Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/December 1888/Popular Miscellany
The International Geological Congress.—The fourth session of the International Geological Congress was held in London, beginning September 16th, under the presidency of Prof. Prestwich. The United States was represented in the list of vice-presidents by Prof. Frazer, of Philadelphia. The meeting was the largest in attendance, both of home and foreign geologists, that has been held. It differed from the previous meetings in the point that no votes were taken bearing upon the subjects under discussion; but a report was adopted recommending that in future the members from the country in which the Congress meets shall vote separately from the foreign geologists: if the two groups agree, the question to be considered settled; if not, deferred; and that votes should not be taken on questions that are purely theoretical. The classification of the Cambrian and Silurian strata was fully discussed, and the questions of the nature and origin of the crystalline schists, and of the upper limit of the Tertiary system, were considered in some detail. To the second discussion essays were contributed by five officers of the United States Geological Survey, with an introduction by Major Powell, and by Mr. Lawson, of Canada. The committee on nomenclature and classification has obtained reports from the committees of the different countries, embodying their views on the subject. It now remains to discuss these. Another commission was appointed under the new aspect of the subject, on which Prof . Hall represents the United States. Four or five sheets of the geological map of Europe, relating to central Europe, will be ready for publication within the next two years, and will be given out at once, each with its own title and index, without waiting for the completion of the whole. The Congress decided to hold its fifth meeting, in 1891, in Philadelphia; and Messrs. J. Hall, Dana, Newberry, Frazer, Gilbert, Hunt, Marsh, and Walcott were appointed the committee of arrangements.
Interglacial Man in Ohio.—Until recently it has been a question whether "interglacial" man existed in the Mississippi Valley. Dr. Abbott had even made the suggestion that this race may have lived only in the neighborhood of the sea-coast, and had not spread so far as even to the eastern slope of the Alleghanies. Flint implements paleolithic in character were found in abundance—the work of Indians—but none that could be proved to be of palæolithic age. Some three years ago, however, genuine palæolithic flints were found by Dr. Metz at Madisonville and Loveland, Ohio. The sites of these discoveries have been carefully examined by the Rev. G. F. Wright, who, taking the whole configuration and geological character of the region, with its peculiar formations, into account, pronounces the beds to be unquestionably virgin glacial deposits, in situations where there can have been no subsequent deposition. The discoveries, therefore, show that in Ohio, as well as on the Atlantic coast, man was an inhabitant before the close of the glacial period. A discovery of implements of quartz, situated likewise in gravels and sands that could only be glacial, made by Miss Babbitt at Little Falls, Minn., is confirmed by the researches of Mr. Warren Upham.
Our Indians and the Mongolians.—Dr. Brinton, in a paper read at the American Association, maintained that the resemblances alleged by various writers to exist in language, culture, and physical appearance between American Indians and Mongolians are not supported by recent researches. The American languages differ entirely from any of the Mongolian group. In culture there are various similarities, but not more and not other than can be pointed out between any two groups of early civilizations, and not one of them is evidence of intercourse. The physical similarities relied upon to show racial affinity begin with the color of the skin. But no American tribe shows the peculiar hue of the Mongol. The hair, although straight in both races, differs in color. The oblique, or Chinese eye, about which much has been said, is by no means usual in the American race, scarcely more so than among the whites, and is, moreover, of less importance than has been maintained. The shape of the skull is markedly different. The Mongolian head is round, that of the Eskimo notably long, and of other tribes mixed. The nasal index of the American Indian approaches that of the modern European much closer than it does the Mongolian. There are in certain tribes some general physiognomical characteristics, and that is all—and this is of little importance.
