Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/April 1875/Literary Notices

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


The Chemistry of Light and Photography, in its Applications to Art, Science, and Industry. By Dr. Hermann Vogel, Professor in Berlin. 100 Illustrations. Pp. 290. D. Appleton & Co. No. XIV. of the "International Scientific Series."

At the International Convention of Photographers, held in this country a few years ago, Dr. Hermann Vogel, of Berlin, was the distinguished German delegate, and was much honored as one of the most eminent and successful cultivators of the subject in both its scientific and artistic aspects. Perhaps no man in any country was so well prepared to make a thorough presentation of the principles and practice of this beautiful process, and, upon being applied to to write a book upon the subject for the "International Series" he consented, and the volume now before us confirms the wisdom of the application. It is worthy the reputation of the author and the interest of the subject, and is beyond comparison the best popular treatise on the chemistry of light, and the present state of the arts, that have grown out of it, that has yet been produced. The history of the efforts, by scientific men, in the early part of the century, to fix and preserve in some way the images formed by light, is familiar to all. Davy and Wedgwood, of England, made the earliest attempts, in 1802, to secure such lasting impressions. Their results, however, were very imperfect, and from time to time the problem was attacked by other chemists, and was finally solved by Nièpce and Daguerre, and the process was given to the world in 1840. In the light of all that has been done in the past thirty-five years, the little pictures of Daguerre, with their "ugly, mirror-like dazzle, which prevented a clear view of them," are now regarded as insignificant, but they were at first contemplated with wonder. When, however, the process was once securely possessed, it was rapidly improved and extended, until it has now become an important element of civilized life. As Dr. Vogel remarks, photography has "spread over almost every branch of human effort and knowledge, and now there is scarcely a single field in the universe of visible phenomena where its productive influence is not felt. It brings before us faithful pictures of remote regions, of strange forms of stratification, of fauna, and of flora; it fixes the transient appearances of solar eclipses; it is of great utility to the astronomer and geographer; it registers the movements of the barometer and thermometer; it has found an alliance with porcelain-painting, with lithography, metal and book typography; it makes the noblest works of art accessible to those of slender means. It may thus be compared to the art of printing, which confers the greatest benefit by multiplying the production of thought, for it conveys an analogous advantage by fixing and multiplying phenomena. But it does more than this. A new science has been called into being by photography, the Chemistry of Light; it has given new conclusions respecting the operations of the vibrating ether of light. It is true that these services, rendered by photography to art and science, are only appreciated by the few. Men of science have in great measure neglected this branch, after the first enthusiasm excited by Daguerre's invention had evaporated; it is only cursorily that physical and chemical matters are treated on in manuals of photography."

The interest of Dr. Vogel's volume is not at all confined to the treatment of that side of the subject which is important to practical operators. It will be equally appreciated by the multitudes of people who are buyers of photographs, and who not only desire to understand the processes by which they are produced, but to know what are the excellences and defects of photographic productions, and how they are to be intelligently criticised. We print a portion of one of Dr. Vogel's chapters upon this branch of the subject.

Scientific London. By Bernard H. Becker. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1875, 340 pages. Price, $1.75.

Some one has cleverly pointed out the tendency of all Anglo-Saxons to organize themselves into committees with a president, a vice-president, two secretaries, and a treasurer, before they can do any work, great or small, or indeed before they feel ready to deliberate in concert. We are familar enough with this in America, and we are ready enough to laugh at the extreme to which it is carried; but our English brothers, and peculiarly our English scientific brothers, carry this even further than we do.

Witness the list of the meetings of the scientific bodies of London which are announced in Nature weekly. It is worth while to transcribe some of the most important names:

The Royal Society, the Royal Institution, the Society of Arts, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chemical Society, the Department of Science and Art, the London Institution, the Birkbeck Institute, the Society of Telegraph Engineers, the Museum of Practical Geology, the British Association, the Statistical Society, the Royal Geographical Society—all the foregoing societies are spoken of in Mr. Becker's book, while there yet remain of the important societies—the Mathematical Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Entomological, the Zoological, the Asiatic, the Meteorological, the Geological, the Linnæan, the Royal Microscopical, the Royal Horticultural, the Royal Botanic Societies, and quite a number of others, hardly less important—the Society of Biblical Archæology, and the Geologists' Association, for example.

