Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/March 1901/Discussion and Correspondence

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To the Editor: I am a lady scientist, and I suppose you will think it very rude in me to intrude what I think into the grand affairs of a great scientific magazine. But I really must say to you that it is very shameful of you to encourage Mr. Starr Jordan to indulge his fiendish delight in depreciating feminine science—Karyokinesis. I feel his attack bitterly, for after passing an examination—equal to that described by Monsieur Arago in his Autobiography, during which a bright young man of more than usual assurance even for a Frenchman was so put upon by old Mr. Monge, the mathematician, that he fainted and had to be carried out past Mr. Arago and the other gentlemen in the antechamber on a shutter—in astronomy, geology, chemistry, physics, meteorology both in the past perfect and future indicative, mathematics and sociology, I obtained my present position as copyist at $480 per annum in the Direction of Science, Division of Karyokinesis.

I do not believe at all in this ex-post facto theory of abolishing time and space, which is unconstitutional, anyhow, because it is forbidden by the Declaration of Independence and is imperialism. Now, I am going to take Mr. Starr Jordan up, word for word, and show that he is simply ridiculous.

Telepathy is a pure science. It is pure because it was a woman who invented it. No man could ever have had the sense to get up such a science. A man's intellect is fatally defective. You positively can not make it comprehend that if everybody stops doing drudgery because the world is an oyster, things will go on just the same, if not better. I know there are exceptions, but such exceptional men are really, speaking psychologically, women, and may for convenience of reference be called Untermenschen; and probably Mr. Alexander Dumas, fils, was describing one of these gifted minds in his charming moral story where Count Petit Lavellère de Château-Bourbon capers about the sleeping-apartment of Madame Revocation de la Tour de Nesle on all fours like a spaniel, with her real point-lace handkerchief in his mouth.

Compare the delicate suggestiveness of this beautiful picture with the coarse vulgarity of a vile Scot's lord at a card party when his partner, the Viscountess Smith, played the wrong card. "You old bitch," roared the noble(!) lord, "what did you play that card for?" And then, recalled to his environment by the look of astonishment on her ladyship's face, he blurted out: "Your pardon's begged, mum. I thought I was speaking to me wife," just as though that poor woman was his 'chum.'

Of course, at this stage of scientific expansion it is impossible to rear every man as an Untermensch, as we should be able to rear him were we in possession of the universities, and like he is reared in the seraglio by the eunuchs and the ladies of the harem so quaintly pictured by Lord Byron, a man of strong Turkish characteristics, in his sweet tale of Don Juan. When, however, advancing civilization has discredited the vague and unsatisfactory principle of evolution or the survival of the fittest or force science for the immediate and visible principle of Karyokinesis, or egg science, which depends on hatching and not on principle, however, then the strange notion that the meaning of childhood is to give time to live through the history of the race will be discarded, and it will be openly taught that a child goes through this time-killing process in its own mother's bosom, and that telepathy is, therefore, particularly a feminine science, as it is only a woman who can write history based on original facts at the rate of 40,000,000 years in nine months. When the world has been brought to respect the true literary function of woman, then she will recognize her duty to rescue history by properly editing her historical productions on the part consecrated by immemorial usage to that purpose, and not till then.

Now, I must say that I think all this fault-finding about instrumentation is just too silly for anything; but I don't think Mr. Starr Jordan is as bad as some other people I know. It always seemed to me that some of these men, perhaps even the married ones who live in a far, far away State, are just put out because so many pretty girls, and as many ugly ones as could ring in, crowd around the telepathic savant and never go near them. But I am not speaking of the vanity of men, which is simply immense; for, as in the Dark Ages, devoted women fled from the brutality of the world and vowed their maidenhood to Heaven in a nunnery, so I have vowed myself to science in the Division of Karyokinesis.

Men have their principia as a starting point in their 'science of brains,' as I suppose they would call it, and it winds up in the 'conservation of energy'; and now they are trying to find out the meaning of a star's childhood which it passes in the Milky Way, just as though that wasn't the proper place for an orphan to be born in. Women have their Karyokinesis for a starting point and wind up in telepathy. Where is the difference? Our science is older than theirs as a philosophy. What is the meaning of chivalry but adoration of Karyokinesis? What is the cell theory but chivalry materialized? Well might the genus beautifully symbolized as the slave of the lamp in Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp kick up such a row when Aladdin wanted an egg put under the skylight of his palace.

The feminine in science acknowledges no master save caprice—whim and an Uebermensch. Yet, while on the surface it is Uebermensch enthroned, beneath all is an unstable equilibrium caused by would-be Uebermenschen who are exploiting the wide interval between the reigning Uebermensch's promises and his performances. This is the basis of Karyokinetic sociology. Pious wishes, not natural laws, is its normal motto, and each for himself and the devil take the hindmost is its only possible principle of action. The 'psychology of the mob' thus is lifted from a subordinate to a primary social fact, and comes to mean the same as though it read 'the psychology of fashions,' which are supposed to be made in Paris. It is very absurd to hear the man intellect vaporing about the great social axioms which a self-perpetuating society must obey, and the rule of action which a manly and only possibly true non-imperialistic people must try to follow out if it wishes to stamp out imperialism, and the so-called 'laws' which your stick-in-the-mud scientists are formulating at a snail's pace—laws which 'prove' the accuracy of these 'majestic' generalizations of Moses and of Jesus. No, the feminine in science demands immediate, up-to-date facts, or, if it will afford Mr. Starr Jordan any satisfaction, hysterical theories for its inductions, and these are furnished by telepathy, which, like every dramatic science, requires scenery and stage furniture, so as to be able to tell the past by the actual me, the cogito ergo sum automaton, not by the interrogation of invaluable sequence and stuff.

