Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/May 1875/Editor's Table

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SIX volumes of The Popular Science Monthly are now published, and with this number it enters upon its fourth year. We remind our friends of this, that they may renew their subscriptions, and we trust they will urge their neighbors to join them in taking the Monthly, as thereby it may be obtained at a cheaper rate. The public press has been saying these three years that this is the most valuable and instructive magazine in the country. Yet our subscription list by no means comports with such a standard of excellence; for the best thing ought certainly to be the best sustained. Although our circulation is fair, it is still far behind that of those periodicals which leave science out or consign it to the department of scraps. Let no one suppose that in helping this Monthly to new readers they are ministering to a speculation; the time is a long way off when a first-class scientific magazine will enrich anybody. We have before us the more urgent question of making the Monthly pay moderate prices for the work that is done on it, and earn the means of its own improvement—objects which can be secured exactly in proportion as it is sustained by the public.

It should be remembered that The Popular Science Monthly stands alone in doing a special and important work. It was not started merely to add another to the list of magazines, the chief of which are so nearly alike that they are mutually replaceable; but it was started to furnish a very different magazine from any the people could get. In so far as our age is an age of ideas, the first great fact about it undoubtedly is, the ascendency of science as a power that is moulding the mind of the period.

The extension of scientific knowledge is affecting all the interests of society. Agriculture, the manufacturing arts, locomotion, the physical conditions of health, the economy of the vital and mental powers, are all influenced by it to a degree never before experienced. These are confessedly within the circle of interests embraced by science, but that circle is steadily enlarging. Higher questions are being constantly brought under scientific treatment. To this great movement of thought characteristic of the time, our periodicals gave no adequate expression; and it therefore became necessary to begin a magazine that would put its readers in honest possession of the broadest conclusions of scientific study, as well as the immediate results of experimental research. Without being an organ of propagandism, or representing any clique or school of doctrine, we shall continue, as we have done, to give the fresh facts and the advanced conclusions of science, and we ask the earnest cooperation of all who sympathize with this work.


There is an old disagreement between society and the milkman. The latter is alleged to be depraved, and, as a consequence, to adulterate his milk with water. Ethical considerations do not seem to influence him. Though commanded to sell unto others only such milk as he would have others sell unto him, he prefers what he considers as a still more golden rule.

Now, we are inclined to regard the milkman with becoming charity. We cannot believe that he is a sinner above all other men. What he needs more than any thing else is, to be delivered from temptation. His evil opportunities are too many for him. Nor is it of much use to preach to him from the door-steps concerning the wickedness of his ways; because he will ask you to read from the newspaper you have in your hand the last reports about the rings, frauds, corruptions, stealing and plunder on a grand scale, in high places, and on the part of representative men whom the people delight to honor. Peculation, misappropriation, overreaching, and sharp practice, he tells you, are the order of the day—the rule, the fashion, and that a man "might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion." He tells you that business rivalries are desperate, that men must live, and that the world must be taken as it is. The milkman is of opinion that, if the business standards of the community could be raised to a level with his own practice, a long stride would be taken toward the millennium. He refers you to a report to the Board of Health in this city, in which it is stated that chalk, flour, starch, emulsion of almonds, sugar, gum, dextrine, borax, turmeric, annotto, soda, and sheep's brains, have been used for doctoring milk; but that, in hundreds of examinations of milk furnished to the citizens of this metropolis, none of these ingredients have been detected. Water, to be sure, is alleged to have been used, but what is more wholesome? and what are the secluded spring and the ready pump for, if not to supply it? He reminds you that societies are organized all over the world to get people to drink more of it; that milk is mainly aqueous, to begin with; that there is no natural standard of the proportions of this constituent; that the business of dispensing it is a detestable drudgery; that the milkman must be astir and abroad while other people slumber; that he has to rout the lazy servant-girls with unearthly screeches, and then wait till they are pleased to make their appearance; that there is waste with every pint delivered; that bills are hard to collect; that though his conscience be as white as the contents of his can, yet is he ever charged with cheating; that his rascally competitor is underselling him and he perfectly understands the cause; and, finally, that the losses and drawbacks of business have to be covered in different ways, while, if a little innocuous water is added to the milk, nobody is worse for it, and nobody can find it out.

Now, it is useless to reason with the milkman, or to exhort him to raise his conduct to the standard of pure and absolute rectitude, for, even if he should repent, he would be pretty sure to backslide. Yet the case against him is not to be given up; where homilies fail, science comes to the rescue; and, if its indications are followed, the milkman and his customer may be brought into tolerably harmonious relations.