This is a curious and a very instructive list. It shows that year by year the specialists in each branch feel obliged to bring themselves closer together in order to keep pace with the advances in their peculiar subject; and it illustrates well the great share which the scientific societies of England have in forwarding and promoting scientific work. There is undoubtedly a great deal of good done by this system, for each of the minor societies has in it several of the great men of the nation, whose influence is thus exerted, not only upon the Royal Society (of which they are, of course, members), but upon a host of younger and less celebrated men who are elevated by the contact.

The system has, too, an injurious effect which is equally apparent: the great men become "scientific popes" in the eyes of their associates, and the ignoring of every thing foreign—the "insularity"—of Englishmen, which has become a byword in ordinary matters, is specially fostered in science, where of all places it is most noxious.

Thus, to an Englishman, De la Rue is, and always will be, "the father of celestial photography," notwithstanding Draper and Bond: and it is so in many other cases. But, in spite of this, the great and small societies are a powerful and helpful force in England, and they contain a galaxy of distinguished names, which may well make any country proud.

Mr. Becker in his interesting little book gives us a glance into several of these great societies, or rather he takes us into his club, and, making himself and his reader very comfortable, he proceeds to chat with agreeable frankness about what he has seen, about what interests him, whether it be the theory of isomeric alcohols, or the way the pretty girls of the London audiences are dressed. Once in a while he seems to feel that he is growing trivial, and drawing forth a memorandum he gives a long (and useful) array of facts and figures. But these occasions are rare; he tells his listener very pleasantly what he has seen in the various scientific companies, what he thought, and what he knows about them, what amused him and what bored him. Almost every one will enjoy his easy talk, and almost every one will learn something from his book. His view of science and scientific men is not precisely the highest nor the most dramatic one. Huxley is one of those who have helped "to gild the pill of science," not a strong man earnestly striving for what he thinks the right and true. Tyndall is quite the same—the enthusiasm, the "sacred rage" in them is quite left out; they are simply men in dress-coats who are successful, eminent, and highly to be respected.

The English astronomer Smyth tells us in one of his fascinating books of a visit which he made to Encke at the Berlin Observatory, and he seizes so well the dramatic side of the situation that his reader almost hears, as he. did, the astronomical clock ticking off the seconds which but just now belonged to eternity and are lapsed into time.

To Mr. Becker, Encke would have been an eminent observer and astronomer, and the secretary of the Berlin Academy; and his clock would have been in a mahogany case, and would have cost £100 0s. 0d.; but Mr. Becker's account of the Berlin Observatory would have been worth listening to. Indeed, it is hardly fair to object even in the least to the manner of the book, since its pretensions are so modest and its facts and figures so good; and we are sure that all of Mr. Becker's readers will thank him for the quiet enjoyment he gives them in his 340 pages of pleasant talk.

A Practical Treatise on the Gases met with in Coal-Mines. By the late J. J. Atkinson, Government Inspector of Mines of the County of Durham, England. 53 pp. Price 50 cents. New York: D. Van Nostrand.

The author of this little monograph was an authority upon the most complicated questions of ventilation, and the President of the Manchester Geological Society declares it to be "the most useful book of reference yet published on the ventilation of mines."

The discussion is unquestionably of very great interest to all who have the management of mines, or are exposed to danger from ignorance of the nature of the gases that are set free in subterranean explorations. But the little book seems not without interest to others. The laws of atmospheric change, and their relations to life, are general, and the practical problem of ventilation, as we encounter it every day in our dwellings, is by no means simple. There is much information in this little manual relating to the air we breathe, its pressures, movements, vitiations, and various properties, which is of general interest and importance.

Observations of Sun-Spots at Anclam. By Prof. G. Spoerer. With 23 Lithographic Plates. Publications of the (German) Astronomical Society, No. 13. Leipsic, 1874.

We have had occasion to call the attention of our readers, from time to time, to various popular works on the physical condition of the sun ("The Sun," by Proctor, Lockyer's "Solar Physics," etc.), and we now desire to note the appearance of this great work of Dr. Spoerer's, which, with Carrington's "Observations of the Spots on the Sun," forms the basis upon which future theorists must build.

Carrington's accurate observations commenced in November, 1853, and since that time the solar surface has been assiduously observed by Carrington, Spoerer, Wolf, Secchi, De la Rue, and others, in Europe, and by C. H. F. Peters, Winlock, and Langley, in America. Photographic records of the sun-spots have been made in America, in England, and in Russia; and Germany has just established an observatory at dam which will be exclusively occupied with sun-observations.

