Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/March 1889/Notes
The seventh annual meeting of the American Forestry Congress was held at Atlanta, Ga., December 5, 6, and 7, 1888. Papers and addresses on various subjects pertinent to forestry in America were given. The Congress has for its object the creation of a public sentiment in favor of a more rational treatment of our forest resources. It is proposed to raise a fund of ten thousand dollars for carrying on the work of the Congress, by creating life-memberships of one hundred dollars each. The management of the principal fund is to be in the hands of the subscribers to it, who will be known as patrons.
The programme for the second triennial session of the International Congress of Hydrology and Climatology, which is to be held in Paris in October, 1889, includes questions upon scientific hydrology, medical hydrology, and climatology. The membership fee is twelve francs.
According to Mr. Thomas T. P. Bruce Warren, the better descriptions of India-rubber, which are obtained from Brazil and Central America, are now so eagerly sought after for the markets of the United States and Germany that the British no longer have the monopoly of the industry. Yankees are so frequently at Pará that they have virtually the run of the market for the raw article there, so that British customers have often to take what would not pass muster for them.
Dr. Ludwig Wolf relates that while the natives of Africa usually meet the white man with suspicion and hostility, the Baluba people at once showed his party a blind, child-like confidence. They greeted them as former deceased chiefs and relatives of their king Kalamba Mukenge, by whose names they always called them. This was in pursuance of their belief that all distinguished-warriors and chiefs will return to them metamorphosed after death.
Mr. Proctor left the manuscript of his "Old and New Astronomy" in a more advanced state than was feared. Its completion has been undertaken by Mr. A. C. Ranyard, who was for some time Secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Arsenic having been recommended by Dr. Tommasi Crudelli as a substance that will efficiently augment the mean resistance of the human organism to the malarious ferment, Dr. Ricchi, medical supervisor of Italian railways, has adopted as a tonic food-preparation, to aid the preventive virtue of the arsenic, the impalpable soluble powder, made from the "sterilized" and desiccated blood of calves, which is known in commerce as "trefusia." Dr. Tommasi Crudelli approves the preparation, as being adapted to the condition of systems which are not susceptible of protection by the arsenical treatment alone. The same physician recommends decoction of lemon as a prophylactic or remedy in cases in which arsenic and quinine have failed.
Sudden deaths are most frequent, according to "The Lancet," when the conditions of life change suddenly, or are especially liable to change—and this without necessary reference to whether the change effected be relatively for the better or for the worse; for the change may be so rapidly effected, in either direction, as to throw upon the circulatory and respiratory functions a strain which the organs are not able to bear. In this way, persons with unsound or weak hearts or weak arteries die suddenly under rapid changes, although, if there were no special strain consequent on the change, it would in itself prove advantageous to them. It may be accepted that sudden deaths are especially likely to occur at periods of seasonal change, and at times when rapid variations of temperature are taking place.
Prof. H. J. Mackinder, Reader of Geography at the University of Oxford, expresses the opinion that the best preliminary training for a geographical specialist is a sound grounding in general science, and, superadded to this, an elementary knowledge of history. He has found by experience that it is exceedingly hard to give the necessary scientific knowledge to a historian.
Prof. Mackinder's courses in geography at Oxford for 1888-'89 will include lectures on "The Physical Geography of the Continents"; "The Geography of the British Isles, with Especial Reference to History"; and "The Historical Geography of North America." To these will be added lectures by Prof. Freeman on the "Historical Geography of Europe," and by the Reader in Indian History on "The Geography of India." Besides his duties at the university proper, Prof. Mackinder last year gave one hundred and two extension lectures on geography and physiography at ten towns.
The operation of transplanting a part of a nerve from a rabbit to a man has been successfully performed in Vienna, upon Prof. von Fleischl, of the university. The professor had lost his thumb and incurred neurotoma, and was suffering much pain. A piece, six centimetres long, was taken from the great nerve of a rabbit's thigh so as to include the natural bifurcation of the main trunk. It was secured to the stump of the nerve in the man's arm, and the ends of the branches to the nerve terminations that remained in the fingers, so as to restore the interrupted communication. All had gone well at the end of two months.
