Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/December 1890/Popular Miscellany

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Philosophy at Harvard.—The courses of study in philosophy that are offered to students by Harvard University for the year 1890-'91 number seventeen. In the elementary courses, students attend one, two, or three lectures or recitations a week, as the case may be. Advanced students carry on their studies mostly by themselves, meeting for a conference with the professor once a week. The facilities for philosophical study at Harvard have about doubled within the last ten years. In 1880-'81 there were ten courses in philosophy for undergraduates and graduates, two of which were given only in alternate years, the instructors being Prof. Bowen, and Asst. Profs. Palmer and James. These dealt with logic, psychology, ethics, contemporary philosophy, earlier English, French, and German philosophy, German philosophy of the present day, and the history of philosophy. Courses covering substantially the same ground are given now, besides which four courses given in the Divinity School, on the philosophy of religion, are open to general students of philosophy, and there have been added a course on Greek philosophy and three which deal with modern thought and modern problems. One of these last is called Cosmology: a Discussion of the Principal Problems of the Philosophy of Nature, with Special Reference to the Doctrine of Evolution, and embraces lectures by the professor and the writing of theses by the students. For the current year three theses upon assigned topics will be required, and are to be based upon the private reading of Herbert Spencer's First Principles, and of Le Conte's Evolution in its Relations to Religious Thought, and other reading to be announced. Another of the newer courses deals with the ethics of the social questions—charity, divorce, the Indians, temperance, and the various phases of the labor question. The mode of study includes lectures, essays, and practical observations. There are also three "seminaries" for advanced students—a psychological, a metaphysical, and an ethical—and guidance will be furnished to students who wish to take up individual investigations of questions in ethics. In the psychological seminary the subject for the current year is Pleasure and Pain, and it will be studied by means of lectures, essays, and laboratory work. The present officers of the Philosophical Department are Profs. G. H. Palmer, A. M., C. C. Everett, D. D., William James, M. D., and P. G. Peabody, D. D., Asst. Prof. Josiah Royce, Ph. D., and George Santayana, Ph. D., instructor.


The Founder of Inebriate Asylums.—A sketch of the late Dr. J. Edward Turner, founder of the first inebriate asylum in the world, has been published by T. D. Crothers, M. D., in The Quarterly Journal of Inebriety. Dr. Turner was born in Maine, in 1822, and had his mind turned to the subject of his life work by being called upon to take care of an inebriate uncle at intervals of several months, during his student life and after he began to practice medicine. When he first mentioned his idea of an asylum, where such cases could be secluded, housed, and treated, it was received with derision and contempt. He went to Europe in 1S43, and spent two years visiting hospitals and asylums, and discussing his ideas with medical men. On his return he began the systematic collection of facts concerning inebriety. About this time Drs. Valentine Mott aud John W. Francis became interested in his plan for an asylum, and continued all their lives to be his warmest friends. There was much bitter opposition to the idea of treating drunkenness as a disease, and still more indifference to the matter, so that Dr. Turner made but slow headway. In 1848-'49 he made a second visit to Europe. After his return he began to solicit subscriptions to the stock of a company to build an inebriate asylum. A charter was obtained from the State of New York, and finally, in 1858, ground was broken at Binghamton for a building planned by Dr. Turner, and the erection of which he personally superintended. By persistent petitioning he obtained from the New York Legislature a grant of one tenth of the money obtained each year from liquor licenses, for the building and maintenance of the asylum. In 1S62 Dr. Turner married. The building had progressed far enough in 1864 to open it for patients, and a number of inebriates were admitted. At this point success seemed to have crowned the efforts of the founder. He had won over public opinion to his side, and the most active interest was being manifested all over the State in the work. But trouble arose over the mode of treatment. Dr. Turner's system was military in its strictness, his first principle being, that the asylum officers should have full control of the patient, and that this control should extend over a long time, and not be governed by the will of the patient or his non-expert friends. An unscrupulous, money-getting lawyer in the board of directors, and a weak president of the board, caused a division, which was followed by persecution of Dr. Turner, and his resignation as superintendent in 1867. The asylum was then sold to the State for a nominal consideration, and thirteen years later was changed to an insane hospital, being known now as the New York State Insane Asylum at Binghamton. The transfer was not legally made, and Dr. Turner began a suit for possession of the property, which was never carried to an issue. Dr. Turner then undertook to raise subscriptions for a woman's hospital for inebriates and opium-eaters. After three years, the subscriptions in money and materials had reached a great amount, ground had been broken for a building, when the Legislature of Connecticut crushed the scheme by repealing the charter previously granted. For the next two years after this discouraging defeat Dr. Turner occupied himself with writing a book called the History of the First Inebriate Asylum in the World, which was a general account of his forty years' efforts. He then started out to sell the work, and to solicit aid to push his suit for the Binghamton asylum, and was busied thus when he died, July 24, 1S89. Dr. Turner's career was a striking example of overwhelming defeat for the individual joined with signal triumph for his idea. Inebriety is being more widely recognized as a disease each year. There are to-day over one hundred inebriate asylums in the world, all the direct result of his efforts in founding the first one at Binghamton.


