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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/880

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

diminished, and that the mean length of life has been prolonged since 1815. Men and women marry at a later age than formerly, diminishing by several years the time during which they can have children, and, consequently, the number of children they can have. The host of women who are employed as nurses must suspend child-bearing while they are so employed. Young men are withdrawn from the possibility of marriage during their most vigorous age by the long period of military service; marriage itself is discouraged by the complicated and expensive processes the parties have to go through; and increasing alcoholism contracts the reproductive powers of both sexes.

 

Statistics of Suicide.—Professor Morselli, of Milan, in his "Étude de Statistique Morale" ("Study of Moral Statistics"), gives an analysis of the statistics of suicides in the countries of Europe, compiled from official reports, which reveals the important facts that the number of suicides is increasing, with only a few exceptions, in all European countries, and that it increases more rapidly than the population. The facts are set forth in a table showing the number of suicides in the several countries, in each of the seven periods of five years, from 1841-'45 to 1875. Except in the three Scandinavian states and the kingdom of Saxony, where there seems to have been a slight temporary decline, the table shows a progressive increase, and in all cases, except the four mentioned, the number of suicides is greatest for the last period, 1871-'75. Such statistics as Professor Morselli has been able to collect since 1875 show continued "enormous aggravations," particularly in Denmark, Finland, England, Belgium, France, Bavaria, the kingdom of Saxony, Prussia, Germany, Austria, Galicia, and Bukowina, the cantons of Neufchatel and Geneva, and Italy. A comparison of the number of suicides in the latest period with the number at earlier periods shows an increase of 183 per cent. in Sweden since 1816; of 57·7 per cent, in England since 1836; of 322 per cent, in Prussia since 1816; of 308·8 per cent, in Austria since 1821; of 651·9 per cent, in Galicia and Bukowina since 1821; and a greater or less percentage of increase in other countries. A part of the increase is doubtless only apparent, and due to the greater perfection of the later statistical reports, but a great real increase remains to be accounted for. Professor Morselli arranges the influences which may predispose to suicides under the heads of cosmic and natural, ethnic, social, and individual. In the first class, climate, technical conditions, the phases of the moon, days, and hours, exert no perceptible influence, but an increase of suicides seems to accompany the monthly rise of temperature. The influence of race is not well defined, except, perhaps, feebly in the Germanic race. As for social influences, the inclination to suicide does not appear to be determined by the degree of civilization or of general instruction, by moral conditions (as to the prevalence of crime and natural births), nor by political and economical conditions. As for religion, Protestants seem as yet to kill themselves oftener than Roman Catholics, and still more frequently than Jews, in the countries where the three religions are represented in proportions of any importance. Density of population is without appreciable effect; but suicide is more frequent in cities than in the country. So far as individual influences are concerned, women kill themselves three or four times less frequently than do men; suicide increases with age to the extreme limit of life; marriage exerts a very marked preventive effect, while celibacy and widowhood favor suicide. Inquiries into the motives for suicide have not brought satisfactory answers, for it is hard to get the truth told about them, and official reports must be accepted with reserve. In France, higher, more generous motives are attributed to women than to men.

 

Mr. John Gould.—Mr. John Gould, F. R. S., an eminent British ornithologist, who died early in February, was born in September, 1804. The appointment of his father, as a foreman in the Royal Gardens at Windsor, gave him an opportunity of beginning the preparation for the work of his life by studying British birds in a state of nature. In 1827 he was appoint Curator to the Museum of the Zoological Society in London. Here he published, under the title of "A Century of