An "authorized" biography of the late Sir William Siemens has been prepared by Dr. William Pole, of the Society of Civil Engineers, and will soon be published in London.
Mr. Proctor's "Knowledge" will be carried on in future by W. H. Allen & Co., London, as an illustrated magazine, with more space devoted to physics, biology, etc., and with controversial articles on theological and allied questions excluded.
A new mole-like mammal, found in South Australia, is described by E. C. Stirling, of the university at Adelaide. It is a ground-burrowing animal, outwardly somewhat like the Cape mole, but differing from it in many respects. It is about five inches long, has no visible eyes, but a small pigment spot to be seen on reflecting the skin, where the eye should be; no external ears, but the ear-openings distinct and covered with fur; the fore-limbs short, resembling those of the mole, with the hands folded so that only two of the nails are visible in the natural position; and the hinder limbs also short, with the soles turned outward. The animal had never been seen by any of the aborigines, except by one old woman once.
A statue of Ampère was unveiled at Lyons, his native place, October 9th. The President of the French Republic attended the ceremony, and M. Cornu, of the Academy of Sciences, delivered the address.
The Copley medal of the Royal Society for 1888 was presented to Prof. Huxley, for his investigations into the morphology and histology of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, and his services to biological science generally; the Rumford medal to Prof. Tacchini, for his researches in solar physics; and the Davy medal to Mr. Crookes, for his researches on the electric discharge in high vacua. Royal medals were awarded to Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, the Australian botanist, and to Prof. Osborne Reynolds, of Owens College, for researches in mathematical and experimental physics.
M. Marambet reports that of 3,000 convicts in France, examined with respect to their habits of drunkenness or temperance, 79 per cent of vagabonds, from 50 to 57 per cent of assassins and incendiaries, 53 per cent of offenders against morals, 71 per cent of thieves, sharpers, etc., 88 per cent of offenders against the person, and 77 per cent of offenders against property, were drunkards. Drunkards are nearly as numerous among youths under twenty as among adults. The largest numbers of drunkards came from regions where spirits are most largely consumed.
An elaborate work on "The Viking Age," by M. de Chaillu, is soon to be published. It will present the early history, manners, and customs of the ancestors of the English-speaking nations, illustrated from the antiquities discovered in mounds, cairns, and bogs, as well as from the ancient Sagas and Eddas, with more than one thousand pictures.
Mexico affords a curious example of the demoralization which irrational tariffs work. To prevent bribery, the law imposes a system of fines and forfeitures of which the officers detecting irregularities are entitled to half. Foreign shippers rarely escape fines on their first consignments to Mexican ports, because, unless they are experts, or consult experts, they are very sure to have some flaw in their papers which the sharpened eye of the customs detective can fix upon as a pretext for levying a fine. The absence of a consular invoice is equivalent to the infliction of double duties, and this is often equivalent to confiscation. "Insufficient declaration" is punished by fines rising from ten to one hundred per cent on the duties, according to the nature of the offense.
The Indian system of weights and measures is described as being exceedingly confusing, because of the numerous different designations of the standards, and because the same designation may be applied to different standards, according as the articles differ, or as the transactions are held at different places. A maund of barley is not the same as a maund of indigo or of cotton, and a Bombay maund is different from a Calcutta maund. A seer is 5,040 grains, while five seers are not five times 5,040 grains, but five times 4,900 grains, to make them commensurate with the Bombay maund.
At the anniversary meeting of the Sanitary Institution of Great Britain, Mr. Edwin Chadwick, chairman, claimed credit to that and similar institutions for a large proportion of the reduction of the death-rate of the metropolis, which had fallen to 14 in 1,000. The rate in Paris is 27, in Vienna, 30, and in St. Petersburg 40 per 1,000. Dr. B. W. Richardson delivered an address on "The Storage of Life as a Sanitary Study," by which he meant, substantially, the art of living long.
While the summer of 1888 was unusually cool and moist in the United States and the most of Europe, the people of Norway endured a heat which is said to have surpassed the highest before observed during this century.