Origin of American Public Museums.—The first chapter in the history of American museums, says Dr. G. Brown Goode, in his lecture on museums, is short. In the early years of the republic, the establishment of such institutions by city, State, or Federal Government would not have been considered a legitimate act. When the General Government came into the possession of extensive collections as the result of the Wilkes Exploring Expedition in 1S42, they were placed in charge of a private organization, the National Institution, and later, together with other similar materials, in that of a corporation, the Smithsonian Institution, which was for a long period of years obliged to pay largely for their care out of its income from a private endowment. It was not until 18*76 that the existence of a National Museum, as such, was definitely recognized in the proceedings of Congresss, and its financial support fully provided for. In early days our principal cities had each a public museum, founded and supported by private enterprise. The earliest general collection was that formed at Norwalk, Conn., prior to the Revolution, by a man named Arnold, described as "a curious collector of American birds and insects." This it was which first awakened the interest of President John Adams in the natural sciences. He visited it several times, as he traveled from Boston to Philadelphia, and his interest culminated in the foundation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1790 Dr. Hosack brought to America from Europe the first cabinet of minerals ever seen on this continent. The earliest public establishment was the Philadelphia Museum, founded by Charles Wilson Peale in 1785, which had for a nucleus a stuffed paddle-fish and the bones of a mammoth, and was for a time housed in the building of the American Philosophical Society. In 1800 it was full of popular attractions. The Baltimore Museum was managed by Rembrandt Peale, and was in existence as early as 1815 and as late as 1830. Earlier efforts wore made, however, in Philadelphia. Dr. Chovet, of that city, had a collection of wax anatomical models made by him in Europe; and Prof. John Morgan, of the University of Pennsylvania, who learned his method from the Hunters, in London, and Sué, in Paris, had begun to form such a collection before the Revolution. The Columbian Museum and Turell's Museum, in Boston, are spoken of in the annals of the day; and there was a small collection in the attic of the State House in Hartford. The Western Museum, in Cincinnati, was founded about 1815, by Robert Best, M. D., afterward of Lexington, Ky., who seems to have been a capable collector, and who contributed matter to Goodman's American Natural History. In 1818 a society styled the Western Museum Society was formed among the citizens, which, though hardly a scientific organization, seems to have taken a somewhat liberal and public-spirited view of what a museum should be. With the establishment of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1812, and the New York Lyceum of Natural History, the history of American scientific museums had its true beginning.


