Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/April 1897/General Notices

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GENERAL NOTICES.

Mr. R. P. Halleck's recent book was not written for scientists, and scientists as such will find nothing in it.[1] The author undertakes merely to make a practical application of the results which others have attained by patient investigation. His book is written for teachers and parents, and every teacher or parent who reads it from an educational standpoint will be amply repaid. The author aims to emphasize the facts that a large element in education consists in the physical modification of brain and nerve cells; that these cells are more easily modified at one age than at another; that the effects of wrong training or lack of training can never be eliminated in later life; that every person, in order to live a full life, must have all his senses and the corresponding brain-cells developed in his youth. The first chapters give a summary of our present knowledge of the nervous system and the changes that have been found to occur as results of growth, fatigue, and training. Then follow discussions of the effect of environment on training, and on development as related to age. Various definite suggestions are given for training the different senses in the classroom, both by immediate objects and by the formation of memory images. The chapter, How Shakespeare's Senses were Trained, is interesting and intensely practical. The great value of motor training is clearly demonstrated; and the final plea for the early symmetrical development of all the senses as a preparation for fuller, more joyous life in later years is another expression of the present hope for a brighter future in education. Our scientific knowledge of the facts in the case, the changes in brain-cells which are correlated with education, how these vary under different conditions, and how far they may be varied by training, is meager enough as yet; and many scientists would have hesitated to construct such a book on the basis of our present knowledge, while recognizing the far-reaching importance of the investigations which are now going on. Owing to the widespread interest in these questions, we expect in the near future numerous contributions to pedagogy from experimental and physiological psychology. Scores of books similar in scope will doubtless be written, more complete and more valuable to the teacher. Meanwhile we already know far more than we practice, and thousands of children will be indebted to this book for a broader, deeper, and more sensible education.

 

A text book of physiology for medical schools has been prepared by ten collaborators under the editorship of W. H. Howell, Professor of Physiology in the Johns Hopkins University.[2] The physiology of the muscles is treated by Prof. Warren P. Lombard; secretion, digestion, the blood, and some allied topics, by Prof. Howell; the circulation, by Profs. John G. Curtis and W. T. Porter; respiration and animal heat, by Prof. Edward T. Reichert; the central nervous system, by Prof. Henry H. Donaldson; vision, by Prof. Henry P. Bowditch; the other special senses and the voice, by Prof. Henry Sewall; reproduction, by Prof. Frederic S. Lee; and the chemistry of the animal body, by Prof. Graham Lusk. The preparation of such a work by collaboration is unusual, and the editor names as advantages of this method that it enables each author to base his account upon a comprehensive knowledge of the part of the subject assigned to him, and that the student gains by it the points of view of a number of teachers, especially where the various topics overlap. References to literature are given, and some of the authors have used them so freely as to afford fairly complete bibliographies of their respective subjects.

 

The purpose of Mr. Woglom's Parakites[3] is to place before the public the result of the investigations and of the practical experience of the writer in the construction of tailless kites—parakites is the awkward, half-Greek, half-English name he gives them—and in the perfection of methods for flying them in various conditions of the atmosphere. Mr. Woglom is a business man well occupied, and has give n attention to the making and flying of kites only as an avocation and recreation, without laying any claim to be a student in the scientific bearings of the subject, or in aerodynamics. Nevertheless, he never forgets the possibilities of a scientific outcome from experiments with kites, and keeps them well in the mind of his reader. His treatise opens with a view of Oriental kite-flying, its history, so far as it is recorded, from its use in Malaysia a thousand years before the Christian era, and the possible religious significance of its origin—to carry prayers to the divinities above. Descriptions of Japanese, Chinese, Javanese, and other Oriental patterns follow; then the author's experiments in kite making and flying, in photographing from kites, etc., are given, and the principles of the construction and management of kites as embodied in Oriental forms and discovered in the author's own experience are recorded, and the possible scientific applications are glanced at. The whole forms an interesting and instructive treatise.

 

The main object of Mr. Holden's paper on mountain observatories[4] is to study the conditions suitable for astronomical work at high levels, while meteorological and physiological conditions enter into consideration in a subordinate degree. The author's studies bearing on the subject began during the summer of 1873 in the mountains of central Colorado. His observations were repeated at intervals till he was called to Mount Hamilton in 1888, where he has had opportunities to compare the conditions with those at nearly every observatory in the United States and with stations in other countries. His purpose in this paper is to collect and study the many scattered notices of the conditions of good vision at mountain stations all over the globe. We have thus notices or descriptions of the experiment at Teneriffe, and of the observatories at Nice, Mont Blanc, Ben Nevis, the Santis, the Sonnblick, Arequipa, El Misti, and many others abroad, and of the mountain observatories in the United States—illustrated by many photographic reproductions—concluding with a few remarks on scientific ballooning and kite-flying, from which Mr. Holden expects even greater results, at least in meteorology, than from mountain-top observation. A copious bibliography of the subject is given.

