Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/September 1896/General Notices

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


We venture to say that no writer has made the Alps more attractive to thoughtful persons than Prof. Tyndall has. His evident enjoyment of the physical and mental exhilaration afforded by scaling the icy peaks, his full appreciation of the beauties of the mountains, of which his trained observation enabled him to see more than the mere tourist, and the simplicity and vividness of his style of writing combine to give the accounts of his climbs the fascination of tales of adventure. His Glaciers of the Alps[1] was first published in 1860, and for many years past has been out of print. It is divided into two parts: the first, chiefly narrative, describes his ascents and traverses of the mountains in 1856-'59, which included two ascents of Mont Blanc, two of Monte Rosa, one of the Finsteraarhorn, a winter expedition to the Mer de Glace, and many minor climbs; the second, chiefly scientific, contains his observations on the Alpine ice and his discussions of the glacial theories current when they were made. In the narrative part the human element is delightfully conspicuous. Profs. Huxley and Ramsay were his companions in some expeditions, and to the reader who knows both them and the author only as prominent English scientists it is supremely comic to read of Tyndall being buried in hay by his guide for a night's rest in the loft of a cheese-maker's cowhouse, or of Huxley lighting and holding wax matches one after another to furnish light for the others to get an early breakfast by. These experiences, too, are not without their spice of danger, and the author makes it plain that the rocks and ice are not to be trifled with.

The second part of the book is introduced by three chapters explaining the nature of light and heat, after which the phenomena of ice exhibited in glaciers are discussed at length. This discussion contains much interesting matter bearing upon the history of glacial theory, the subject at the time Tyndall wrote being in heated controversy. In order that the pages now reproduced might contain nothing touching the views of others which Prof. Tyndall might have wished at the present time to alter or omit, his widow submitted the historical parts to Lord Kelvin, who assures her that, in his opinion, "the statements on controversial points in this beautiful and interesting book of your husband's are all thoroughly courteous and considerate of feelings, and have been felt to be so by those whose views were contested or criticised in them." The beginning of Tyndall's study of glaciers proceeded from a discourse on slaty cleavage which he delivered at the Royal Institution, in June, 1856. This discourse is appended to the volume. Some sixty simple illustrations aid in making clear the text.

Dr. H. Holbrook Curtis's work on Voice Building and Tone Placing[2] relates to the singing voice. The author has invented a method of tone exercises for overcoming serious affections of the vocal cords which has been used satisfactorily by the most renowned singers, and he furnishes here an exposition of the physiological principles, and the elementary laws of sound and music, on which it is based. The chapters on anatomy and respiration are intended to be of value to the physician as well as to the student of singing; and for that reason also the subject of the vibration of the vocal cords has been considered in a way in which it is not entered into in any other work. The author's theory that the overtones introduced by the proper method of placing tones in the facial resonators induce a new plan of vibration of the vocal cords has recently been verified by the investigations of Prof. Oertel, of Munich, and several of his experiments have been introduced to explain the true plan of vibration of the cords as seen in the stroboscope. The author has also tried, with the aid of these experiments, to elucidate his theory as to the removal of "singers' nodules" by tone exercises in a scientific way. The general scheme of the building of the voice, in accordance with the author's theory of tone placing, is appended for the benefit of teachers and students. The book is the result of a vast experience with singers. The ideas have been put together in a concise and simple way, without any attempt at elaboration of style. The closing chapter, on Voice Figures, in which the vibrations are translated into pictures of great variety and beauty, has more than a physiological or acoustic interest. It is a revelation of the grace and æsthetic charm with which Nature's processes are found to be invested, whenever we are able to recognize them.

In his discussion of the Primary Factors of Organic Evolution[3] Prof. Cope attempts to select from the mass of facts accumulated by biologists those which, in his opinion, throw a clear light on the problem of organic evolution. As the actual lines of descent can be finally demonstrated chiefly from paleontological research, a large part of his evidence is drawn from that source. Another reason for preferring the paleontological evidence is that Darwin and his school have drawn their evidence from œcology and Weismann and writers of his type from embryology, leaving the paleontological field less worked. The mass of facts recently brought to light in the field of paleontology, especially in the United States, remained to be presented, and the evidence they contain to be interwoven with that derived from the sources mentioned. The view is accepted, to which many zoölogists are now inclined, that the factors of evolution which were first clearly formulated by Lamarck are really such; and the research has proceeded on the assumption that every variation in the characteristics of organic beings, however slight, has a direct efficient cause. Any theory of evolution which omits the explanation of the causes of variations, Prof. Cope holds, is faulty at the basis. Hence the theory of selection can not answer the question asked, although it embraces an important factor in evolution. The subject is considered under the several headings of The Nature of Variation, The Causes of Variation (including Natural Selection), and The Inheritance of Variation, with chapters on The Energy of Evolution, The Function of Consciousness, and The Opinions of Neo-Lamarckians.