The Question of Tertiary Man.—The antiquity of man and an account of anthropological museums were the chief topics discussed in the address of Mr. John Evans, President of the Anthropological Section of the British Association. The question of the antiquity of man, the author said, is susceptible of being separated from any speculations as to the generic descent of mankind; and even were it satisfactorily answered to-day, new facts might to-morrow come to light that would again throw the question open. On any view of probabilities, it is unlikely that we shall ever discover the exact cradle of our race, or be able to point to any object as the first product of the industry and intelligence of man. We may, however, the author thought, hope that from time to time fresh discoveries may be made of objects of human art, under such circumstances and conditions that we may infer with certainty that at some given point in the world's history mankind existed, and in sufficient numbers, for the relics that attest this existence to show a correspondence among themselves, even when discovered at remote distances from each other. After reviewing the course of discovery of prehistoric man, and the considerations on which the attempt is based to show that he existed in the Tertiary, Mr. Evans declared his conclusion that on the whole the present verdict as to Tertiary man must be in the form of "not proven." When we consider the vast amount of time comprised in the Tertiary period, with its three great principal subdivisions of the Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene, and when we bear in mind that of the vertebrate land animals of the Eocene no one has survived to the present time, while of the Pliocene but one—the hippopotamus—remains unmodified, the chances that man, as at present conditioned, should also be a survivor from that period seem remote, and against the species Homo sapiens having existed in Miocene times almost incalculable. The a priori improbability of finding man unchanged, while all the other vertebrate animals around him have, from natural causes, undergone more or less extensive modification, will induce all careful investigators to look closely at any evidence that would carry him back beyond Quaternary times; and though it would be unsafe to deny the possibility of such an early origin for the human race, it would be unwise to regard it as established except on the clearest evidence.


Embryological Recapitulation.—Prof. A. Milnes Marshall, in his presidential address before the Biological Section of the British Association, after remarking on the general subject of the study of embryology, spoke more particularly of its relation to the doctrine of recapitulation, which, suggested by Agassiz, had been elaborated by eminent contemporary zoölogists. Natural selection, he showed, explains the preservation of useful variations, but does not account for the formation and preservation of useless organs; but recapitulation solves the problem at once, by showing that those organs, though now useless, must have been of functional value to the ancestors of their present possessors, and that their appearance in the ontogeny of existing forms is due to the repetition of ancestral characters. Such rudimentary organs are, as Darwin has pointed out, of larger relative or even absolute size in the embryo than in the adult, because the embryo represents the stage in the pedigree in which they were functionally active. Rudimentary organs are extremely common, especially among the higher groups of animals, and their presence and significance arc now well understood. Man himself affords numerous and excellent examples, not merely in his bodily structure, but by his speech, dress, and customs. For the silent letter b in the word doubt, or the w of answer, or the buttons on his elastic-side boots are as true examples of rudiments unintelligible but for their past history, as are the ear muscles he possesses but can not use, or the gill-clefts which are functional in fishes and tadpoles, and are present, though useless, in the embryos of all higher vertebrates. It was the elder Agassiz who first directed attention to the remarkable agreement between the embryonic growth of animals and their palaeontological history.


The Scope of Mathematics.—Mr. J. W. L. Glaisher, President of the Mathematical Section in the British Association, in his address spoke of the range of subjects comprehended within the scope of mathematics. Its field extends from the most exact of all knowledge to branches of inquiry in which only uncorrelated facts have been collected. Considering pure mathematics, or that of the abstract sciences which could be conquered and explored only by mathematical methods, it is difficult not to feel somewhat appalled by the enormous developments it has received in the last fifty years. The mass of the investigations, as measured by the annual additions to the literature of the subject, is so great that it is fast becoming bewildering from its mere magnitude and the extraordinary extent to which many special lines of study have been carried. There can be no end to this. So wide and various are the subjects of research, so interesting and fascinating are the results, so wonderful are the fields of investigation laid open at each succeeding advance, that we may be sure that, while the love of learning and knowledge continue to exist, there can be no relaxation of our efforts to penetrate still further into the mysterious worlds of abstract truth that lie spread temptingly before the investigator. The speaker did not believe that the bearing of the modern developments of mathematics on the physical sciences is likely to be very direct or immediate, but it would be rash to assert that there is any branch of mathematics so abstract or so recondite that it may not at any moment find an application in some concrete subject. Still, it appears that if the extension of the pure sciences can only be justified by the value of their applications, it is very doubtful whether a satisfactory plea for any further developments can be sustained. Although the condition of mathematical science in England is not fully satisfactory, there is more cause for congratulation at present than there has been at any time during the last one hundred and fifty years, and we are far removed from the state of affairs that existed before the days of Cayley and Sylvester. The author concluded with a plea for the study of the theory of numbers.