How far the craft have wandered away from the paths of rectitude in this region, and how their venial transgressions swell into an immense daily burden upon the community, are well illustrated by the following statement from Prof. Chandler's report to the Metropolitan Board of Health in 1870. He says:

"The average percentage of pure milk, in the adulterated article with which the city is supplied, is 73.28; or, in other words, for every three quarts of pure milk, there is added one quart of water. It was stated at the convention of milk-producers and dealers, held at Croton Falls, in March, 1870, that the total amount of milk supplied to the cities of New York and Brooklyn, from the surrounding country, was about 120,000,000 quarts per annum. To reduce this to the quality of our city supply, requires an addition of 40,000,000 quarts of water, which at 10 cents per quart, costs us the snug sum of $4,000,000 annually, or about 12,000 per day."

Now, granting that there is a great deal of money spent in New York, in worse ways than in buying water at ten cents a quart retail, it is still desirable to introduce more equity into these lactic transactions. The milk-consumer is entitled to have what he pays for, and he can find out very satisfactorily what it is that he pays for, by the employment of the lactometer.

Good milk consists of about 88 per cent, water, combined with about 12 per cent, of solid matter dissolved or diffused in it, which makes it heavier than water. This increased relative weight is known as its specific gravity, and water being taken as 1000, the specific gravity of milk varies from 1023 to 1034. Without inquiring into the proportions of its several solid constituents, the lactometer determines their amount by indicating the specific gravity of the sample tested. The instrument is simply a glass tube closed at the lower end, and properly weighted, with a scale affixed, which shows the result when it is floated in a sample of milk. Milks from different cows and at different times vary in richness and poorness, so that it becomes important to fix such a standard that all samples which fall below it shall be classed as adulterated, or condemned as unmarketable. The New York Board of Health has been engaged for a considerable time, under the intelligent direction of Prof. Chandler, in investigating this subject, and, as a result of very extensive observations, they have fixed upon a specific gravity of 1029 as a fair minimum standard for pure milk, so that, "whenever the gravity falls below this number, the milk may be considered as containing ah excess of water and consequently as poor in quality, or adulterated."

The standard adopted is, beyond doubt, sufficiently low. A German chemist tested the milk of 124 cows, and found the maximum specific gravity to be 1034.3, the minimum specific gravity to be 1029.5, and the mean 1031.7. Hence the standard of merchantable milk adopted by the New York Board of Health is lower than the poorest milk from these 124 cows. It may be remarked that milk of 1034 will bear an addition of 16.67 per cent, of water to reduce it to 1029.

This standard has been made legal in New York—that is, a dealer selling milk below 1029 is liable to a fine. Whatever may be the result of this policy, a most important step has been taken in fixing a minimum standard, and thus making it possible for milk-buyers, quickly and certainly, by the use of the instrument, to ascertain whether the character of the article they are purchasing is above or below it. We say, then, to every householder interested, get a lactometer. Taglibue, of 69 Fulton Street, New York, makes and sells them for $1.25 apiece, with the scale adopted by the New York Board of Health. The instrument is perfectly simple, and will last a hundred years, with care, but it is not a good thing for children to play with. On a card accompanying it, we read: "Fill the jar with the milk to be tested; allow it to cool to the temperature of 60° Fahr., then immerse the lactometer and notice the mark on the scale that is level with the surface of the milk, which will show the quality." The standard of pure milk adopted is marked P, and is taken as 100 on the scale. If the lactometer stands at that point, the milk is legal. If it sinks below it the milk is too thin, and the point in the scale at which it stands indicates its excess of water. If the mark P stands above the surface, the milk is richer than the standard, and the scale shows its superior quality. Of course, the instrument cannot give an analysis of the milk, and if a milkman reduces a high grade of milk to a somewhat lower standard, by admixture of water, the lactometer cannot show it; but it will tell exactly the quality of the milk every time, so that the buyer may know how he is being served. The general use of the lactometer could not fail to exert a beneficial influence upon the morals of the milk-trade.


In another part of the Monthly will be found a report, derived from the London Times, of a late discourse of the Dean of Westminster, which has made a profound sensation in England. It was delivered in Westminster Abbey, on a very impressive occasion, the funeral of a philosopher who had done more than any of his contemporaries to vindicate the sharply-contested doctrine of the government of the world by unvarying law rather than by providential interventions; and who, through evil report and much denunciation, had successfully asserted the vast antiquity of the earth and of the human race. To add to the solemnity of the occasion, if it were possible, the queen, the "Defender of the Faith," and the head of the English Church, caused to be laid on the coffin a memorial-wreath, as a mark of her esteem.

