Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/872

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



mind? Self-education is the only true education, and, if young men want a liberal education of practical value, let them master the synthetic philosophy and be their own teachers.



The Sun. By C. A. Young, Ph. D., LL. D. With numerous Illustrations. D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 321. Price, $2.

The first thing we have to say about this attractive and admirable little volume is, that it was sorely needed. It was wanted, not only because of the great interest of the subject, but because we have no work in English that deals with it in any satisfactory shape for general use. Proctor's book on the sun, notwithstanding its author's astronomical reputation, is, after all, little more than the compilation of a professional book-maker. He has used his copious materials freely, and made his book too large and expensive, and too crowded with matter of secondary interest, to meet the popular requirement. It has, therefore, not been held as even worth stealing. The great treatise on the sun, of the late Father Secchi, of Rome, though written by an eminent astronomer who has worked at the subject extensively himself, is likewise too voluminous, and also too scientific, for general purposes, and it has accordingly not been thought worth translating into English. The book of the Frenchman, Guillemin, though small enough, is all too popular, and is so variously deficient as to have no true standing. A new book, compact inform, and thoroughly trustworthy for reading and reference, was greatly needed, because the knowledge that has grown up in recent years concerning the great central body of the solar system is not only of exceeding interest, but is such as well-instructed people can not afford to be without.

But it was no easy thing to get the book required. First-class scientific men are always pressingly occupied, and they very rarely take to book-making unless for the promulgation of their own views. The managers of the International Scientific Series have, therefore, been fortunate in securing a strong book on this subject, although they have had to wait a good while for it. Yet those who have been long and impatiently expecting it will now be rewarded for their waiting. Professor Young is an authority on "The Sun," and writes from intimate knowledge. He has studied that great luminary all his life, invented and improved instruments for observing it, gone to all quarters of the world in search of the best places and opportunities to watch it, and has contributed important discoveries that have extended our knowledge of it. The reader who glances at the summary of his life-work, given in an accompanying biographical sketch, will see why, of all men, he was perhaps the best prepared to report on the present state of solar knowledge. He, at all events, had the first qualification for the task, because he knew whereof he affirmed.

And he has executed the work in a manner worthy of the subject, and of his reputation. He has stated what is known about the sun in a form excellently suited for general apprehension. It would take a cyclopedia to represent all that has been done toward clearing up the solar mysteries. Professor Young has summarized the information, and presented it in a form completely available for general readers. There is no rhetoric in his book; he trusts the grandeur of his theme to kindle interest and impress the feelings. His statements are plain, direct, clear, and condensed, though ample enough for his purpose, and the substance of what is generally wanted will be found accurately given in his pages. The key to his treatment is contained in the following passage from the preface: "It is my purpose, in this little book, to present a general view of what is known and believed about the sun, in language and manner as unprofessional as is consistent with precision. I write neither for scientific readers as such, nor, on the other hand, for the masses, but for that large class in the community who, without being themselves engaged in scientific pursuits, yet have sufficient education and intelligence to be interested in scientific subjects when presented in an untechnical manner; who desire,