Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/862

This page has been validated.

tridges; sparrows, mice, Guinea-pigs, rabbits, etc." ("Popular Science Monthly Supplement," xviii., p. 574); and he considers that fear is the chief cause of the inhibition of spontaneity. In view of these premises it seems not improbable that the same species might pass into a similar subjective condition on being suddenly brought in view of serpents, of which all of these animals stand in great dread. Indeed, this is in substance the explanation of serpent-charm given by Dr. Preyer himself. Granting this, it is easy to see that the ophidians, whose intelligence is, according to Darwin (ib., 352), "greater than might have been anticipated," would be likely to learn to take advantage of it. As soon as this took place, serpent-charm would be practically established as a factor in the animal economy, though perhaps a very unimportant one; and in corroboration we have the evidence of Preyer and several other naturalists, who accept the "fascination of birds by snakes" as a scientific fact; while, as Dr. Oswald admits, we have the testimony of eminent ophiologists that snakes are unable to capture birds unless aided in some manner. Of course it is not yet established by competent observers that small birds and animals do actually pass into a subjective condition on seeing a snake (and the evidence adduced by Dr. Oswald is of a negative character), but it seems more probable that this is so than that the few skilled and the many unskilled observers should have erred so egregiously; and it is certainly much more probable than that the popular notions regarding serpent-charm should have originated in the aimless struggles of birds or small animals wounded to the death by the fangs of a venomous serpent.

Very truly yours,

W. J. McGee.
Farley, Iowa, September 1, 1879.



THE scientists had a profitable and pleasant time at Saratoga. The twenty-eighth annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which met there this year, was well attended and successful i a every respect. A larger number than usual of the old and eminent members of the body were present, and that the gathering represented a goodly proportion of the scientific working power of the country is shown by the fact that about one hundred and fifty papers were contributed, in different fields of inquiry, many of which were of marked merit. There are two or three respects in which the proceedings were note-worthy, and to which we desire to call attention.

The American Association was formed upon the model of the British Association, which had been in operation for some years, and incorporated its main features. They embrace common objects, and have both undergone a development that has accompanied the progress and widening of scientific thought. Their annual sessions occur so nearly together that the contributions from both sources come upon us at the same time; and, regarding them as substantially one organization, we select their papers for printing by the rule of convenience. The able inaugural address of President Allman at the Sheffield meeting appears in our present number, and we shall publish a revised edition, with notes, of the equally able address of Professor Marsh at Saratoga in our next issue. In his address before the Physiological Section of the British Association, over which he presided, Dr. P. H. Pye-Smith stated the leading objects of the organization, as follows:

"The Association to which we belong seeks to advance natural science, that is, accurate knowledge of the material world, by the following means:

"1. By bringing together men who are engaged in the various fields of science indicated by our several sections, by promoting friendship between them, by giving opportunity for discussion on points of difference, by encouraging obscure but genuine laborers with the applause of the leaders whom they