Carrington's work covered the period 1853-1861, and Spoerer's extended from 1861 to 1871, and was done on much the same plan. He, of course, confirms the discovery by Carrington of the law which declares that the velocity of the rotation of the outer layer of the sun's surface is greatest near the sun's equator and diminishes gradually toward the poles, and he arrives at other conclusions, a few of which we will give, as generally interesting, referring students of astronomy to the original work. It is well known, from the recent observations (since 1853), that Schwabe's discovery is true that the number of spots on the sun's disk is governed by some periodic cause which produces a maximum number and a minimum number of spots every eleven years. It is probable that magnetism, rainfall, and temperature, and other terrestrial phenomena, are connected with this period of eleven years, the cause of which is as yet unknown.

Spoerer has discussed the observations of the spots separately for each half (i. e., northern and southern) of the solar disk. He finds (page 137) that the points of maximum and minimum frequency of spots are reached earlier in the southern hemisphere of the sun. "While the minimum of the year 1856 still lasted in the northern hemisphere, the increase (in the number of spots) had already begun in the southern hemisphere, and had here in 1858 reached a maximum," while in the northern hemisphere the maximum began in 1860. The mean heliographic latitude of the spots, however, shows "no characteristic difference between the two hemispheres."

In the eleven-year period (1854-1864) the ratio of the number of spots in the northern hemisphere to the number in the southern was 933:1,000; from 1861-1871 this ratio was 976:1,000. The spots on the sun give a means of determining the velocity of the sun's rotation, but the determination of this element is complicated by the fact that these spots have a drift or proper motion in longitude. Spoerer finds the angle through which the sun rotates in one day to be 14° 16' nearly, while Carrington determined this element to be 14° 11'; that is, Spoerer fixes the time of the sun's rotation on its axis as 25 days, 5 hours, 37 seconds. This mean value—14° 16'—is, however, subject to change, and Spoerer suggests that further investigations may show that the changes which are known to occur in this value may be found to occur earlier in that hemisphere of the sun which has, at the time, the greatest spotted area. This question it will require several eleven-year periods to settle.

It is to be hoped that these most valuable researches will be continued, and that America will contribute her full share to the labor. There is a sure reward awaiting investigators in this field.

The Elevations of Certain Datum-Points on the Great Lakes and Rivers, and in the Rocky Mountains. by James T. Gardner, Geographer (from the Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories for 1873). Washington: Government Printing-Office, 1875.

In this modest pamphlet of thirty pages Mr. Gardner has made a very valuable step toward utilizing a vast quantity of material which has until now been little employed. Every railroad or canal has been located only after one or two lines of leveling have been run between its terminal points, and a mere glance at a railroad map of the United States will show what an immense collection of data exists for the determination of the altitude of any point on any railroad.

A complete discussion of this has not been attempted, Mr. Gardner's principal object having been to determine the altitude of Denver, in Colorado, above the mean level of the Atlantic Ocean, Denver being the point to which the altitudes determined by the survey of the Territories are referred.

Incidental to this object, results of great interest have been obtained, a few of which will be mentioned. The material for the work was necessarily of the most varied character and of many degrees of accuracy, from the first trial-lines of reconnaissance-surveys to the final releveling of a finished railroad or canal. Great care was necessary in selecting from the reports of chief-engineers and elsewhere the right figures, and in giving proper weights to these when selected. The chief difficulty, however, was in joining the ends of various lines, each referred to separate points.

The author personally visited many of these terminal points, and had new determinations made when necessary. That he has succeeded may be seen from his results for the altitude of Denver, derived from the lines of the Kansas Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. This altitude is 5,198.97 feet by the Kansas Pacific Railroad surveys, and 5,194.20 feet by the Union Pacific Railroad surveys, a difference of less than five feet in lines nearly 2,000 miles long, which were run at different times, by many different engineers.

In the eastern part of the United States there are many opportunities to check such results in places situated on two or more roads, and the examination of a few such checks will serve to give an idea of the agreement to be expected. At Harrisburg, for example, we have two lines of level, one brought by the Coast Survey and the Pennsylvania Railroad from Raritan Bay (175 miles), and the other from Baltimore by the Northern Central Railroad. The first gives 319.91 feet, the second 319.75. Tin's agreement is rather closer than could be expected, and, although the author does not mention it in this connection, it is subject to an uncertainty in the determination of mean tide at Baltimore, noted further on.

The height of the Chicago city directrix above mean tide, as determined by the surveys of the Pennsylvania Railroad and its connections (900 miles), is 585.41 feet; from the surveys of the New York Central Railroad and connections 587.57, and this agreement is perhaps a fair type of what we may expect from surveys conducted with care over long-established railway-lines.