"The sight-seer's headache" is the name given to an affliction from which frequenters of picture-galleries and museums suffer. It is a result in part of the effort of the mind consequent upon long-continued observation, and partly of the muscular strain involved in that work; but is chiefly produced—in sufferers who are burdened with catalogues—by the frequent movement of the eye from the book to the object, and the incessantly repeated readjustments of the focus of vision which are made necessary in looking now at one, now at the other.
The advance that has been realized in the power of sanitation is exemplified, according to Mr. Edwin Chadwick's review, in the military services of the United Kingdom. A quarter of a century ago, the death-rate in the Guards was 20 per 1,000; it is now 61 per 1,000. The death-rate in the home array has been reduced in the same time from 17 to 8 per 1,000. In the Indian army the old death-rate was 60 per 1,000; from 1879 to 1884 it was reduced to 20 per 1,000; and it is now about 14 per 1,000. In the six years from 1879 to 1884, the aggregate saving was 16,910 lives, the money value of which is estimated at £1,691,000.
General Pitt Rivers has remarked that the difference in results caused by different methods of estimating the same skeleton by the most famous English physical anthropologist is not less than four inches. Dr. Beddoe proposes as a rule to add to thrice the length of the femur in inches 13 inches, and one half of any excess over 19 inches in the case of a man, reading 121 and 171 in the case of a woman.
A favorable report was given of the growth and prospects of the Bridgeport (Conn.) Scientific Society at the opening of the lecture course of 1888-'89. The society puts actual work and investigation by its members foremost among its objects, while the lectures are a secondary consideration. It is about to be endowed with a permanent home through the liberality of Sir. P. T. Barnum. Mr. Barnum made the opening address of the season's lectures, and having spoken of the benefits which science has conferred upon mankind, urged prompt and full recognition of the city's benefactors.
The origin of the experimental farm at Rothamstead is attributed in the "Pall Mall Gazette" to a remark made to Mr. Lawes by Lord Dacre to the effect that bones used as manure produced excellent results on one farm, while on another they were comparatively useless. This led to the institution of experiments with different fertilizers. Sir John Lawes is arranging to put his laboratory and the land on which the experiments have been made, with £100,000 as an endowment, into the hands of trustees to be appointed by the Royal and two other societies. Thus there will be no end or interruption to the work after the death of Dr. Gilbert and himself.
Specimens of what may prove to be a new species of chimpanzee have been attracting attention at the London Zoölogical Society's gardens. They are characterized by being bald-headed—are possibly identical with M. Du Chaillu's Troglodytes calvus—and the name Anthropopithecus calvus has been provisionally given them. Living specimens of all the three known anthropoid apes may now be seen at the society's houses.
An expedition is projected in Norway to be dispatched in the summer of 1890 in an attempt to reach the north pole by way of Franz-Josef Land. The leadership of it is to be offered to Dr. Nansen.
The crater lakes of the volcanic Eifel have been found by Dr. Otto Zacharias to be inhabited by numerous species of Copepoda, Daphnidæ, Radiolaria, Rotiers, water-mites, and insect larvae. The largest of them, the Laaeher See, which is about seven miles in circumference, contains a special fauna.
Parts of the monument that was erected in London by Sir Christopher Wren, to commemorate the Great Fire, are showing signs of decay. The limestone of which it is built is acted upon by the acids of the London atmosphere—an agency which had no perceptible existence in Wren's time, but is becoming more and more obvious in large cities and manufacturing towns.
Prof. Richard Vine Tuson, of the Royal Veterinary College, London, died October 31, 1888. He had been Professor of Chemistry in the institution named for more than twenty years; was a "thorough chemist and able teacher and experimenter"; and was the author of various scientific papers, and editor of the new edition of Cooley's "Dictionary of Receipts."
Dr. Peter Griess, a British chemist, died at Bournemouth, September 6th. He was best known as the discoverer of those remarkable substances, the diazo-compounds.Dr. Nathan Allen, of Lowell, Mass., a physician and medical writer well known to readers of the "Monthly," died on the 1st day of January, from the effects of a fall down-stairs resulting in concussion of the brain. He was distinguished as a specialist in the subjects of physical culture and degeneracy, insanity and state medicine, heredity, hygiene, education, intemperance, and the family institution, and particularly of the falling off in the birth-rate among native New England families; on these subjects he published several important works and numerous shorter articles.