Value of Living Traditions.—According to Mr. J. G. Frazer, the author of a comparative study of religions, entitled the Golden Bough, the best source for knowledge of ancient folk-lore is among the people of the present. Every inquiry into the primitive religion of the Aryans, he says, "should either start from the superstitious beliefs and observances of the peasantry, or should at least be constantly checked and controlled by reference to them. Compared with the evidence afforded by living tradition, the testimony of ancient books on the subject of early religion is worth very little. . . . The mass of the people who do not read books remain unaffected by the mental revolution wrought by literature; and so it has come about that in Europe, at the present day, the superstitious beliefs and practices which have been handed down by word of mouth are generally of a far more archaic type than the religion depicted in the most ancient literature of the Aryan race."


The Magnetograph.—The magnetograph, the adaptability of which to use as a seismoscope has been tried by Prof. T. C. Mendenhall, is described by him as a system of magnetic needles, free to vibrate, and connected with a mirror that turns with the needles. It has long been noticed that an earthquake causes a considerable disturbance of the needles; and that this is not an effect of vibration is shown by the fact that a series of brass needles is not thus disturbed. It appears from the study of the magnetic records that there are two distinct vibrations, one due to solar influence and seeming to be dependent jointly on position and temperature; the other series were dependent on the relative position of the earth and the moon, and were therefore regarded as of a tidal nature; and the disturbances of the magnetic needle may be, and probably are, due to the stress of the earth's crust. The author mentioned as a remarkable fact that a periodic disturbance, smaller in amplitude than the thickness of the line recorded, could be positively and perfectly determined. This evidence that the lunar influence is due to variation of stress furnishes a clew to the explanation of the disturbances due to earthquakes. The stress to which the earth is then subjected causes an alteration in its magnetic condition which is recorded upon the sheet. It may therefore be possible to recognize an earthquake by disturbance of the magnetic needle, even when the motion is too small to be recognized by a seismoscope. It is a curious fact that it is supposed in Japan that an earthquake can be predicted by the vibrations of a loadstone.


The Natural Gas Supply.—The permanence of the natural gas supply was discussed in the American Association, which, meeting in the heart of the natural gas region, visited some of the more famous stations at Noblesville, Marion, Muncie, and Anderson, where the new fuel is used. President Goodale warned the people at Anderson against waste of the gas, because, he said, it will surely give out some day. Dr. Edward Orton affirmed in a paper in the Economic Section that the supply in the Indiana and Ohio fields is not only exhaustible, but is rapidly and surely being exhausted. It is not now being generated, and every foot that escapes to the surface leaves the quantity remaining for future use just so much smaller. This is proved by the fact that the pressure of the gas is steadily diminishing, the decrease having already amounted to thirty or forty per cent. Prof. P. H. Vander Weyde is of a different opinion. He believes that the gas is formed in much the same manner as water-gas; that the evolution of oxygen and hydrogen is constantly going on in the regions of the earth's interior, where the temperature of dissociation exists; and that when carbureted metals having great affinity for water are present within reach of the dissociated gases, they will be oxidized by the ascending oxygen, while the hydrogen will combine with the carbon to form hydrocarbons. Thus the process of generating the gas is going on all the time, and the prospect for the continuation of the supply is cheerful. "Look," the author says, "at the burning gas-wells of Baku, where the gas escapes by fissures in the soil, and has been blowing and burning for centuries, and all for nothing thus far. There appears to be no diminution in their flow, while from the Chinese historical records it appears that natural gas has been evolving in more than one locality for at least a thousand years, and I expect the same here. It comes from regions far below the deepest coal mines, and may continue to flow when some mines are exhausted."


