Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/736

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
718
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ways more susceptible to these influences than abstainers"; and it may be stated as a rule that moderate drinkers suffer more frequently from psychical shocks of every form, and are more likely to become inebriates from such causes.

 

The Poison of Cesspools.—M. Bouveret has reported on a remarkable case of poisoning from a cesspool which took place at Lyons. A workman, twenty-one years old, having fallen into a cesspool, was taken out, after having been in it about five minutes, in a state of convulsions. Inhalations of oxygen were administered for several hours, but the convulsions continued with rise of temperature. Transfusion of blood (defibrinated) was then tried without effect, and death took place about twenty-four hours after the accident. The blood was found, on post-mortem examination, to be black and fluid, the lungs and kidneys were congested, and the bronchial mucous membrane showed a bright hyperæmia, but no coagulation was observed in the pulmonary artery. The chief toxic agent in the contents of cesspools is supposed to be sulphide of ammonium, a poison which acts on the blood in the same manner as carbonic oxide, deoxidizing the red globules and making them unfit to perform their functions. Transfusion of blood has been performed with success in cases of poisoning by carbonic oxide, and its failure in the present case has provoked the suggestion that cesspools may contain gaseous poisons far more complex and more virulent than sulphide of ammonium, the action of which is more profound and complicated.

 

Ancient Maya Records.—Dr. Daniel G. Brinton, of Philadelphia, has recently come into possession of a number of fac-simile copies of the Books of Chilan Balam, or the local records of the Mayas of Yucatan, and has published an interesting account of their character and contents. The name, "Book of Chilan Balam," was applied to all the works of this character, to whatever village they might belong, and the different ones were distinguished by adding the name of the village. Only a few of the original volumes remain, most of them having been destroyed by the priests as heretical and mischievous; but a few were afterward compiled over again by natives from their own knowledge and recollections. Parts or descriptions of sixteen of these works remain, not one of which has ever been printed, or even entirely translated into any European tongue. Their contents consist chiefly of astrological and prophetic matters, ancient chronology and history, medical recipes and directions, and, in the later ones, later history and Christian teachings. One of the most valuable features in these records lies in the hints they furnish of the hieroglyphic system of the Mayas, concerning which our only information has hitherto been in the essay of Bishop Landa. Some features of Bishop Landa's notes on this subject have been condemned by Dr. Valentini, as we have already mentioned, as "fabrications," but Dr. Brinton pronounces Dr. Valentini's attack "an amount of skepticism which exceeds both justice and probability," and he believes that the result of a comparison with the hieroglyphics of the books of Chilan Balam and of the Codex Troano will refute the doubts and slurs that have been cast on the bishop's work, and "vindicate for it a very high degree of accuracy."

 

Lessons on the Danger of Narcotics.—The deceased poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a victim of chloral, which he took for sleeplessness, with the inevitable result. About 1868, his friend Mr. Watts says, in the "Athenæum," he was attacked with insomnia, one of the most distressing effects of which as manifested in him was "a nervous shrinking from personal contact with any save a few intimate friends. This peculiar kind of nervousness may be aggravated by the use of sleeping draughts, and in his case was thus aggravated. . . . No man ever lived who was so generous as he in sympathizing with other men's work, save only when the cruel fumes of chloral turned him against everything." Another conspicuous warning against the use of narcotics is given in the case of the death of Dr. Thomas Atkinson Elias, a physician of Southport, England, under circumstances which led the coroner's jury to believe that it was caused by an overdose of morphia. It was shown at the inquest that he was