JAMES P. ESPY.
By JOSEPH JASTROW.
IN 1848, from the town of Hydeville, New York, came the somewhat startling discovery that certain knockings, the source of which had mystified the household of one of its residents, seemed to be intelligently guided and ready to appear at call. Communication was established by agreeing that one rap should mean "no," and three raps "yes"; to which was afterward added the device of calling off the alphabet and noting at which letters the raps occurred; in this way the rapper revealed himself as the spirit of a murdered peddler. Within five years the news of this simple and childish invention had called into existence thousands of spirit-circles, had developed wonderful "mediums," through whose special gifts the manifestations were ascribed, had amassed a vast store of strange testimony, and the movement had become an epidemic; and this, too, in spite of the fact that, in 1851, the peculiar double raps occurring in the presence of these Fox sisters were satisfactorily explained as due to the rapid partial dislocation and resetting of the knee-joint, and perhaps other joints, the raps failing to occur when the Fox sisters were placed in a position in which the leverage necessary for this action was denied them and being perfectly repeated, at will, by a lady gifted with the same peculiarity. To-day spiritualists count their adherents by millions. In 1867 there were estimated to be three millions in America. They publish about one hundred journals, hailing from all parts of the world (twenty-six of them appear in America), and the manifestations have increased in number and variety. Spirit-forms are seen and hold converse; they write on slates in mysterious ways, they move tables, play musical instruments, send flowers and messages, tie knots in an endless cord, and so on; all, however, only in the presence of "mediums."
It would seem self-evident that so momentous a conclusion should not be accepted without the most rigid scrutiny; that only after every attempt to explain the phenomena by laws already understood had failed, would recourse be had to a supernatural origin, and only when the truth of such a theory had been repeatedly verified by a variety of evidence would it be definitely accepted. The history of psychic epidemics shows too clearly that any such logical procedure is made impossible by the white heat of the emotional interest with which such movements always spread. There is always a large class of people yearning for a possession that shall be mysterious and unshared by the common herd, anxious to embrace any such strange and novel doctrines as spiritualism advanced, simply because of their strangeness and novelty. Such persons find no satisfaction in investigating, but only in believing. With such the movement began; but, as it spread, it found its way into higher circles, securing the adherence of many men and women of decided culture and intellectual acumen, and even enrolling in its cause a few eminent representatives of the world of learning. The spiritualists grew bold and defied investigation; investigations were frequently made, and resulted, according to the ability, impartiality, and technical fitness of the investigators, about as frequently in exposure as in conversion. The conversions were always trumpeted far and wide, while the mediums convicted of fraudulent procedure quietly and successfully continued their career. A prominent spiritualist openly announces that Slade (perhaps the most famous living medium) "now often cheats with an almost infantile audacity and naïveté, while at the same or the next séance with the same investigators," genuine spiritualistic phenomena occur. If this is the moral atmosphere of spiritualism, one can readily understand the opinion of another disciple, that the true spirit in which to approach its study is "an entire willingness to be deceived."
With the revival of interest fostered by the Society for Psychic Research, the investigation of spiritualistic manifestations has been undertaken with more of a scientific appreciation of the problems therein involved; and within the last few years have appeared the results of several inquiries that deserve to register a turning-point in the career of this mischievous superstition and to hasten the day of its abandonment by all sensible men.
Mr. Henry Seybert, an enthusiastic spiritualist, bequeathed to the University of Pennsylvania a sum of money, on the condition that this university should appoint a commission to investigate modern spiritualism. This commission has published a preliminary report. They began with an entire willingness to accept any conclusion warranted by facts; and their chairman. Dr. H. H. Furness, confessed "to a leaning in favor of the substantial truth of spiritualism." They have examined many of the most famous mediums, and the manifestations that have contributed most to their fame. Their verdict, individually and collectively, is the same regarding every medium with whom they saw anything noteworthy: gross, intentional fraud throughout. The mediums were treated with the utmost fairness and courtesy; their conditions were agreed to and upheld; every one, in each kind of manifestation, was either caught in the act of trickery, or the trick was repeated and explained by one of the commission. This testimony goes far to justify the substitution of "trick" for "manifestation," of "senseless cant" for "spiritualistic explanation," of "adroit conjurer" for "medium." The accumulative force of this conclusion can only be appreciated by a reading of the report itself. A few examples of the kind of trickery exposed must here suffice.