Geography-teaching in Russia.—The object of a paper in the British Association, by Dr. H. R. Mill, on Geographical Teaching in Russia, was to give an idea of the method of instruction as prescribed by the official syllabus enforced in government and private schools. The books are generally illustrated by black and white maps, and by diagrams of great interest and ingenuity, exemplifying statistics in graphic form. It is characteristic of the Russian system to go deeply into statistics. The absence of pictures in the instruction books is noticeable, but subjects are treated exhaustively. Greater attention is paid to ethnography than in the system of any other country, because, probably, of the many races among which the subjects of the Czar are divided. Russians are in the habit of regarding Asia rather than Europe as nearest to them.


Coffee-drinking.—Dr. Mendel, of Berlin, has recently published a clinical study on Coffee Inebriety. His observations were made upon the women of the working population of Essen, a town in Prussia, Department of Dusseldorf. He found large numbers of women who used over a pound of coffee a week. The leading symptoms are profound depression, frequent headache, and insomnia. A strong dose of coffee relieves this for a time; a partial loss of power over the muscles occurs, and an increasing aversion to labor. The heart's action becomes rapid and irregular. Dyspepsia of an extreme nervous type is present. Brandy offers only a temporary relief. The face becomes sallow and the hands and feet cold. Acute inflammation is likely to occur; an injury to any part of the body is the starting point for inflammation of an erysipelatous character. Melancholy and hysteria are common symptoms. Many opium and alcoholic cases have an early history of excessive use of coffee.


The Dangers of the Present Mode of Burial.—Human effluvium from the living body, taken into the lungs or stomach, is a weil-recognized cause of disease. That it is not, at the least, equally so from the body dead, especially when it is putrescent, is difficult to believe. The following, taken from Johnson on Tropical Climates (American edition, p. 83), is an illustrative case: "An American merchantship was lying at anchor in Whampoa Roads, sixteen miles from Canton. One of the crew died from dysentery. He was taken on shore to be buried. No disease of any kind had occurred in the ship during her voyage from America to the river Tigris. Four men accompanied the corpse, and two men began to dig the grave. Unfortunately, they pitched upon a spot where a human body had been buried two or three months previously (as was afterward ascertained). The instant the spade went through the lid of the coffin a most dreadful effluvium issued forth, and the two men fell down nearly lifeless. It was with the greatest difficulty that their companions could approach near enough to drag them from the spot and fill up the place with earth. The two men now recovered a little, and with assistance reached the boat and returned on board." Both died—one on the evening of the fourth and the other the morning of the fifth day—of a malignant fever, with symptoms resembling plague. The other two men, who were less exposed, were similarly affected, but recovered. That the poisonous emanations inhaled in this case would have been any less dangerous if swallowed with the subsoil water in the vicinity can be surmised by those only who believe inhumation of the dead to be without danger to the living.


An Early Form of Telegraphy.—Among the early devices for conveying information to a distance by means of signals the following is very ingenious. It was used by a Grecian general, Æneas, who flourished in the time of Aristotle. It consisted of two exactly similar earthen vessels filled with water, each provided with a cock that would discharge an equal quantity of water in a given time, so that the whole or any part of the contents would escape in precisely the same period from both vessels. On the surface of each floated a piece of cork supporting an upright, marked off into divisions, each division having a certain sentence inscribed upon it. One of the vessels was placed at each station, and when either party desired to communicate with the other he lighted a torch which he held aloft until the other did the same, as a sign that he was all attention. On the sender of the message lowering or extinguishing the torch, each party immediately opened the cock of his vessel, and so left it until the sender re-lighted his torch, when it was at once closed. The receiver then read the sentence on the division of the upright that was level with the mouth of the vessel, and which, if everything had been executed with exactness, corresponded with that of the sender, and so conveyed the desired message.