Seated upon his stage, surrounded by a painted vale of Italian softness and bathed in an atmosphere of amorous music and perfumes, with soft couches that invite the drowsy indolence that crawls upon the intellect, the telepathic physiological psychologist or Uebermensch can not, it is true, get ahead of the future; but he can get behind the past; he can annihilate time, he can annihilate space, for by the magic power of his resistless will he can make the cells of the nervous system retrokaryokinetate to the period when they opened and shut a bivalve or sojourned upon the planet Mars. This, then, is the difference between a telepath and a charlatan: the charlatan is a broker who deals in futures; the telepath is a commission merchant who deals in eggs.

Rebecca Sharpe.

P. S.—A I go over this to put in missing commas and words, it seems to me that it is made up crazy quilt patchwork fashion, so I suppose it is hardly a virtue to say that, though I first mixed it all up and then wrote it out of my own head, I got the woman facts from old Mrs. Blackleg, who keeps the boarding-house where I lodge, and the sociological facts from a poor fellow who is madly in love with me and has proposed ever so many times, though I have never given him the slightest encouragement, no, never; but he will, and he will, and he will. Not that I am no scientist and don't know original facts. That is not true, for when I was studying up for examination I noticed how the jellyfish Medusa could easily heal its wounded nervous system, and the starfish, too, and so needed no protection, as every part could go off on its own hook; and then how Nature, in making a more centralized nervous system, made a limestone coat for the poor thing, and so on, until I, trying to work out the puzzle of mental fatigue, found that the dear old lady made a clean jump to a double nervous system for backbone animals, one set for vascular work and the other for fighting purposes, and brains made ribs of the entrenchment of the clam and the cuirass of the turtle. And without bothering you any more, I only want to say that when man and woman were somatically one, and when, for purposes best known to a wise and unscrupulous Providence, they somatically became two, that woman remained mankind and nearer to nature, and man must be regarded as a mere freak, which accounts for his ridiculousness and his 'laws,' which are the dread enemies of the worship of Karyokinesis. But I forget all this when riding home in the cool evening air, and the electric car goes bobbing up and down as it tears down the hill, and I hug up close to that broad-shouldered social wretch who is fighting Mrs. Blackleg and her telepaths for my happiness.


To the Editor: It certainly has been sufficiently obvioxis, by the communication of Mr. Smith in your February issue, that the means of thought-communication between 'material scientists' and 'Christian Scientists' are by no means easy or adequate. Not being able to rise above 'human logic' I am placed along with many other worthies, in whose company I take pride, amongst the 'materialists,' and am accordingly and very properly reminded that my opinion on matters pertaining to religion and to Christianity are of little consequence. Let it be also noted en passant that I am not regarded as having attacking 'Christian Science,' but only credited with the belief that I thought I had. Consistently with their own doctrines this really should amount to the same thing. So it will be well to disclaim any intention of attacking, in the personal sense which your correspondent gives to the discussion, the upholders of this or any other faith. It is always important to keep in mind the admonition of Huxley that in controversy one should not wander from the really essential question of what is right and what is wrong to the entirely unimportant matter of who is right and who is wrong.

But my main purpose in sending this note is to protest against the assumption of my critic that the representatives of Christianity are arrayed with him and against me in the advocacy of certain doctrines which I insist are not characteristically religious ones, and which, if they are distorted into a religious guise, can not by that shift escape the candid comment of commonsense science. It is an injustice to the representatives of Christian faiths to put them, by implication or assertion, in the position of giving support to tendencies which they have an equal interest with the expounders of science in opposing. I shall content myself with one quotation from an authoritative source—Bishop Fallows, of Chicago— which places this dubious attempt to mingle religion with unscientific medical dogmas in the only light in which right-minded persons of whatever training can complacently look upon it.

"If my good friends," says the Bishop, "are going to start, or believe in a professed religious system because they have been healed through the influence of a mental law as universal as gravitation, the people who have been cured by patent nostrums have just as much reason to establish a religious cult of Christian liver pillists, Christian Sarsaparillists, Christian Celery Compoundists, or Christian Cholera Mixturists, as had Mother Eddy to found a church of Christian Scientists. 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' I do know some of the best Christians living who believe with unshaken faith that they were cured by these patent nostrums. But they have had the good sense to remain in the church and not claim a special dispensation for the discoveries of their favorite patent medicines."

Joseph Jastrow.
University of Wisconsin.


To the Editor: In the November Popular Science Monthly the munificent gift of Miss Helen Gould for a Hall of Fame is noticed, and thirty names are designated as the choice of certain prominent men (not named) for place therein as the most eminent Americans.

In the list given the name of Elias Howe appears, which must produce astonishment in the minds of every one who lias a knowledge of him or of the history of the sewing machine, upon which alone his claim to notoriety rests. To all who are acquainted with the advent of that machine, Howe occupies a very minor place. Patents were granted for such machines long before Howe entered the field, and he never succeeded in producing a practical machine, until more than one device invented by others was added to it.

Several inventors were striving to make a practical sewing machine, which was finally accomplished on different lines by some of them. The fact that Howe received royalties from these men. who procured the extension of his patent, was a matter of policy that we pass as irrelevant to the question of the introduction of this great public acquisition, in which he took no active part.

Howe was not a first-class mechanic, and the devices he patented w r ere all elaborated before him by others, and not until other important devices were added did the sewing machine come into use. To place his name on the roll of fame above a host of his superiors on the records of the Patent Office would be doing American genius a grave injustice that would render the Hall of Fame absurd. I trust no such radical mistake will be perpetrated.