In view of the recent successful trial of Prof. Langley's flying machine and the encouraging results obtained by Lilienthal in Germany, the Aëronautical Annual[4] for 1896 is of especial interest. It consists of a number of disconnected papers, from men prominent in aëronautical matters, on the various aspects of the subject. The first article is one by Otto Lilienthal, entitled Practical Experiments for the Development of Human Flight, in which he describes his recent experiments and pictures the apparatus. The editor has an article on Wheeling and Flying, in which he calls attention to the analogy between the slow development of the two methods of locomotion. A long paper by Hiram S. Maxim on Natural and Artificial Flight, which is said to be made up of abstracts from an unpublished work, and to contain the results of Mr. Maxim's latest thought, comes next. An article by Octave Chanute, on Sailing Flight, is prefaced by a short biographical sketch and portrait of the author. This is followed by a three-page contribution on How a Bird Soars, by Prof. W. H. Pickering, in which a mechanical explanation of this apparent paradox is offered. There are a number of other interesting papers, several of which are on Kites and Kite-flying, and a short bibliography of aëronautics. Good illustrations are quite numerous.

The last of the Technological Handbooks to reach us is No. 10, Gas Manufacture, by J. Hornby. It is intended as a student's manual, and was especially arranged with reference to the examinations of the city and guilds of London (England) Institute. The author opens the book with a brief consideration of the various kinds of coal and their value for gas-making purposes. The following chapters and the main portion of the book treat of the technical processes and the special apparatus used in manufacturing, purifying, and testing the gas. The final chapters are devoted to special topics, such as the laying of mains and surface pipes, the construction of gas meters, gas burners, and the composition of coal gas (London: George Bell & Sons, 5.s.; New York: Macmillan & Co., $1.50).

Concrete Geometry for beginners, by A. R. Hornbrook, is an introduction to the study of geometry by means of object lessons. The author very truly says that the "universal demand of the learning mind is for the concrete and the particular as stepping stones to the abstract and the general." He has found in the course of his teaching that a student might be able to recite glibly demonstration after demonstration of geometric principles and still be totally at a loss when asked to make simple applications of them, this condition being evidently due to the inability of the student to picture the physical quantities on which he was working. The text consists of an apparently carefully selected and graded series of simple problems for fixing in the beginner's mind the elementary facts of geometry from lines and angles to squares and cubes. After each two or three chapters there is a "cumulative review" for testing the student's grasp of the new principles and combinations (American Book Company, 75 cents).

The Home Study Review, published by the Home Study Association at Ann Arbor, Mich. (15 cents; $1.25 per annum), is designed to offer to those who can not attend a school or college an opportunity of pursuing studies at home under direction. The first course is to include the following subjects: History, German, biology, rhetoric, English literature, and a commercial course. While it is to be hoped that the publication may prove useful, the scheme does not seem promising.

The Transactions of the American Microscopical Society for 1895, Volume XVII, contains the usual number of valuable papers, which are, however, most of them so technical as to have little interest except for the biologist or microscopist. Among the few papers of general interest is one by Simon Henry Gage, the president, on The Processes of Life revealed by the Microscope: A Plea for Physiological Histology, in which he strongly urges that in studying an organism or its tissues the investigator to gain certain knowledge must know the age, health, state of nervous, muscular, and digestive activity; in fact, all that it is possible to find out about the processes of life that are going on and have gone on when the study is made.

The Thirteenth Annual Report of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station contains, as do all these publications, the results of much valuable experimental work. Among the papers of especial interest in the present volume may be mentioned the following: The Individuality of the Cow as influencing Offspring; The Relation of Sex in Thoroughbred Calves; Proximate Constituents of the Dry Matter of Food; The Relation of Fat in Food to Fat in Milk, and Twin Calves; Alfalfa Forage for Milch Cows; and A Detailed Comparison of the Different Breeds of Dairy Cows with reference to the Production of Cream and Butter.

The second number in the Section of History and Economics of the Leland Stanford Junior publications consists of a monograph on the Official Relations between the United States and the Sioux Indians, by Lucy E. Textor. The author begins her history with the formation of the republic, and traces in detail the various forms of legislation and "agencies" by which we have attempted to regulate and protect the Indians. The work seems carefully done, and, as the editor says, each special investigation of this sort is important as an advance toward that "general ideal history of the United States "which we still lack.

