the window-sills, with their names written within them, for the presents which St. Nicholas is to bring.


Mithraism.—The religion of Mithra, or, rather, ideas and forms connected with it, played an important part in the thought of the early centuries of the Christian era, yet little is known of Mithraism at the present time, and the discussions of it are largely speculative. It has been generally treated as having been a mere form of sun worship; but that accomplished antiquary, Mr. J. A. Farrer, has expressed the belief that it was at bottom the worship of Ormuzd, the Persian conception of the Deity, which answers exactly to the Jewish conception of Jehovah. While we may never know what its actual rites or mysteries were, it is evident that they enforced a high and severe standard of morality through a symbolism which now seems ridiculous. Candidates for initiation went through some twelve or, perhaps, eighty trials of physical endurance, by fire, water, fasting, etc., in order to present themselves holy and free from passion. They passed through several degrees, and were called, according to their sex or advancement, lions, hyenas, ravens, eagles, and hawks. There were ceremonies of baptism and absolution, an oblation of bread and water, and a teaching of the resurrection. Symbolical representations were made of the passage of emancipated souls through the fixed stars. But little more is known of the service. The interesting point in the Mithraic rites is their resemblance, as attested by the Christian fathers, to the early Christian rites. This fact suggests a question which controversialists have not neglected—whether the Christians borrowed from the Mithraists or the Mithraists from the Christians, or whether the coincidences are casual. The mysteries of Mithra have also their analogues in the mysteries of ancient India; and it may be that the Christians yielded to the temptation to compromise in order to make the passage of conversion easier; as it is tolerably clear that they did in the appointment of a number of the church festivals. While these resemblances and relations must make this religion a matter of perpetual interest, its origin and nature are in fact "little less obscure than the caverns in which its mysterious rites were once performed. . . . That it was monotheistic in doctrine, and taught the belief in a future life; that it inculcated a code of morality, in which truth, justice, and temperance formed the principal virtues, is all that at present seems clear from the scanty evidence that remains of it."


The Sensations of freezing to Death.—The question, Is death from intense cold painless? is answered by a writer in "Chambers's Journal" from his own experience one day in the Pennine Alps. After a hot July climb to the snow-line, in which the traveler went out of his way in frequent excursions for beautiful objects, and did not eat, the sunset and the rapid change to intense cold took place. Poorly prepared to endure the transition, the writer felt a peculiar appearance in all bis surroundings. "Everything looked hazy to my vision—even the snow and the rocks lying about looked as if enveloped in a fog, although the afternoon was beautifully clear. Then I felt that I must sit down and enjoy it; but the guide's flask of Kirschwasser set me going again. Very soon, however, the former feeling returned; but the same treatment temporarily recovered me. At last I took to stumbling along, fell down several times, and at length could not help myself. My companions urged me in vain to arouse to one more effort; but it was useless." Two monks from the hospice were brought to the rescue, and they and the guide "took me in hand, and, shaking me up, made my hands clasp a belt round the guide's waist, and each of the monks took an arm," and thus pulled him through the seven and a half miles to the hospice. "The sensations of that journey, during occasional gleams of consciousness," the writer continues, will never be erased from my mind. Is there such an essence of ecstatic delight as elixir mortis? If there is, it must have been something like it, or the very thing itself, which I enjoyed that day. No words can possibly express the surprising desire which I felt to sit down and enjoy my felicity—and sleep. But my inexorable friends knew that sleep meant death; and though my repeated appeals of 'Doucement, doucement!' were plaintive enough, they were met by redoubled efforts to force me onward, even when my own legs would not move any longer. . . . During the sustained efforts of the three men, I had but momentary glimpses of consciousness. I remember seeing two somethings, black, one on each side, but very indistinct. These, of course, were the friendly monks. The one overwhelming idea that filled my mind then was how to get to that sleep, that blissful euthanasia which poets have sung about, but which my companions were doing their best to rob me of, just when I had got it within my grasp." Hence it is concluded that death from intense cold may at all events be painless.


Half a Century of Railway Work.—Mr. Edward Woods, President of the English Institution of Civil Engineers, entered the service of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company more than fifty years ago. At that time the so-called "fish-bellied" rails were used, weighing thirty-five pounds to the yard, and were laid in iron chairs supported on stone blocks. Such beds proved too rigid, and were laid with heavier rails. Then wooden sleepers, being more elastic, were adopted instead of stone, and a wooden wedge, instead of an iron one, for holding the rail in the chair. The steel sleepers now coming into vogue in place of wood are so formed as to give great elasticity, and avoid the blunder of a rigid road. The essential characteristics of the locomotives, though great improvements have been made in them, have not been changed; but a wonderful economy has been effected in the consumption of coal. A larger traffic is now performed with three thousand one hundred tons of coke per annum than was then carried on with twelve thousand six hundred tons. The traction power of engines has increased fivefold, and inclines which were at one time considered too severe to be worked by locomotives are now easily surmounted. The average of speed has been increased considerably, but the maximum not greatly. In all the accessory details of railway work, such as signaling, switching, braking, etc., there has been a great and important advance.