The guiding principle of Lyell's geological opinions was, that there never has been any variation in the laws and operations of Nature. This principle had long previously been established as the corner-stone of scientific astronomy, both in the prediction of future celestial events and in the verification of old observations. If an eclipse of the sun or moon be recorded by Greek, or Chaldean, or Chinese historians, the astronomer, without hesitation, resorts to retrospective calculations, and determines its exact date. Epochs in chronology have been settled in that way. Or, looking forward with prophetic eye, he declares that, at a specified moment, there shall be such and such a conjunction of the satellites of Jupiter, or, a century hence, a transit of Venus. Implicitly relying on forecasts of the kind, the position of the moon among the stars, and other phenomena of the celestial bodies, the mariner trustfully finds the place of his ship at sea, and determines his proper track. Nautical almanacs teach us what prophecy really ought to be.

Lyell transferred the principle from the heavens to the earth. He discovered that the modeling of her surface had been accomplished by forces that are now, and ever have been, in operation; that the summer sun and wintry frosts, that rains, and winds, and rivers, and glaciers, and the ocean, worked always as they work now. But this implied the lapse of enormous periods of time. The six days of the orthodox creation, and the 6,000 years of orthodox chronology, were absolutely inadequate.

Unwilling needlessly to give offense to those who were not emancipated from the legends of their childhood, who still linger among popular theological conceptions, and find difficulty in enlarging their field of view, he never offensively, but always modestly, put forth the consequences of his new facts, very often suggesting rather than proclaiming them. When the first discovery of the vast antiquity of the human race was made—a discovery in which he took a leading part—he scrupulously observed the same course, and in this set an example to those obstreperous theologians whose insolent denunciations of science are founded often on ignorance, and not infrequently on less excusable grounds. "We now know," says Dean Stanley, "perfectly well, from our increased insight into the nature and origin of the early biblical records, that they were not, and could not be, literal descriptions of the beginning of the world. It is now clear to all the students of the Bible that the first and second chapters of Genesis contain two narrations of the Creation side by side, differing from each other in almost every particular of time, and place, and order. It is now known that the vast epochs demanded by scientific observation are incompatible with the 6,000 years of the Mosaic chronology and the six days of the Mosaic creation."

We ask attention, in the interests of truth, to the grave import of these words from one of the most learned and religiously earnest divines of our time. What do they imply? Two things inevitably: first, the abandonment to Science of those cosmological problems over which Theology has hitherto claimed a divine right; and, second, the surrender to critical investigation of the nature and source of those narratives which have been hitherto so implicitly trusted. Dean Stanley is far from being alone in his views; they are shared by many other eminent clergymen who recognize that the Mosaic account of the Creation is without authority; and yet no part of Dr. Draper's celebrated book on the "Conflict between Religion and Science" has been so bitterly denounced by theologians as his remarks on the authenticity of the Pentateuch. He ventured a bold prophecy that the originals of the legends of the creation, the garden of Eden, the development of Eve from one of the ribs of Adam, the fall of man, the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, would be discovered in the clay libraries of the revived Mesopotamian palaces, as that of the Deluge had been; and, already, though only a few weeks have elapsed, it appears that they have been so found. How are they to be interpreted? When the legend of the Deluge was discovered by Mr. Smith, the agent of the London Telegraph newspaper, in these cuneiform tablets, it was hailed with triumph by biblical scholars, who looked upon it as a wonderful and unexpected testimony vouchsafed to these later days in behalf of the story of Genesis and the authenticity of the Pentateuch. It was supposed that the universal deluge had now been proved to have taken place. But another and very different view of the case has emerged, which is, that these legends, instead of being corroborative testimonials of the Pentateuch narration, are rather the originals from which it was derived. Into the question thus opened, although of great interest, we do not enter, but may say that, if this view proves the correct one, Assyrian explorers will hereafter be at a discount. Their discoveries will be classed with those of astronomers, geologists, and anthropologists. The theologians will find in them matter for merriment; and the digger into the mounds of the Tigris must get ready to be denounced as an atheist.

And yet Dean Stanley's sermon inspires us with hope that a better day is dawning. In the highest ecclesiastical ranks—and remembering the flowers that were laid on the coffin—in the highest political ranks, there is arising a spirit of liberality which more than sympathizes with the life of those great and good men, who, like Sir Charles Lyell, do not hesitate to encounter the prejudices and ignorance of their contemporaries for the sake of the truth, who invest its pursuit with the sanctity of a religious duty, and consider practical piety to consist, not in the noisy clamor for dogmas about which the human race will never agree, but in a submissive study of the revelation of Nature, and a courageous declaration of what they find in its records.