School Interests and Duties, developed from Page's Mutual Duties of Parents and Teachers, from various Public Reports and Documents, and from the Bulletins of the National Bureau of Education, by Robert M. King (American Book Company, $1), is connected with Mr. Page's address by the address having been a powerful agent in the advancement of the schools to their present position, and having partly laid the foundations of that advance. In the meantime new factors have come into prominence in school affairs—chiefly the institution of school boards, directors, trustees, etc., to take the place of citizens at large in the direct management of the schools; and further, the vast extension of the subjects to be dealt with. This book has been prepared with a view to bringing down to date the doctrine of cooperation in school interests, "with all that it implies of enlightened, harmonious, and effective work in the interests of popular education," and the thoughts of numerous recent writers are quoted in connection with the discussion. It deals with such subjects as the duties of parents, of teachers, and of school officers, school architecture, hygiene, libraries, morals, etiquette, celebrations and observances, the use of the dictionary, the teachers' institute, reading circles, and the teacher's relation to public opinion. In conclusion, a series of outlines of reading-circle work is given.

The advantages of vertical penmanship have been so widely recognized that every publisher of writing-books now has to have a vertical series. A vertical style of the well-known Spencerian penmanship has been prepared, and in the Shorter Course this style is presented in seven small square books. Directions with cuts showing positions are given on the inside pages of the cover. (American Book Company, 6 cents each.)

The distinguishing features of a new elementary text-book on Algebra, by Lyman Hall, are stated in the preface as, first, preserving the familiar methods of arithmetic as far as possible in the first chapters, in order to convince the student that algebra is merely an extension of the mathematical knowledge he already possesses; second, review examples and questions throughout the book which will help him to master following chapters and prepare him to pass from this to a higher treatise without a formal review. (American Book Company, $1.)

In his recent text-book on American Literature, Prof. Brander Matthews makes fifteen authors of the United States stand out prominently by giving each a chapter and providing them a background of colonial and other writers whose works are of less general interest. Portraits of most of the authors mentioned are given, together with pictures of the birthplace, and sometimes of the later residence, of the more prominent, and facsimiles of their manuscript. Each chapter is followed by references for reading and a few suggestive questions, while at the end of the book is a chronology of American literature down to 1896. (American Book Company, $1.)

Under the title The Glory of the Garden, a collection of odes and sonnets has been printed by William V. Byars, with an appended essay on The Horatian Ode and the Tuscan Sonnet. The recent discovery—or rather recovery—which Mr. Byars claims to have made, of the principle of melody governing the verse of the great classical poets from Homer to Horace and Virgil was due to a partial recovery of the accent of the classical languages, effected through a comparison of the sounds of modern Greek and Italian with ancient Greek and Latin. A modern Greek, a graduate of the High School at Athens, was employed to read Homer aloud, for comparison with the Tuscan of Dante read aloud by an educated Italian. The verse of Béranger read aloud by a Frenchman was also compared with the lyrics of Horace, but it was to the comparison of the melody of Dante with the rhythm ©f Homer, when read by its accents, that the recovery of classical accent is chiefly due. When classical verse was read with an accent rather lower than that of modern French, and with the downward value of the grave accent equal to the upward value of the acute, the surprising discovery was made that in both Horace and Homer the melody of the verse depended on the systematic use of rhyme—not of regular end rhyme as in modern verse, but of line and staff rhyme, regulated by a method not unlike that used by the old Norse poets. The discovery of Bentley, that the verse of Virgil and Horace is read by "synaphea," without regard to its verse endings, is thus shown to be of the highest importance.

Vol. I, No. 1, of the A. I. C. P. Notes, which interpreted means American Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, has recently reached us. Its space is all given to an account of the utilization of vacant city lots for the purpose of giving the unemployed an opportunity for earning their own living. During recent years several attempts of a similar nature have been made, some of them being attended with considerable success, notably the Detroit vacant city lot farms, which were inaugurated by Mayor Pingree. The attempt in New York is fully described in the above pamphlet, and, while it has not thus far been a remarkable success, still its officers are very enthusiastic and hopeful for the future. Subscriptions are requested. (105 East Twenty-second Street, New York city.)

  1. The Glaciers of the Alps. By John Tyndall. Pp. 445, 12mo. London, New York, and Bombay: Longmans, Green & Co. Price, 10s. 6d,; $2.50.
  2. Voice Building and Tone Placing. By H. Holbrook Curtis, M. D. Pp. 215, 12mo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $2.
  3. The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution. By E. D. Cope, Ph. D. Pp. 547, 12mo. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company. Price, $2.
  4. The Aëronautical Annual, 1806, No. 3. Edited by James Means. Pp. 158, 800. Boston: W. B. Clarke & Co.; London: William Wesley & Son. Price, $1.