Dr. Slade, whose mediumship has convinced many of the most eminent believers in spiritualism, including the famous Zöllner coterie, produces communications on a slate held beneath a table, in answer to questions asked in writing or verbally, sometimes openly and sometimes in folded slips of paper. It was soon discovered that the character of this writing was of two kinds. The long messages were neatly written, with the i's dotted and the t's crossed, and often produced unasked, or not in direct answer to a question; while the short ones, in answer to questions asked only shortly beforehand, were scrawly, hardly legible, and evidently written without the aid of the eye. The many methods of producing the short writings were repeated by a professional presti-digitateur much more skillfully than by Slade. The commission distinctly saw every step in Slade's method, on one occasion or another, but were utterly baffled by the conjurer (Mr. Harry Kellar), who subsequently revealed his methods to Dr. Furness. The long messages are written beforehand, on slates to be substituted for the ones given him at a favorable opportunity. At the last séance with Dr. Slade, two prepared slates were resting against a table behind him, and Dr. Furness kept a sharp watch upon these slates. "Unfortunately, it was too sharp; for one second the medium saw me looking at them. It was enough. That detected look prevented the revelation of those elaborate spirit messages. But when the séance was over, and he was signing the receipt for his money, I passed round behind his chair and pushed these slates with my foot, so as to make them fall over, whereupon the writing on one of them was distinctly revealed." The medium at once pushed back his chair, snatched the slates, hurriedly washed them, and could with difficulty regain sufficient composure to sign the receipt for the exorbitant payment of his services. This is not the first time that Slade has been exposed, and it is hoped that this verdict of the Seybert commission, "fraudulent throughout," will be sufficient to make further exposure unnecessary.
Another medium, Mrs. Patterson, gives a closely similar performance. Dr. Knerr had a sitting with her, and adjusted a mirror
about his person so as to reflect whatever was going on beneath the table. "In the mirror I beheld a hand ... stealthily insert its fingers between the leaves of the slate, take out the little slip (containing the question), unfold and again fold it, grasp the little pencil ... and with rapid but noiseless motion ... write across the slate from left to right a few lines; then the leaves of the slate were closed, the little pencil laid on the top," and the spirits invoked to please send a message.
Is it necessary to continue the catalogue of vulgar deceit: to tell how Dr. Furness sends out sealed letters the contents of which the spirits are to read and answer without opening, and finds the seals tampered with and mucilage and skill used to conceal the crime; how he asks the same question of various mediums and receives hopelessly contradictory answers; how he detects the form of the medium in her assumed materializations and finds the spirit ready to answer to any and every name in fiction or reality, from "Olivia" of "The Talking Oak" to Shakespeare; how a medium who materializes a right hand while apparently holding his neighbor's hand with both his own, is shown to imitate this double grip with one hand and do the hocus-pocus with the other—in short, how universal, how coarse, how degrading this fraud is; how readily it leaves its hiding-place to snatch at a cunningly offered bait, until it becomes ridiculous?
Let us rather turn to another independent investigation published by the English Society for Psychical Research (October, 1886, to May, 1887). The great English medium, whose performances as described are really miraculous, is Englinton, and his specialty is slate-writing. The late Prof. H. Carvill Lewis (of Philadelphia) had sittings with Englinton, and reported as follows: He sat intently watching Englinton for an hour, and nothing happened; fearing a blank seance, he purposely diverted his attention. The moment he looked away, the manifestations began, and he could see "the medium look down intently toward his knees and
in the direction of the slate. I now quickly turned back my head, when the slate was brought up against the table with a sharp rap." He repeated the manœuvre, with the same result, and while the writing was going on he distinctly saw "the movement of the central tendon in his wrist corresponding to that made by his middle finger in the act of writing. Each movement of the tendon was simultaneously accompanied by the sound of a scratch on the slate." Again, for the answer to another question, Englinton requires the use of a dictionary, and leaves the room for a minute; the answer is then written just as it is given in Webster's dictionary; but, unfortunately, albumina was read for alumina. When the slate, which closes with a spring, is to be closed, Englinton suddenly sneezes; when the writing is small and faint, he struggles until he gets within a few inches of it; a postage-stamp secretly glued across the two leaves of the double slate prevents all manifestations; a double fee immediately causes further manifestations, while a minute before such were declared impossible, owing to the exhaustion of power; and the writing on the slates is identified by an expert as that of Englinton.