Forestry in Switzerland.—While by the Constitution of 1874 the confederation has the right of supervision, each canton of Switzerland possesses in effect its own scheme of forestry organization. Two systems are prevalent, each of which has its advantages in certain circumstances. In the central, southern, and eastern parts of the federation, the territory of the cantons is portioned into districts of from 17,500 to 30,000 acres each, with an inspector and a number of trained foresters and keepers chosen by the owners of the woods, and paid by them. Each forester has about 3,000 acres under his care, and, under the control of the inspector, carries out the processes of cultivation, looks after the nurseries, clears rides, and disposes of the timber cut down. In the western and less rugged parts of the country, where the cantons have long possessed forest organizations, merely protective measures are subordinated to maintenance of a scientifically trained official staff. Most of the cantonal governments own forests which serve at once as models for the other forest proprietors and as an encouragement for the establishment of private staffs of keepers. In these cantons the superior forester does much that is left elsewhere to unskilled hands. The superior foresters are everywhere nominated and paid by the state, while the under-foresters are mostly selected and paid by the forest-owners. In most cantons forest administration is conducted by a department under the rule of a member of the government, assisted by a chief forester. The pay in all grades of the service is small.


Bean-Curd.—Tofu is a curd manufactured in Japan from beans, and, according to the "Journal of the Society of Arts," "approaches more nearly in its composition to animal food than any other vegetable known." It contains about one fifth of its weight of fat, and nearly two fifths of nitrogenous matter. This would give it about double the nutrient value of beef. The Japanese prepare it by soaking the beans in water for twenty-four hours, then grinding them in a stone mill with the purest water obtainable, so as to form a thin pulp. The pulp is heated to boiling, when more water is added, and it is boiled again; then more cold water is added, and it is allowed to stand. The liquor is then strained out through a bag, and brine is stirred into it. This effects a coagulation, and the curd is pressed as in making cheese. Prof. W. Mattieu Williams has obtained soluble casein by treating peas in a similar manner; and he remarks that all peas and beans will yield soluble casein when so treated. Prof. Williams estimates the cost of producing the bean-curd, equal if not superior to the best cheese made in the dairy, at about threepence per pound.


Whaling in Spitzbergen Waters.—Whaling has been carried on in the Spitzbergen seas during the last forty years, according to Captain Gray, of the steamer Eclipse, of Peterhead, by the aid of the traffic in seals, with whose products the gaps in the cargo of whale-products were filled; but since the introduction of steam-vessels, in about 1860, the seals have been so completely exterminated that it no longer pays a vessel to go in search of them. Steam has also been to a great extent the ruin of the Greenland whale-fishing. The whales are receding farther and farther into the ice, where it is impossible to follow them. So far as can be judged, there are probably no fewer whales now than there were forty years ago, but they are more inaccessible, as they are being yearly frightened farther back by the noise of the steam-engines. Notwithstanding the greater difficulty in penetrating the ice at such a time, a "close season" is welcome to the whale-fisher, for the whale will only appear in the neighborhood of field-ice, and in open seasons the ice is constantly broken up by the swell. In some seasons the whales are later in appearing than in others; but the usual time is about the 20th of May, and from that time the fishing is prosecuted till about the end of June, when the whales disappear. A new branch of enterprise has been developed within a few years in fishing for the small "bottle-nose" whale. These whales yield no bone, but give about a ton each of an oil equal in lubricating power to the southern sperm-whale oil. Since they began to be hunted, more than two hundred have sometimes been killed in a season by a single ship; but there are signs that the trade is being overdone. The oils, formerly the main-stay of the fisheries, were at one time largely used for lighting collieries and street lamps; but for a good many years back they have been principally employed by jute manufacturers for lubricating purposes. Since the discovery of the great Russian petroleum-wells at Baku, however, the demand for the seal and whale oils has greatly fallen off; but whalebone is now at a higher price than ever. Captain Gray regards the prospect of finding a new and lucrative whale-fishery in the antarctic seas as very hopeful.


Railways as Fosterers of Trade.—The history of railway construction in India illustrates in a remarkable way how rapidly traffic is developed as soon as facilities arc opened for it. Until within a year or two past the Government of the country considered that it was unlikely that any railway in India would pay that did not pass through a dense population. The Government was averse to constructing railways in Burmah till business interest urged it so strongly that the experiment was tried, when, to the surprise of the administration, the Burmah Railway paid about five per cent as soon as it was opened. In the same way the Government denied the possibility of extensive traffic upon the Rajpootana and the Indus Valley railways, which were constructed solely for strategic purposes through a poorly populated country, and a narrow gauge was all that it would afford. Yet so rapidly has the country been brought under cultivation, and the population has increased so fast, that in 1885 the Indus Valley Railway carried one hundred and thirty-six million mile-passengers and two hundred and ninety-three million mile-tons of goods and grain, and paid 7·32 per cent on its capital; and the Rajpootana line carried three hundred and fifty-eight million mile-passengers and three hundred and twenty-seven million mile-tons of goods and grain, and paid 697 per cent upon its capital.


Six Hundred Shots a Minute.—The Maxim machine-gun has a capacity for firing six hundred rounds a minute, or at least three times greater than that of any other machine-gun. It has only a single barrel, which, when the shot is fired, recoils a distance of three quarters of an inch on the other parts of the gun. This recoil sets moving the machinery which automatically keeps up a continuous firing at the extraordinary rate of ten rounds a second. Each recoil of the barrel has therefore to perform the necessary functions of extracting and ejecting the empty cartridge, of bringing up the next full one and placing it in its proper position in the barrel, of cocking the hammer, and pulling the trigger. The barrel is cooled with a water-jacket, is adjustable in every direction, and has a maximum range of eighteen hundred yards. The gun weighs only one hundred and six pounds; it can be taken apart, folded up, and put together again, the latter operation being possible in ten seconds.