Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/672

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the family life will develop—the more internal unity of the married twain and the more perfect moral nourishment of their offspring will bring on a civilization which must write itself out in "sweeter manners, purer laws."



COMPARATIVELY little has yet been done in the way of precise measurement of the rate at which the exposed surfaces of different kinds of rock are removed in the processes of weathering. A few years ago some experiments were instituted by Professor Pfaff, of Erlangen, to obtain more definite information on this subject. He exposed to ordinary atmospheric influences carefully measured and weighed pieces of Solenhofen limestone, syenite, granite (both rough and polished), and bone. At the end of three years he found that the loss from the limestone was equivalent to the removal of a uniform layer 0·04 millimetre in thickness from its general surface. The stone had become quite dull and earthy, while on parts of its surface fine cracks and incipient exfoliation had appeared.[2] The time during which the observations were continued is, however, too brief to allow any general deductions to be drawn from them as to the real average rate of disintegration. Professor Pfaff relates that during the period a severe hailstorm broke one of the plates of stone. An exceptionally powerful cause of this nature might make the loss during a short interval considerably greater than the true average of a longer period.

It occurred to me recently that data of at least a provisional value might be obtained from an examination of tombstones freely exposed to the air in graveyards in cases where their dates remained still legible or might be otherwise ascertained. I have accordingly paid attention to the older burial-grounds in Edinburgh, and have gathered together some facts which have, perhaps, sufficient interest and novelty to be communicated to the Society.

At the outset it is of course obvious that, in seeking for data bearing on the general question of rock-weathering, we must admit the kind and amount of such weathering, visible in a town, to be in some measure different from what is normal in nature. So far as the disintegration of rock-surfaces is effected by mineral acids, for example, there must be a good deal more of such chemical change where sulphuric acid is copiously evolved into the atmosphere from thousands of chimneys, than in the pure air of country districts. In these

  1. A paper read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on April 19, 1880.
  2. "Allgemeine Geologic als exacte Wissenschaft," p. 317.