Religious Notions of Gypsies.—The gypsies' religion, says the author of "The Transylvanian Tziganes," in "Blackwood's Magazine," is of the vaguest description. They generally agree as to the existence of a God, but it is a God whom they can fear without loving. "God can not be good," they argue, "else he would not make us die." The devil they also believe in to a certain extent; but only as a weak, silly fellow, incapable of doing much harm. A gypsy, questioned as to whether he believed in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, scoffed at the idea. "How could I be so foolish as to believe this?" he asked, with unconscious philosophy. "We have been quite wretched enough, and wicked enough, in this world already. Why should we begin again in another?" Sometimes their confused notions of Christianity take the shape of believing in a God, and in his Son, the young God; but while many are of the opinion that the old God is dead, and that his Son now reigns in his place, others declare that the old God is not really dead, but has merely abdicated in favor of the young God. Though rarely believing in the immortality of the soul, the Tzigane usually holds with the doctrine of transmigration, and often supposes the spirit of some particular gypsy to have passed into a bat or a bird; further believing that, when that animal is killed, the spirit passes back to another new-born gypsy. The gypsies resident in villages and hamlets often nominally adopt the religion of the proprietor of the soil, principally, it seems, in order to secure the privilege of being buried at his expense.
Effects of Cigarette-Smoking.—During a discussion in the American Association, Prof. W. S. Dudley described some experiments which he had made on the injurious effects of cigarette-smoking. He showed that they were principally due to the manner of smoking, and not to the impurities, as is currently supposed. In smoking cigarettes, to get the desired effect, the smoke is inhaled, that is to say it is breathed into the lungs; whereas, in smoking pipes and cigars, the smoke is simply drawn into the mouth and then expelled. In experiments on small animals, in which they were caused to breathe air containing cigarette-smoke, it was found that, after a mouse had smoked one and a fourth cigarette life was extinct. Examination of its blood showed that it had died from the effects of the carbon monoxide which was contained in the smoke, and not from the nicotine and other volatile products of the tobacco and paper. This carbon monoxide is produced by the carbonic-acid gas, which is first formed at the end of the lighted cigarette, passing through the red-hot carbon, while the air is excluded. The smoke of a cigar or pipe, or a Turkish water-pipe, would have the same effect if inhaled.
Development of the Plesiosaurus.—Prof. H. G. Seeley exhibited in the British Association last year a remarkable fossil showing the development of the young of the plesiosaurus. Until this fossil had been discovered and forwarded to him, he had sought throughout the collections of Europe for evidence on that development, but without success. No more remarkable fossil had ever been found, and no incident in the history of fossilization was more singular than that which this specimen displayed. The fossil was a series of mummies of minute plesiosaurus less than five inches in length, which had the substance of their flesh perfectly preserved, and the bones in place within the flesh. The remains showed different conditions of development. This was the only case that had ever occurred of the mineralization of the muscular substance and the preservation of the external form of these animals; and so perfectly had they kept that the circle of the eye was preserved and the constituent bones could be distinguished.
Hints about Local Museums.—The British Association's Committee on Provincial Museums advises in its report that each such institution ought to be a fully illustrated monograph of its own district. If the entire history of the district and its inhabitants is represented in it, with special attention to any group of objects for which the district is remarkable, this will be almost as much as any local institution can accomplish. But science is daily becoming more exacting in its demands. Details which were thought ample in any provincial museum twenty years ago, would now be regarded as quite insufficient. In order that the scientific statistics of the country may be thoroughly investigated and made known as quickly as possible, a more business-like system of collection should be adopted. The district should be divided into sections, and a paid collector appointed for each of them, whose whole time should be occupied for several years in obtaining specimens and records in every branch of science represented in the museum. This would require a more liberal supply of funds for the first few years than museums usually enjoy, but the value of the museum would be immensely enhanced, and, when the local collections were made tolerably complete, the permanent income required for maintenance would be very much less. The town museum should be the place to which all students and teachers of science in the district would naturally go for assistance.
