Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/June 1890/Notes

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Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, of Philadelphia, recently received from a woman-patient the singular present of a cord of white-oak wood, chopped down and sawed up by her own hands. He had recommended to her an active, outdoor life in the woods for nervous invalidism. She had followed his directions, with results of which the cord of sawed wood was one of the evidences.

Dr. E. N. Sneath, lecturer on the History of Philosophy at Yale, has been inspiring the preparation of a series of small volumes of selections from the leading philosophers from Descartes down, so arranged as to present an outline of their systems. Each volume will contain a biographical sketch of the author, a statement of the historical position of the system, and a bibliography. Those so far arranged for are Descartes, by Prof. Ladd, of Yale; Spinoza, by Prof. Fullerton, of the University of Pennsylvania; Locke, by Prof. Russell, of Williams; Berkeley, by ex-President Porter, of Yale; Hume, by Dr. Sneath, of Yale; and Hegel, by Prof. Royce, of Harvard. Kant, Comte, and Spencer will certainly be added to the series, and others if encouragement is received. The publishers will be Henry Holt & Co.

The American Academy of Political and Social Science, of which Prof. Edmund J. James is president, was founded in December, 1 889, for promoting the study of the political and social sciences, particularly of those which are omitted from the programmes of other societies, or which do not at present receive the attention they deserve. Among them are sociology, comparative constitutional and administrative law, philosophy of the state, and portions of the field of politics. It will attend to the publication of material that will be of use to students which does not now reach the public in any systematic way. The plan of the academy includes meetings for the presentation of papers and communications, the establishment of a library, and the dissemination of knowledge through publications and by other means.

The Messrs. Merriam, publishers of Webster's Dictionary, issue a circular calling attention to the misleading way in which a cheap reprint of an old edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary is being advertised. It is the edition of 1847, the copyright of which has expired by the lapse of forty-two Tears. It lacks all the words that have been added to the language since 184*7, and these, especially in the department of science, have been many; it contains numerous etymologies that have been proved erroneous by the results of later research; it lacks the tables of biographical, geographical, and other information, which are appended to recent editions of Webster, and it has no illustrations in the body of the volume. The reprint is produced by some method of photogravure, giving blurred letters, very trying to the eyes, and the paper and binding are so flimsy that the book must fall to pieces with very little use. It is not the current edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, as its publishers wish the public to believe—it is not even the "original" edition, as it explicitly claims to be, for that was published in 1828.

The most interesting feature of Dr. R. W. Shufeldt's report to the American Ornithologists' Union on Progress in Avian Anatomy for the Years 1888-1889, is the announcement that a Handbook to the Muscles of Birds has been prepared by the author, and is in the press of Macmillan & Co. It is based on studies of the raven. Several monographs, mostly technical, by Dr. Shufeldt and other authors, American and foreign, are mentioned in the report. Among them is one by Mr. F. A. Lucas, on the Skeleton of the Extinct Great Auk.

A clear and forcible article on The Suppression of Consumption, by G. W. Hambleton, is published in Science for April 25th. Dr. Hambleton deems the most important step in suppressing this disease to be to reduce its production. The means which he recommends for this end are almost entirely hygienic, and are based on the theory that consumption is produced by conditions that impede the respiratory functions. The chief of these are compression of the chest, and the presence of dust in the air inhaled. His statements are well fortified by cases which he has treated successfully, including his own.

The first fossil found in the "Cheyenne sandstone" of Kansas—which is considered referable to the Trinity division of Arkansas and Texas—is described by Mr. F. W. Cragin as a part of a cycad, similar to those from the Purbeck Dirt-beds of England, but differing from them in form and in the size of the petioles. A leaf of Platanus, found in a stratum of very fine, soft chalk of supposed Niobrara Cretaceous age, is described by the same author as of interest, both on account of its preservation in a kind of rock in which land vegetation is rare, and because it contributes evidence that chalk is sometimes formed very near land, and if so, then presumably in water of but moderate depth.

The increase of leprosy in British Guiana is attracting attention. It was introduced by negroes from Africa, and added to by immigrants from India in 1842 and 1858, and from China in 1861 and 1862. One Indian tribe was infected with it fifty years ago from the negro colony, but no other tribe has had it. Mr. J. D. Hilles, of Demerara, who has investigated the subject, is convinced that the disease is communicable by marriage or cohabitation, and by inoculation or contact. He has seen cases that undoubtedly arose by contagion.

The investigations of Dr. Th. Kocher, of Berne, on goitre, while they do not clear up the question of the origin of the disease, cast a dim light upon it. Comparing the water of the parts of his canton in which goitre is common with those parts that are free from it, the author found considerable quantities of organic or organized material in it. In certain goitrous parts, particular families having access to special water-supplies free, or relatively so, from this organic material are free from goitre, although breathing the same air, living on the same soil, engaging in the same occupations, and eating the same food with their goitrous neighbors. Hence, he concludes, the organic factor is the one that determines the prevalence of goitre.

Mr. Joseph Thomson commends the semi-civilized region forming the central area of the Niger basin as one of the most promising fields for commerce in all tropical Africa. It is densely populated, and is divided into powerful and, for Africa, well-governed empires, in which life and property are fairly secure. The people have made some advance in civilization, and are famed for the excellence of their manufactures. Inland trade is organized, an efficient transport service exists, labor is abundant, the Niger presents an uninterrupted water-way to the very heart of the region, and the country is healthy, for Africa.

A large stump of Syringodendron alternans, discovered some time ago standing in the coal mines of St. Etienne, France, is about ten feet high, three feet in diameter at the starting-point of the roots, and twenty inches in diameter at the top. The roots resemble the fossil Stigmaria. The trunk has the cicatrices and flutings of the Sigillaria, and the leaves seem to have been linear. In a prostrate tree (upper part) of the same species a few feet from this one, the leafscars were more clearly marked, but smaller.

Dr. E. Paget Thurston believes that while it is theoretically right to omit farinaceous food in feeding infants that have to be brought up by hand, a little is needed when cow's milk is used, to retard curdling. These solids, as well as the preparations of barley, Isinglass, and linseed, act mechanically by adding something to thicken the milk, and entangle the curds as they are formed. In the shape of bread-crust, Brighton biscuit, or other "infant's foods," they may be added in very small quantities, so that the milk can still be sucked through the tube of a feeding-bottle.

Cases of lead-poisoning among the Jacquard weavers in a Swiss factory were traced by F. Schüler to the dust from leaden weights which are used by the weavers to carry the thread of their warp. After the varnish has been rubbed off from the weights, the lead begins to wear away, and falls in fine particles among the dust on the floor. In some, cases this dust is as much as 56*86 per cent lead, and even when the utmost care was taken, nine or ten per cent of lead was found in it.

According to Mr. Hansen-Blansted, the beech is overcoming all other trees in the struggle for existence in the Danish forests. It is driving out the birch, except in marshy places; it is taking the place of the firs; and there are signs that it is gradually gaining the advantage over the oaks.