Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/516

This page has been validated.

pations, and opinions, disposed to unite for the mutual pursuit of history, science, and the arts; and that they will engage in it, not in a spirit of exclusiveness, but of benevolence, aiming to develop a love for the most elevated and accurate forms of knowledge. It should be easy, in a multitude of places, for associations formed with these blended purposes to sustain twice a month, or even weekly, during a large part of the year, meetings for the purpose of listening to papers, original or compiled, from members or invited speakers, or for the discussion of any topic introduced. By some such method as this, local societies would become schools of thought and learning for the active members of the community in hundreds of our towns and cities. There might naturally follow a union of the societies of a State under a general society, for the publication of such papers as might be deemed suitable.

"The extensive formation of such societies throughout the land seems so full of promise and so potent for good as to justify the establishment of a national society for the organization of associations for the pursuit of knowledge. Such a society might initiate efforts which would have the cordial support of co-workers in every State of the Union. The original name of our oldest learned society, the American Philosophical, of which Franklin was the first president, was 'The American Society for Promoting and Propagating Useful Knowledge.' The title is an indication of the expanded and benevolent designs of its founders. This society had, also, its standing committee on history and commerce. If the Smithsonian Institution, founded 'for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,' should be able to incorporate, with its present benefactions to science, the support of an agency for encouraging such societies as have been described, it might be hoped it would not be a departure from the spirit of its founder. It would be an agency, by whatever association it should be controlled, for introducing and promoting a plan for enlisting tens of thousands in the direct study of science, art, and history. Such societies would be the means of educating many communities to a loving appreciation of scientific investigations, and of correct views of human history. They would contribute incalculably to the progress of American society and to the happiness of millions."



Elements of Physics, or Natural Philosophy. By Neil Arnott, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S. Seventh edition, edited by Alexander Bain, LL.D., and Alfred Swaine Taylor, M.D., F.R.S. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 873. Price, $3.

We are glad to see this sterling and favorite work brought up to date, as it is in the edition now issued. A generation ago Arnott's "Physics" was the leading text-book on natural philosophy both in England and this country, and we much question if for educational purposes anything equal to it has appeared since. We have physical text-books with finer pictures, but we have gone to an excess in this direction, and greatly overdone the pictorial element. It is an objection to large, elaborate, and profuse illustrations, that they are costly, that they trench upon the text, and often give prominence to trivialities, simply because they afford an opportunity for a showy engraving. The illustrations of a high-grade scientific book should be simple, and severely subordinated to the ideas they exemplify. The cuts in Dr. Arnott's book, while having no merit as mere pictures, are perfectly sufficient for their purpose of illustration.

There is another objection to our recent text-books of physics in the want of balance or proportion in treating of subjects. The rage for the new, and what is called keeping up with the times, has led to undue prominence in representing the last results of science, and to a corresponding neglect of those established facts and principles which have lost their novelty because they are old and well-settled. A book filled with the recent wonders of research may be exciting, and full of interesting information, but these qualities cannot commend it to students whose object is to acquire the body of principles that constitute a science. In this respect, and in physics especially, the value of the old greatly preponderates over that of the new. No doubt such works should be up to date, and represent "the present state of science," but facts discovered a great while ago, and long-determined laws, are quite as much parts of the present state of science as the last results of in-