Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/January 1901/Scientific Literature

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Scientific Literature.


The second volume of the 'Cyclopedia of American Horticulture' edited by Prof. L. H. Bailey, has made its appearance from the press of the Macmillan Company and shows the same general excellence attributed to the first volume already noticed in this magazine. Subjects under the initials E. M. are treated in the last volume. Among the most notable topics of broader interest are Ferns, Horticulture, Greenhouses and the zonal regions in the various States discussed. A biographical sketch of Asa Gray, by Professor Bailey, carries with it a touch of interest due to the acquaintance of the editor with that eminent botanist. By the most recent census it has been shown that nearly 2,500 species of native American plants have been brought into cultivation. Dr. Wilhelm Miller gives a piquant description of the manner in which the Cyclopedia was written and edited in an article in the 'Asa Gray Bulletin' for August, 1900, of which the following paragraph is fairly characteristic: "The rest is hard work, and every man to his own method. Professor Bailey uses any or all methods, or no method; usually the latter. He is too busy getting done to think about the best way. Allamanda he wrote in sixty minutes by the clock. It is an article of about 640 words, with eight good species, and accounts for ten trade names. The plants are not merely described; they are distinguished. Eleven pictures were cited. Not less than twenty books were consulted. Four dried specimens were named. This was the first genus he tackled."

A much-needed introduction to vegetable physiology (J. & A. Churchill), by Dr. Reynolds Green, of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, has just appeared. The author discusses the general anatomy of the plant and takes up the general principles of physiology in a very attractive manner, although in certain sections the conciseness of the elementary text is not adhered to. It is a readable book, and the author is particularly apt in his sections dealing with respiration and fermentation. It is distracting, however, to find Professor Green in disagreement with himself concerning the dialysation of the enzymes, a group of substances which have been the subject of important investigations by Professor Green for a number of years. This book will undoubtedly find its way into every botanist's library in a few years.

The annual report of the State Geologist of New Jersey, for 1899, upon Forests is a carefully indexed volume of 328 pages (State Printers), with 31 plates and some text figures. The report is in four principal divisions. C. C. Vermeule gives a general description of the forested area and the conditions of the timber in the several natural divisions of the State, which is well set forth by the aid of well-colored maps. Prof. Arthur Hollick treats the relation between forestry and geology in New Jersey and divides the State into three zones; that of deciduous trees, that of coniferous trees and an intermediate formation. Attention is also paid to the evolution of the species of trees as exhibited by fossil specimens. Prof. J. B. Smith discusses the rôle of insects in the forest. Dr. John Gifford reports on the forestal conditions and silvicultural prospects of the coastal plain of New Jersey. These, with other matter given by the State Geologist, John C. Smock, form a splendid volume of very great practical value as well as of scientific interest.

Three important bulletins (Reports Nos. 5, 7 and 11) of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, dealing with the investigations upon vegetable fibers, have been recently mailed to correspondents. It is notable that comparatively slow progress has been made in the perfection of methods of cultivation and use of new fiber plants. The time seems at hand for the making of extended and serious attempts to utilize the fiber furnished by ramie and other plants, and the importance of adding a staple of this kind to the products of the country would justify any reasonable expenditure of time and experimentation.

The indexes and bibliographies which are being issued by the United States Department of Agriculture are among the most complete and comprehensive in the fields which they cover, and will be found helpful to persons who are pursuing studies in the various branches of science related to agriculture. The latest contribution in this line is an 'Index to Literature relative to Animal Industry,' prepared by Mr. George F. Thompson. The volume covers the publications issued by the Department of Agriculture from its establishment in 1837 to 1898, and comprises 676 pages, with some 80,000 entries. It includes a wide range of subjects, relating to the care and management of domestic animals, diseases and their treatment, statistics of different kinds of live stock, and investigations upon animal products such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs, wool, meats, etc. In these lines it renders available for convenient reference a large amount of scientific investigation, much of it unsurpassed in its line, which is so scattered through various bulletins and reports as to be easily lost sight of, and difficult for one unfamiliar with the publications of the Department to bring together.