The Teaching of Chemistry.—The address of Prof. Tilden, as President of the Chemical Section of the British Association, was on the teaching of chemistry. In reviewing the present position of this instruction in England, the author thought the apparent inactivity of the chemical schools was not generally the fault of the professors, but was chargeable in the main to the ignorance, and partly to the indifference, of the public. There exists as yet no intelligent feeling in favor of learning, nor indeed in favor of any sort of education, unless there is expectation of direct returns in the form of obvious practical results. That teachers ought to engage in research at all is by no means clear to the public and to those who are charged with the administration of the new institutions. A popular mistake consists in regarding a professor as a living embodiment of science—complete, infallible, mysterious; whereas, in truth, he is or ought to be only a senior student, who devotes the greater part of his time to extending and consolidating his own knowledge for the benefit of those who come to learn of him, not only what lies within the boundaries of the known, but how to penetrate into the far greater region of the unknown. Moreover, the man who has no intellectual independence, and simply accepts other people's views without challenge, is pretty certain to make the stock of knowledge with which he sets out in life do service to the end. That one may be fitted to form a sound judgment concerning new theories, he must be familiar with the methods by which progress is accomplished. The work of investigation then reacts beneficially upon the work of teaching; that is to say, teachers should be encouraged, nay, even required to investigate, and not because their discoveries may haply prove to be practically useful. Every teacher who has attained eminence as a teacher, who has drawn men after him, who has founded a school of thought, and has left his mark upon his generation, has been an industrious worker in research of some kind.
A Law of Marriage Customs.—With the view of applying direct numerical method to anthropology, Mr. E. B. Tylor has compiled schedules of the systems of marriage among some three hundred and fifty peoples of the world, so as to ascertain by means of a "method of adhesions" how far each rule coexists or not with other rules, and what have been the directions of development from one rule to another. The barbaric custom which forbids the husband and his wife's parents, though on a friendly footing, to speak to or look at one another, or the converse custom of the wife and her husband's relatives being obliged ceremonially to cut one another, is practiced by some seventy peoples. A marked distinction is found to lie between those peoples whose custom is for the husband to reside with his wife's family, and those where he removes her to his own home. It appears that the avoidance custom between the husband and the wife's family belongs preponderantly to the group of cases where the husband goes to live with his wife's family. This implies a casual connection between the customs of avoidance and residence, suggesting as a reason that the husband, being an interloper in the wife's family, must be treated as a stranger, or not "recognized." Other varieties of the custom show similar preponderant adhesions.
The American Badger.—The mammalian fauna of the United States includes two species of badgers—the American badger (Taxidea americana americana) and the Mexican badger (T. a. berlandieri), the latter being found on our southwestern border. Dr. R. W. Shufeldt, U. S. A., says that many writers have confounded our species with the European badger (Meles), though in reality they are very distinct animals. The American badger is found in this country from Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin westward, and used to occur much further east. Dr. Shufeldt had a fine one in captivity for a long time at Fort Wingate, and has seen a number of others there, among them being the largest that he ever saw or read about. It was an adult male, and measured from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail thirty-two inches. Badgers take a varied diet of fruit, birds' eggs, insects, frogs, small mammals, nuts, and roots. It has not been proved that the American badger is as fond of honey as the European species is, and generally its tastes are far more carnivorous. They drink a great deal of water. They spend most of the daytime in the extensive burrows which their enormous fore-claws enable them to excavate, coming out to feed chiefly at night. It is very rare to find a pair of them together. When one has been chased into its burrow it sometimes reappears in a moment or two at the entrance to inspect its pursuer. Dr. Shufeldt has seen Indians take advantage of this habit by running up to the hole and killing the animal with a pistol-shot as it showed its head. Few animals prey upon or molest the badger; it is a strong and determined fighter, and even the wolf and the coyote do not care to attack it. Prof. Elliott Coues, in his "Fur-bearing Animals," says that "the flesh of the badger, like that of the skunk, is eatable, and doubtless often eaten by savage tribes, though not to be recommended to a cultivated palate." Dr. Shufeldt found that the specimens which he skinned emitted during the process a most rank odor. The badger yields a valuable fur. Thousands of shaving-brushes are said to be made annually from the long hairs, from which also the "badger blender" used by artists is made. The colors of the badger pelt are blended gray, tawny, black, and white, the colors ringed in alternation on individual hairs. The gray predominates. Much remains to be observed in regard to the more obscure habits of the badger.