Mrs. Henry Sidgwick records her experience with many mediums, and supports the same verdict. She was often unable to detect the exact modus operandi of the medium, but has never seen anything which was not well within the range and strongly suggestive of conjuring, and mostly of no high order of conjuring.
But all this accounts for only part of the problem. To convict every medium of fraud is not a complete explanation of the appearance which this belief now presents. It remains to account for the great success of the movement; for the fact that so many have been deceived and so few have really understood; to show why we are to believe the Seybert commission, and not credit the countless miracle-mongers. This is psychologically the most interesting portion of the problem, and has recently been very successfully treated by Mrs. Sidgwick, Mr. Hodgson, and Mr. Davey, of the English Society for Psychic Research.
There is a very broad-spread notion that anybody can go to a spiritualistic séance and give a reliable opinion as to whether what he or she has seen is explicable as conjuring or not. Especially in this country, where the right to one's opinion is regarded as a corollary to the right of liberty, does this notion prevail. The fact probably is, that most such claimants are about as competent to form a trustworthy opinion on such a subject as they are to pronounce upon the genuineness of a Syriac manuscript. The matter is as much a technical acquisition as is the diagnosticating of a disease. It is not at all to the discredit of the observing powers or the intellectual acumen of any one, to be deceived by the performances of a conjurer, and the same holds true of the professional part of mediumistic phenomena. Until this homely but salutary truth is impressed with all its importance upon all intending investigators, there is little hope of checking the growth of this vast superstition. You believe that there will be an eclipse of the moon when the astronomer predicts one, not because you can calculate the time yourself, or even understand how the astronomer does it, but because that is a technical acquisition which he has learned and you have not; and so with a thousand other and more humble facts of daily life. Spiritualism (to a large extent) comes under the same category; and the Seybert commission, and these other observers who have acquainted themselves with the possibilities of conjuring and the natural history of deception, who by their training and natural gifts have fitted themselves as competent judges of such alleged ultra-physical facts—these persons have the same right to our confidence and respect as a body of chemists or physicians on a question within their province. It is not fair to set up what you think you have seen as overthrowing their authority; even if you are an unprejudiced and accurate observer who has weighed the probability of your observations being vitiated by one or other of the many sources of error in such observation, it is only a small fact, though of course even that should be registered.
Whatever of seeming dogmatism there is in this view is removed by the experimental demonstration furnished by Messrs. Hodgson and Davey, that the kind and amount of mal-observation and faulty description which an average observer will introduce into the account of a performance such as the medium gives, is amply sufficient to account for the divergence between his report of the performance and what really occurred. The success of a large class of tricks depends upon diverting the observer's attention from the points of real importance, and in leading him to draw inferences perfectly valid under ordinary circumstances but entirely wrong in the particular case. It must be constantly remembered that the judging powers are at a great disadvantage in observing such performances, and that it is a kind of judgment in which they have no practice. In the intercourse of daily life a certain amount of good faith and confidence in the straightforwardness of the doings of others prevents us from exercising that close scrutiny and suspicion here necessary. We know that most of our neighbors have not the sharpness to deceive us, and do not live on the principle of the detective, who regards every one as dishonest until he has proved himself honest.
Mr. Davey (who, by the way, was at one time deceived almost into conversion by spiritualistic phenomena) is an expert amateur conjurer, and repeats the slate-writing performances of such as Englinton with at least equal skill. He arranged with Mr. Hodgson to give sittings to several ladies and gentlemen, on the condition that the latter send him detailed written accounts of what they had seen. He did not pose as a medium or accept a fee, but simply said that he had something to show which his sitters were to explain as best they could, and with due consideration of trickery as a possible mode of explanation. The "medium" has here a decided advantage over Mr. Davey, because he induces a mental