 

Plants and their Children, by Mrs. William Starr Dana (American Book Company, 65 cents), is a child's reading book, designed, while it entertains and instructs, to create an interest in children in botany. It consists of a series of easy lessons or readings on the wonders of plant life written in such a manner as to make them entertaining as stories. The various forms and curious features of familiar plants and trees, including their roots and stems, buds and leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers, are thus described. The book is so arranged as to correspond both with the course of the school year and the seasons of development of plant growth.

 

The Division of Forestry of the United States Department of Agriculture has done a creditable service in issuing its bulletin on The Timber Fines of the Southern United States. This publication consists of separate chapters by Dr. Charles Mohr, on the species known as the long-leaf, Cuban, short-leaf, loblolly, and spruce pines, together with a brief description of the wood of these five pines, by Filibert Roth. The distribution and botanical characters of each species are given, the products obtained from it, conditions necessary to its growth, its enemies, and the forest management required by it. The information under each of these heads is full and practical. In an introduction, B. E. Fernow, chief of the Division of Forestry, calls attention to the facts that the Southern States abound in those sandy soils which afford sufficient sustenance for the pines but are practically useless for anything else, and that the forest wealth of this section is being seriously impaired by wasteful methods of cutting timber, by the repeated conflagrations that follow the lumbering, and by the operations of the turpentine gatherers. Contrary to a common belief, however, the tests made by the Division show that timber that has been bled for its resin is as strong as unbled, if of the same weight. Some attempt has been made to perform the difficult task of estimating the remaining resources of the Southern pine forests, and no pains have been spared to impress upon the owners of timber lands and the operators of mills a knowledge of the treatment required to preserve the value of their investments. The volume is illustrated with many plates and cuts.

 

Fifty of the biographical sketches that have appeared in this magazine have been revised by the editor and issued in a volume under the title Pioneers of Science in America Appletons, $4). As the title denotes, the book includes only Americans, and is devoted to the earliest of these who were prominent in the field of science. In revising and completing each of the sketches Dr. Youmans has had the aid of some descendant or pupil of the subject in all cases but a few of the earliest. Some of the accounts have been much extended for the book. That of Benjamin Franklin, which opens the volume, is entirely new, and is the first systematic account of what Franklin did in science. That of S. F. B. Morse also has not appeared in the Monthly. Among those that have been largely rewritten are the sketches of Silliman, Torrey, Henry, Coffin, and Agassiz. New portraits have been substituted for a few made in the early days of the magazine that were not uniform in style with the rest. Steel portraits accompany the articles on Franklin and Morse, and there is a heliotype of W. B. Rogers. The latest subject included in the volume is David Dale Owen, who was born in 1807.

 

A handy little book embodying The Elements of Commercial Law has been prepared by Albert S. Bolles, lecturer on law in the University of Pennsylvania (Holt, $1). Under twenty heads, such as Parties, Assent, Seller and Buyer, Partnership, Negotiable Paper, Insurance, Shipping, Deeds and Leases, and Corporations, it gives systematically and briefly the substance of what the business man needs to know in order to secure contracts that can be enforced, if necessary, in the courts, and to avoid improperly jeopardizing his own interests. The volume is indexed, and the topics treated in the several numbered paragraphs of each chapter are given at the head of the chapter.

 

A first memoir on The Bombycine Moths of America North of Mexico, by Prof. Alpheus S. Packard, has been issued by the National Academy of Sciences. It is devoted to the Notodontidœ, and includes descriptions of the insects in their larval, pupal, and adult forms, with notes on their habits, food plants, geographical distribution, etc. This is the first installment of what Prof. Packard intends to be a general account, systematic and developmental, of our North American bombycine moths. He has aimed to describe these moths in the light of Weismann's suggestive and stimulating Studies in the Theories of Descent (1882), being convinced that additional knowledge of their ontogeny will lead to a comprehension of the phylogeny of the higher Lepidoptera in general. From the facts connected with the transformations of the bombyces, also, he believes much may be learned with reference to the transmission of acquired characters. The monograph is accompanied by forty-nine plates, many of them colored, and ten maps showing the distribution of genera. There are also about ninety figures in the test.

 

Part IV, Vol. X, Second Series, of the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences is devoted to papers on the crania, implements, and other objects found by Mr. Clarence B. Moore in certain mounds in Florida. In the first paper, Harrison Allen, M. D., describes five crania from mounds on the St. Johns River,' comparing them with crania from other parts of North America. In three papers which follow this Mr. Moore describes a large number of implements of stone, earthenware, and bone, and some of shell and copper. The papers are accompanied by thirty-eight plates and many figures showing the crania and other objects of full size.