A Phonetic Alphabet for Indian Languages.—Mr. Garrick Mallery, in preparing the phonetic alphabet used by the Bureau of Ethnology in recording Indian languages, while seeking for a distinct character for every sound, made it a fundamental rule that the characters should be limited to those in an ordinary font of English type—including with the Roman alphabet other characters and diacritical marks common in newspaper printers' cases. The range of characters is extended by reversing those letters of the Roman alphabet which look markedly different when reversed. This is entirely convenient to the printer, and does not occasion awkwardness in the current script to the recorder or writer for the press, as he has only to mark the letter intended to be reversed, after writing it in the normal manner, and to notify the printer accordingly. In practice, the letters intended to be reversed are marked by a cross beneath them. The result of this scheme in practice has solved one part of the problem of a universal phonetic alphabet. Vocabularies and chrestomathies of unwritten languages have been recorded and printed, on which grammars and dictionaries have also been prepared and printed, and from them the languages can be learned so as to be spoken intelligibly without oral instruction.
The Storage of Life.—In an address delivered at the Royal Institution, London, Dr. B. W. Richardson discussed the conditions of the storing or laying up of life, of which the cases of great longevity frequently met with are examples. He puts "hereditary qualification" first of these conditions, and says that the person gifted with this faculty of storage may be of fragile and delicate build, may even be deformed, may be of dull or of bright intellect, may be of cleanly or of uncleanly habit, may be placed in what would seem the most unfavorable position in life, and will continue to live on so as to see all of his more fortunate neighbors fall. The two hereditary temperaments which are incompatible with storage of life are the nervous and the lymphatic; the two which are compatible, and perhaps necessary, are the sanguine and the bilious; better, perhaps, than any singly, would be a mixture of the two latter. In the organism best constituted for storage, the color of the eyes, always an excellent test, is a light hazel, the hair is dark brown, the color of the skin is inclined to be florid, and the lips and eyelids are of good natural red. Dr. Richardson is confident that the number of persons who reach the classical threescore years and ten in England at present is much above what it has ever been in the history of the country. Toward improving heredity in the direction of longevity, the first consideration is the selection of lives for parentage. If such a social miracle could be performed as the fashion of a proper arrangement to prevent the marriage of health with disease, or, still more urgently, the intermarriage of disease, there would soon be an important advance in the value of life. A strong aid to the force of heredity is the virtue of continency, or that virtue which would provide for the limitation of the family circle to such a degree that the resources of the family may never be dangerously taxed by the largeness of it. Another aid is rendered by the art of training the body in such form that all parts of it shall be kept in perfect balance and in equal health. "I do not remember," says Dr. Richardson, "any one of fine and vigorous frame of body and mind who, dying prematurely, did not die from the failure of some one vital organ almost exclusively." A weak and well-balanced body is practically a stronger body than a strong and unbalanced one, and a body of original strength and beauty may be made of unusually long or of unusually short life, according as it is trained into the conditions leading to the one or the other. The storage of life is promoted also by that stoical virtue which may be summed up in the term perfected or all-round temperance. I include in this term not merely abstinence from stimulating or alcoholic drinks. The storage of life is reduced by intemperance of speech, of action, and even of thought. We may consider that whatever quickens the action of the heart beyond its natural bounds is a form of intemperance. The wild hope or wilder despair of the money-market, unbridled passion, and jealousy, are among the kinds of stimulation that hasten the decline of heart-power. The existence among men of diseases which lead to physical deterioration, and reduce the capacity for the storage of life, not alone in one but through many generations, is the last subject to which there is time to refer. The alcoholic diseases, the scrofulous and phthisical, the malignant or cancerous, the syphilitic, are diseases of this order, and whoever helps to remove them by getting at and removing their causes is among the truest friends that humanity ever possessed.
