Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/May 1888/Correspondence

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Editor Popular Science Monthly:

I did not see Mr. Royse's letter on this subject until to-day. As he desires an answer, I will say a very few words.

The substance of Mr. Royse's difficulty is this: The chicken comes from the egg—true; but the egg also comes from the chicken—the mature animal is evolved from the germ-cell, but the germ-cell is produced only by the mature animal. So has it been from the beginning. Which is first? Have we not quite as much evidence that the mature animal, as that the germ-cell or protoplasm, was first? Of the two, he thinks the former the more probable.

In answer, I would say that Mr. Royse is probably right. Life did commence with the mature organism. But, according to the evolutionist, the primal organism was both germ-cell and mature; for the germ condition and the mature condition, in the lowest forms of life, are identical. Such lowest forms, even now, can hardly be said to have an ontogenic history, for they simply divide and redivide without essential change. Life, the germ-cell and the mature organism, all came together at the same moment. How, we know not; but, once introduced, the theory of evolution gives the process of change during the geological history of the organic kingdom, and shows that it is similar to the ontogenic history of the higher organisms.

Joseph Le Conte.
Berkeley, Cal., March 9, 1888.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: Readers of "The Popular Science Monthly" are greatly indebted to the Hon. David A. Wells for the large amount of valuable information which he has made both accessible and interesting in his recent articles on the "Economic Outlook in the United States." But, as could scarcely be otherwise, in handling such a vast mass of material as the extent of the discussion implies, he has sometimes fallen into errors of fact, to one of which I wish to call attention.

On pages 460 and 461 of the February number he says: "Forty years ago corn was shelled in the United States by scraping the ears against the sharp edge of a frying-pan or shovel, or using the cob of one ear to shell the corn from another. In this way about five bushels in ten hours could be shelled, and the laborer would receive about one fifth of the product."

Then Mr. Wells goes on to draw conclusions, giving the population of the great corn States as over 2,000,000, and saying it would be needful for the whole population to sit astride of pans and shovels for one hundred and ten days to shell the corn-crop of 1880.

Now, what are the facts? I have been over the great corn States mentioned, as well as Kentucky and Tennessee. I can go back more than forty years or even sixty, and know whereof I speak. Fifty years ago and more the farmer who wanted to convert his corn into whisky to send by flat-boat to New Orleans, thence to Cuba or Charleston, unloaded from one to two hundred bushels upon his barn-floor, and put from four to six horses to tramp it out, and in two hours he had 200 bushels shelled. This was vastly better than sitting astride a frying-pan or shovel and scraping off five bushels a day. I did it many times, and know just how it was done.

Again, when the farmer wanted to take a load of meal to the market, he threw a load of corn on his barn-floor, say forty bushels; then took the old-fashioned flail that hung in every barn, and in an hour he had his forty bushels shelled. This, too, was better than sitting astride his frying-pan or shovel. And let me say, for the honor of the "old flail" and its departed uses, that it was about as good a hand-sheller as any that were found in the old barns.

Griffith Morris.
Glendower, Ohio, February 8, 1888.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: My attention has been called to a misquotation from Dr. C. F. Taylor's paper on "Emotional Prodigality," which occurred in my article on "Emotions versus Health in Women," printed in the February number of your magazine. Referring to Dr. Taylor's argument that emotional disturbances conduced to certain abnormal conditions in children, I have used the terms diseases of the spine as coming under his notice. This is an unintentional misquotation, as Dr. Taylor uses the terms lateral curvature and lateral distortion; and, that my own thought was not of diseases, but of these abnormities, the context will show. In the same paragraph (page 505) the second quotation, to be entire, should read: "I may say that at least two thirds of all lateral distortions of the spinal column are directly traceable to mental overaction, mainly, if not entirely, of an emotional origin. There can be no doubt that this is the fact, because not less than three fifths of those who consult me in the earlier stages recover without any other treatment than a careful abstaining from whatever excites undue emotions in the subject of the distortion." My quotations were made from memory, and I regret that this error occurred, as the distinction is an important one.

If you will kindly give me room for this correction in your columns, you will oblige,

Yours very truly,
Mary Taylor Bissell, M.D.
New York, March 5, 1888.