Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/735

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

the specimens of their handiwork—useful articles of straw and bark, tastefully made head-dresses of feathers, and ingeniously fashioned weapons of war and the chase, decorated in geometrical figures—point to a capacity for civilization. Hitherto these Indians have had the advantages of civilization presented to them too often only with arguments of fire and sword; but Senhor Eibeiro asserts that they may be easily induced to work, and that with kind treatment and proper direction they might be made instrumental in the development of the natural wealth of their land.

 

John Duncan, the Weaver-Botanist.—John Duncan, the Scotch weaver and botanist, to whose scientific merit attention was drawn about two years ago, just in time for public recognition to make his dying days more comfortable, gained a thorough knowledge of botany and formed a valuable herbarium in the face of formidable difficulties arising from poverty and laborious occupation. He had also some knowledge of astronomy, learned something of Latin, so that he might understand botanical terms, and even tried Greek. In his pursuit of knowledge he bore privation cheerfully, denying himself almost the necessaries of life to buy books, and carrying on his studies in a loft above a stable, lighted only by an unglazed hole in the door, where he lived without fire or candle for fear of burning the thatch. His love for plants began to develop when he was about ten years old, and out on farm-service. "I just took a notion," he used to say, "to ken ae plant by anither when I was rinning aboot the braes. I never saw a plant but I lookit for the marrows o't" (the like of it); "and as I had aye a guid memory when I kent a flower ance, I kent it aye." He read in the "Herbal of Nicholas Culpepper," imbibed that quaint author's doctrine of the effect of astrological influences on plants, and was led from it to study astronomy as far as he could go without mathematics. When forty years old he fell in with a gentleman's gardener of the village who was also a scientific botanist, and was introduced by him to the regular study of the science. Before long he had learned enough to help his friend in the formation of a herbarium. For many years, at the season when weaving was dull, he was accustomed to go about doing harvest-work and studying the flora of Scotland, while he earned a little extra money; and he turned these excursions to such good account that, when in his old age he handed over his collection to a friend to be catalogued, as a preliminary to presenting it to Aberdeen University, it contained 1,131 specimens of the 1,428 species that form the flora of England and Scotland. A selection was made from this collection, and 750 specimens were finally presented to the university. Up to his seventy-third year, Duncan was able to earn his own living by work at the loom. Then work became scarce and his strength feeble, and he was forced to seek parochial relief. Finally attention was called to his case in "Nature," in January, 1881, and a subscription was made for him. The story of his life has been told by Mr. W. Jolly, in a book which has just been published in London.

 

A Smoke-consuming Furnace.—Mr. P. H. Jackson, of San Francisco, has patented a device for securing the more perfect combustion of coal by, first, securing the removal of the carbonic acid which arises from the fire, and, if allowed to remain mingled with the other products, interferes with their further combustion; and, second, by causing the hydrocarbons and other combustible products to be drawn under the furnace and perfectly mixed with atmospheric air before passing through the fire again. The carbonic acid is eliminated through the action of the affinity of carbonate of soda, which is placed in a chamber above the furnace, whence an outlet is provided for the escape of any surplus of acid. The hydrocarbons are drawn down under the furnace through a pipe at the side of the stove, by the suction of a strong current of atmospheric air, which is made to flow to feed the fire through a chamber into which the lower end of the pipe abuts.

 

Curves of Mortality in London and New York.—Dr. John W. Tripe, President of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, England, has observed, from a comparison of the mortality returns of London and New York, that the curve representing the prev-