We will adduce one more example, determining the elevation of the mean surface of Lake Erie: the independent results are 573.08, 572.04, 572.67, 570.75, 571.67, and [581.20]. The last determination is rejected on the testimony of the chief-engineer of the railroad from whose surveys it is given.

Mr. Gardner states, as the results of his experience, that most of the errors found are produced by hasty computation and careless combination of results, rather than by imperfect instrumental work. This is shown by his own careful combinations to be the case, since we cannot consider the agreement he has found as fortuitous. He recommends civil-engineers to connect their surveys with the city-directrices and to send a copy of their profiles to the Signal-Office in Washington, so that their careful work may be made of scientific use, by suitable discussion.

As the results of this investigation Mr. Gardner announces that the great lakes and the surrounding country are now recorded 9 feet too low St. Louis 23 feet too low, Kansas City 100 feet too low, Indianapolis 100 feet too low, and Omaha 31 feet too low.

These corrections rest on various data, and are not all of equal certainty, but they must be accepted for the present. The whole subject must eventually be thoroughly discussed; until it is, this valuable research will be the standard.

Polarization of Light. By William Spottiswoode, M. A., F. R. S., etc. New York: Macmillan, 137 pp. Price $1.00.

The diffusion of Prof. Tyndall's "Lectures on Light" in tens of thousands of copies throughout the United States has awakened a popular interest in even the more abstruse questions connected with that topic. Mr. Spottiswoode's little volume is devoted to the phenomena of polarization, which it discusses in a style adapted for popular comprehension. The method of the book is synthetic—the phenomena of polarization and its different processes are first brought before the mind of the reader in a number of experiments (which are fully illustrated); then the author explains what is meant by the undulatory theory of light. The phenomena of polarization are seen to accommodate themselves so thoroughly to this theory, that a simple approximation of the two is sufficient to prove that the one is the law of the other. Having thus coördinated the phenomena, the author considers in separate chapters "Circular Polarization," "Phenomena produced by Mechanical Means," "Atmospheric and other Polarization," "Figures produced by Crystal Plates," and "Composition of Colors by Polarized Light." The subject last named is illustrated by means of two very beautiful chromo-lithograph plates.

What is Music? By Isaac L. Rice, Author of "Analysis and Practice of the Scales." 94 pp. Price 50 cents. New-York: D. Appleton & Co.

This is an ingenious essay by a musical professor who not only practises the art, but speculates freely and boldly upon its nature and origin. The theories of music which have been hitherto proposed do not satisfy him, and he is inclined to consider that the ancients were nearer right in their views of the subject than the moderns. The contrast between the ancient and the modern stand-points he takes to be, that the ancients looked upon music cosmically, or considered it a part of Nature, while the moderns are more disposed to regard it as something subjective. The first half of the work is devoted to an exposition of the various theories that have been proposed—Chinese music, Hindoo music, Egyptian, Grecian, Arabic, and Persian theories, and its scholastic interpretations in the middle ages. The doctrines of Euler, Helmholtz, and Herbert Spencer, are reviewed, and with the latter author Mr. Rice takes issue on many of his positions. The latter half of the work is devoted to a presentation of his own views of the subject. His idea seems to be that, as beauty of form or color is a principle of Nature, displayed in space, so music is a principle of beauty in Nature displayed in time. The key to the author's position is given in the following passage:

"Now, what is music? The beautifier of time, is the simple and categorical answer—an answer, too, from which further answers to all questions springing from the original question may be deduced; an answer that serves as the corner-stone of the fundamental theory of music itself. It is to adorn the ever-moving space of existence that music was generated and the germs of its development were placed within it. In the space of rest, in visible Nature, Nature itself has undertaken the task of beautifying. And there she has lavished beauties untold and unnumbered. Beauty reigns on the mountain and in the valley, on the hill and in the dale. It is present in the gentle grove as well as in the mighty forest. It is in the little brook and in the magnificent ocean. It is in man and woman, in the birds, in the plants—anywhere, everywhere, it meets our eyes, if we will but see. There are beauties of all kinds and degrees, from the sublime to the graceful, from the magnificent to the picturesque. All this has Nature done for space—and to do something similar for time is the grand and holy object of music. The materials of which music is composed exist only in Time, and here we have the explanation of many of the characteristics of music. Time is motion, is life, yet the sure bringer of change, of death. As it is motion, its influence upon us is emotional, agitating; as it constantly tells us of change and death, it awakens the feelings of melancholy within us. Music, as it beautifies the passing moments, yet tells us that they are passing, and consequently it is so prone to cause sadness."