Protection of Wood dangerous in the case of wood of large dimensions. A concentrated solution of phosphate of ammonia, although expensive, is undoubtedly the best substance to apply by injection. Certain substances, notably chloride of calcium, should be rigorously excluded, because they would keep the wood constantly damp. This method may be applied to small articles by immersion, and the solution should be hot. In the majority of cases, including existing structures, applying some coating with a brush is the only practicable treatment. The wood thus coated should present a neat appearance, should be capable of receiving a coat of ordinary paint, nor should either coating deteriorate within a moderate time. The best substances for such application are cyanide of potassium and asbestus paint.Fire.—An investigation has been made by Profs. Boudin and Donny, of the Ghent University, at the requisition of the Belgian Minister of Public Works, in regard to rendering wood uninflammable. They reported that to deprive wood to a considerable extent of the property of catching and communicating fire it is sufficient to coat it with a suitable composition. A practical process must not be too expensive, nor take too much time, and the substance used must not attack any metal used in connection with the wood. Two methods of treatment may be mentioned. One is the injection of saline solutions, which appears but little applicable except to small pieces of wood, and may be
Tests of Eye-Sight, Band-Grip, and Breathing Capacity.—Some curious observations on men and women were reported from the Anthropometric Laboratory at Manchester to the British Association. Of members of the association who were tested at the museum for keenness of eye-sight, the men could see diamond type with their right eye at a distance of 19·6 inches, and with their left eye at a distance of 18·2 inches, showing a distinct difference between right and left. A similar difference was manifested among the women, who with their right eye saw at a distance of 19·2 inches, and with the left at a distance of 18·7 inches. The men averaged 41·7 years of age, and the women were between 23 and 25 years. In no case could one see (diamond type) more than 34 inches with the right eye, but with the left one could see beyond that distance. Among 102 men and 98 women, the right eye was equal to the left in 26 instances in the men and 31 in the women; in 35 instances among the men and 28 among the women the right eye could see further than the left, and in 24 cases in the men and 28 in the women the right eye was worse than the left. The strength of the squeeze showed that it was not uncommon to find a difference of 5 or 6, or even 10 pounds between the squeezing power of the two hands. The average squeeze of the men was between 35 and 45 kilos, and that of the women about 25 kilos. The average weight of the men was between 11 and 12 stone, and that of the women about two stone less; the height of the men 68 inches, and of the women 4 inches less. Speaking of the effects of stays, which Dr. Garson said interfere with the abdominal respiration, Mrs. Stokes observed that the statistics of the stay and corset makers and sellers of London showed that the average size of the female waist had decreased during the last twenty-five years by two inches. Concerning the breathing capacity of some who wore no stays. Dr. Wilberforce Smith said that one woman 59 inches in height, whose breathing capacity, according to the usual average, should be 100, had an actual capacity of 135; another, whose average should be 115, had actual 158; a third, average 130, actual 150; a fourth, average 130, actual 200; a fifth, average 162, actual 195. In one person, in feeble health, the actual was less than the average.
The Chinese and their Limbs.—The Chinese, according to the "North China Herald," are opposed to having amputations performed upon them, not because they are afraid of the pain, but because they look upon it as a duty to keep the body intact. If they submit to it, they ask for the severed member, and keep it in a box, to be buried, in due time, with the owner. Sometimes they will eat it, in the thought that it is right that that which has been taken from the body should be returned to it. So an extracted tooth will be preserved, or ground to powder and swallowed in water. They also have a notion that a sick parent can be cured by broth made from flesh cut from a living child, and it is looked upon as a sign of filial piety for a child to submit himself to an operation for that purpose. The child is supposed to be of the vital essence of the parent, and it is thought that, if a part of this essence is returned to the fountain-head, the parent will be greatly strengthened.
