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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/802

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food. Oxygen had been discovered only sixteen years before, and chemical analysis, as now understood, was an unknown art. In spite of this, Rumford selected as the basis of his soup just that proximate element which we now know to contain, bulk for bulk, more nutritive matter than any other that exists either in the animal or vegetable kingdom, viz., casein. He not only selected this, but he combined it with those other constituents of food which our highest refinements of modern practical chemistry and physiology have proved to be exactly what are required to supplement the casein and constitute a complete dietary. By selecting the cheapest form of casein and the cheapest sources of the other constituents, he succeeded in supplying the beggars with good hot dinners daily at the cost of one halfpenny each. The cost of the mess for the Bavarian soldiers under his command was rather more, viz., twopence daily, three farthings of this being devoted to pure luxuries, such as beer, etc. The details of the means by which he achieved these notable results will be stated in my next.



THE traditions of the ancient peoples, embellished by the poets, have commonly attributed the first steps in agriculture and the introduction of useful plants to some divinity, or at least to some great emperor or inca. Reflection teaches us that this is not probable, and the observation of the agricultural efforts among the savages of our own age indicates that the real facts in the case are quite different. Generally, in the progressive steps that lead to civilization the beginnings are weak, obscure, and narrow. There are reasons why this should be so in agricultural and horticultural initiatives. There are many gradations between the custom of gathering fruits, seeds, or roots in the field and that of regularly cultivating the plants which yield such products. A family may scatter seeds around its home, and the next year seek the same product in the forest. Some fruit-trees may be growing around a house, and we not know whether they have been planted there, or the hut has been built near them for convenience of access to them. Wars and hunting often interrupt efforts at cultivation. Rivalries and jealousies may make one tribe slow in imitating another. If some great personage ordains the cultivation of a plant and institutes some ceremony in demonstration of its utility, it is probably after obscure persons have spoken of it and successful experiments have been made upon it. Previous to such demonstrations adapted to impress the multitude, a shorter or longer period of

  1. From his new book, "The Origin of Cultivated Plants," recently published in Paris.