 

The first part of a comprehensive work by David Starr Jordan and Barton Warren Evermann on The Fishes of North and Middle America has been issued as Bulletin No. 47 of the United States National Museum. It is a descriptive catalogue of the species of fishlike vertebrates found in the waters of North America, being in a sense a revision of Jordan and Gilbert's Synopsis of the Fishes of North America, but with the text entirely rewritten and covering a greater geographical range than the Synopsis. By the extension of range, which brings in the faunas of Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, the number of species included has been more than doubled. The fact to which the authors call attention, that over a hundred species have been added to the list within the time taken for printing the present volume, shows that there is still work to be done in the same field. The classification and sequence of groups adopted for this catalogue is essentially that of Dr. Theodore Gill, freely modified to suit the present purposes of the authors. In the arrangement of the families and genera they have endeavored to avoid unnatural associations and incoherent groups, even at the risk of what may seem an excessive subdivision. Among the forms commonly called fishes the authors recognize three classes—Leptocardii, Marsipobranchii, and Pisces. The present part of the work extends to twelve hundred and forty octavo pages, and contains descriptions of sixteen hundred and twenty-seven species, of which four are Leptocardii and eleven are Marsipobranchii. An atlas is to accompany the work when completed.

 

Mr. James Bryce has prepared an abridged edition in one volume of his able and popular work on The American Commonwealth in order to make the book more available for the unexpected demand that has arisen for it as a text-book in American colleges and high schools (Macmillan, $1.75). The abridgment is divided into three parts, dealing respectively with the National Government, the State Governments, and Political Methods. In selecting the parts of the original work to be used in the single volume the author has been aided by Jesse Macy, Professor of Political Science in Iowa College. The Constitution of the United States is appended, and the volume contains lists of the Presidents, the States, and important events, together with a full and carefully made index.

 

The method of Cairns's Manual of Quantitative Chemical Analysis, which has now reached a third edition, is, by explaining some of the more serious obstacles to successful analysis, to teach thoughtfulness and caution, and, by giving very explicit directions in the earlier part of the course, to induce habits of precision and enable the student to proceed without further leading. The important changes that have been made in the practice of analytical chemistry since 1880, when the book was first published, has rendered a thorough revision necessary, and this has been given to it by Dr. Elwyn Waller. The editor has aimed to give descriptions and directions for such methods as are generally pursued in most analytical laboratories, with brief references to the theory of other methods, that the student may have presented to him one or two plans of procedure which find acceptance to-day, and at the same time suggestions of other plans which may lead to modifications of our present methods. Radical changes having been made in the science and practice of quantitative proximate analysis since the death of the author, all the chapters relating to that subject have been cut out, leaving only what was always the chief feature of his work, namely, mineral analysis. Both the author and the editor have been instructors in analysis at the Columbia School of Mines. (Holt, $2.)

 

An addition to the number of journals representing the science of chemistry in this country has been made by the establishment of The Journal of Physical Chemistry at Cornell University. It is to be issued monthly, except in July, August, and September, under the editorship of Profs. Wilder D. Bancroft and Joseph E. Trevor. The first number contains papers on Irreversible Cells, by A. E. Taylor; Chemistry and its Laws, by F. Wald; and a second paper on Ternary Mixtures, by Wilder D. Bancroft. There are also several book notices and a department of reviews, conducted by a board of six reviewers, in which are given critical digests of recently published papers bearing on physical chemistry. (The Editors, Ithaca, N. Y., $2.50 a year.)

 

The treatise on The Magnetic Circuit in Theory and Practice, by Dr. H. du Bois, which has been translated by Dr. Atkinson (Longmans, $4), is designed to be a systematic and critical account, from the physical point of view, of the more important developments in its field. Electro technology, which in the last decade has exerted an important action on those branches of physics which form its base, "seems at present," says the author, "to have entered on a phase of quieter development; and from the scientific point of view the time appears suitable to survey the position, critically to investigate results of very unequal value, often hastily brought to light amid the bustle of practical work, and to blend the older as well as the more recent results into one consistent exposition." He has not included much historical matter except in the seventh chapter, where he gives the history of the analogy between the magnetic circuit and various other kinds of circuits. The first five chapters of the work are devoted to Theory, and the last six to Applications. In stating the theory of the magnetic circuit, a knowledge of the results of investigations into ferro-magnetic induction is assumed. In Chapters III and IV the outlines of the theory of "rigid" magnets on the one hand and of absolutely "soft" cores on the other are summarized, the mode of treatment being similar to that of Maxwell. The topics falling within the second part of the book magnetic circuits of dynamos or electro-motors and of various kinds of electromagnets and transformers, the experimental determination of field intensity, magnetization, induction, etc. are treated more from the point of view of applied physics. Wherever the more important results of allied branches of mathematical or experimental physics are assumed to be known, the author has referred lo the original passages in accessible text-books. There are also many references to original papers in which details may be further studied.

 

  1. The Education of the Central Nervous System. By Reuben Post Halleck. New York: The Macmillan Co. Pp. 258, 12mo. Price, $1.
  2. An American Text-Book of Physiology. Edited by William H. Howell, Ph. D., M. D. Fully illustrated. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders. Pp. 1052, royal 8vo. Subscription price, cloth, $6; sheep or half morocco, $7.
  3. Parakites. By George Totten Woglom. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 91, 4to. Illustrated. Price, $1.75.
  4. Mountain Observatories in America and Europe. By Edward S. Holden. Washington: Smithsonian Institution. Pp. 77, 8vo, with Plates.