Water-Storage at River-Heads.—Mr. J. Bailey Denton proposed, in the British Association, a plan for replenishing the subterranean supplies of the underground strata by means of shafts to be sunk down to the line of their saturation. He computes that of the twenty-seven inches forming the mean annual rainfall, about two thirds, or eighteen inches, are evaporated from the surface, while of the remaining third, four inches serve to maintain the river systems, and five inches pass away as floods and freshets. As the amount of evaporation is nearly a constant figure, and the quantity required to maintain effectually the river system necessarily remains the same under all conditions, the amount of flood or excess of water greatly varies. To make good the loss of this surplus water, the author proposes that whenever the water in the river rises above a certain datum height recognized as the gauge of its full service, the excess shall be diverted out of the river-course on to filter-beds formed near at hand. The outlet from these filter-beds would be steined shafts or sumps sunk down to the water-level beneath, and into them the filtered water would pass after it was freed from flocculent matter. The steined shafts would be made water-tight and sealed against all surface contamination.
Monopolies.—In a British Association paper on "The Growth of Monopoly, and its Bearing on the Functions of the State," Prof. H. S. Fox well pointed out that, whereas the general expectations of Adam Smith and his contemporaries were that the reforms they advocated would introduce an era of free competition and abolish monopoly, a century's experience had shown us that they had merely shifted the basis on which monopoly rested, and given it a secure seat. Liberty had not led to equality. Competition was a transitional, not a permanent stage. It merely substituted for monopoly based on privilege monopoly based on natural selection. All the most characteristic tendencies of the age favor the growth of monopoly. Monopolies thus arising were free from many of the defects of the old monopolies, and presented advantages over a state of unmitigated competition. But they had their special dangers, and required appropriate forms of state control. There need be an extension of the objects and principles of state control as generally indicated by Adam Smith and Mill. Whatever might be the case under a competitive system, monopolies could not be wholly self-regulating. The modern question was no longer between laissez faire and legislation, but between regulation and collecticism.
The Telephone Two Hundred Years ago.—How rare it is to discover anything that is entirely new is freshly exemplified to us in what Robert Hooke wrote about what has become the telephone, as far back as 1664, or two hundred and twenty-four years ago. He said: "And as glasses have highly promoted our seeing, so it is not improbable but that there may be found many mechanical inventions to improve our other senses, of hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. 'Tis not impossible to hear a whisper a furlong's distance, it having been already done; and perhaps the nature of the thing would not make it more impossible, though that furlong should be ten times multiplied. And though some famous authors have affirmed it impossible to hear through the thinnest plate of Muscovy glass, yet I know a way by which it is easy enough to hear one speak through a wall a yard thick. It has not yet been examined how far octocoustics may be improved, nor what other ways there may be of quickening our hearing, or conveying sound through other bodies than the air; for that is not the only medium. I can assure the reader that I have, by the help of a distended wire, propagated the sound to a very considerable distance in an instant, or with as seemingly quick a motion as that of light; at least, incomparably swifter than that which at the same time was propagated through the air; and this not only in a straight line, or direct, but in one bended in many angles."
The Destructive White Ant.—There is something terrible in the destruction which the white ant, or termite, is capable of inflicting on whatever articles of wood it attacks. There is, at the South Kensington Museum, what is left of a heavy, square door-lintel of teak-wood, after the ants had operated on it at St. Helena. It was reduced to a mere skeleton of the heart-wood, looking like a gnarled and knotty smaller limb. Mr. John R. Coryell relates, in the "Scientific American," that he once, in southern China, attempted to have a large hard-wood chest filled with books removed. When the men tried to lift it by the iron handles, it all crumbled and fell to the floor, a heap of dust and splinters; and the books were in the same condition. The ants are even dangerous to metals, and a piece of lead is exhibited at South Kensington which has been eaten into holes by them. Only camphor will keep them away. The destructive powers last during the whole life of the ant, and are exercised, in nearly equal degree, in the stages of larva, pupa, and perfect insect. The termites are extremely productive, and, were it not that they are very easily destroyed, might soon possess the world. One female will lay in the neighborhood of thirty-one million eggs in the course of the year. The males and females are endowed with wings at the pairing-season, when they sometimes fill the air in their flight. The majority of them lose their lives at that time, else they would multiply so as to make other existence intolerable. The females which are not destroyed are taken in hand by "workers," and imprisoned in a large cell, where they lay their eggs, at the rate of eighty thousand a day, which are at once taken by the "workers" to their particular cells. The female holds within her body, when pregnant, all the eggs she is ever going to lay, and there are thirty-one millions of them. The effect of breeding so enormous a mass is to swell her body so that, when she begins to lay, she will weigh a thousand times as much as when she took her pairing-flight. The wood-eating termite makes its home underground, and approaches the object it is going to consume by tunneling to it. Usually it follows the grain of the wood, or whatever course may be most convenient; and sometimes it fills the hollow shell from which it has eaten the substance with a packing of mud; and thus it happens that posts, etc., which the ant has eaten, do not give way. In all its operations it shows high intelligence and a genius for contrivance.