The eighth volume of the 'Science Series,' edited by Professor J. McKeen Cattell and published by the Putnams, is Professor Jacques Loeb's 'Comparative Physiology of the Brain and Comparative Psychology.' The author is known as an able investigator of the physiology of the invertebrates and a thinker of daring genius. His book is in no sense a mere compend; it has the life and vigor natural to a student's presentation of his own research and theories. Professor Loeb's aim is to analyze the behavior of animals, roughly attributed to the nervous system, into elements, and to seek the definite factors that account for these elementary reactions; to replace the various hypothetical accounts of the nervous mechanism by the-theory that it is a complex of a number of largely independent segmental organs; and to pave the way for an explanation of nervous action by definite laws of physical and chemical change. The book is thus an important example of the present attempts of students of life-processes to reduce physiology to the more elementary sciences of matter.

In 'Fact and Fable in Psychology' (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.), Professor Joseph Jastrow reprints with some alterations a number of essays. The author is eminent among psychologists for his original research, and his clearness and skill in exposition are already known to readers of the Popular Science Monthly, in which most of these essays originally appeared. His wide knowledge and clear judgment fit him admirably to treat the rather delicate subjects with which his book is concerned, namely, that group of facts which arise in our minds at the word 'occult,' matters which have received such diverse treatment by both psychologists and laymen. They are directly dealt with in the essays on 'The modern occult,' 'The problems of psychical research,' 'The logic of mental telegraphy' and 'The psychology of spiritualism,' while those entitled 'The psychology of deception,' 'Hypnotism and its antecedents,' 'The natural history of analogy,' 'The mind's eye' and 'A study of involuntary movements' throw light upon the general characteristics of the phenomena involved and the mental attitudes which people take toward them. The information given about the means taken by those whose interest it is to mislead observation, about the inevitable influence of our previous experiences, our temporary frame of mind and the 'unconscious logic of our hopes and fears' on our sensations and judgments, and about the tendency to make unconsciously expressive movements, is scientifically valuable, and is attractively set forth. The attitude taken toward Christian science, spiritualism, thought-transference and veridical hallucinations is, as would be expected, sane and consistent. There is, too, a pleasing courtesy and absence of any pharisaical air of superiority in the criticisms. It is Professor Jastrow's good fortune to possess, in addition to the knowledge of the criteria of evidence and inference in human phenomena proper to a scientific psychologist, an insight into the interests and motives of men outside his own class. This makes his comments on the types of interest in psychical research and the factors predisposing to belief in thought-transference or in spiritualism of especial value. There is a growing class, at least among psychologists, Who have been so affected by the quantity of talk about psychical research and the quality of the work done in it, as to be fairly careless whether there be spirit communication or no, whether the adepts of spiritualism be knaves or fools or neither or both. Even to these Professor Jastrow's shrewd comments on the raison d'être of the belief will be interesting.

Barring some traces of a too Wordsworthian sentimentalism, nothing but praise can be bestowed upon Professor MacCunn's new volume, 'The Making of Character' (Macmillan). Pedagogy, even if it can be dignified by the name of science, has suffered sadly at the hands of its friends. Loose, unsystematic, fallacious and frothy books abound; screaming too often takes the place of close reasoning, wishy-washy guessing of sober investigation. A mere enumeration of MacCunn's main divisions shows how far he has advanced beyond this. His treatment falls into four principal parts, dealing with Congenital Endowment, its nature and treatment; Educative Influences; Sound Judgment; Self-development and Self-control. As ia to be expected from one of British training and associations, the social aspects of the theme are reviewed most successfully. The English distaste for psychology in its modern developments limits the discussion of congenital endowment somewhat obviously. But, take it for all in all, a wiser handbook for parents and teachers, or a more inspiring and sensible vade mecum for the general reader would be hard to find. Incidentally, the discussion throws some little light on the old question as to the relative educational value of the 'humanities' and the 'sciences'; but only incidentally.