Without indorsing Mr. Rice's views, which seem to us rather fanciful, his little work will be found suggestive, and contains withal much curious information that will interest the lovers of musical literature.

Chemical Examination of Alcoholic Liquors. A Manual of the Constituents of the Distilled Spirits and Fermented Liquors of Commerce, and their Qualitative and Quantitative Determination. By Albert Prescott, Professor of Organic and Applied Chemistry in the University of Michigan. 108 pp. Price $1.50. New York: D. Van Nostrand.

This volume concentrates the rays of the latest chemical science upon the subject of spirituous liquors. The author has nothing to say of the physiological, pathological, or moral effects of alcoholic beverages, but occupies himself simply with the question of their composition, production, constituents, and imitations; and his book being written under no bias, but simply to state the scientific facts, may be taken as entirely trustworthy. Its especial value will be to chemists who may be required to investigate the constituents and the purity of alcoholic liquors.

Elements of Magnetism and Electricity. By John Angell. 172 pp. Price 75 cents. New York: Putnams.

Though the author's purpose is to fit students to "pass in the first class in the elementary stage of the government science examinations" for aspirants to position in the civil service of Great Britain, the work has a value of its own, as being a succinct statement of the sciences of magnetism and electricity.

Principles of Metal-Mining. By J. H. Collins, F. G. S. 150 pp. Price 75 cents. New York: Putnams.

The object of this little work is to convey some elementary knowledge of the principles and facts of mining in a form suitable for the instruction of young miners. It teaches them what to observe, and how to interpret their observations.

The Treatment of Nervous Diseases by Electricity. By Dr. Friedrich Fieber. Translated by George M. Schweig, M. D. 64 pp. Price 75 cents. New York: Putnams.

This little treatise is addressed to the medical profession. It aims to set forth the many advantages of electro-therapy, with a view to popularizing it among medical men.

The Cultivation of Art, and its Relations to Religious Puritanism and Money-Getting. By A. R. Cooper. 48 pp. Price 25 cents. New York: Charles P. Somerby.

A thoughtful, earnest, temperate plea for æsthetic culture.

Antiquity of Christianity. By John Alberger. 61 pp. Price 35 cents. New York: Charles P. Somerby.

This is an attempt to trace the distinctive dogmas of the Christian religion to heathen originals.



Astronomical and Meteorological Observations made during the Year 1872 at the United States Naval Observatory. Pp. 550. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

Annual Report of Lieutenant Wheeler's Geographical Explorations for 1874. Pp. 130. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

On the Muridæ. By Dr. Elliott Coues, United States Army. Pp. 28. Philadelphia, 1874.

Invertebrate Fossils collected by Wheeler's Expeditions of 1871, 1872, and 1873. By C. A. White, M. D. Pp. 27. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

Theory of Education in the United States of America, pp. 22; and National Bureau of Education, pp. 16. Washington: Government Printing-Office.

Migrants and Sailors in their Relation to the Public Health. By Drs. John M. Woodworth and Heber Smith. Pp. 21. Cambridge: Riverside Press.

Report of the Commissioners of Lunacy to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1875). Pp. 79.

A Guide to the Practical Examination of Urine. By James Tyson, M. D. Pp. 182. Price, $1.50. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston.

Report of the Trustees of the Building-Fund of the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences. Pp. 24.

Prison Association of New York. Thirteenth Annual Report. Pp. 23.

Report upon the Sanitary Qualities of the Sudbury, Mystic, and other River Waters. Pp. 108. Boston, 1874.

Ohio State Medical Society. President's Address (1874). Pp. 16.

Alimentation. By S. A. C. Hamlin, M. D. Pp. 23.

Hand-book of the Kansas Agricultural College. Pp. 124. Manhattan, Kansas, 1874.

Notes on the Natural History of Portions of Montana and Dakota. By J. A. Allen. Pp. 61. Boston, 1874.

Annual Report of the Treasurer of the United States for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 1874.

The Transmission of Sound by the Atmosphere. By Tyndall. Gigantic Cuttle-Fish. By Saville Kent. Pp. 32. Price, 25 cents. Boston: Estes & Lauriat.

Municipal Law, and its Relation to the Constitution of Man. By R. S. Guernsey. Pp. 11.

Man and Nature. By Dr. Samuel W. Francis. Parts III. and IV. Pp. 28 and 15. Newport, R. I.: C. E. Hammett.

Modern Thought and Ancient Dogmas. Nos. 1 and 2. Pp. 21 and 28. San Francisco, 1875.