African Roads.—According to Colonel Sir C. W. Wilson, the roads over which the land trade of equatorial Africa now passes from the coast to the interior are mere footpaths, described by Prof. Drummond in his book on "Tropical Africa" as being never over a foot in breadth, beaten as hard as adamant, and rutted beneath the level of the forest-bed by centuries of native traffic. "As a rule, these footpaths are marvelously direct, running straight through everything, ridge and mountain and valley, never shying at obstacles, never turning aside to breathe. Yet within this general straightforwardness there is a singular eccentricity and indirectness in detail. Although the African footpath is, on the whole, a bee-line, not fifty yards of it are ever straight. And the reason is not far to seek. If a stone is encountered, no native will ever think of removing it. Why should he? It is easier to walk around it. The next man who comes that way will do the same. . . . Whatever the cause, it is certain that, for persistent straightforwardness in the general, and utter vacillation and irresolution in the particular, the African roads are unique in engineering. No country in the world is better supplied with paths; every village is connected with some other village, every tribe with the next tribe; and it is possible for the traveler to cross Africa without being once off a beaten track."
Educational Value of Phonetic Spelling.—Mr. Isaac Pitman, in a paper on economy in education and in writing, stated to the British Association that a million pounds yearly are wasted by the present method of teaching reading in the English elementary schools. The first occupation of children in schools is to learn to read, and they spend, at the lowest reckoning, eight hours a week, during the first four years of their school-life, in gaining a certain amount of reading power. An equal degree of proficiency might be gained by using phonetically printed books during the first two years, and by reading in the present books afterward. The cost of teaching reading to the children in the elementary schools is about two million pounds. One half of this sum would be saved by the use of an alphabet containing a letter for each sound in the language. As reading is now taught, the sound or pronunciation of every word has to be learned independently of the names of the letters that compose it, and generally in spite of the names or sounds of the letters; but, by the use of letters that make up the sound of a word, certainty and celerity in the art of reading take the place of doubt and difficulty. In the discussion on this paper. Dr. J. H. Gladstone said that children should be taught the properties and attributes of things in nature surrounding them before they were taught mere intricacies of language, so that the child should be thoroughly educated in mind, body, and soul. He rejoiced to find that there was a great advance in the direction of spelling reform, because it was now being found out that our present system was productive of enormous expense, difficulties, and wasted energy.
An Eyeless Child.—A girl thirteen years of age has been exhibited by Dr. Menacho, at the Cataluña Academy of Medical Sciences, in whom, while the eyelids, lachrymal apparatus, and orbits appeared to be well formed, there was no eye on either side, but in its place a simple cavity could be seen on separating the eyelids. This cavity was invested by the conjunctiva, which apparently rested on some firm fibrous basis, in which movements could be detected, as if there were rudiments of the ocular muscles. In the thickness of both inferior eyelids a kind of bursa or cyst could be felt, that on the left side being the larger and having a whitish coat like the sclerotic, which could be seen through the conjunctiva posteriorly, where it was thin and transparent. This became tense during crying, and the child was observed to press it frequently with her hands, and then to smile. It is supposed that a subjective sensation of light was thus produced.
- Note of proofreader: Blackwood's Magazine, May 1887